Always about innovation and adaptability, the story of Acoustic Alchemy spans almost twenty five years and is all set to add another chapter with the release of the band’s latest CD ‘Roseland’. Produced by bandleaders Greg Carmichael and Miles Gilderdale, the project is their first on Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group, and has been licensed to Heads Up by AA’s newly formed Onside Records. Not only that, recorded in England at Gilderdale’s newly constructed home studio, the album’s thirteen tracks explore elements of jazz, rock, country and reggae that from beginning to end contain not one weak link.
In fact the musical evolution of Acoustic Alchemy began in 1987 when ‘Red Dust and Spanish Lace’ provided guitarists Greg Carmichael and Nick Webb with access into the then fledgling adult contemporary market. Since then the sad passing of Webb and his replacement in 1998 by Miles Gilderdale, has, over time, led to an amalgam of influences that even extends to luscious horn driven grooves yet essentially continues to be underpinned by that hallmark combination of steel and nylon stringed guitars.
‘Roseland’ confirms all this and more. The title cut is a bold extravaganza of sound that resonates around fine guitar from Carmichael and Gilderdale while the foot tapping ‘One For Shorty’ benefits from the interjection of a fulsome brass section which includes regular AA contributor Snake Davis on sax. Not surprisingly ‘Marcus’ is framed by a pulsating bass line and more classic Acoustic Alchemy comes in the form of ‘Sand On Her Toes’ where the electric guitar of Gilderdale spars deliciously with Carmichael’s trademark nylon strings.
Melody is again high on the agenda for the extremely pleasing ‘Swamp Top’ for which flashes of Hammond B3 from Ricky Peterson and cool trombone from FayyazVirji add to the pleasure. Peterson’s contributions are significant throughout and none more so than with ‘Marrakesh’ which, far from being full of the eastern promise that the title suggests, is a zesty rhythm fest of the highest order. In fact vintage AA would be an apt description and much the same can be said of the dramatic ‘State Of The Ark’ which demonstrates the intensity that often characterizes the music this classy collective routinely delivers.
Carmichael’s daughter has just completed her studies in Bristol where she attained a masters degree in chemistry. The contemplative ‘Templemeads’ (a district of this English city and also the name of its train station) is his way of providing her with some recognition. Elsewhere, the simple yet cinematic ‘Stealing Hearts’ is nothing short of magical and although ‘Right Place – Wrong Time’ allows the band to show off the ‘straight ahead’ side of its musical persona, there is a quick return to more familiar territory with ‘World Stage’. Hypnotic in the extreme and held down in impeccable style by Greg Grainger on drums this tantalizing track builds to an incredible crescendo which is fuelled by Gliderdale’s bluesy guitar and more stellar input from Peterson.
From uncomplicated beginnings ‘A Kinder Loving’ grows steadily into yet another melodic gem that is right up there with the album’s best but in terms of personal favourites there is nothing to surpass the understated reggae beat of ‘The Ebor Sound Machine’. Showing all the signs of becoming seriously addictive this mellifluous masterpiece draws its name from the city of York in the United Kingdom (where the CD was recorded) and which in the time of the Roman occupation (circa AD43) was known as Eboracum.
‘Roseland’ will be released on September 27 and is destined to be one of the outstanding collections of 2011.