An Independant review of Acoustic Moods - "Plugged" by Alan Ratcliff The Album. To call Chris Dumigan's latest offering "The Shadows meets Genesis - Acoustically" would be to do it a gross injustice. But to call it simply classical guitar for 3 players would alienate the huge, broad spectrum of music lovers who would find this CD both enchanting and worth buying. It is as appealing as it is refreshing and intriguing. And it is certainly more then the 'Easy Listening' whose peg it would be easy to hang this album upon! There are catchy tunes (yes - they would pass the original old greys' whistle test in their own right); there are complex time signatures; there are plenty of intriguing chord sequences and there are underlying classical guitar currents all over the album. For those of you who can listen to a piece and immediately choreograph an accurate ballet to it, then you will follow the musical metaphors with interest, I guarantee! The album clearly demonstrates Chris Dumigan's well-known virtuosity on the guitar (though he doesn't take the lead on every single piece) but he is ably augmented by guitarist Tony Ward, who not only supplies 'rhythm guitar' support via some excellent chord work, but also provides interesting counterpoint on a number of tracks. Trained classically on the French horn, bassist Dan Coghill supplies a very firm foundation on the electric 6-string bass - whilst also taking the occasional opportunity to play the melody line! Two acoustic guitars with an electric bass provide a surprisingly good mix and balance, and the melodies and bass lines produce matches that are truly fascinating.Asked why he didn't want to utilise any other instruments on this album, Chris said that they wanted to stay strictly with what they can produce live - so adding other instruments to the production was out of the question. Having said that, the album doesn't really suffer from any sameness, because of the variety in the music itself. Anyone who remembers the Sixties will remember living life with a feeling of anticipation - what will The Beatles do on their next record, what will be the next fashion or the next outrageous headline. Well, when you are listening to this album, there are many occasions where you simply find yourself subconsciously wondering where the next chord-change will take you, which emotion will be evoked in the next major-to-minor-to-major move. A good album will have numerous features that come to the fore and fade back again during the lifetime of the album listening - the early 'hooks', the middle interest- grabbers that replace the hooks, and then the features that weren't apparent or maybe you didn't even like in the early listenings. This album has them all (attributable to the varied inputs from all the band members, one assumes). It can be demonstrated by the now-what-will-I-do-with-this-CD-if-I-don't-just-leave-it-in-the-rack-gathering-dust syndrome : First listen - some interesting melody lines, some fascinating counterpoints. Not at all bad . . .certainly good enough for background music next time someone comes round for dinner.. Second listen - partly to do the album justice, but I'm sure there were a couple of melody lines in there that have invaded my subconscious (like - I found myself humming them!), and I want to see if I'm right. Third listen - this time it's by choice. This album really is very good, and deserves to be put onto my iPod for regular use. Definitely promoted from the dinner-party pile to the regular-listen pile. Fourth Listen - OK, it's on my iPod and there it's staying. It's now preferred to the Beatles albums and all sorts of others - in terms of an interesting listen whilst on the train to work, it's up there on the top menu. I just can't work out what genre to use ! Track-by-track review. Happy Blues in 7/4 - the opener - starts with a haunting bass - in 7/4 time. Lovely and clear - immediately dispelling any fears of home-production. Having thought that this album would be ideal as interesting background music for a dinner-party, this first track is one of a number that would be wasted if used purely as wallpaper music. I know you're going to think that describing an instrumental track comprising two acoustic guitars and an electric bass as "60's soul" is an extended use of the imagination, but try listening to Jump To It (the second track) - you'll see what I mean. It's a lively piece it also had me reminiscing of The Shadows . . . . . . . Track 3 (For Heather) is a wonderful arpeggio that Chris turned up at a rehearsal with in his head. Fortuitously, Chris and Tony were occupied with the two accompanying parts, leaving Dan's electric bass to take the lead - with an excellent result - and a nice balance. Now - track 4 is really in two parts (with track 5).The first (Kyle's Dance) is a real, heart-stirring set of chord-changes, with Chris's guitar positively singing - far more than Eric Clapton's ever did! One of my favourite tracks, with a really catchy melody. Track 5 - it's dance partner (Alexander's Dance), is a magical meandering through which your attention never slips. This is definitely NOT woolly jumper music! This is one of those tracks I was thinking of in the overview when I said that some of Chris's music takes you on a mystery chord-tour - you really cannot anticipate the next chord change. And just as you think you are acclimatised to the changing chords, in comes another of Chris's catchy melodies. And I was very impressed with the way the bass synchronises with Chris's own lines. Track 6 - Journey's End - was an original composition by Tony, with a challenge to Chris to write a melody line for it. You can actually feel the relief in the tempo and the chords and the bright cheer escaping through the speakers. Now track 7 is really what I would call 'Cute and Fluffy' music. This is an absolute demonstration of Chris's penchant for producing refreshing melody lines, particularly on top of Tony's fascinating original set of chord sequences. Beverley's Falling Snowflakes (Track 8) - the biggest impact on me in this track was the nice bass counterpoint. Apparently this was the last part of the piece to be written, after Chris had performed plastic surgery on two of Tony's compositions. Track 9, called Freetime II - sorry Dan (this is one of Dan's compositions), but Hank Marvin sprang to mind again here! However, despite another reference to that electric guitar pioneer, this is an interesting arrangement and my favourite aspect was again the bass line. Recollections had me gripping my drumsticks, waiting to accompany the anticipated Phil Collins entrance. Although he didn't, I still enjoyed the melody dancing with that bass line. Hurtling on into A Winter's Tinkle - track 11. Now, I'm really quite blind when it comes to seeing metaphors in music, and I'm not a regular ballet-visitor, to say the least....... But I really COULD see the log fire and the snow outside. The duetting of the guitars and their playful counterpoint had me positively purring. My favourite track.....at the moment. Onto Track 12 - Celebration. The middle piece definitely had me thinking of that instrumental in Pete Townshend's Tommy, a piece called Sparks....on this one, Chris plays both lead parts. Track 13 is taken from Chris's musical, Stag. The lads say that this is one of the highlights of their live set. For me, this simply has not grabbed me as much as the other tracks. Having said that, I'll probably re-read these views in a year's time and totally disagree! And the climax of the album - Tryptych - cleverly done, because the final 4 tracks all link together - not quite as joined-up as side 2 of The Beatles' Abbey Road - but interesting, in their own way. -Dancing is lively, a folksy sound (not Lancashire woolly jumper but Greece / Turkey black dress white aprons and lots of life !!) - the band call it 'a perverted folk dance'! -Cadenza - for classical guitarists out there...the calm before the big finale -Dreaming - now this DID remind me of Abbey Road - the "Here Comes The Sun King" arpeggio. I called this 'mood-dragging' - completely involuntarily - sometimes bright and flirtatious, sometimes dragging me down, only to restore the smile again. Then, finally.... -Driving. I'd be really interested in hearing a good thumping drum beat behind this, because that's what my right foot was doing. A real heart-stirring track to end on. BUT.. Don't just take my word for all of this. Go out, stretch your musical imagination, open your mind, and let yourself be driven along these exhilarating musical roads. You won't regret it. ©Alan Ratcliff January 2006.