Released: 2000, Grooveyard Records
Reviewer: Nathan Robinson
Hell yeah man…another Chris Poland CD! This time, it’s a collection of rare, unreleased demo material from a couple of Chris’ other projects, namely Mumbo’s Brain and Nothing If Not. The CD kicks off with six tracks from Mumbo’s Brain, recorded in 1993 with Mark Poland on drums, Dave Randi on bass, and John Skipp on vocals. Vocals!?!? Damn it! The potential for a jazz/blues album to be ruined by vocals always exists. And the same holds true here. Mumbo’s Brain contains some pretty annoying vocals. No offence, but imagine a black David Lee Roth. That’s what I think of at least. I’m not big on his voice at all, nor the lyrics. The opening crowd and announcer in “Big 15” are plain stupid and annoying. This bluesy track has a serious lack of guitars too! And the song would benefit from the absence of those back-up female vocals. “L.A.’d” is a rock song with a kind of dark atmosphere during the verses. And the vocals during these parts aren’t too bad either. “Won’t Take Me Back” has a cool metallic guitar riff, which disappears during the verses, unfortunately. Bad-ass guitar lead towards the end though…reminds me of Allan Holdsworth. “Lissa’s Found a Home” is the ballad of the album, and sounds a little boring. “Demons” gets a little heavier. Now this song reminds me of 1984-era Van Halen for some reason. “I’m Only Sleeping” has some of the best music in it…very sleepy and spacey. But of course the vocals ruin things. Overall, Mumbo’s Brain kick ass if the vocals were absent, and guitars were put in their place.
Nothing If Not is represented with five tracks. These songs were recorded in 1995, and are closer to the material on Chasing the Sun than Mumbo’s Brain. Nothing If Not is a jazz/blues hybrid featuring Dave Randi once again on bass, Koko Bermejo on drums, and Carol McArthur on vocals. This stuff is way far from metal folks! But it’s nice to throw on when you’re in the mood for something light. These tracks have a nice clean production. The vocals are much better than Mumbo’s Brain, although still not totally my cup ‘o tea. Why? Well, there’s just something about Carol’s voice that just doesn’t sit right with me…perhaps they’re a bit too soft or weak. I prefer the more emotional, majestic, or forceful female vocals that some metal artists have embraced (such as Erik Rutan’s Alas, Dark Tranquillity, Portal, Left Hand Solution, Aghora, Fear of God, and The Gathering).
Two of the better tracks on this CD are “acoustic guitar interludes”, recorded in 1993. These solely acoustic guitar instrumentals are a welcome break from the annoyances of the vocalists. And I happen to love acoustic guitar, so these two tracks are right up my alley. And because Chris rarely utilizes the acoustic guitar, it’s nice to hear him playing one for once! I especially like the second interlude, in which Chris plays a little more aggressively, reminding me a little of Led Zepplin. I’d love to see Chris do more acoustic work in the future! Another highlight on the CD is the final track “If Yellow Were Orange”. This bonus track is a live improvisational jam from Chris’ fusion band Ohm, recorded last February. Kick ass jazz fusion, with some bizarre guitar effects similar to John McLaughlin’s work in Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Overall, this CD is a disappointment. I was hoping for heavier music once again…maybe some outtakes or unreleased songs from the Return to Metalopolis sessions, if such material even exists. I was not expecting what I heard, especially when it came to the vocals. But regardless, I always praise anyone that has the interest and spends the time, effort, and money to put out rare and unreleased material. So mega-hails to Chris and Grooveyard Records for making this music available! I doubt any metal fan will get anything out of this CD…only truly die hard Chris Poland fans. Along with Chasing the Sun, this limited edition Rare Trax CD can be purchased through Grooveyard Record’s web site.