Best Of The Batch: Eric Mantel
The Unstruck Melody
Artist: Eric Mantel
Title: The Unstruck Melody
Label: Holistic Music Publishing
OK, where in the world do I start with Eric Mantel? The Unstruck Melody offers up 20 tracks covering everything from rock, classical, pop, blues, jazz…well, lets just say the man does not leave a musical stone, or note as it were, unturned. I must say straight away that this is one of the most refreshing and interesting albums of 2006 thus far.
One of the first things I noticed is the similarity of his playing to that of Eric Johnson. That is not a bad comparison to hang your hat on if you are a guitar player looking for an audience and a shot at the big time. Mantel is one serious six-string slinger and he characterizes his own style and approach throughout this album, regardless of any comparisons to any other artists you feel so inclined to make after hearing this, which may be relevant in the big picture but not something that defines who he is. He is surely not a fly by night or clone of anyone else I have heard. The fact that a lot of this is instrumental is significant in that he can let his guitar do all the talking; however, he does not. He can sing as well, which is most unusual for an artist that relies mostly on stunning instrumentals to get your attention and get that overall wow effect.
The presentation of the entire package of The Unstruck Melody is outstanding. The CD booklet folds out into six panels with two sides. One has a lot of eye candy featuring various types of guitars traveling at the speed of light through space with stars twinkling in the background, and the other has many pictures of Eric and the people that helped him with the album, including the lyrics of the vocal tracks. It is not an everyday thing that I take such interest in anything else besides the music, but this time the entire package got my total attention.
I found it difficult to pick any one track as my favorite, and honestly enjoyed every one at varying degrees for different reasons. I am partial to instrumentals, which is no secret to anyone that knows me, but I can certainly appreciate some finely crafted lyrics and vocals that express the words in a way that allows me to remember what the purpose of the song was. He accomplished all of this with the addition of tremendous variety and expertise on the guitar; it really just blew me away. It does not seem to matter what the dude plays, he does it with passion, grace, and a technical expertise that is indeed rare, and above all else, he makes you feel that you just had a grand tour of the guitar and all its capabilities, tones, and nuances.
Besides rock, the main driving force of the album, Mantel pulls a few rabbits out the hat, like a country instrumental ditty “Finger Pickn’ Country,” and the next track is an Indian Middle Eastern trip titled “The USM (Reprise).” That is an example of what to expect while listening to this CD. Actually, the only thing you should expect to hear is something different on each track, all 20 of them, that in and of itself speaks volumes for the talent of this man. It is as if he took his entire life, all of his influences and everything he has learned, went into the studio, and put it all on this recording. Yes, this is Eric Mantel, and what a package it is.
01. The Unstruck Melody / Intro Guitar & Sitar
02. Tribute / Rock Instrumental
03. The Simple Things / Vocal Jazzy Pop04. The Real You / Rock Instrumental
05. Tai-Chi / Jazz Fusion Instrumental
06. Shine On / Vocal Pop
07. The Under a DIfferent Light / Jazz Rock Inst.
08. Merry-Go-Round / Vocal Pop
09. Why So Lonely / Vocal Ballad
10. Exit 10 / Rock Fusion Instrumental
11. Intermission / Sitar & Tablas
12. Gloria / Vocal Pop
13. Affectionately Yours / Classical Guitar Piece
14. There Are No Words / Jazz Rock Inst.
15. Wings of Fire / Blues Rock Inst.
16. Only Want Your Love / Vocal Pop
17. True Home / Vocal Pop
18. Finger Pickn' Country / Country Instrumental
19. The USM (Reprise) Sitar & Tablas
20. Don't Let The Day Go By / Vocal Rock Ballad
Eric Mantel-vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, guitar synth, talk box, e-bow, slide
John Falstrom-electric bass guitar, stand-up acoustic bass on track 18
Patrick Doody-drums and percussion
Keith Marx-back-up vocals on tracks 3, 6, 8, 9, 12, 17, 20
Paula Mantel-lead intro vocals on track 17
Amanda Elliot-back-up vocals on tracks 3, 6, 8, 9, 16
Mari Zen-back-up vocals on tracks 3, 6, 8, 9, 16
Rich Koch-pedal steel guitar on track 18
Clar Monaco-sitar/Gigi Monaco-tampura & tamboori/Anil Datae-tablas
Rose & Shari Joly-track 21/Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven But Nobody Wants To Die
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