CHRIS FRANCIS Studs n' Sisters Up To Speed UTSCD02 (2006)
When it comes to shred guitar, Satch and Vai laid down the blueprint back in the eighties and the mark by which guitarists in this genre are measured.
Chris Francis won Guitarist magazine 'Guitarist Of the Year' back in 2000 and he's also appeared with melodic rockers Ten.
Musically, it's difficult to know whether Chris has a true voice of his own - always a difficulty in this genre - but he certainly has an ear for a good tune. And, whilst technique will always be important, it's the strength of songwriting that usually sorts the men from the boys.
Guitarists will no doubt salivate over this one, with the pinched harmonics, sweeps and taps in all the right places. It took Chris two years to develop and it's also a lesson in meticulously-crafted production.
And, if Chris evokes the founding fathers of shred, he nevertheless demonstrates a deft mastery of his art.
The standout has to be 'Light It Up', an excellent groove with brass interjects and reprised on the 'deleted scenes' bonus. He's at his best with this funkier, brassier approach, mainly because it sounds a little different in the context of shred guitar. The groove is repeated on 'You Can Dance Better Than That'.
'2nd Base' is the sort of thing Larry Carlton or Lee Ritenour may have laid down on a good day, in smooth jazz mode, Madonna's 'Material Girl' is played pretty straight and 'Death Bitch' enters Megadeth territory. I'm not quite sure what Chris wanted to achieve on this one, but it does demonstrate he can do good thrash metal.
Overall, this is an excellent set. Maybe too over the top in places for the faint-hearted, but there's enough melody to win them over.