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Nathan Mahl - Shadows Unbound CD (album) cover

SHADOWS UNBOUND

Nathan Mahl

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.36 | 17 ratings

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Dan Bobrowski
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Guy LeBlanc IS Nathan Mahl, just as Ian Anderson IS Jethro Tull. The main man fronting a band with a revolving cast of supporting musicians. Although this is my first exposure to Nathan Mahl, it surely won't be the last. To put it briefly, the vocals aren't great, but there are very few lyrics. Nathan Mahl is more progressive fusion (jazz-rock) than symphonic. Secondly, the drums are electronic and can lack depth of an acoustic set, especially in the snare department. Those points aside, Nathan Mahl has a lot for prog lovers to enjoy; intricate melodies, multi-suite movements, virtuousic improvisations and humour.

Shadows Unbound is a re-recording of an earlier Nathan Mahl release: Clever Use of Shadows that is no longer available. A couple of extra tracks were recorded to flesh this album out.

Eight tracks in all, only two feature vocals. The voice of Jean Pierre Ranger reminds me of Greg Rollie (Santana, Journey) a little bit. The processing used on the voice masks the quality. The lyrics seem to have something do do with being tied down by contractual obligations and a long ended relationship that would be better left forgotten, but the character is unable to forget and entertains some less than noble ideations.

Musically, Nathan Mahl calls to mind Dave Stewarts work with National Health and Bruford. The jazz rock qualites are strong, but the rythms are much more simple than either of those bands. The band slowly builds the first track from Hammond chording to a full on guitar solo with the first track, Without Words. Guitarist Mark Spenard really rips it up on Beyond the Rims of Despair and Scumsucking Parasites. LeBlanc's Fender Rhodes on Scumsucking Parasites is jumpy and frenetic. Is this the Canadian answer to the Dregs Scumsucking Leeches? Actually, Nathan Mahl has some Dregs influences too. Bassist Don Prince does a great job of giving LeBlanc and Spenard room to improvise and build some intriguing solos. Funkface offers some space for Prince to lay down a funky fretless slap that Bootsy would appreciate. LeBlanc jams with Hammond before capping it all off with a moog solo and a transition to guitar. A Call to Arms lets each band member take center stage and brings the album to a close.

Guy LeBlanc has toured with Camel and recorded two solo albums, the first of which, Subversia, is even more jazz-rock fueled with guitarist Scott McGill taking a very Holdsworthy approach to ripping out his solos. Keep an eye out for that one.

I will recommend this disc to fans of National Health, Bruford, Camel and jazz-rock fusion.

Dan Bobrowski | 3/5 |

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