ADRIAN SHAW – String Theory (Woronzow)

Adrian Shaw has quite a history behind him, having provided bass for such bands as Arthur Brown, Hawkwind, The Deviants, Bevis Frond, and Magic Muscle (a band featuring Rod Goodway – the chap I got the CD from through his mail order service). Over the past few years he has been recording solo albums, and with this one he has delivered his best yet. Calling in favours from various Woronzow mates, he has guest appearances from Bevis Frond’s Nick Saloman, Outskirts Of Infinty’s Bari Watts, The Alchemysts’ Paul Simmons, The Only Ones’ John Perry, and drummer Ric Gunther. Watts makes his first appearance on opening track ‘Mirrors’, and peels off one of his effortlessly sublime solos, but it is ‘Thirty Two’ which hints at just how good this album is going to be, with a lengthy, blistering guitar solo from Simmons that just blows the mind. ‘Do It Again’ is an acoustic pop ditty which gives us a chance to catch our breath, while ‘Cotham Hill’ is a lovely ballad enhanced by Shaw’s use of an orchestral backing courtesy of his synths. ‘Bide My Time’ has another appearance from Bari Watts on a great rocker, as are ‘Stirrup Cup’ and ‘Non Stop Dancing’, although Shaw can also deliver tender ballads as in the piano/orchestra of ‘Oak And Brass’. The saving grace of this album, though, is the final track ‘Saving Grace’, a hymn to the highs and lows of a life on the road. For this one all stops are pulled out, and all the guitarists get a chance to show off their skills in an 18 and a half minute guitar extravaganza. From its tabla/sitar opening, through the lysergic vocal weirdness, to its closing chiming chords it is a masterclass in guitar technique and is worth the price of the CD on its own. For the most part this is Adrian Shaw totally solo, with his friends just helping out with the guitar solos, and so he is to be commended for producing an album that really sounds like a band, with production values way up from a lot of solo albums. Available from Rustic Rod.