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Janos Várga Project - Elixir CD (album) cover


Janos Várga Project

Eclectic Prog

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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Hungary's legendary guitarist János Varga (ex-East) continues his interstellar voyage with his latest release, having made a profound impression after his first 2 "Wings of Revelation" albums and a DVD release to boot. For those of you who remain unfamiliar with this superlative musician, shame on you! In fact, any serious guitarist should hungrily (no pun intended) examine the talents displayed on all his albums, "Elixir" being the latest breathtaking chapter in his storied career. Master of all stringed instruments , Janos arrays guitar-synths, acoustic, electric and bass guitars with rare composure , abetted by longtime East colleague István Király on drums and Zsolt Nagy on keys. As an added bonus, we find János Varga Jr on occasional drums and the amazing György Ferenczi on frenzied violin as a major guest soloist. This last instrument is a most welcome invitation as it conjures images of Mahavishnu Orchestra but in a spacier, jamfest way. The guitarist also handles a percussion computer program that sounds totally organic and liberally flavors all tracks with slick percussives, giving the drummers a lead rhythmic role that is dynamic at all times. With aromatic fusionesque titles such as "India", "East-West Express", "Caravanserai" and "El Dorado", one gets the immediate impression of luxuriant adventure, deep sonic voyages that transcend the ordinary routine which is the true essence of prog anyway. Varga's guitar style is an original hybrid of such heralded masters as Hillage, Hackett, Wynne, Akkerman, Latimer and MacLaughlin with a little Billy Gibbons tossed in for good ZZ Top measure. "India" hints at oriental spices, a modern, bouncy exercise that immediately showcases the tremendous controlled fury the man seems to peel off at random, with the celestial violin serenading the pathway to "the Emerald Beyond". The multiple and yet brief solos are all exhilarating, trading spotlights as if competing for some yet unheard nirvana. "El Dorado" is just slightly less frantic, distilling strong impressions of a once great Empire, rich Andean weavings that chill the soul, the violin ornamenting once again the proceedings. The 2 soloists waste little time in dueling madly, as if fueled by the "high" altitude. The third track, "Roses on the River" (I am translating from Hungarian) is where János gets to showcase first his acoustic talents as a platform for a monster , bluesy electric solo that will knock your socks off, all control and passion, candied with some unabashed romanticism (after all, we are dealing with Hungarians!). A rueful organ demonstration only adds some paprika to the sauce. The slick "East-West Express" is a rumbling travelogue, chugging along with a searing determination, a panoramic/cinematographic musical trip highlighted by a guitar locomotive that refuses to rest, tortuous, unrelenting, evocative and adventurous. "Respect for the Master" is a bold guitar-led proclamation recalling the classic epic themes from Western movies (a serious passion in Europe, by the way), where Varga simply shreds and rips like some mad gunslinger gone bananas, Ennio meets Jimi meets Carlos in some prog corral showdown. Here Varga really does hint at Gibbons as the rhythmic work is as delirious as the breakneck leads. "Caravanserai" evidently summons nomadic impressions, heavy on the rhythmic pulse of the desert, the guitar whirling under the torrid sun, parched fingers searching for some refreshing oasis and perhaps a little shady respite from the heat. János shows that restraint can be an expressive tool and the elegant acoustic guitar phrasings serve its purpose very well. Again, I must mention the brilliant programmed percussion that lays down a sonic tapestry that underlines the brooding temper of the sand dunes. "Round and Round" is a loopy affair, circular themes both rhythmically and within the soloing create a dizzying atmosphere, veering into some serious space prog, not amiss with the Gong/Mahavishnu/Ashra template, a style that rekindles previous efforts in the "Wings of Revelation" series. The guitar playing is blistering as expected; the man can play with the best anywhere. A neat Nagy synth solo only adds further deep galactic dimension to the score and the extraterrestrial violin also takes its share of the universe. "Pentaton Attak" is another typical foray into astral space rock, slithering violin and intrepid guitar conspiring to expand the sonic universe, dueling for attention and respect with little restraint or cute formalities. Varga solos with deft aplomb, bluesy one second and frenzied the next, while Ferenczi seesaws unforgiving and defiant. "The Proper Road" is closer to recent guitar adventures by Dutch band Odyssice, a guitar-led masterstroke that rekindles the lyrical spirit of Andy Latimer, oodles of expression and feeling emanating from the pickups, massive flights that sear the skies, soaring majestically as if inspired by the music gods. "Materialized Sleep" is the longest track here, clocking in a 7+ minutes, a slight hint of the famed Shaft them before delving into a dripping bluesy expanse that blooms slowly into a raging affair where scintillating wah-wah drenched lightning bolts and crispy crunching riffs contrast and collide with the spectral pools of serene calm. "Avowal" is the "viszont látás"(see you soon) for this accomplished recording, a soothing Santana-esque salute to the muses, a drop dead gorgeous melody played out on the now sweaty fretboard, a clear and present tribute to a sharp musical mind still scouring the depths of progressive rock music. Not a single weak track or filler here, a total aural orgy. As far as instrumental prog goes, this new offering as well as his past catalogue are a must have for any serious music fan. 5 genial tonics
Report this review (#243634)
Posted Thursday, October 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars HUNGARIAN PROG : Part One

Janos Varga is the founding member and guitar player of the legendary Hungarian progrock formation East that made several albums in the first part of the Eighties, their LP Huseg (1982) is considered is their best effort. Then Janos was very active in several musical projects and in the late Nineties he founded the Janos Varga Project. He released the studio-albums The Wings Of Revalations I (2000) and II (2002) and in 2003 the Janos Vargo Project DVD entitled Live The Wings Of Revalation. On this outstanding (and very underrated) efforts I enjoyed the variety: in his often powerful guitar work (from propulsive riffs and fiery runs to classical guitar and sensitive with subtle use of the volume pedal) and in the compositions (from rock and blues to New Age and symphonic rock).

In 2009 the Janos Varga Project released a new studio-album entitled Elixer on which Janos (guitars, synthesizers and bass) plays together with original East-drummer Istvan Kiraly, keyboard player Zsolt Nagy and Gyorgy Ferenczi on violin. Again we can enjoy a lot of variety and powerful guitar work. But on this album the violin adds a new element to the sound of Janos Varga Project: strong solos and captivating interplay with the electric guitar in the Eastern sounding India, the alternating Eldorado and Pentatonic Attack (evoking JL Ponty).

But of course the focus is on Janos his excellent guitar work.

A moving solo in Roses On The River (also including a compelling Hammond organ solo after a spacey intro).

Fiery, biting and heavy runs in East-West Express (swinging bass and propulsive percussion).

Wah-wah guitar and splendid guitar work in the (in my opinion) Eric Clapton tribute Respect For The Master.

Floydian guitar play in the varied Caravanserai (electronic sounds, didgeridoo, flute and acoustic guitar).

Howling electric guitar runs, blended with acoustic guitar in the swinging The Right Way.

A heavy and bombastic guitar sound in the alternating My Dream Came True.

And sensitive electric guitar runs (with hints of Peter Green and Carlos Santana) in the wonderful final track Confession.

What a strong third effort, one of the most overlooked gems in this decade, highly recommended eclectic guitar prog extravaganza!

Report this review (#2037740)
Posted Sunday, September 23, 2018 | Review Permalink

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