Fretless Tracks

Fretless Tracks

This page is primarily for CDs that feature one or two fretless tracks.
The intention being to just review those tracks and not the whole album.
Any help, additions / corrections / reviews are, as always, most gratefully accepted.

Industrial Zen

CD Industrial Zen

Industrial Zen – John McLaughlin (2006)
Purchased – HMV Llandudno

All in all a very enjoyable CD, sort of road jazz, fast and fluid. Until we get to the last track, “Mother Nature” which happens to be the fretless offering.

Shankar Mahadeven’s vocals are quite startling at first, as the rest of the CD has been instrumental. Shankar is a much respected Hindi vocal artist and the track really showcases his talents, the fretless guitar of JM very much takes a back seat, supplying an almost looped accompaniment to the vocals.

If you were waiting to hear JM produce an amazing piece of work on fretless, it hasn’t happened on this CD.

Review – Jahloon
November 2006

One Size Fits All

One Size Fits All – Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention (1975)
Purchased – Xmas present (better than socks!)

“Can’t Afford No Shoes” – First off you think the solo was done using a slide, but on second listen, yes its fretless.

“San Ber’dino” – Not as obvious as the first track, in fact you have to listen real hard to spot the fretless. Both tracks are really curiosities, for enthusiasts only.

Review – Jahloon
November 2006

Zoot Allures

Zoot Allures

Zoot Allures – Frank Zappa (1976)

In Frank’s own words…. “The thing that sounds like a slide guitar on The Torture Never Stops is actually a fretless guitar.”

Well now we know!

There are quite a few versions of “The Torture Never Stops” but the fretless guitar version is only used on the studio album Zoot Allures.

Review – Jahloon
October 2015



Läther – Frank Zappa (recorded 1972, released 1996, re-issued 2012)

The 2012 re-issue is a four CD set from the original vinyl mix. It is nicely packaged and the story behind this release and why the music did not surface for so long makes an interesting read.

“Down in de Dew” is the only fretless track and it is instrumental. Frank’s fretless style is fluid and precise, is it worth buying a four CD pack for one fretless track? I think so.

Review – Jahloon
October 2015

Chet Atkins And Jerry Reed – In Concert At The Bottom Line [1992]

Chet Atkins & Jerry Reid
Purchased – Amazon

This is a pleasant, easy listening / watching DVD featuring exceptionally competant guitar picking. Just what you ordered. The gem for fretless fans is when Chet Atkins picks up a Fretless Nylon Chet Atkins Gibson that the company made specially for him. Chet then tells us Gibson initially built the guitar with red fret lines, which he couldn’t see, so they replaced them with white.
Chet looks very comfortable playing the fretless, (more info and video here) it’s a pity he didn’t use it on more tracks. Its a performance very much on par with the rest of the concert, confident pleasant picking.

Review – Jahloon
December 2006

Pat Metheny Trio Live

CD Pat Metheny trio live

Trio Live – Pat Metheny (2000)
No purchase – just heard it

Counting Texas, the last track on the double CD, features Pat playing a fretless 12 string. Its a fast, ripply, single note, slide around of a jazz improv, well executed for a casual fretless player.

Review – Jahloon
December 2006

Secret Island, Theo Travis with John Etheridge

Secret Island – Theo Travis with John Etheridge (1996)
Purchased – Amazon

Saxophone player Theo Travis invited John Etheridge to play on this CD. While John features on five of the nine tracks only “Full Moon Rising” features John playing “Indian Fretless Guitar” and pretty cool it is too. His solo is very expressive and there is also some nice technique on the rest of the track.

The album itself is really nicely done, everything from relaxed to driving sax based mayhem, looking forward to seeing Theo live one day.

Review – Jahloon
December 2006

Stainless Gamelan, John Cale

John Cale Stainless Gamelan: Inside the Dream Syndicate Volume III (Produced by Tony Conrad from archival recordings, 2000)
Purchased – $12.37 (shipping $4.30)

Well, guess why we tracked this one down? Stainless Steel Gamelan is currently the earliest recording we know of featuring a fretless guitar. Although the copyright date is 1965, the vague date given is mid-sixties. John Cale and Sterling Morrison are jointly credited with Cembalet and Fretless Guitar, we believe this was performed live by John and Sterling, both playing on a single guitar. While Sterling played the fretless above the bridge, John produced percussion sounds on the short strings behind the bridge.

The review at Monocular Times quotes: ‘Stainless Steel Gamelan’ is an uplifting and beautiful piece for fretless guitar, it sounds like church bells, a call to prayer, or at least a call to action.

Sounding like an alternate music soundtrack for “Eraserhead” its obviously well ahead of its time in the looping department. Phrases are hypnotically repeated and gradually varied. We are very hard pushed to identify any conventional fretless guitar playing on this piece of music, but as the other instrument is a Cembalet (form of electric clavichord) the overall contribution to the piece must be the fretless.

Unfortunately recording quality is very poor, but when you consider what is being done technically, and it was over forty years ago, its quite an achievement. As for the CD, and this re-release was long awaited by Cale fans, it is for collectors only.

Review – Jahloon
December 2006

The Apparent Rules of Thumb – Si Hayden

The Apparent Rules of Thumb - Si HaydenTrack 7  “Soweto Groove” is played on fretless and very effective it is too. Like the rest of the album this has great rhythmic feel.

The rest of the album is very pleasant listening, all solo guitar work mainly in a jazz style. Si is a competent precise player and with tracks like “Pass it on Joe” and “May you never Frisell Away” you might get an idea of where he is headed.

Consistently interesting and varied, this is a great solo guitar album.

Review – Jahloon
September 2015


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