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Published: 2006/06/22
by Joe Doherty

Guitar Therapy Live – Mike Keneally Band

Exowax 2408

Only a man who traded licks with composer/humorist/guitar-God Frank Zappa at the twilight of his last major creative apex could possibly have the balls to call his latest live album, Guitar Therapy. Reaching back as far as the late 1980s, the stunt guitarist’s resume reads longer than one of his sprawling solos. He stood alongside guitar tour-de-force and Zappa acolyte Steve Vai, prog-rock torchbearer Robert Fripp, and played the role of studio session man for the Roots.

Just like Zappa, Keneally’s body of work stretches out much further than just “guitar albums” that result in fuzzy eardrums and finger blisters aplenty (see the acoustic gem Wooden Smoke or the meticulously orchestrated The Universe Will Provide for shining examples). Where Zappa’s ambitious experiments resulted in otherworldly avant-garde dipped in ’50s doo-wop and black humor, at times one could easily mistake Keneally’s lyrical outpourings and murky, power-chord slop with the likes of Blind Melon or the Stone Temple Pilots (“Machupicchu”).

On “Beautiful,” Keneally’s custom Charvel squeals, hiccups and dances over a slinky groove courtesy of bassist Bryan Beller and drummer Joe Travers. This title — as per the disc’s liner notes — describes Keneally’s child-like awe of the newfound axe that appears on all but three of album’s 14 tracks. (He flip-flops his place behind guitar and keys throughout as well.) The widely feared “drums” portion of any live outing (“Joe’s Solo”) unwinds gracefully into a swampy reading of “Pride is a Sin,” Keneally’s earthy voice every bit channeling Scott Weiland.

It’s the points when Keneally flexes his compositional muscle where the band digs deep into stellar interplay, guitarist Rick Musallam painting funky textures on the nearly 10-minute-long, “Hum.” Although Keneally and company certainly explore uncharted waters here, if Weasels Ripped My Flesh tickles your fancy, Guitar Therapy Live is the album for you.

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