Let me blurt this out in the first sentence of this review; no offense to all concerned, but I am not a fan of rock musicians raiding the popular composers of yesteryear to `modify' classical compositions with modern flairs, interpretations, or instrumentation. This genre has been played out out quite a lot in the last 20 years, (in particular Rick Wakeman), but after 20 albums worth of diverse music, Les Frandkin has dived into this genre in his latest album- Baroque Rocks!
On the album, Fradkin's expertise on the Starr Labs Ztar Midi Guitar, is simply brilliant with an added dash of amazing. He used the Midi guitar to simulate fantastic keyboard and orchestral sounds while providing solid percussion; added with his flawless technique, Les has created another winning disc.
Baroque Rocks! definitely pays a huge homage to Antonio Vivaldi. The first track begins with the opening movement of the ninth concerto of Opus 8. As with most of the tracks, Les plays it rather straight and sticks with the compositional building blocks of the music, but the Mellotron and harpsichord and percussion, give it a new take; surprisingly, I was hooked with this excellent new interpretation.
The majority of Vivaldi's ‘The Four Seasons’ makes up tracks 4 through 7. Aside from the opening track, this is my personal favorite part of the album. Fradkin varies the illustrative sounds that Vivaldi composed with the addition his signature digital effects and technique. In the ‘Winter’ section, Fradkin keeps it closer to the great composer by his use of harpsichord sounds.
Mason Williams’ ‘Classical Gas,’ Pachelbel’s ‘Canon,’ and Handel are all Fradkin-ized on the album, the former utilizing some killer synth sounds. But after listening to 2/3s of Baroque Rocks! , besides the high quality masterly of the instrumentation, a subtle sameness to the approach slightly overpowered even Fradkin's expertise. But again, this might be due to my bias in the above opening statement. Too much of a good thing? Or not enough variety in the composer's and song choices? Difficult to say.
Baroque Rocks! is like having the Boston Pops married with Yngwie Malmsteen's technique, and clever digital trappings that make it very enjoyable. I was happily surprised how Les approached the body of work, adding his mastery (and digital spin), without venturing into corny or hokey territory. By the way, production quality is very good.
I would consider this one of the best classical homage albums done by a rocker. If this is your bag, this a definite must buy. But as a progrocker, I would have loved to have Les used a few more dynamic composers that would have fit into a more proggy motif. Still, Les clearly shows a deep love for the Baroque Classical composers, and this fondness definitely is contagious to this listener. Nice job.
Album Art is a simple photo portrait of Les. Sigh.
Rating 8.9 (If you are a hardcore or experimental prog fans, you need not apply. Grading is entirely subjective).