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One Cloud 2010 CD $12.
Rob Martino - Grand Stick
review by Emmett Chapman
Sometimes one cloud is all you need.
It follows you around, something to proudly point to wherever you go. And if your live gig doesn't turn out as planned, you've got this silver lined CD to stand in for you. (I must say though, I'm pretty sure Rob Martino can play almost all of this CD live any time he wants to.)
And yes, it's a treasure, and I have no doubt, also a milestone for Rob.
It's all solo Stick and The Stick sure sounds good! There are almost no effects in the foreground Stick sound. The "orchestra" of textures, voicings and expressions are all from his hands. The entertainment value alone is high, as it's fascinating to hear what one artist can extract from a single musical instrument live in a recording studio - strumming effects, harp like arpeggios, a broad dynamic range, always a dialogue between the hands, and of course those familiar passing tone embellishments from his bass 4ths tuning.
My biggest surprise was in the variety of rhythmic grooves he creates throughout the album. In his two extended songs, "Circle" and "Enigma", the rhythmic element becomes even more intense as he stretches out. This more relaxed yet more dynamic mode of play might foretell a future direction in his musical art!
And yes, I hear the "vintage" sound of Michael Romanowski's special mastering process. It's somehow an American electric guitar sound with a metallic ring from bass and melody sides. Rob doesn't even bother to change timbers from song to song. It's always his same unique sound of well recorded but largely unprocessed Stick strings through dual in-phase Villex PASV-4 pickups. I believe such faithful sonic consistency is the mark of a true stylist, putting ones best foot forward at all times, in plain shoes.
Now and then he throws in some time-extended, "sweetening" washes played live through Guitar Rig audio plug-ins on his computer, but even then the straight Stick strings dominate and the soloist shines through.
Rob has an array of unusual resources in his fingers, an expressive variety of sub-techniques that uniquely serve each of his eight original songs on this album. Here are my "highlight" moments:
1) "One Cloud" as we know it, but with subtle refinements, and very well recorded and mixed.
2) "Circle", an 11-minute stretch that gathers in dynamics and intensity, showing Rob's spontaneous side.
3) "Dream" with fascinating sonic textures and rhythms.
4) "Cloud Dispersed", an apt title for his loose thematic reinterpretations of "One Cloud".
5) "Differential", where the rhythms stand out, along with a growling low bass.
6) "Turbulence" with rich, harp like cross-patterns, again with a pronounced bass growl.
7) "Star" with sustained melody ringing out like bells. (Could this be a new, more musical form of reverb?)
8) "Enigma" with more melodic bells a'pealing. And the chords seem unusually transparent, which of course allows an opposite quality, that of richer and more complex chord progressions and voicings.
I'll say it loud, "I'm part of the crowd extremely proud of One Cloud." Emmett
You can hear sample tracks at Rob's website. One Cloud on CD is now available from Stick Enterprises, and as a digital download from CDBaby
Track Listing (all songs by Rob Martino)
1. One Cloud (3:35)
2. The Long Circle (11:06)
3. Conscious Dream (5:15)
4. Cloud Dispersed (2:17)
5. Differential (5:27)
6. Turbulence (1:26)
7. Mighty Distant Star (6:11)
8. The Third Enigma (13:14)