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CD Reviews – October 2013

THE STANDING CINEMA – MODERN ESCAPE (no label) Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter Donovan Rice formed The Standing Cinema in 2011 with bassist Dave DeHart and drummer Bill Rose. Their six-song EP, Modern Escape, introduces listeners to a bright and catchy brand of British-rooted modern pop-rock. The melodies and arrangements recall the classic British pop sounds of the Beatles, but driven with a modern pop/rock gusto more consistent with the Foo Fighters or Goo Goo Dolls. The vocals and harmonies are crisp and catchy; and the presence of piano, accordion and horns flesh out the arrangments and give the sound color and depth. Quarky asides during the melodies aren’t out of the question, and lend to occasional unpredictability during the songs; such as the ragtime piano edge during the playful question-and-answer “Quite an Event” and the closer “Property Owners” with its tempo and intensity shifts, capped with a psychedelic reverb ending. Pop hooks create captivating ear candy on songs like the opener “High Praise” and “Maple Shade,” and the group rocks at a brisker tempo on the title track “Modern Escape.” (A seventh song, “Stay, Stand, Stare,” is available on the digital version of the EP.) The Standing Cinema’s performances are airtight and tasteful, and Rice’s voice demonstrates consistently solid range and personality. Produced by the band and engineered by Rice, Modern Escape sounds clear and balanced, with the instruments and voices carrying the day, and just the right touch of studio reverb and effects to lend a late ‘60s flavor. The Standing Cinema merges modern and nostalgia on Modern Escape, offering listeners a pleasant escape through its retro-flavored sonic journey. (The EP can be obtained through the group’s website, www.thestandingcinema.com.)

XANDER DEMOS – GUITARCADIA (no label) Currently performing with his own self-named band, plus tribute group James Rivera’s Sabbath Judas Sabbath, Pittsburgh’s Xander Demos has emerged into prominence for his immense guitar-shredding talents; earning awards and recognition from Steve Vai’s GuitarTV.com, A.J. Pero of Twisted Sister’s The Real Radio Show, endorsements from Suhr, McNaught and Conklin Guitars, and more. Mixed by C.J. Snare of Firehouse, Demos’ full-length CD, Guitarcadia, offers a guitar-shredding sonic paradise, ten tracks of full-force guitar fireworks. His amazing guitar shred displays speak for themselves, as Demos exhibits a melody-based style informed and influenced by such masters as Steve Vai, Vinnie Moore, John Sykes, Neal Schon, Eric Johnson and others. But besides Demos’ fast-firing arpeggios and fingerwork, melodies and arrangements also stand out through Guitarcadia’s journey. Compositions like the cruise-speed “Nothing Major” and the driving “Chase the Sun” establish jubilant melodies for Demos to work his guitar strings to, and his skills support the journey of each song. The disc-opener “Right Angles,” the title track “Guitarcadia” and “Metagalactic” enable Demos to explore more complex arrangements and melody lines. He cuts loose and burns the fretboards on the speedy assaults “White Knuckle Driving” and the more playful “Woodshed Sonata.” The disc contains two vocal numbers performed by the Xander Demos Band; “Under a Darkened Sky,” first created a decade ago when Demos played guitar in the Pittsburgh-based band Stronghold, and a guitar virtuoso update of Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer,” one of two cover songs on the album. The other remake, an instrumental rendering of Chris DeBurgh’s hit “The Lady in Red,” closes out the album. Demos’ guitar skills are front and center throughout the album, and his fluid execution gives its own polish and smoothness to the compositions. The overall sound is big and broad, showing listeners that this artist and his band are easily suited to rocking arenas and colosseums. Fans of guitar fireworks will easily salivate over what Xander Demos has to offer on Guitarcadia, while fans of melody, arrangements and virtuosity should find plenty to celebrate here as well. (To obtain the CD, visit Xander Demos’s website, www.xanderdemos.com.)

JOHN HAHN “Darkness Falls” Written, performed, produced, recorded and mastered by John Hahn. This ten song CD of guitar wizardry by John Hahn brings you up to date to where John has been as of his last release, “Out of the Shadows” in 1992. John is well known locally for his guitar work with the band Harpo in the late 80’s when they released “Armed to Deliver” on Atlas Records and later “Fire Your Fire” with ex-Rod’s singer Shmoulik Avigal. John played and traveled the upper east coast and Canada with Harpo opening for the likes of Ted Nugent, Foghat, Night Ranger and Winger for eight years. John’s guitar work was heard by Mike Varney of Shrapnel Records and spotlighted John in a column in “Guitar Player Magazine. It was David Chastain of Leviathan Records who would sign John to release his debut CD, “Out of the Shadows”. 2013 brings John to his studio to record a new musical instrumental CD. Playing all instruments, John has hit that “high note” with “Darkness Falls”. First song, “Next Day Air” fires off the CD with soaring riffs, heavy rhythms and breaks, giving the dye, which Hahn has cast for this CD. “Journey from Within,” song two, has a heavy bass line, usually not heard on, “shredders” CD’s. “Darkness Falls,” song three, highlights this CD as it should. Complex weaving and layering of riffs make this the anthem song. “Flight of the Phoenix” shows off John’s piano playing which is something I did not know John could do. There is great keyboard work on this CD from John. “Storm Runner,” song five, follows with riffing and keyboards moving in and out. These last two songs are my favorites. The five other songs on this CD are also a tribute to John’s guitar prowess. If you like Dream Theater or Riverside without vocals, you’ll dig the new John Hahn CD “Darkness Falls.” The best work by him I’ve heard today. (www.johnhahn.com) — Reviewed by Suzanne & Keith Hummel

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