Bill Frisell’s new album, “Guitar in the Space Age” (Okeh Records) is a fun gravity free, instrumental spaced out walk into the future past. Except for two Frisell originals, all of these 14 tracks on “Space Age” harkens back to the early 60’s when satellites, sputniks, and purple people eaters hogged the transistor radios of the day.
“Pipeline” and “Telstar” book end the album
After a first all the way through listen, starting with Frisell’s 7 minute space jam of the class surf hit, “Pipeline”, right down to the last tune, Joe Meek’s space age hit “Telstar”, I could imagine how fine it would be to listen to this record with set of headphones while circling the Earth in one of those old Mercury space capsules. Thing is, this album could use a bit more rocket fuel here and there. Frisell and fellow guitarist – steel pedal player Greg Leisz, seldom get pas the initial booster stage, preferring to lock everything in cruise control mode. Well, it is a space album, right?
Frisell is well known for themed albums – his John Lennon tribute was fabulous – but don’t expect any Los Straightjackets’ fireworks here. “Space Age” slowly creeps up on you and makes for perfect on board space station listening. It’s Leisz outstanding pedal steel playing that gives this album it’s luster. In some ways, he over shadows Frisell as he does when he cuts loose on Link Wray’s “Rumble”.
There are a couple of peculiar track choices on “Space Age”. A slow mo’ take of Brian Wilson’s “Surfer Girl”, Pete Seeger’s Brydsy “Turn, Turn, Turn” and, of all things, The Kinks’ “Tired of Waiting for You”.
It may take some adjusting to the slow pace of Frisell’s “Guitar in the Space Age”, but once you get on board with his space program, it’s a relaxing 14 track journey that warrants use of the repeat mode button and achieves a perfect “Lift Off”, which just so happens to be the title of one of two tracks this chameleon of a guitarist penned. – Eric Berg
VIDEO – This is an entire performance of Frisell and group playing the album and much more.