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The Michael Landau Group - Organic Instrumentals

Shrapnel Records


This Los Angeles native blends his early influences of sixties rock and traditional and electric jazz and processes it through his creative mind to arrive at a quirky and interesting display of guitar based instrumentals. His guitar playing is at times jagged, melodic and includes obvious nods to Jimi Hendrix, Robin Trower and most notably fusion-era Jeff Beck, while still achieving his own personal style and sound. Most songs see him accompanied by drums, bass and Hammond organ. The rhythm section is right on his tail during every turn in the road. Mike has much professional experience to draw from as he has done session work for Pink Floyd, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, Rod Stewart and Ray Charles, among others. He has also put in his touring dues with the likes of Boz Scaggs, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Robben Ford.

The record starts off with gentle acoustic strumming over a spare drum beat, and is then picked up by soft electric guitar in “Delano”. Organ, bass and full kit drums, building momentum slightly, attaining a bubbling cauldron of instrumental interplay. His guitar soars and bends just enough without going over the top. Next up is “Sneaker Wave”, which sounds like electric-Irish Jig-meets-Jeff Beck. While the jaunty jig-like riff plays underneath, Michael sounds like Jeff Beck ripping off squealing and tasty licks.

“Spider Time” is a moody song were the Hendrix-Trower influence goes back and forth, until Beck-like squeezed notes shoot out like beautiful sparks, propelling a lilting melody. Larry Goldings contributes a gorgeous organ solo along the way. “The Big Black Bear” owes a lot to Robin Trower’s melancholy and soaring-through-the-heavens style. It’s Trower’s tone channeled through another guitar master. The flugel horn playing of Walt Fowler on “Big Sur Howl” gives it a “Sunday afternoon”-jazz vibe. Organs and carillon (bells) are the sole accompaniment to acoustic and electric guitar provided in “Smoke”. The record closes out with Michael trading off of acoustic and electric guitars with no backing musicians, on the melancholy “The Family Tree”.

There is much here for “guitar freaks”, as new things pop up to your ears at every listening. This music sure holds your attention. A mellow guitar interlude might just turn into what sounds like Godzilla on a bad day. Although the guitar sound is his, fans will have fun spotting the influences that pop up. The assorted drummers assembled here provide that bombastic sound, when needed, to propel the songs along. All-in-all this is music for the musically adventurous. You surely won’t find yourself nodding off to this stuff.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.

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