Since 2008 and the release of ‘The Grace of Summer Light’ guitarist Ken Navarro has been exploring the possibilities created by combining his distinctly melodic music with sophisticated harmony, fresh rhythms and long form compositions. The 2010 project ‘Dreaming Of Trains’ found Navarro continuing this genre bending journey but now with ‘The Test Of Time’, which is due out on March 20, he is taking on a whole different challenge. Billed as “solo guitar like you never imaged it” this ten track collection of some of the most memorable songs ever written delivers melodies, bass lines, harmonies and percussion all played simultaneously on one single guitar, without a single overdub in sight. As a consequence ‘The Test Of Time’ serves not only as a sublime showcase for some truly memorable music but also as a glowing tribute to Navarro’s undisputed artistry.
Of course Navarro being Navarro, he is not content to limit his sections to those from the great popular song book and instead adds two bonus cuts which first takes him on a detour into the classics for Bach’s ‘BWV 998’ then allows him to close out the set with a dreamy version of ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ from the 1940 Walt Disney adaption of Pinocchio.
However, the body of the album is all about the magical mystery tour that takes in Bob Dylan, Carlos Santana, Lennon & McCartney, Jimmy Webb and several other musical icons in between. Indeed one notable stopping off point is at the Police hit ‘Message In A Bottle’ which fits Navarro’s style of play to perfection. It is already being used at YouTube to provide the CD with some much deserved early publicity and in style sits in delightful contrast to a hugely contemplative take on John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’.
Later, Navarro’s careful handling of Webb’s seminal ‘Wichita Lineman’ bestows a lonesome quality that is perfect for the subject of the song and when he tips a hat to the legendary Bob Dylan he does so with not one but two tunes. In fact the medley he crafts from ‘Just Like A Woman’ and ‘Sad Eyed Lady of The Lowlands’ proves to be a tranquil highlight of the entire collection and when he pays a similar tribute to Lennon & McCartney, the combination of ‘Eight Days A Week’, ‘Ticket To Ride’ and ‘Day Tripper’ signposts as a nostalgic diversion that will live in the memory.
Most everyone is familiar with the haunting strains of Santana’s ‘Europa’ yet the way Navarro slows it down, speeds it up then turns it around adds a freshness that is inviting while his performance on Pat Metheny’s ‘Letter From Home’ is nothing short of spellbinding. The number comes from Metheny’s 1989 album of the same name and when Navarro again raids the archives he goes right back as 1966 for Brian Wilson’s ‘Caroline No’.
In terms of personal favorites, a dancing rendition of ‘Little Martha’ (which was made famous by the Allman Brothers) is right up there but sometimes a melody comes along that defies genres and in so doing enters the soundtrack of your life. For me one such tune is the Mancini – Mercer composition ‘The Days Of Wine And Roses’ and here Navarro’s thoughtful interpretation is tasteful in the extreme.
Although not due to hit the streets until March 20 ‘The Test Of Time’ is now available for purchase or download at www.kennavarro.com. It is without doubt one of the most interesting releases of the year so far and for serious music lovers everywhere.
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