Lyle Workman

Tabula Rasa

Lyle Workman - Tabula Rasa ©2000 Infrared
1. Timbuktu
2. Here Comes The Cavalry
3. Splendid Outcast
4. Cowboy G
5. Coloratura
6. Inhale
7. The Great Race
8. Rising Of The Mourning Sun
9. Afterglow
10. Ithaca

The vagaries of being a consistently working session musician in a cesspool like Los Angeles must certainly be taxing on one’s personal and artistic integrity. Indeed, one might say it must leave very little time for one’s own endeavors. Now, I am usually bored to tears by most instrumental/fusion/shredder albums, but those familiar with Lyle Workman’s astonishingly prolific session, touring, and soundtrack work (Frank Black, Jellyfish, Beck, the utterly awful Bourgeois Tagg, among many others) would know that he is a guitarist of an altogether different breed: one of tastefulness, quirkiness, and one for whom the song is more important than wanton guitar wankery. On his second solo album, Workman brought his considerable compositional skill and jaw-dropping guitar/keyboard technique to what is probably one of the better instrumental/fusion albums to come out in a long while.

Featuring nine instrumental songs and one song with vocals and lyrics by Mike Keneally, Tabula Rasa is a prime example of instrumental fusion with an ear for warmth of tone and somber emotion that is not without a sense of hope. The music itself runs the gamut of bluegrass, Beatles-ish pop (specifically their psychedelic era), progressive rock, and folk, and is simply packed to the brim with densely layered guitar tracks and textures. The production is marvelous, leaving ample room for the ungodly amount of guitar overdubs to work their magic while still sounding appropriately huge. Workman’s soloing is given room to soar, specifically at the end of the sprawling “Rising of the Mourning Sun”. An utterly awesome jazz piano run is featured towards the end of “Splendid Outcast”. Occasionally, synthesized (and acoustic) strings come into play, giving the record an occasionally playful vibe that is well in keeping with the warmly sentimental atmosphere the songs convey.

Workman himself proves to be an apt multi-instrumentalist, lending his talents not only to guitars and keyboards, but also to the mandolin, kantele, electric sitar, synth, and programming, in addition to producing, arranging, mixing, composing, and co-engineering the entire album. But seemingly in spite of all this, the compositions themselves stand to be most important, as Workman wastes nary a note throughout the entire fifty-four minutes of the album’s length. This album comes highly recommended for all fans of tasteful, honest instrumental music.

Review by Alec A. Head

Review date: 10/2007

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