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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Steve Laputa

Guitars and Christmas Trees

Review by Gary Hill

Guitarist Steve Laputa has put together a CD whose title both does a great job of getting you ready for the music within and also is a nice creative twist. The cover is much a similar twist, and both of these things fit very well with the music contained within. Laputa works guitar magic around Christmas favorites, both old standards and more modern rockers. The end product is one that will be a nice addition to your holiday celebration. A lot of instrumental music these days gets a little boring. Laputa definitely avoids this (although, technically this isn't an entirely instrumental album because one track has vocals) by changing up the style drastically from song to song. Make no mistake, Laputa's guitar rules the day on all the tracks, but he shows a mastery of a number of varying musical textures that lends a variety to the disc that works well. He also shows a strong dedication to creating songs rather than extended guitar solos - another trap that much instrumental rock runs into.

The music here wanders between good old-fashioned rock and roll, rockabilly, hard rock and even country. The result is a disc that will have you both in the Christmas spirit and stomping your feet along with the tracks. Laputa is responsible for all the guitars, basses and song arrangements on the disc. Todd Greenwood (drums) and Linda Greenwood (vocals) are both featured on Laputa's take on "Run Rudolph Run", while Kurt Wiesend handles the percussion on the rest of the disc.

For those looking for some rock music to accompany their holiday, this disc might just be the ticket. It is definitely entertaining and a fun listening experience. Laputa shows that not only is he an accomplished guitarist, but also a master of many styles. It's always good to find a new take on traditional holiday music.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 and also in the Music Street Journal Holiday Edition at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Winter Wonderland
Laputa brings a rockabilly almost pure country feel to this Christmas classic. It's a nice change up from the original and an entertaining romp. While it makes a good opening volley there are versions that I prefer over this one.
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
Laputa's 50's tinged rocking take on this one works extremely well. In fact, this is one of my favorite renditions of the cut ever.
Run Rudolph Run
The sole track on the disc to feature vocals (provided by Linda Greenwood), this really captures the Chuck Berry feel and is a great rocking holiday hit and among the best on show here.
Happy Christmas / War Is Over
A short rendition, other than the instrumental approach this one does a nice job of capturing the texture of the John Lennon number.
Little Drummer Boy
This is one of the hardest rocking cuts on the disc. Laputa puts in a very dramatic and nearly prog metal arrangement here. This is another definite standout.
Jingle Bells
This one feels a little like 38 Special, if they were an instrumental outfit. It's got a straightforward fairly modern rock approach, but only works reasonably well.
Blue Christmas
If Laputa's take on "Winter Wonderland" felt rather country, this one is fully immersed in that style. It's a slow mellow down home country grind.
White Christmas
Here Laputa puts in an energized modern rock take that leans heavy on rockabilly while still feeling fresh.
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
This one almost feels a bit like guitar heroes such as Yngwie Malmsteen at times, but it's all fun - never getting serious or pompous.
Silent Night
Laputa ends the disc in a satisfying manner with this mellow rock take on another holiday classic.
 
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