Adam Rich. Virgin Freak.
Love Muffin Records, 1994. Released on CD, 2014.
Adam Rich: http://www.adamrichmusic.net/
Sad to say, I’m not the first one to review this CD. The Scene got there first by a week, because I was busy grading papers and writing academic-type stuff. However, I will write a more positive review, because I liked it a lot better than Jeff Niesel. I grew up on instrumental rock from a different era, with the Ventures and Duane Eddy, so my points of reference are likely a bit different from Mr. Niesel, or Mr. Rich, who plays all the instruments on the album. This was his first full-length release, on cassette (at least it wasn’t 8-track tape), while he was a college student, so it should be looked at as a debut album.
These days, Rich is a sophisticated musician, entrepreneur, and record label owner. Back then, not so much. No question, the cover is ugly, and features Rich’s distorted face in black-and-white. However, a listen tells you that here is a budding young musician with interesting ideas and a lot of potential. He experiments with every studio trick he can think of and the recorded sound is a bit questionable in some places, with the guitar pitched a bit too high. Even remastering can’t redo everything. That being said, what attracts me to this album is his guitar playing. He’s good. He absorbed various styles, and you can hear the influences of heroes like Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson. but Rich doesn’t play quite as cleanly here as they did. He likes fuzz tones, and goes a little more metal here and there, especially with the bass. The drumming is a bit rudimentary, but that wasn’t really his instrument.
“Hangover” sounds to me part metal, part surf music, something you might have heard on the Munsters TV Show, or at a monster truck rally. He breaks out the funky wah wah for “Rhet Ro,” and it sounds pretty good. “The Friendlies” gets more atmospheric, slower paced and melodic, with Rich showing off his guitar runs. It changes pace about halfway through, running faster and rougher, before returning to the original theme. It’s the longest track, and the one I like best, as it shows clear development and structure. “Groceries & Antifreeze” gets a bit psychedelic, while “Judas” is a metal workout with lots of guitar flash, also very enjoyable. “Ylime” goes acoustic, and Rich gets to show off his softer side, very sweet in a Leo Kottke sort of way. With “Visually Impaired,” the bass takes over with heavy crunching chords, and “Weaving,” recorded a year earlier finishes off the set with another strong track that rather sums up Rich’s musical influences.
I skipped over “Psycho John,” and I wish he had. it would have been better left off the album and replaced with other tracks from his first EP. Psycho John’s bizarre vocals ruin the song, otherwise instrumentally okay. Overall, as a college student’s debut album, this is really quite good. Yes, of course he’s gotten much better over the years, both in terms of musicianship and breadth of musical expression, but this album is a lot of fun, with enjoyable tunes. Fans of Adam Rich should definitely pick it up.
Personnel: Adam Rich (all instruments), Psycho John (vocals on “Psycho John”).
Tracks: Hangover, Rhet Ro, The Friendlies, Psycho John, Judas, Groceries & Antifreeze, Ylime, Nasally Impaired, Weaving (from his 1993 EP cassette, Leave My Fish Alone).