CD REVIEW: Gypsy Johns - Tale of the Stone Bear
By Cyrus Rhodes - 01/18/2011 - 12:08 AM EST
Artist: Gypsy Johns
Album: Tales of the Stone Bear
Label: Independent Artist
Sounds Like: Weather Report, Al Di Mieola, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever
Technical Grade: 10/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Commercial Value: 5/10
Overall Talent Level: 8/10
Songwriting Skills: 7/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: Eerie, Funky In-sen, Vancouver Rain
Weakness: Marketability, Genera Identity Crisis
Romanian born guitarist Mihail Cocos, Californian drummer James Celestino and Utah natives Kent Lyngle, bassist as well as keyboardist Irminsul are the power fusion/jazz/rock foursome known as the "GYPSY JOHNS" that pair up with some serious guest performers on an eclectic Euro-fusion-jazz-rock adventure that spans the World beat scene. Their latest CD entitled Tales of the Stone Bear was released in 2009.
The CD blasts off with “It’s all Good” a cool hypnotic groove that’ serves up steady rock beat, melodic fusion guitar & a slew of dynamic & progressive time signatures that are sure to make your head spin. I especially like how this intro piece flows & ebbs its way through to emotional fruition. Track 2 “Johana Ei” delivers yet another dynamic piece that lets it all hang out with impressive solo guitar work, Chris Squire type walking bass groove & hi-energy drumming. Track 3 “I4T” serves up yet another progressive melody with multiple peaks & valleys, driving rhythms & impressive melodic tandems between keyboard & guitar. The music itself has a fusion/rock vibe reminiscent to Weather Report, Al Di Mieola, Mahavishnu Orchestra & even Return to Forever. As this CD slowly unfolds it’ obvious the players in Gyspy Johns are quite accomplished. The guitar work of Mihail Cocos is extremely melodic, dynamic & extremely creative. His playing style is a cross between Al Diemola, Carlos Santana & Mark Knopfler. No doubt there’s a lot to amazing playing to be found on this whole musical production. You will hear notice the many musical influences along the way - from rock, to jazz, Progressive, classic Jam Band, & even World Music this CD pretty much has it has it all & shows us how diverse this 4 piece really is. The musical textures & overtones are all in the pocket and full of sickening variety. All songs are short & sweet musical experiences - & for a jam band experience that’s a rare find. Each song possesses its own unique signature groove & musical personality. Songs like “Manea de Bucale” & “Whities Lounge” flow very cleanly and tightly. While a few of the pieces like “Munea de Bucale” & “Lounge Estaudie” will have you picking your jaw up off the ground. Other pieces like “Eerie” & “Funky In-sen” are extremely progressive & dynamic providing many musical peaks and valleys, trap doors, & tricky time changes I simply lost count. The bass grooves (Kent Lyngle) are tight and flow like a flea on steroids, the drumming (James Celestino) push the natural accents extremely well, while the keyboard accents (Irminsul) are well placed & melodically effective. The CD ends with “Vancouver Rain” a perfect passionate finale piece for a statement such as this.
This is not the most marketable record I’ve ever heard. Its fusion – I get all that so it’s to be expected. Perhaps this CD tries to spread itself a bit too thin across so many musical genera’s it suffers from a mild case of genera identity crisis. Vocals on Track 5 are a bit over the top for me. Of course it needs to be said – Gypsy Johns get a hall pass on many of the above issues due to its genera. At the end of the day – there are simply no rules when it comes to music like this! Need I say more?
Overall this release from Gyspy Johns proves itself in a very overcompensating way. Its strong suit is its amazing musicianship, impressive jams, & the dynamic & progressive arsenal of songs – 9 in all. It’s a fully loaded production from start to finish. My hats off to Mihail Cocos for not only his amazing guitar virtuoso bit also for letting it all hang out musically as the brainchild of this operation. You want crazy time signatures, solos that will make your head spin, musicianship that is first rate, & songs that will keep you looking over your shoulder – look no further you found the Gypsy Johns.
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