Friday, November 18, 2011

Music Review: “Fine Arts Avenue” by Andrea Balestra


Fine Arts Avenue

Art should never be predictable. But an album should. While Andrea Balestra is a fine guitar player, and Fine Arts Avenue certainly showcases his chops. It nonetheless felt like a collection of vignettes designed to  display a multitude of musical ideas, not to mention fret board mastery, and all the effects that money can buy.

Still, there are some memorable tunes here, one of my favorites is the slightly acid-jazz “Elephants”, a particularly funky tune featuring organ god, Deacon Jones – Founding member of Chicago and work with Greg Allman, Elvin Bishop, Lester Chambers, Albert Collins, Freddie King and Buddy Miles to mention a few.

Then there is the barn burner, and Hendrix – like “Burn” in which heavy metal monster George Lynch of Dokken fame steps in to lend an ax. Turn this one up to eleven and a half. Lots of fuzz, over drive and six string wizardry here.

The shred lesson of “Burn” drops off into another nice guitar tune, “Ocean” which in places reminded me of Santana, sans harmonics and it may be the tune that really show cases Blaestra’s Telecaster skills.

Besides these two vastly different rockers, I find myself going back to two songs and trying to pin point their allure. Track 2, “Poratraits of Isabelle” which does remind me a bit of Peter Green and the last track “Memories of a Castaway”, a poignant  number with an acoustic opening that turns into an alluring melodic tune picked out on the electric.

Balestra1Scattered around the rest of the disk are songs that I can only call vehicles to show off Balestra’s chops. Most are rather slow, pastoral in feeling employing a lot of effects,  and progressive/experimental/improv feeling and an obviously wide range of influences. There is one vocal on the album, the next to last track, the folksy, “Via Delle Belle Arti” featuring Meno Mereu on vocals. Don’t misunderstand, other than a few places where the sound of the guitar got muddy inside the effects, this is not an audition tape. Far from it. Taken separately, most are fine compositions and passively conceived. But from a player of his obvious talent, I would have preferred something a little more on point as far as concept goes.

After moving to the United States from his native Sicily to pursue his dream of being a musician, Balestra toured across the country and performed and recorded in a variety of styles. A Berklee College of Music graduate, he had the honor to be chosen to perform at his college’s annual “Rock Guitar Night Showcase” in 2007. He has now made his home in the L.A. area where he can be heard at numerous clubs on a somewhat regular basis; The Baked Potato, Whiskey A Go Go and Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn. he should be announcing soon his schedule around the south land to celebrate the release of the CD.

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

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