Wholly instrumental guitar albums are a tough sell for me. I really enjoy great vocals and harmonies with strong melodies. When I received this Patrik Carlsson’s Melodic Travels CD and started listening, I had some difficulties getting all the way to the end of the disc and keeping some sort of interest going. Over time and a few listens however, I was able to find a couple of jumpin’ tunes and some inventive themes.
The disc begins simply with a drum machine and a guitar on “Settler’s Pleasure” and continues with similar instrumentation on the next song “Battlefield,” albeit this time with more of a march feel and an added syncopated keyboard. Patrik plays all the instruments on this recording but the focus is definitely the guitar which takes all the lead melodies. The tone of the guitar in these two songs and throughout much of the recording has a strong metal-vibe to it which recalls the Vai/Satriani/3G school. It’s only when he changes tone to a more relaxed jazz style like on “Night Vision,” “Desederia,” and “Silence” that he begins to show some depth.
A few references for this CD other than those previously mentioned would be Jeff Beck, Joe Pass and, on some of the more latin-tinged songs, Carlos Santana. Those Santana references are especially evident on the songs “Gate to Heaven,” “Luxian Minor,” and “Spanish Vaganza.” Patrik also impresses me with the Celtic riff on “Kristina’s Song” and the reference to the classic Stevie Wonder song “Sir Duke” on “Liberty City.”
I’m reminded of a quote that I recently read by ex-Mr. Big and current Neal Morse guitarist Paul Gilbert: “When I would try to write instrumental songs, I don't know what to do with the second verse. In a pop song, it's ok to repeat the music and just change the words. But with no words, my second verse ends up being exactly the same as the first. How do I get around this?" I find the same trouble here, with Melodic Travel. As with all music of this type, I’m always waiting for the vocal to come in that never does.
If you enjoy guitar albums ala Joe Satriani, Jeff Beck, or the many jazz guitarists that have made their mark all the way through the history of music, you may get pleasure from this album. I myself found it to be not intricate or involving enough and continuously presenting an element of sameness throughout.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on March 10th, 2007