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Pat Metheny

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Pat Metheny Pat Metheny Group: Letter From Home album cover
3.34 | 90 ratings | 4 reviews | 23% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1989

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Have You Heard (6:25)
2. Every Summer Night (7:13)
3. Better Days Ahead (3:03)
4. Spring Ain't Here (6:55)
5. 45/8 (0:57)
6. 5-5-7 (7:54)
7. Beat 70 (4:55)
8. Dream of the Return (5:26)
9. Are We There Yet (7:55)
10. Vidala (3:03)
11. Slip Away (5:25)
12. Letter from Home (2:33)

Total Time: 61:34

Line-up / Musicians

- Pat Metheny / synth, electric, 6- & 12-string acoustic & soprano guitars, tiple, Synclavier, co-producer
- Lyle Mays / organ, piano, accordion, Synclavier, keyboards, trumpet, co-producer
- Pedro Aznar / acoustic guitar, tenor sax, melodica, Panpipes, charango, vibes, marimba, vocals
- Steve Rodby / electric & acoustic basses, co-producer
- Paul Wertico / drums, percussion, caja
- Armando Marçal / percussion

Releases information

LP Geffen Records ‎- GHS 24245 (1989, US)

CD Geffen Records ‎- 9 24245-2 (1989, US)
CD Nonesuch ‎- 7559-79940-2 (2006, Europe) Remastered by Ted Jensen

Thanks to avestin for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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PAT METHENY Pat Metheny Group: Letter From Home ratings distribution

(90 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(23%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(43%)
Good, but non-essential (28%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

PAT METHENY Pat Metheny Group: Letter From Home reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is another great, modern & exotic urban jazz album from Pat Metheny. After the ethereal & refined "Still life" album, it seems that Pat Metheny comes back a little here with earlier elements: "Letter from home" have many parts sounding like on "Still life", but one can find the "Falcon & the snowman" sound on the "Slip away" track; plus, the return of Pedro Aznar who produces here synchronized chant with the other instruments is enough to make this album sounding different to "Still life". Paul Wertico's delicate and fast cymbals patterns are very pleasant and refined here again. Pat Metheny's short, fast & clean electric guitar notes constitute a big part of this album. His typical trumpet-like guitar-synth is still present on a couples of tracks. Lyle Mays' floating keyboards in the background sound like light orchestral arrangements; he seems more melodic here than on the "Sill life" album; his delightful rhythmic piano is still omnipresent. There are some extra instruments, like melodica, marimba, pan flute, accordion, caja, charango, and miscellaneous percussions, which give African and Latin ambiences to the whole. On the relaxing "Dream of the Return", Pedro Aznar sings in a catchy, addictive & melodic manner; he is accompanied with romantic piano and electric guitars. "Vidala" has an obscure & atmospheric bit, rather sounding like a film music: indeed, Lyle's keyboards are unusually strange, as reveals the echoed ambience, similar to the Mark Isham's "Film music" album. The last track, "Letter from home", is a BEAUTIFUL, catchy, tender and melodic piano solo, embellished by Lyle's ethereal floating keyboards: the album cannot better end than like that!

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by fuxi
2 stars By the end of the nineteen-eighties the Pat Metheny Group seemed to be selling out. Gone were the days of their visionary albums for ECM, while their most "progressive" epics (such as IMAGINARY DAY and THE WAY UP) lay far in the distance. LETTER FROM HOME sounds so cheap and cheesy at times, it actually makes me sick. I was playing the album in the car the other day, and our eldest daughter (who'll soon be eighteen) immediately said: 'This sounds just like the kind of muzak they play in Japanese supermarkets'. For once, she was right. Tunes like 'Every Summer Night' and 'Beat 70' are worse than middle-of-the-road, and if that weren't bad enough, Metheny usually has Lyle Mays accompanying the main melody on accordion, or Pedro Aznar belting out wordless vocals as if there's no tomorrow! I couldn't imagine Pat falling for this sort of "cheepnis" back in the 1970s, and I wonder what he thinks of it now. Well, it must have bought him a new house or two...

LETTER FROM HOME gets particularly terrible towards the end. 'Vidala' is a ballad sung by Pedro Aznar, sickeningly sweet and apparently based on "an ancient Indian folk melody" from Argentina. It's immediately followed by 'Slip Away', which offers the listener yet more soft-pop horrors. Strangely enough, throughout the album Pat's guitar solos (and Mays' solos on grand piano) are as endearing as ever. One or two of the pieces ('5-7-5' for example) still have the old lilt, and the album's production (with all sorts of keyboards providing smooth background textures) is, of course, immaculate. It's just such a shame that you've got to wade through a load of pap, just to reach a few treasures!

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Pat Metheny is known by his melodic,professional, but too often pop-friendly light fusion.This album is one between his weakest.

Music there is relaxed, pleasant but totally forgettable light fusion. On this album,besides of guitars,Pat plays guitar synths, what gives even more poppish accent to all sound. Even if some collaborated musicians are really of high class, you can hardly hear it in album's compositions.

