Normally a guitar release such as this is fairly predictable. A good and sometimes better than average player with mediocre vocals and a style that is utterly predictable. In short, nothing you can not find on a good cruise ship or in a better hotel in your town.
Melvin Taylor is different. Taylor can shift musical gears on the fly from jazz to rock and then to blues and never miss a beat. A virtuoso six string talent if there every was one. While I don't know that I would necessarily put his overall technical ability in the same breath as a Carlos Santana, Steve Ray Vaughn or a Jimi Hendrix all the fundamental knowledge of their genres is literally right at his fingertips. Taylor is blessed with the ability for fast and efficient runs, clean and with minimal distortion Taylor has full command of his instrument. What sets Taylor apart is his the way he hears sound. A keen lyrical sense and natural feel for melody has left Taylor with the ability to combine a variety of genres into solid well though out solos that fit perfectly within his lyrical flow of ideas. What normally kills a release of this magnitude are anemic vocals or poorly constructed originals, none of which are found on this stellar two disc set.
"Steppers 1" from disc one is as though Taylor has found some sort of musical happy place between George Benson and Norman Brown. Clean single note runs with a clear lyrical sense of purpose are captivating and a refreshing break from the smooth jazz artist that would ruin the same tune with lame vocals that are more of a sonic afterthought. Taylor allows his prolific talent and keen sense of melody to take center stage with the end result jaw dropping. "Rock In Blues" is Melvin Taylor meet Steve Vai, while there is a deceptively subtle blues infusion in this tune the virtuosity shown by Taylor is remarkable. Bottom line - never judge a disc by its cover.
"Movin' On" is but one of the highlights from disc two. Contemporary jazz but with a slight old school twist. "Sweet Blues" is a blue nasty that holds up as well as most anything you will hear today, granted the choices are becoming more limited. Taylor's style and ability essentially runs the musical table from jazz to blues and just about everything in between. With no anemic vocals to muddy the waters, Taylor shines and gives a first rate performance. The high points on this release are many. The only low points may be too much of a good thing too soon could cause such a tremendous talent to be overlooked. Personally I would have combined the very best of both discs into one thus saving the additional material for other uses be it an on line only sale disc or simply the disc release. While that may seem a tad hypercritical it is about the only negative remark one can make over such an impressive release at a time when guitar virtuosos seem to be running a bit thin.
Tracks: Dueling Guitars Of Rio Terra; Steppers 1; Passionate; Melvin Meets Beethoven's Fifth; Steppers 2; Strollin; Next Phase; The Hook Up; Early Riser; Rock In Blues; The Mann; Feelin' Good.
Disc Two: Focused On You; Movin' On; Escape; Talking To Anna Mae; Tribute To Wes; Groovin' In Paris; Look Out; Sweet Blues; Just Like That; Pure Attraction; In The Night; Straight Up.
Personnel: Melvin Taylor: all guitars; Melvin Taylor: bass guitar; Bernell Anderson: keyboards; Senor Jefe: drums, percussion.