The Daily Vault Album Reviews “Blue Electric Cool”

My appreciation for the guitar work of the likes of Ronnie Montrose and Larry Carlton has led me to listen to a fair amount of instrumental guitar music over time. One of the conclusions this has led me to is that there are a lot of guitarists out there who think they have both the technical and the compositional chops to entertain without words… and fewer who are right. Thus, I approached this disc with an attitude of caution.

Fortunately for both of us, guitarist Curtis Fornadley was more than up to the task of giving me an attitude adjustment. This consistently entertaining sophomore effort from the LA-based Fornadley — who goes by “Curtis” professionally — won me over with its sustained high quality musicianship, strong composition and occasional bold strokes.

The most appealing aspect of Blue Electric Cool is that these cuts are more than just jams, they’re actual songs, with beginnings, middles and ends, builds that make sense and arrangements that leave space for interplay without ever devolving into self-indulgent soloing.

The second most appealing aspect of this disc is Curtis’ eclectic taste and audacious mixing and melding of musical styles. A perfect example is this disc’s opener, “Spanish Surf,” which sounds just about like what you might hope for with a title like that — the basic propulsiveness of a surf guitar tune, interspersed with unusual little Spanish-tinged interludes that incorporate exotic rhythms and synth tones.

Curtis delves effectively into Carlton-esque jazz-pop fusion (complete with horn section) on “Street Walkin’.” “Fire In Her Eyes” has an almost Western feel to some passages (is that one of Clint Eastwood’s old “man with no name” themes whistling through the background on the choruses?), then goes off on a sweetly twisting solo. “Nothing Can Bother Us Now” lays down a slow, sweet blues groove that had me snapping my fingers. “Rollercoaster” is an aptly named, energetic and rather Jeff Beck-ish jam which would sound even better without the synth accents. And “Tasty Burger” is indeed a very tasty blues-funk goof (again, with horn section).

One of the more interesting cuts here finds Curtis experimenting with a vaguely Eastern tonality and doing some nimble picking on “Race With Jesus On PCH” — which in its latter stages jams hard and creatively enough to make me think of early ’80s Rush (that’s a compliment, son…). C also has some fun with the Prez in the rather menacing “Weapons Of Mass Destruction,” and lends a rather proggish feel to the shifting, expansive title track.

At times Curtis goes a bit Stevie Ray Vaughan in terms of feel and use of distortion, and like any smart electric guitarist, he ultimately worships at the altar of Jimi (“IF6WAS9 Records”… yup). But his approach is a little cleaner and more mainstream than either. That’s not a knock; simply a concession to the reality that Hendrix is Hendrix, Vaughan is Vaughan, and Curtis is Curtis.

The title of this album seemingly offers a nod to Joe Satriani — Flying In A Blue Dream and all — but Curtis is not a “guitar playing as gymnastics” kind of guy; he’s a lot more focused and confident than that. Blue Electric Cool in fact fits the personality of this album beautifully — clean, sharp, confident and fun. Enjoy.

RATING: B+
-Jason Warburg
Originally published: June 15, 2005 www.dailyvault.com