Charles Brown is a guitar player from Denver, Colorado (USA) who has been performing, teaching and composing for over thirty years now. He gets his musical inspiration from progressive music to blues and jazz; musicians like Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple, Rainbow), Alex Lifeson (Rush) and George Benson are among those who have influenced him. Storm Rising is an instrumental album combining hard hitting heavy rock and progressive riffs with guitar synth textures and melodies, as well as classical and acoustic elements.
The title track is the first song on the album and apart from the above-mentioned sources of inspirations, I think there's also a lot of new age music involved in the making of this song. Sure, you hear some nice powerful parts, but the music is mostly a blend of the softer progressive rock sound of a band like Camel and Mike Oldfield' s guitar sound. I think the hardly audible bass and the hidden drums evoke this new age feeling, but the fine keyboard and guitar melodies and the solos make this a strong opening piece for a first acquaintance with the album. Continuing with Ocean Of Storms, the drums are undoubtedly present, yet sounding less clear, but the fine keyboard melodies let you forget this minor production error. This song that lasts for almost thirteen minutes contains pleasant rock, power and an agreeable sounding guitar with hints of Marillion and Pat Metheny.
The third track Hie Folget Ein Tantzis is a classical guitar piece played in the vein of Ritchie Blackmore. It shows Brown's classical skills. This short interlude is followed by On The Wings Of Lightning, another extensive song that lasts over twelve minutes; it's one of the heavier tracks on the album. On this piece Brown's guitar is duelling with the keyboards of Matt Bassano several times. The very tasteful progressive parts make way for almost ambient and relaxed guitar parts to balance the song, but a furious guitar part in the end lifts it to a heavier level. Avalanche Warning starts with an almost ambient experience, before the acoustic guitar leads you into the song. After three minutes the guitar becomes electrical and powerful: fine riffing over soft keyboard tones leads to a fluent solo, to return to the guitar and strong keyboards that attract the most attention. Rain Of Fire starts with a guitar outburst taking you back to the eighties. The Pink Floyd-like keyboard sounds provide for the balance. The second half is characterized by strong melodies and powerful riffs over layers of keyboards. The album ends with Mist Rising, a slow and emotional piece in which a sensitive guitar plays over fuzzy sounding keyboards; a nice way to end an album.
I wasn't familiar with the music of Charles Brown, but his roots are anchored in the seventies and eighties characterized by the strong interaction of guitar and keyboards. I seemed to have missed the jazz-influences on Storm Rising which is in fact drenched in progressive rock music. It's not a typical guitar album, since the guitar as well as the keyboards attracts just as much attention. Sound wise, I would have liked a better sound of the drums and the bass guitar. More prominent drumming could have taken away my 'new age feeling'.
***+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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