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Chris Duarte Group - Vantage Point

Blues Bureau International

Since his 1994 debut release of Texas Sugar/Strat Magic, blues rocker Chris Duarte has worked with several different record labels. Chris can't be pigeonholed as just a bluesman only. For years he has toured with a revolving door rhythm section of players that build a foundation of sound that screams power trio in more ways then one. Playing at a decibel level that demands a good pair of ear-plugs, Chris can chase a few listeners away who are offended by his bombastic take on the blues. Those people are in the minority as the club remains packed with Duarte playing like a man possessed. Shaking his ponytail and stomping the stage with a floorboard of effects to enhance his sound, Duarte tears at his Strat ripping off licks and notes putting him in the same class as Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. He doesn't mind those comparisons. But there's a lot more to the man then that.

Rarely does Duarte come out with CDs two years in a row. When he signed with Mike Varney's Blues Bureau International Label last year, he released Blue Velocity which was a return to his roots. Varney couldn't have been more thrilled. And he tends to make sure his artists are putting out a product without too many years between releases.

The point is proven in The Chris Duarte Group's 2008 release Vantage Point. Working with drummer Jeff Reilly and bassist Joseph Patrick Moore, Duarte continues to capitalize on that same formula of licks. It may not be too experimental but it rocks like a mother.

There's not too much blues here. "Trouble On Me" is a bag of Stevie Ray solos coming out of Texas Flood. The instrumental "Woodpecker" is Duarte's best Jeff Beck Blow By Blow impersonations. He's not known for British influences so it's a welcome surprise when he does it.

Like his live performances, the music is jacked and revved up enough with dollops of power chords and frenzied soloing. Leading track "The Best I Can Do" is a hip swiveling dance floor affair with Chris cutting loose with biting tones. Duarte finds it difficult to avoid the infamous Texas shuffle in the Stevie Ray laced "Satisfy." At least Chris won't remain in that groove for long. The moderate paced instrumental rocker "Slapstak" is a hybrid of riffs and solos saluting the Vaughan brothers. Comparisons likes these are inescapable in Chris' case. At this point in time, if he hasn't shaken it yet, the chances are he never will.

But Chris can do ZZ Top with the best of them. The hard hitting John Lee Hooker groove of "More Boogie" is Billy Gibbons meeting Eric Johnson through Joe Satriani. It's a powerhouse song that will have air guitar freaks jumping up and down in musical ecstasy. Then there's the rock-a-rama shakedown in "Let's Have A Party" which is a sweatfest dance boogie mining those familiar Stevie licks. He struggles to be his own voice in the seductive "Blow Your Mind." The ominous tones in "She Don't Live Here Anymore" make way for the song to speed up its tempo with Chris soloing above a rhythm section gone mad in true Hendrix fashion.

Maybe having a different guitar and equipment altogether can shake these inevitable comparisons that have followed Duarte since his career started. Oh well. At least when he does Hendrix live, he will whip out obscure numbers and not "Red House" and "Voodoo Chile." He has stated several times of admiring jazz guitarist John McLaughlin. Perhaps observing McLaughlin's musical imprints can make an alteration on his music. But his fanbase might not tolerate it. They have become too accustomed to Chris' mixture of Stevie and Jimi licks. He figures if it's worked this long, then he's doing something right. And maybe he is..

Review by Gary Weeks

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