Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this music junkie as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. Compact Discs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no files.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Acoustic Alchemy - Red Dust & Spanish Lace (1987)

Note: this release was originally purchased as a cassette tape, later replaced by a CD.

Another one of those albums that I must have played quite a bit when it was first released and then slowly forgotten during my transition from LPs/tapes to CDs in the late '80s/early '90s. I say that because I was instantly (re)familiar with all the cuts and found myself humming along on first spin after rescuing this disc from the 50¢ clearance pile. The album is a pleasant but innocuous blend of smooth jazz, new age, instrumental pop, and world music from a duo whose previous gig was in-flight entertainment for Virgin Airlines. From the Nick Webb's liner notes:
I had always wanted to form an instrumental band since I saw "Pentangle" in the early 70's. The acoustic guitar had always been my first love and when I teamed up with classical/flamenco guitarist Simon James things started to take some shape. Since neither of us had any hang-ups about musical barriers, we found we were writing duets of all kinds of musical styles. An album and a single later Simon drifted away to pursue a classical career and I began working with my present partner, Greg Carmichael. Greg brought fresh inspiration and new ideas and before we knew it we were working our passage to the States, performing on Virgin Airlines as "in-flight entertainment." Our travels took us eventually to Nashville and to a meeting with Tony Brown at MCA who commissioned us to make this album for the Master Series. The material on the album represents a wide variety of styles-rock, jazz, flamenco, folk and almost everything in between. The artistic freedom allowed us by the label meant that I could employ the multivarious talents of John Parsons to produce the record. Incidentally John is a superb guitarist in his own right. ln short I had the chance to do everything I’d ever wanted but as the old maxim goes “never believe what an artist says-only what he does" or as Donald Fagen once said, "l cried when I wrote this song-sue me if I play too long."

lf The Oxford English Dictionary definition of alchemy, is "pursuit of the transmutation of the baser metals into gold" and acoustic is "pertaining to sound" then "Acoustic Alchemy" must surely mean "the transformation of musical instruments into something more than the sum of their component parts."

lf our basic ingredients began with 2 acoustic guitars then who's to say where it might end.
I can't believe he fell back on the old 'dictionary definition' shortcut, but at least he threw in a Steely Dan lyric.

The album was issued as part of the MCA Master Series, a short-lived New Age record series under the MCA label that issued its first set of releases in March 1986 and ceased in 1990 when MCA purchased GRP Records and many of the Master Series artists moved to the GRP label, including Acoustic Alchemy.

Album chart peaks:
  • US Billboard Top 200: Did not chart
  • R&R Jazz Radio National Airplay: #14

Tracks: My top picks are Mr. Chow and One For The Road.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I was unfamiliar with Acoustic Alchemy until my newlywed wife and I heard the lead track from this album, Mr. Chow, on the radio sometime in 1989. Most likely heard on KOAI 'The Oasis' 106.1 FM.

We both liked the song so I bought the tape. I was teaching high school jazz band that year (and had absolutely no business doing so) and as part of the class, I would make mixtapes of different sorts of jazz, trying to expose the students to as much music as possible. It was my hope that they'd listen to some of the music outside of school. I have no idea whether they did or not, but I'm pretty sure Mr. Chow was on one of those tapes.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Arcanum (1996)
Blue Chip (1989)

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