(5 / 5)
Established sidemen and star session men can every now and again decide the time is right to step out of the shadows to take the spotlight centre stage in their own right.
Guitarist Lyle Workman is one such example, after a distinguished career as a sought-after top end sideman and session player with some big names, to composing various film scores for blockbusters, and penning songs recorded by several major stars.
But it is as a solo artist and his new instrumental album, “Uncommon Measures” where he pulls out all the stops to raise the bar as high as it can go, with an ambitious nine track set of his originals, recorded live at famed Abbey Road studios with a 63-piece orchestra.
But unlike many of the aforementioned, established sidemen and session musicians attempt at a successful solo project – which more often than not is an over-hyped disappointment – the results of Lyle’s obvious labour of love are a true triumph.
I am not a big instrumentals fan, and usually sit there missing the vocals and the substance, and file it under “background music”. But not this time. Not a duff cut here among the nine and it held my attention from the off. What music reviewers may call “an even listen”.
If you are a fan of Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Pat Metheny, Steve Hackett, Jeff Beck, Al Di Meola, Mike Oldfield et al, then this will be your bag. Soaring arrangements, virtuosic performances, mixing prog’ rock, jazz fusion, classical and even choral music. Strong material throughout, which never dips in energy or emotion.
It is cinematic, powerful, balanced and the compositions and performances will play out in your imagination as moving image. It all seems to capture moments of joy, sadness, love, friendship, self-discovery, celebration and drama, without a single word. The songs have soul and feeling.
Lyle says the album ties together all the different threads of who he is as an artist. Four years in the making, but he feels it is actually the culmination of a lifetime in music. As ambitious and grand as the production is, Lyle never loses sight of his gift for melody.
He plays guitar and keyboard across the record and calls upon an ‘A-Team’ of players to support his vision, including drummers Vinnie Colaiuta and Matt Chamberlain, bassist Tim Lefebvre and pedal steel master Greg Leisz.
Lyle collaborated on the arrangements with John Ashton Thomas, the orchestrator behind films such as Black Panther and Captain Marvel. The 63-piece orchestra assembled from the finest musicians across London. A “pinch me” moment” for Lyle, a Beatles fan since childhood, to be working on his own album in that hallowed ground of Abbey Road studios.
The guitar work from Lyle is more brush strokes on the canvas than big daubs of musical paint and overblown shredding, so familiar on a lot of the virtuosos instrumental albums today. But when he lets rip, brace yourself.
Pointless me picking out the best tracks here, because they are all of the same mouthwatering standard. But I I really liked the funky, horn-soaked “Unsung Hero”, but also the more melancholic work such as “Labyrinth Of Love” and “Rise And Shine”. The opener “North Star” is simply stunning.
Lyle Workman has toured and recorded with the likes of Beck, Sting, Frank Black, Todd Rungren, Norah Jones, Bryan Adams, Jellyfish, Ziggy Marley and many others. He has composed for movies such as Superbad, The 40 year Old Virgin and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. He has had his songs covered by among others, Steve Lukather and Steve Vai.
He was born and raised in California, self-taught on guitar by playing along to The Beatles. He co-wrote the Todd Rundgren-produced hit “I Don’t Mind At All”, for the band Burgeois Tagg, who he joined after college. He went on to pick up session work with an array of star names.
“I absolutely love all the work I get to do with other artists and filmmakers, but sometimes you need to articulate your own thoughts and feelings as a writer. There’s a singular satisfaction that comes from creating something that’s a pure expression of yourself”. Satisfied he should be – and some!
By Kelvin Byrd
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’