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David Pritchard - Vertical Eden

Vertical Eden

David Pritchard

Available from CD Baby.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Ahhhhhh!…how nice it is to run across a guitar player who, at least for parts of this CD, will eschew the marvelously sophisticated solo approach so brilliantly exhibited in so many releases nowadays and instead multi-overdub himself for maximum spatiality and environment. David Pritchard immediately captures the ear with sterling attentions to chamber aspects and flawless playing, recapturing a good deal of what Will Ackerman, Ralph Towner, and various ECM and Windam Hill people were emitting at their peaks. However, though this disc has three of the mentioned solo works, it isn't a solo gig.

The beautiful first cut, Vertical Eden, is an immersion in sparklingly moody pastorality with as many as five guitars tracked simultaneously, but it's the second track that really arrests the listener, a quasi-serial artifact of modern classicality with Pritchard, Kevin Tiernan on second guitar, and Harry Scorzo playing a violin worthy of Sid Page's acumen. Allowed a full 6:25 to develop and expand, it's a breathtaking example of modern chamber music, even a little Shadowfaxy in later passages. Cathedrals in the Rain features Pritchard on two guitars and synth with four other musicians and comes off like later Oregon, especially with Christopher Garcia's tabla-esque percussion. The longer one listens, the more the thought arises "Where'd this cat get his chops? They're just way too refined!" Well, there's a back story.

I have his two Inner City fusion LPs (1978, 1979) in my permanent collection, and, when I received this disc, I thought "Could it be?"…and indeed it was the same guy. He was good back then, but he's been honing up his approach to an astonishing degree since then and has attained a form of perfection not often heard. Where once he attracted the likes of Chet Thompson and Patrice Rushen as sessioneers, he's now transcended even that high water mark, stepping into a neoclassicality where a whole new acumen and way of thinking are staple necessities, exhibiting a musical literacy stepping well outside norms. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he also obtained the exquisite engineering talents of Scott Fraser, who has worked with the Kronos Quartet and L.A. noiseur William Harrington (see the Perfect Sound Forever site for my overview on the latter's unusual work).

But there's a back story there, too. Fraser began as an experimental musician and composer, releasing the odd environmental Water Album, then the peripatetic Architecture, and finally the brilliant Natural Histories (1981), a masterpiece and unknown treasure in the progressive music catalogue, a work still ahead of its time but released only on cassette. I'm lobbying for this gem to be rediscovered and republished (as it turns out, Pritchard's in the process of re-releasing his early work as well) so that the release will not be lost to time and the fickle whim and inattention of the genre's scribes (prog crits are, for the most part, idiots)…um, but also so I can get the marvel on CD, as my cassette copy is wearing thin fast!

Track List:

  • Vertical Eden
  • Garden of Time
  • Ark Sakura
  • Cathedrals in the Rain
  • Bright Depths Revisited
  • Clockwork 3
  • The Absence of Presence
  • Deliver Us
  • Winged Footprints
All songs written by David Pritchard.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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