ERIC MANTEL - The Unstruck Melody

Eric Mantel - The Unstruck Melody

21 songs
78:46 minutes
***** **
Holistic Music

Bandpage

The cover made me expect another guitar hero album, and the threat that this was like a double album because of its nearly 80 minutes running time didn't help either to put the CD in my stereo. But once I had the disc out of the plastic and saw the colourful Indian illustration, my spirits lifted as I saw a sly sense of humour.

Well, Eric Mantel has been playing guitar for many years, and released his first album in the early Eighties. Since then it seems that he has been practising a lot but releasing rather little. But don't worry, The Unstruck Melody doesn't sound like some old guy letting revive his glorious past. Instead you get an artist who must have had lots of time on his hands to write cool tunes, and even if not every song is an instant strike, there's still enough here to keep me happy. With nearly half the songs instrumental and half the song with vocals by Mr Mantel himself, I somehow think that it would have been fun to divide them into two categories, as he really shows different sides. His instrumentals remind a guitar novice like me a lot of Joe Satriani's best moments, meaning that you get awesomely played guitar melodies that are never obtrusive yet always straight in your face. You clearly notice that his melody lines are thoroughly composed and not just some technical wunderkind running up and down the different sound scales. His vocal material is more AOR, always more rock than metal (which this is hardly at all). Eric Mantel has a pleasing voice that's helped out by lots of big backing vocals. This all conjures parallels to the late Seventies and early Eighties, when AOR meant fun bands like Night Ranger, Foreigner and to a certain extent Kansas. That was all before the hairspray effect destroyed the movement.

The Unstruck Melody has been released on Eric Mantel's own label Holistic Music Entertainment. When an artist considers record labels to be nothing but banks that you have to pay back after they invested in you, it shows not only artistic integrity, but also a person that is determined enough to do its own thing despite the huge competition outside. Not only you get a sound that is as good as anything you could wish for, meaning a solid production that's never overwrought or pretentious, and also a tight and professional backing band.

On the instrumental side, I have to get your attention to the fantastic Tribute, but also Mr Mantel's more ethnic journeys (the Chinese sounding Tai-Chi, the Indian sounding title tracks and the C/W Finger Pickin' Country) have their definite charms. On the vocal tracks, I recommend the cheerful Shine On, the reflective The Simple Things and the ballad Why So Lonely with a wonderful glockenspiel. In the end The Unstruck Melody would have taken advantage if it had been about half an hour shorter, but this way you can always program your CD-player to your favourite tracks. And when it comes to guitar albums, there are not many I can think of in the last five years that have been better.

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