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Gayle Ellett & the Electromags — Friends
(Peacock Sunrise PSR-1-011, 2023, CD / DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2023-09-29

Friends Cover art

While he‘s probably best  known as one of the two guitarists in Djam Karet, Gayle Ellett has done plenty of work in other bands — Herd of Instinct, Fernwood, Kelp Dwellers, Ecovillage, Hillmen and others among them, as well as creating soundtracks for television and more, his latest endeavor is the one that bears his own name: Gayle Ellett & the Electromags, a rock trio featuring  Craig Kahn on drums and Mark Cook (from Herd of Instinct) on bass, with Ellett composing all the tracks as well as playing all things guitar and keyboard related. While their first album, Shiny Side Up, from a year ago featured mostly the core trio, this year’s Friends features a number of guests, 22 guest musicians in all, from all around the world, with a different grouping featured on every one of the album’s thirteen tracks. An instrumental effort, each of the cuts draws inspiration from the rich well of guitar-based rock that went down from the early 60s through the 70s — or if it must be labeled, a classic period vintage sound that echoes those years well, nearly every song featuring vintage keyboards like Hammond organ, Mellotron, Rhodes, MiniMoog, and other synthesizers, and multiple layers of guitars. Take, for example, “The Many Moods of Morgan,” where Brian Chapman of The Green Horn Brothers is the featured guitarist, Ellett steps back to concentrate on rhythm guitar and all manner of keyboards to make it one of the finest five minutes of rock anywhere on the album. On “It’s All San Andreas’ Fault” Marc Ceccotti (Edhels) and Joee Corso are trading solos while Ellett again concentrates on rhythm, Hammond organ, and MiniMoog dueling with the six-strings for a good instrumental shred. Of course, the guest players recorded their respective parts in their own studios wherever they may be, while the core trio’s parts were recorded in Topanga, California and Arlington Texas, though the task of combining all of the performances together was most certainly done at Ellett’s Topanga home base. Taling a more gentle, emotion-filled approach is the beautiful “1960 Ocean Front Walk,” where the ‘Mags are joined by guitarist Frederic L’Epee (Philharmonie, Yang) who blesses the piece with his unique vision. Three guests appear on “Three Parsecs from Tucson,” with Walter Whitney (synthesizer, gongs, and percussion), and both Carl Weingarten and David Udell on electric guitars — making three guests from Delay Tactics, while Ellett supports as rhythm guitarist. Many more guests appear on one track or another: Paul Richards from California Guitar Trio, Barry Cleveland, Thierry Payssan (Minimum Vital), the members of Japanese group Baraka, German Vergara, Juan Pablo, and many more. To say this is an amazing and varied album is an understatement — it’s one that reveals new secrets wirh every spin.

Filed under: New releases, 2023 releases

Related artist(s): Carl Weingarten, Marc Ceccotti, Gayle Ellett, Barry Cleveland, David Udell, Frédéric l'Épée

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