the dozens of new releases and categorized on some website in a genre -hard
rock- that is simply out of the question, another legend from the past returns
with his voice deliberately created by some gene dedicated to love songs. The
curious thing about listening to Marty
Balin again on his new album, The
Greatest Love, his first release with new songs in many years, is that it
surprises us with some truly exceptional guitar work that plays a leading role
in every respect. It's not Jorma
Kaukonen this time, but rather Chuck
Morrongiello, another "handyman" who the founder of Jefferson
Airplane co-wrote virtually all the songs with.
At Guitars Exchange we feel for Martyn Jerel Buchwald, Balin's real name, ‘unleashed’ because of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the psychedelic airlines and pending all those "lifetime achievement" awards that are going to fall on the Jefferson family -including their outer space cousins, the Starship-this year. But what interests us more is that brilliant, razor-sharp, savage guitar that offers such a contrast to all the expressions of 'love': The Greatest Love came out precisely on February 14th to provide a soundtrack for St. Valentine's Day.
Balin experienced the same thing that happened to Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) with Kiko Loureiro: it wouldn't have been the same album without Morrongiello. And like the Brazilian metal guitarist, Balin's new 'lead guitar' cuts loose with quite an exhibition, fully conscious that his boss, despite being in his early 70s (Cincinnati, 1942), had put together a great album. His voice is still capable of touching the heart and, most importantly, it's going to make Morrongiello known all over the world. At any rate, another “giant” has arrived who it's not advisable to lose track of.
Lloyd Goldstein's acoustic bass completes the trio and he's no less spectacular, especially live.
The exotic Scheherazade is a fine opener but it's right after that, on Crazy Over You, where we run into the first big duel between acoustic and electric guitars, starting off delicate and then getting as crazed as the title indicates. That simple, hypnotic playing employing a well-considered arsenal of effects brings back memories of the psychedelic rock that accompanied Balin in his early years. The ending from Goldstein's acoustic bass is simply sublime.
That mix between guitars that first fall in love and then cry tears of rage is Morrongiello's major contribution to a few love songs, albeit despairing and cruel when playing off of Balin's lyrics and gravelly voice.
Naturally there's also time for a little happiness -Wonderful- and abandon on the energetic Dance All Night, a crossroads where rock, pop and funk all come together, perhaps the most ‘Jefferson’ of all the songs. His guitarist shows himself capable of melding a near-metal riff with disco wah-wah guitar and tops it off with a solo comparable to the ones that distinguished the great Kaukonen.
And if anyone still has any doubts, the best thing is to jump directly to Stripper to listen to Balin at his best 'suffering' as much as the biting six string girlfriend 'takes it off' in front of him. In short, an album worth listening to closely ... and with love.