Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Randy Coven ~ Funk Me Tender



(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: hard rock, funk, instrumental
Label: Guitar Recordings
Year: 1990
Home: New York

Members: Randy Coven ~ bass
Jim Hickey ~ guitars
Todd Turkisher ~ drums

Guests: Steve Vai, Al Pitrelli ~ guitar
Wayne Shuster ~ sax
Mark Wood ~ violin


Opening with an over the top distorted "Star Spangled Banner" a la Hendrix, Funk Me Tender features an electic mix of a dozen instrumentals spanning funk to rock, all strung together with the jazz-rock funky bass of Randy Coven of the bass school of T.M. Stevens, Billy Sheehan, Stanley Clark, Bootsy Collins and Herbie Hancock's Headhunters. As a bassist myself I tend to gravitate more toward the other end of the spectrum such as Bill Wyman, John Paul Jones, Geezer Butler and some of the traditional jazz guys where the bass remains firmly a rhythm instrument, but there's no questioning Coven as a major talent. A highlight of the album is guitarist Jim Hickey whose loud distorted solos really give many of the songs their flavor and form, undoubtedly honed by years of the band playing together in gritty Tri-State clubs as the complicated rhythms and melody lines have a gritty urban sound. I find instrumental albums are also difficult ones to approach, let alone discuss. I find it hard to figure out whether it's good or bad as you can't base your ideas on traditional song structure of verse/chorus/verse/chorus. While, what can seem bad might only be reflective of the mood of the listener. Also, lyrics often dictate a mood of a song but that variable is absent. Though, "Toronto Blues" is a slow blues in both name and feel, but songs like "Manhattan Mama" "Tree" "Poached Antelope" and "Chopped Sewage" don't exactly imply any emotion, unless one is a member of Greenpeace. And, I hate to just look at the album from the point of view of technical prowess as Coven can definetly create some very emotional grooves. I do like the fact that the songs aren't completely centered on the guitar. Coven's bass, named Sammy, often sits right up front creating a duet style, akin to jazz pianist Bill Evans work with Scott LaFaro. The drumming is probably the only thing that is subdued, but it provides the important job of keeping the beat so everyone else can go to town. I will say that the instrumental flavor of the album largely shows it's age when such things were still frequent. Nobody is making albums like this anymore either in style or instrumental approach. Guesting on the album is Coven's collegemate Steve Vai with his recognizable slick sound. On "Uptown", playing an quasi-indistinguisable "second guitar" is Al Pitrelli in one of his earliest recordings, playing rhythm, a solo underneath Jim Hickey's solo and a little outro. He almost gets lost, though provides an interesting way of boosting the sound of the guitar without electronics or overdubs. He'd later play with Alice Cooper, Megadeth, Savatage, on some of their best output, along with their transformation into Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Violinist extradinaire Mark Wood, whose played with Celine Dion, also plays on two tracks. It's not everyday you get violin on a funky rock album, particularly sounding more like a keyboard than a guitar. For those interested in mid-80's instrumental prowess, or maybe I should say back in the days when such things still seemed to matter, Coven is a guy worth hunting for.



2 comments:

  1. Hummm... Not sure what record you were listening to but as far as instrumental music, this kills. Also, anyone who is a fan of Al Pitrelli can easly pick out the "indistinguisable second guitar" of Al. You need to listen some more...

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  2. Thanks. As for what you think kills ... that's fine. Though, I listen and own every album I review. Only once I got in trouble because the musician sent me tracks from different albums and I didn't know it and got into trouble by talking about tracks not on the album. Took that review down.

    But, as for Al. At this point I own 49 albums by him (some which he doen't even remember, according to the last time we talked) as he's one of my favorites. This very early solo is indistinguishable as it isn't a typically out front solo but part of the bigger sound within a cloud of guitars, the opposite of the track with Steve Vai where he's the first and foremost instrument dominating the song. As Al said in an April 2010 interview: "my job as a musician is to translate what the producer wants … it's basically a game of translation.” That's what my attraction to him is. He can blend not hog the spotlight, which is a rare ability. That's why his work with Megadeth sounds nothing like Expose. It's probably better in this sense that he doesn't have a 100% recognizable style because it's opened his catalog up so wide to many different styles. But, then, I'm honest and won't say, for example, Elvis is the greatest singer and thus can't do a bad album. He's done a few. On top of that this album comes very early for Al before he'd have the experience to develop his sound.

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