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Music Review: Todd Grubbs – Time, Space and The Electric

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It's time for album number four from Berklee College of Music educated guitarist Todd Grubbs, following on from Toddities, Combination, and Beautiful Device.  Now, I know what some of you were thinking when you saw the phrase "Berklee College of Music educated guitarist."  You're thinking fretboard fornication, a tuneless squall of flurried notes with nary a tune in sight.  Well that's track 3, "The Fearless Future."  But the rest of it is actually remarkably good.

Yes, a lot of it heads down the well worn route of Joe Satriani, Jeff Beck, Steve Vai and their ilk, but most of the material is actually built around a series of actual, proper tunes, which Mr Grubbs uses as a springboard for his bedazzling technical skills.  There are an array of melodies that you remember long after the widdly widdly bits have faded away.

Surprisingly, for someone who admits to being influenced by Frank Zappa, this CD manages to show a degree of restraint, which is admirable in someone who has the chops to show off quite magnificently. This is where the Uli Jon Roth and Frank Marino influences come into play. Now there are a couple of guys who save up the fancy schmancy stuff for when it's required to make a telling contribution, rather than throwing in bouts of shredding just because they can.

Mr. Grubbs has also pulled in a number of big name contributors to round out his normal trio members, Jeff Henry and Alan Tatum (drums and bass, respectively).  Fair enough, former Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian would turn up to the opening of a paper bag, but factor in former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland, John Wesley from Porcupine Tree, Ralph Santolla and Mark Prator, current and former Iced Earth members, and Zappa alumni Don Preston amongst others, and it's clear that there is a lot of respect coming the way of Todd Grubbs.

And it's well deserved as there are some mighty fine tunes here with the laid back "Edith" a nice breather in amongst the general maelstrom of fusion influences and progressive rocking. The best of these include "Thank You Mr Maniac," "Dreaming Aboard An Alien Aircraft,"' and "A View From Inner Space."  It's a fine line between mindless shredding and well thought out and played guitar wizardry, a line that Todd Grubbs never crosses.

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About Stuart A Hamilton