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Here we have that divisive breed of CD - the instrumental guitar-centric album, guaranteed to dichotomise music fans into love it or hate it categories. Fortunately, I'm in the former camp although it could be argued why should anyone even attempt to make an instrumental guitar album post-1990 as Steve Vai's 'Passion and Warfare' was not only the single most seminal release in the genre that changed the face of such music thereafter but, at least in my opinion, has yet to be bettered, even by Vai himself. That's not to say every instrumental guitar album released since is out to compete with Vai, that would just be nonsense, and that's also not to say that everyone should love Vai and said album as I know many people have little time for his aesthetic. Rather, 'Passion and Warfare' was, and is, something very special and its influential effects can still be witnessed in the scene twenty years after its initial release. Some albums do, however, occasionally shine through the pack such as Jim Davies' 2009 debut solo effort 'Electronic Guitar' and even John 5's 'Vertigo'. Add to that list now, Jacqui Taylor's 'Brain Candy'. First, it must be said that the production is not amazing, although this is something of a DIY effort as, short of the post-production mastering, 'Brain Candy' has been produced, recorded, and mixed by the lady herself. Therefore, in light of what I'm presuming are obvious recording budgetary constraints, the overall sound is not too bad at all; it's just not amazing, like I said. With that aside, it's Jacqui's guitar abilities and compositional skills that are for discussion here and, well, they are quite amazing. Playing to a neatly layered sonic backdrop of self-created instrumentations with sampled drums, bass, keyboards and effects-infused guitar parts, apart from 'Simple Complexities' where Gary Haslett is credited with bass, all music is actually performed by Jacqui, and she crafts emotionally engaging leads over this rich tapestry of sounds. Occasional bursts of shredding colour each track at apposite moments but she's a player who exercises restraint in a kind of "less is more" dynamic. That is to say, she's evidently capable of virtuosic playing but doesn't feel the need to shit over every track with mindless displays of fretboard swagger. Instead, Jacqui gives her instrument the necessary space to 'speak' with some melodically refined lead playing that is drenched in, and dripping, pure emotional intent. A true virtuoso, no? For me, being able to communicate sincere feeling, playing from within, is what makes for genuine virtuosity in a musician, and this is evidenced on 'Brain Candy'. Jacqui Taylor is certainly a name to look out for in the scene. Go check this out right now.
Review by Mark Holmes
1) Worlds Within
2) ...about being human
3) Simple Complexities
4) Coma/Karma
5) Cure of Souls
6) Spaces Inbetween
7) Peace of Heart
8) Mind Fusion
9) Paradox
10) Ego Pi
"...Jacqui gives her instrument the necessary space to 'speak' with some melodically refined lead playing that is drenched in, and dripping, pure emotional intent."