Of the not very many New Age CDs in my rather large music collection, Cusco and EKO occupy well deserved places because they evoke feel-good atmospherics that are neither simplistic nor goopy but instead scintillatingly exotic environs where joy and pleasant contemplations are not stamp-pressed in formulaic plasticene. The same goes for Johannes Linstead's Tales of a Gypsy as well but with a LOT more killer pyrotechnics, as Linstead is a sophisticated guitarist who takes the acoustic Spanish guitar into DiMeola territory by way of Tarrega. The first two cuts alone, Jungle Love and Noche de la Juerga, are kind of like a cross between It's a Beautiful Day, Santana, and DiMeola's later solo LPs imbued with Castilian/gypsy refrains and bedrock.
Not only did Linstead write all the songs here but also arranged, recorded, and mixed them, and the guy understands well what he's doing. The result is sparkling, vivacious, and knowing, an organic and flowing river of delight and sonority. But, man, can this guy play! Whether in ballad mode or racing up and down the fretboard, his touch is confident, sensitive, and nuanced. Every note in the largo and andante passages not only counts but is crafted, not just played, felt, not merely exposed. It's easy to see why he stuck with an acoustic axe because so much would've been lost with an electric. The two are actually different instruments and one does not serve the same purpose as the other.
A number of sessioneers provide accompaniment, rotating through various tracks, but Vasyl Popadiouk, violinist, is a particular standout. La Lunada is a propulsively peppy number with hip shaking Spanish swing to it along with breathtaking lead lines and percolating percussives. Bella! Bella! takes an enchanting Reinhardt hot jazz mode held back, restrained a bit in order to be utterly melodic. What it in particular may miss in speed is then made up in the title cut, a racing dervish for half the song with long pools of calm interspersed, Popadiouk's bee-flight violin heading for the sun above. Every cut in Tales of a Gypsy is captivating, and it's very easy to see why Linstead has a number of discs already out, with more than a few awards behind them. In fusing a number of modalities together, he's achieved a distinctive presence.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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