Exposé print issues (1993-2011)
Charles Brown — A New Awakening
(Bandcamp no#, 2023, CD / DL)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2023-06-20
We all know Charles Brown, right? He’s the kid with the dog named Snoopy and friends Linus and Lucy… Oh, wrong guy? Seriously, Charles Brown is a guitarist’s guitarist from Colorado, something of a “best kept secret,” one who should be better known but for some reason, with nine solo albums behind him since 2000, he soldiers onward in relative obscurity outside of his native Denver area. While I’m not familiar with albums number one through eight, I did write a review of his previous album, Explorer of Life, and it is just as impressive as the eleven tracks on offer here on his latest, A New Awakening. There are no words to get in the way of the music, and Brown composed, arranged, and played all the parts through many layers of overdubbing and his exceptional engineering skills. The one-man-band Charles Brown plays all manner of guitars (acoustic, electric, and more), guitar synthesizer (presumably from where the bass sounds are coming from, as well as the textures and orchestrations), and he acquits himself well on Roland V-drums; it’s a major task to compose and play all the parts and engineer it so it sounds like a full band, but Brown has been perfecting his craft over a long period of time. His heart and soul are centered in the rock idiom, with the progressive qualifier flying high, well informed by elements of jazz, classical, blues, and funk, carefully eschewing any of the trappings of metal, though some of these cuts rock pretty hard. His guitar heroes may include, but are certainly not limited to, Billy Gibbons, Pete Townsend, Kim Simmonds, Robin Trower, Richie Blackmore, and the late Jeff Beck, though his arrangements are never predictable. The album launches with “The Darkest Winter,” an unabashed hard rocker with so many layers of guitar the mind boggles trying to count them, coming off like a full orchestra of sound. Other standouts include “Walking the Edge,” a tune that spends a full minute building up to a beautiful soaring melody that carries it forward over churning riffage; “What the Funk” certainly lives up to its title, but has enough proggy moves to hold the listener’s attention as a purely instrumental number; “Sea of Myst” and “Waterdance” represent a more gentle approach, the former with a lengthy Spanish style intro before it builds up to a powerful slow-rocking groove, the latter a tasty jazz number with great use of guitar synth as a faux horn section. Closer “Touch the Sunrise” is a beautiful fingerstyle piece with just enough orchestrations to underscore its gentle character. I’m happy to report that this time out, Brown has a new Bandcamp page (link below) where one can listen to the tracks on this latest effort, buy the CD or download the album. One can immerse themselves in this superb release.
Related artist(s): Charles Brown
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