By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Beat the meatles
There's no denying it: Andy Timmons is a Professional, a man who plays guitar the way every child dreams of playing the instrument the very first time he holds a coat hanger in front of a mirror and strums along with a favorite song. He's as much a part of his instrument as the strings themselves are: The ex-Danger Danger guitarist could probably tune the instrument just by holding the damned thing. So perhaps it seems a bit myopic to knock a man for being too good, too dead-on efficacious. After all, it doesn't get more by-the-letter perfect than Timmons, who can knock out a blues and/or metal and/or country and/or jazz solo on demand and never drop a note. Indeed, his first two albums--ear X-tacy, volumes one and two, popular sellers both--were like guitar-rock-of-the-'80s samplers, discs so flashy, stark, and schizophrenic you couldn't tell whether Timmons wanted to be Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, Eddie Van Halen...anyone but himself. It's one thing to be copycat good, something else entirely to play beyond your influences and yourself.
Orange Twist--Timmons' all-"pop" record, featuring Mitch Marine on drums, Mike Daane on bass, Mike Medina on percussion, even Kip Winger (credited with string arrangements, for God's sake!)--is the guitarist's first attempt to rein in the fetishisms and play it straight, if that means trying to write "Elvis Costello" songs (so say the liner notes at least) and perform them like "the Beatles." And it's a skillful effort, so friggin' pro, you can't believe it wasn't released by a major label. Lots of "songs" this time around, the noodling kept to a thank-God minimum. The trade-off is that Timmons swaps the slinging for a little too much singing: He wants to sound like Elvis C. but ends up doing Neil Finn--if Finn were fronting, like, Danger Danger. (Except on the rather benign "Now That You've Been Gone," a pleasant, subtle Beatles rip.)
Still, you can't help but notice the digital chill. The production is so blasted pristine, there's no way for the listener to get inside. Every song sounds as though it's wrapped in plastic and steel, with an armed guard posted just outside the studio door. A song like "State of Mind" wears its Sgt. Pepper's stripes like William Rehnquist at an impeachment hearing. Fact is, Timmons still plays the rock like it's 1986 and he's about to tour the arenas with Winger. And one more Beatles cover we can do without, especially something as moist as "She's Leaving Home," done so sincerely and straightforwardly, it's almost like reading a plagiarized novel, only rewritten with every other vowel missing. It's all so frustrating because you know this guy's capable of doing so much more--if only he'd do so much less.
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