Marty Walsh – The Total Plan (2014)

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If you are a fan of versatile and expressive rocks guitarists, you’ve heard Marty Walsh — even if you didn’t know it at the time.

Walsh’s day gig finds him at Berklee College of Music in Boston as assistant professor in the ensemble and music production departments. Yet his recording career is quite wide-ranging, featuring stints with Freddie Jackson (the single “Until The End Of Time”), LeAnn Rimes, Christopher Cross and Eddie Money. Additionally, Walsh is firmly established in the progressive-rock world, working with ex-Yes man Billy Sherwood in their band the Key and having a long-term recording and touring relationship with Supertramp, dating back to 1985’s Brother Where You Bound album.

Not surprisingly, Professor Walsh brings in many of the talented people he has worked with over the years — including Abe Laboriel, Michael Ruff, the aforementioned Sherwood and others — to make a technically shining and inspired album called The Total Plan. What may be surprising for some is how cohesive, consistent and passionate the album is, given it was self-produced, self-financed and recorded by Walsh over an extended period of a few years.

The Total Plan starts with a bang, as “Like a Rock” is kicked in high gear by drummer Michael Jochum. Quickly, Marty Walsh’s guitar sets the pace, and the listener is taken on a complex yet inviting instrumental journey. Walsh’s tone is not too dirty, yet expressive. There is perfect economy and use of space in all of the album’s 11 instrumentals.

Another standout track is “Fuel,” which shuffles along with a back beat provided by drummer Tom Major, and locked in with bassist Danny Morris. Walsh’s guitar blends in with a slinky prominence, propelling the song on its driving path. That leaves a nice place of Paul Jefferson’s tenor sax, before Walsh closes things down with a sliding solo. If you are a guitarist (or drummer or bassist for that matter), you are going to repeatedly rewind this one, in an attempt to learn its secrets.

“Now Is The Time” slows things down nicely with an effective slide guitar/saxophone interplay. “Groove Mechanics” brings on the funk, with a laid back drum track from John Robinson nestled to John Pena’s flowing bass. Additionally, Michael Ruff’s piano and organ solos are perfect foils to Walsh’s jazzy then more aggressive Steve Lukather-like guitar.

The Total Plan is great listening for jazzers, rockers and lovers of excellently played, well-crafted music. Luckily, I was able to snag a copy from his web site. However, The Total Plan is available through all the typical download outlets as well, and should not be missed.

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