Ralf Illenberger – Red Rocks Journeys – Stockfisch Records SFR 357.1020.2 stereo-only SACD, 51:36 ****:
(Ralf Illenberger – guitars, mellotron; Sandro Gulino – electric bass)
Like many European acoustic musicians, Ralf Illenberg has a connection to Americana. His thirty year career includes hits in Germany and the U.S. utilizing an orchestral approach to his compositions. He incorporates elements of folk, blues, classical and jazz, with an ear towards “ancient” forms. Ilenberger has received significant recognition as a recording artist (three U.S. top ten singles on the Narada label), producer and sound engineer.
Red Rock Journeys is Illenberger’s homage to the picturesque scenery and mysticism of his new home, Sedona Arizona. Recorded on acoustic guitar with some bass accompaniment by Sandro Gulino, the myriad images of the renowned Red Rock landscape is sketched in numerous folk/ jazz (some may call it New Age) musical contexts. The opening track, “Frogs” is pleasingly upbeat with near-traditional folk chord patterns. Like most of the material, there is an inherent, rhythmic approach to the guitar play. Gulino’s bass provides the necessary accent to support the guitar. Different moods are reflected by the arrangements. “Big Change” has a subtle pulse, but displays an emotive quality. With shimmering cadences, “Light Wave” maintains a driving tempo. Illenberger is gifted, and his picking technique is assured.
There are many highlights on the album. The self-explanatory “Joy” utilizes descant bass lines and a slight touch on mellotron that frees the spirited, melodic guitar melody line. The intensity ebbs and flows with graceful ease. An ethereal “Osterspaziergang/Soleil” offers a harmonic, jazzy hymn to the sun. “Ballad” generates a lyrical solitude with great bass counterpoint. Even on slower cuts, there is an inherent beat.
Stockfisch Records (with Gunter Pauler at the helm) continues to master state-of-the-art engineering technology. The tone quality of the guitars is amazing. There is fullness and texture in the sound that transcends the sparse instrumental format. The mixing is pristine, without “fret squeaking” or distortion. For guitar aficionados, the liner notes include tuning and capo settings.
TrackList: Frogs; Big Change; Light Wave; Walk In The Park; The Veil; Joy; Thinking Of You; Falling Down; Osterpaziergang/Soleil; Ballad; The Kiss
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