It’s not often outside of the cannon of the late Frank Zappa, that you come across a mix of virtuoso playing shot through with good humour and a wide arrange of musical styles. But clearly with his stripped down musical brilliance Paul Speidel and his trusty trio is no ordinary band.
From the opening funky groove and exploratory meandering guitar lines, you quickly realize you are in the presence of a left field combo that is as interesting and innovative as it is eclectic.
Recorded in front of what sounds like a jazz crowd (presumably in his native Boston) Paul Speidel deconstructs a number of styles and somehow finds a way back again to either the theme or a semblance of the beginning.
He achieves this only because his band mates match him all the way, at various times building up little tensions and leaving enough space for the guitarist to resolve them
When you listen to the parodic conclusion to “Doggin The Walk” and the brief tension release as the crowd belatedly shows its appreciation, you are tapping into a band/audience dynamic that few guitarists are capable of constructing without the use of either excessive volume, effects or let’s face it, lyrics!
Speidel quickly adds a humorous rock & roll flourish on ‘Dirty Mudflaps’, along with a gloriously ragged reprise as if to suggest, ‘hey we may be good but this is just for fun’. Just like many a fine guitarist before him Paul seems hell bent on setting himself little stylistic and technical challenges and he positively revels in finding different ways to solo his way out of some apparently oblique alleyways. The humorous element is never far from the surface as he toys with various musical styles during the course of an eloquent conversation between guitar and audience.
On the blues inflected ‘Burnslide’ he builds up his lines with a volley of staccato notes, which at times seem to bare no relation to main piece, but through a mesmerizing shift of repeated notes, string bends and different tonal accents his negotiates his way round a precipice.
Such is the expressiveness of his playing that you almost forget there are no vocals. Paul explores some lovely jazzy notes over the Bo Diddley beat of the supremely titled “3-Way Wiggle” and makes the most of the cool dynamics of “Beautiful & Blue”, with each delicately toned note, from both bass and guitar, effectively taking the place of a hundred notes. Bassist Steve Skop adds a lovely melody alongside Paul’s guitar as drummer Brendan Byrnes adds some crisp cymbal splashes.
None of this is particularly original, but each track’s effectiveness relates to the album as a whole. “Guitar Bass Drums” is after all a CD that relies on the light and shade of a number of particular pieces that seem to be inextricably conjoined. Look no further than the juxtaposition of the above with the Jump feel of the suitably titled “The Bounce” and the following grungy fuzz guitar boogie of “TX”.
This is exhilarating stuff that never stops long enough to risk complacency or over scrutiny. The closing self explanatory “Only Three Bars Around” seems to be a concluding statement along the lines of; 'Ok, you’ve dug the clever stuff, now here’s Sabbath', as the trio all but stomp off into the ether.
This really is a great little album, certainly a must for guitar freaks and potentially also of interest to bluesers for whom the likes of the late Link Wray and Roy Buchanan, not to mention the sometimes unfathomable Greg Koch hold interest.