"Life Before MIDI: Naked" (self-released; 2005)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

I'd never heard of Carl Burnett before I received "Life Before Midi: Naked" for review. After a little research it was obvious that I was dealing with another guitar-based instrumental album and nothing could make me happier than to fulfill my Rough Edge obligations than to review a guitar instrumental album.

With great excitement I began to take a stab at Carl Burnett's latest work. Prominently displayed on the artwork, as the title might imply, is the description there were no rehearsals, no midi programming, no click tracks, and only 100% live jamming on "Life Before Midi: Naked." A truly organic experiment if there ever was one. And given my experience listening to Joe Satriani's organic experiment "Woodstock Jam" I was hoping for something that make me forget about that fourteen minute travesty.

"Life Before Midi: Naked" features 11 tracks of rock, blues, jazz, funk, and any other hybrid combination you can think of from the genres I just mentioned. An album as broad as this often commands me to write a track-by-track review. However, a few tracks chosen at random will be enough to do the trick, but I have a sense as I write this sentence that I'm going to end up writing about all the songs anyways.

The two opening tracks, "Loud Party Warning" and "Funk E Mo Fo" get the rockin' mood started right away. The ballads "Too Far Away" and "Tutto Azzurro" remind me of the late, great Danny Gatton. "The Next Thing" echoes white urban jazz in the vein of Steely Dan while and "Dick Cavette's Blues" channels Texas-styled blues and would have made Stevie Ray Vaughn proud. "Another Slide" evokes a happy feeling like I haven't heard in ages (this track also evokes the ghost of Danny Gatton). "Air
Off" and "Shufflin' Dee" stand out for their funky attitude and sass.  "Family" is a reflective number that makes the guitar-sax tandem seem as natural as any orchestra. A quiet, solo rendition of "Amazing Grace" ends the disc with a subtle, but remarkable finale that captures the emotion and spirit the rest of the album exudes. 

The guitar sound has been recorded very dry there are few (traditional) effects that can be heard. That's quite fitting given the 'naked' theme of the recording process. It's always great to hear musicians bounce ideas off of each other. The two prominent guests on the disc are guitarist Robben Ford and saxophonist Branford Marsalis. I was shocked to realize that this might in fact be the first time I've ever heard Robben Ford; his guitar work is distinctive but still manages to complement Burnett quite nicely. I've heard saxophonist Branford Marsalis before, but it's been years so it's been nice to hear him again after all this time.

It should be obvious to us all by now that Carl Burnett is not a hard rock/heavy metal instrumental guitarist. However, Carl Burnett is a musician that uses the guitar to cover a wide swath of stylistic ground that is impressive in its composition and delivery. "Life Before Midi: Naked" is an impressive piece of work.

"Life Before Midi Naked" was produced by Carl Burnett. 

Carl Burnett is joined by a cast of thousands including Robben Ford on guitar, Wyzard on bass, Oscar Seaton on drums, Reggie Hamilton on bass, Curt Bisquera on drums, Rocky Bryant on drums, Deron Johnson on Rhodes piano, Tony Moore on drums, Branford Marsalis on soprano sax, and Tony Tino on bass.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright 2005 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11 Jun 2018 20:14:10 -0400.