Songs are simple, with some Latin/world elements in moments, and musicianship is quite uninspired. Almost everywhere music sounds on the border with muzak or new age. Hardly usable even as music for Latin cocktail party, this CD possibly could find his listener mostly as sound wallpapers in supermarkets.

Avoid at any price and even as gift.

Review by Chicapah
3 stars The more I hear of Pat Metheny the less sure I am of what kind of artist he is. I realize that I'm catching up with most of his albums decades after they were released and, therefore, they're bound to be dated to some extent but I still have to call 'em as I see 'em and they tend to run the gamut from intriguing to insomnia-curing. My earliest exposure to his aural art came in the form of his partnership with keyboard wiz Lyle Mays that culminated in 1981's exciting "As Falls Wichita So Falls Wichita Falls" album. By contrast, his namesake group's '84 offering, "First Circle," is as boring as watching paint dry while the very jazzy "80/81" record is so complex at times that it makes my head spin. So who is Pat Metheny? After listening to "Letter from Home" several times I still have no definitive answer to that question. Let me make this clear, though. Just because I don't cotton to everything he produces doesn't mean he's not an extremely talented musician. He's a monster guitarist. Period. The bottom line is what emotions his music elicits in the listener and I can only speak for myself in that regard.

The disc opens with "Have You Heard." Pat and his merry men had been dabbling heavily in South American flavors for years so it's no surprise that a lively Latin aura surrounds this song, setting the tone for what's to come. Metheny zips all over his fretboard as if to flash his impressive credentials up front and then Lyle Mays injects hot pizzazz into the final section. It's a great way to start an album. "Every Summer Night" is next and it's a light jazz tune that alternates between 4/4 and 6/4 time signatures seamlessly. It sports a very elegant atmosphere but it's also quite predictable. If not for the outstanding solos by Pat and Lyle it would've been branded as mall muzak. "Better Days Ahead" is contemporary, Sergio Mendes-styled Brazilian fare that passes without making any impression on me at all. "Spring Ain't Here" follows, a moody number they dedicated to Stanley Turrentine. It's a very subtle piece of music and they keep it low key for the full seven minutes. I'm beginning to think that Metheny's association with Mr. Mays is the best thing that ever happened to him because the stuff I like most is the stuff Lyle either wrote or helped to write. "45/8" is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it glimpse of festive Rio that's over in less than a minute whereas "5-5-7" takes a little more time to unfold. Mays' synthesized whistle effect gives this relaxing song a breezy vibe. Pat's guitar ride is smooth as silk but the track morphs into something much more fascinating when Lyle takes over and changes it into a flowing fantasy of musical colorings. He is truly the progressive thinker of the bunch and he makes a huge difference.

An up-tempo Bossa Nova pulse drives the perky "Beat 70" relentlessly. The piece features a clever accordion melody that gives it a unique aspect but it's the fluid piano and guitar leads that I find most gratifying about it. Percussionist Pedro Aznan adds spice to almost every cut while also serving duty as the band's part-time vocalist. "Dream of the Return" is a lovely ballad that he contributed Spanish lyrics to and, while it's romantic and all, it's a tad too mushy for my tastes. Perhaps if I was in seduction mode it would come in handy but those days are long gone nowadays and it just makes me sleepy. Speaking of Lyle Mays, however, his "Are We There Yet" is the finest tune on the record. It has a funky but wonderfully quirky and complicated melodic foundation that not only captures but steadfastly holds your attention from beginning to end. Mays' synth solo is scintillating before he gracefully transforms the piece into an ethereal soundscape that's as deep as the trenches of the Pacific Ocean. It's hypnotic and well worth the price of admission. Aznan's "Vidalia" follows. Its mysterious intro leads to his lonesome singing over a semi-tribal drum pattern that is reminiscent of what Peter Gabriel was investigating in that era. It's all a bit strange here and there but I do like its sense of adventure and the group's collective courage to go where it leads them. "Slip Away" adopts a peppy pace that's semi-inviting but the song's glossy veneer is too slick for me. I know what they're doing isn't child's play but I always hope to be surprised by something that pops up along the way. Unfortunately, nothing does on this one. Glad to report that they end on a classy note. "Letter from Home" is a gorgeous, soothing piano piece that Lyle presents with quiet but powerful passion.

This album ended up winning the Grammy for Best Jazz Fusion Performance at the 1990 awards ceremony, the same trophy the Pat Metheny Group had garnered for each of their three previous discs, so it's obviously held in high esteem by many who know a lot more about jazz fusion than I do. All I can tell you is that it is immensely better than the dull-as-dirt "First Circle" and has moments of greatness to savor if you are patient. Some of it is overly tame yet it never stoops to patronization. South American-tinted jazz can grow tiresome for those who like to be pleasantly shocked from time to time but the band tosses in just enough imaginative detours to keep it from slipping into Exotica territory. 2.7 stars

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