ALBUM REVIEWS – FRETLESS COMPILATIONS
Fretless Guitar Masters – Various Artists (2001)
This CD was put together by Ned Evett and Franck Vigroux in 2001, just after the second “Nuit de la Fretless festival”. It features some amazing playing and is certainly the definitive Fretless Guitar CD.
Tracks 1 & 2 – Yan Vagh, plays a ten string fretless acoustic, with the strings arranged in pairs. Yan plays solo, and many consider this the most difficult mode of playing fretless.
Les Cordes Bleues – Energetic and offbeat, Yan kicks off with this acoustic percussive piece with mind crunching slides, and biting chordal mastery.
Perfect Dance – Once again Yan’s semi-percussive guitar work covers a more melodic vein, proving chords and harmonics are all available on the fretless, slipping in almost scat like vocals to a piece that is almost hypnotic in content.
Tracks 3 & 4 – Ned Evett, in what you might call the first part of his career, before his two “popular music” albums.
Occular – Ned is credited with some very impressive work on fretless and this piece showcases some of his very unique style. At times laid back, this cool running track breaks now and then into frantic riffs, and builds nicely before fading into a watery finalé.
Oze – This is my favourite Evett track of all time, warm and cuddley, with some lovely licks, tight as you like. (Note: Ned told me years later that Oze was recorded on the afternoon of 9/11 – to try and make something positive in the wake of such bad news.)
Tracks 5 & 6 – Stephen James Taylor, who writes a lot of soundtracks for films and documentaries.
Mountains of Man – Now I’ve heard this somewhere before, on a film perhaps. Its almost an anthem, the fretless sounding like a cross between Northumbrian pipes and madly fuzzed bouzouki.
For Belinda – Back to a gentle guitar piece here, almost fingerstyle acoustic, but fingerstyle never sounded like this before. Listen for the build at the end of the song, and the sensitve finish, the last notes a killer.
Tracks 7 & 8 – Tim Donahue, started playing mainly jazz and has gradually migrated to progressive metal. Living in Japan he has built many fretless guitars, written the first fretless guitar tutorial back in 1976, and stands as one of the most proficient practitioners of the instrument.
Ambiguity – This would not be out of place on a Weather Report album, Tim’s fretless tone is astonishing and talk about speed, notes pour of his fingerboard with unsurpassed accuracy. Testimony to years perfecting total command of the instrument.
DropZone – Caught between the world’s of jazz and metal this track gives even more insight into Tim’s skills, with some lovely double tracking guitar work.
Tracks 9 & 10 – Bumblefoot (Ron Thal), the big man of the fretless Ron is sometimes best remembered for his “swiss cheese” guitar and the special “bumblefoot” guitar, a cross between a foot and a bumble bee, when you use the whammy bar, bee’s wing appear from the side of the guitar.
Children of Sierra Leone – Commanding, thundering drums provide a background for Ron’s lightening licks, a must listen to track. There’s a lot of pain here, listen carefully there’s a lot going on in the background.
Ray Gun – Remember Machine Gun? Well the fretless is a Ray Gun compared to any other guitar and Ron’s work on this is absolutely blistering. The finale is an onslaught of multiple effects and driving blasts of fretless sponteniety.
Tracks 11 & 12 – David Fiuczynski (Fuze), frontman for “Screaming Headless Torsos” wields his twin neck with dreamy competance.
Roxy Migraine – Lovely start with a slide up to key. After that the guitar wanders between a very tight fretless bass / drum section. Sounding at times like an angry wasp that’s had too much time in a beer glass, the song mellows out for gentle finish.
Habibi – Some exotic almost arabic influence here, with Cello followed by a mad Cumbus (12 string fretless banjo) interlude.
Tracks 13 & 14 – Franck Vigroux with Fretless Quartet, Franck is an outstanding fretless player and musician. The band features drums, fretless bass and trombone.
Anne á la Boulangerie – The most avant garde section of the CD, as far out as you like, very controlled and like a steam cooker under pressure.
Les 13 Cicatrces – Well this is where the steam cooker explodes! Title track of the CD of the same name (in english – The 13 Scars) Franck pushes boundaries with this one. At times pushing more notes to the bar than should be possible and at others just tinkling quietly, then suddenly, its over.
Tracks 15 & 16 Yannick Robert, is Jazz with a capital J.
Mr Ben – Fast two toned harmony with fretless and bass in manic harmonic pursuit. As good a demonstration of fast jazz interaction you will hear anywhere. After wandering around the theme the whole thing comes back together for a frenetic spot on accurate conclusion. (My favourite)
Cajun – More laid back, but still clad in punch accurate phrasing, a perfect balance of fretless bass and fretless guitar, and what more could you ask for?
If you haven’t heard fretless guitar yet, this is the CD to get hold of. If you have heard fretless it is still required listening, eight of the foremost players in the fretless world at the turn of the century and some of their finest tracks. All we can say is many thanks to Ned and Franck for putting together this eulogy to the fretless guitar. We bought our copy from Guitar Nine Records.
Review – Jahloon, 2003
Village of the Unfretted – World’s Fretless Guitarists (2005)
Here’s the reviews..
Department of Virtuosity. Third issue of the Polish Rock Magazine reviews “Village of the Unfretted”
(no longer linked)
Review by Andrea Aguzzi (2015)
And here’s some quotes from our mates…..
I am utterly impressed by the presentation and the astounding variety and quality of music. What a nice, much appreciated surprise! You should all, be very proud of your work and art.
Chris Shaffer. 26/Aug/2005
A total professional and artistic success.
Dan Stearns. 26/Aug/2005
David “FUZE” Fiuczynski. 28/Aug/2005
The running order is amazing the whole thing just is soooo cool to listen to. Usually I get 1-2 listens out of any CD before I get totally bored. But I’m still listening to this…for the 6th time now.
Ed DeGenaro. 28/Aug/2005
Nice job everyone. Great work with the mastering. Looks as good as it sounds. Really great tracks with unprecedented variety.
Tom Baker. 30/Aug/2005
Village of the Unfretted is a rare find for a rare instrument, the fretless guitar. This double CD spotlights some of the most adventurous musicians on the planet. What you won’t find is a bunch of guitarists emulating Middle-Eastern & East Indian music just because the instrument lends itself to music of those cultures. These artists all reflect their own cultures in their music, some with a moderate amount of world fusion but not to the point of glaring imitation. Village of the Unfretted builds a smooth bridge between potential fretless guitar fans & the pioneering artists of the instrument.
Mike Watson. Sept/2005
This is an incredible anthology of works ranging from very left of center experimental to heavy and not-so-heavy alternate to blues to improv to work with obvious ethic influences. The range of musics being voiced by the fretless guitar on this CD has redefined the role of the instrument in the 20th and 21st century. There is something here for all!
Allen Strange, Bid Red Studios. Sept/2005
Two seminal compilation albums must be mentioned here: Fretless Guitar Masters and Village of the Unfretted
Footnote: Village of the Unfretted was masterminded by Jeff Berg and recorded in 2005 with the number 634479130182.
The New Guitarscape in Critical Theory, Cultural Practice and Musical Performance. – Kevin Dawe 2010 (page 35)