McGILL MANRING STEVENS

"What We Do" (Laser's Edge; 2006)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Much more a jazz record than a metal or rock record, “What We Do” is an exercise in unfettered creativity from three musical stalwarts intent on breaking a few rules and expanding the conscious of stuffy purists. “What We Do” is the third release from this impressive trio.

Guitar heads will appreciate “What We Do” even if they’ve never heard the jazz standards utilized as source material for this disc. And, as a full disclaimer, I offer that I am familiar with the ‘original’ recordings of only three tracks (the two John Coltrane songs and one Miles Davis track). But lack of knowledge or familiarity with the original tunes should not prevent a guitar fanatic from enjoying what is offered here (although knowing the originals would greatly add to the appreciation of the musician’s daring and exploratory powers).

As I understand it, most of the tracks feature radically different interpretations of the original tunes – apparently these variations vary in terms of pacing and tone, not that I would know any differently. Some of the tracks feature what I can only describe as a “pedal to the metal, slam on the brakes” philosophy. This kind of approach probably serves as a way to unnerve the jazz aficionados – but then again, McGill’s fans probably aren’t jazz purists. It should be noted that most jazz reviewers have clearly called “What We Do” as a power rock record. So much for perspective from opposing ends of the musical spectrum.

“What We Do” is a challenging set of tunes that may open the typical metalhead’s mind to the broad spectrum of guitar-based music. Fans of fusion and progressive rock are the ones most likely to fully appreciate “What We Do.” While McGill is a self-described progressive guitarist, it doesn’t hurt that Manring is a much sought after bassist and that Stevens is a mightily impressive drummer/percussionist.

“What We Do” includes a second CD entitled “What We Do Too” which incorporates more of the band’s progressive jazz stylings, but instead of jazz standards this disc contains their own material. “What We Do Too” was recorded live at the famous Orion Studios in Baltimore. The bass guitar is heavy in the overall sound while the drums and guitar battle it out for second place in the sonic stew (and it seems the drums win out over the guitar on most occasions, too). Rush-like vibes mix with progressive jazz overtones. The longer, epic-like tracks vividly showcase the band’s boundless talent.

In the end, “What We Do” is an adventurous journey with many sonic tapestries and a variety of textures. “What We Do” is a very satisfying two-disc set. The final rating of three chainsaws reflects the average of the four chainsaws I would award “What We Do” solely as a critical reviewer of progressive rock/heavy fusion and a two chainsaw rating I would award the album as the typical Rough Edge reader is unlikely to consider such a disc for their collection under any circumstances.

McGill Manring Stevens is for fans of Gordian Knot, Attention Deficit, Niacin, and Ohm.

McGill Manring Stevens: Scott McGill on guitars, Michael Manring on bass, and Vic Stevens on drums.

For more information visit http://www.scottmcgill.com/biography.cfm?mms=1.

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 © 2006 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 15 Mar 2017 23:33:44 -0500 .