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Chris Duarte

Hot shot Texan guitarist Chris Duarte is as prodigious in his recording career as he is intense in his use of note clusters. For no sooner has Chris's latest 'Vantage Point' CD hit the market and he's already on to another project.

In some respects '396' is something of a stylistic departure if only because there's a surprising Southern Rock flavour to some of the cuts including the opening 'Back In Town' and this comes as surprise as he's teamed up with Japan's premier blues-rock outfit Bluestone Company for this project.

It's almost as if Chris's restless desire to find a new showcase for his incendiary playing has pushed him towards this innovative project. And in many respects '396' works well as Chris's relentless drive for expression finds the perfect foil in the shape of the intuitive slide playing of Toshihiro Sumitomo. But there's still a definable Texas feel to the project, particularly on the fiery Johnny Winter style growl and incendiary riffs of 'Put Up Or Shut' while the splendid guitar feast of 'Chattahoochee Side' is no less impressive featuring Duarte's fluid runs over a killer rhythm section.

The impressive thing here is the way both guitarists meld together in such a celebratory way. It's curious, then, that the title track turns out to be a workaday tough rocker, all full of muscular intent with a pounding rhythm track, a caustic vocal growl and oodles of noodling licks but it lacks the tenets of a memorable song.

But Chris is nothing if not complex, setting himself little musical puzzles that he resolves during the course of several solos. Thus the riff driven 'Give It Back To Me' is full of stops and starts and time changes with little bursts of solos in between the main riffs.

On 'Silverspoon' the number is anchored by a welcome Bo Diddley beat, with lashings of slide and another Johnny Winter style growl from Chris. Overall there are moments when you do wish the relentless pace would ease just a little. The levels of intensity here are such that you sometimes have to strain to follow the solos, but when it works as on the instrumental 'Funky Mama' the playing is of breathtaking virtuosity.

Throw in the slow blues of 'Mad As I Can Be' - complete with an opening cranked up dirt-toned Duarte solo and sublime slide from Sumitomo - and the Zeppelin/FM Rock references of 'Angelina' plus the post Blue Beat shuffle of 'Still I think Of You' and you have the basis of a cross-over project. But in between the noodling, the shredding and the outright explosive guitar duelling there is still Duarte's penchant for the eclectic as evidenced by the closing fractured angular rocking and post Jeff Beck Jazz-Rock of 'H2K3'. It's almost as Chris is sending out a subliminal signal, along the lines of, 'you've had the main course, now lets get back to what I like doing best'!


Review by Pete Feenstra

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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