Hold the end of year Best of 2021! Damn, too late…
Although released in February 2021, it was purely happenstance that I discovered Uncommon Measures during the recent festive period. So… there I am beavering away on something TPA related, listening to an album on YouTube when the album appeared to become markedly more interesting, and fairly quickly had my full attention! Wow, that’s a great rhythm section; eyebrows raised solo section; and where did those orchestrations come from? I need to find out what track this is. A bit of a long-winded intro, I know, but the upshot is that the ‘original album’ had finished and YouTube had moved on to the ‘added similar songs at the end of the queue’ section. Sorry YouTube, but it sounded bugger all like the previous album.
Now given the sheer quality of the music on the aforementioned album opener, I’m surprised I’d not come across Lyle Workman before. A quick search reveals that Lyle released his first instrumental album, Purple Passages, in 1996, followed by Tabula Rasa (2001) and Harmonic Crusader (2009), thus making Uncommon Measures his fourth solo album. In the interim periods he has composed numerous TV and ‘block-buster’ film scores, as well as live and recording sessioning with Todd Rundgren, Sting, Norah Jones, Bourgeois Tagg, Jellyfish and many more.
So, returning to the music, what was it that so piqued my interest with the opening track from Lyle Workman’s Uncommon Measures? If memory serves it was the rather dramatic pizzicato strings which emerge around the minute mark and got me thinking how great the ‘keyboard’ sounds were. All was revealed when I researched the album and discovered the orchestration is in fact a sixty-three piece orchestra. Makes more sense 😉 . North Star is bold, breathtaking at times, and wonderfully enigmatic – so much so that I couldn’t help but think sections of North Star could have come from the pen of Aaron Copeland. And if this were not enough there are some divine solo sections from violinist Charlie Bisharat, Jeff Babko on Moog and Lyle Workman firmly establishes his credentials as a versatile and formidable guitarist. And what about the rhythm section? Well none other than Vinnie Colaiuta on kit and bassist Tim Lefebvre, with the former allowed space to let rip during the track…
Before moving on, time to come clean and admit I tend not to go for the ‘rock meets orchestra’ releases, as – with a few notable exceptions – I find the orchestra more a token gesture with little in the way of re-arranging or integration. Something that certainly cannot be levelled here.
Next, the equally beguiling All the Colors of the World opens in a more sedate fashion, gradually rising from the lush and romantic after the more dynamic arrangements found in North Star. If Aaron Copeland sprang to mind during the opener, then Leonard Bernstein certainly comes to mind as we hit the midway point during All the Colors of the World. Several contrasting solos from Lyle here, at times jazzy, some great slide work, a modern contemporary rock break, whereas the outro acoustic is wonderfully melodic with flavours of Django Reinhardt, or perhaps Al Di Meola.
Now at this point I’m mindful not to paint a singular image of Uncommon Measures. Taking a look across the album we have a number of complimentary and contrasting styles, something we find in the funkier vibe of Noble Savage, and here drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. and bassist Sam Wilkes are definitely on the money in this groove-laden piece of magic.
Let’s now skip over to Imaginary World, one of two tracks on the album without orchestra. Top-drawer jazz funk that’s bristling, brassy and great fun. Something that could easily be attributed to the following track, Unsung Hero. All I can say is if these tracks don’t make the hairs on the back of your neck rise – shave ’em off! 🙂
At this point I really need to rein myself in, but hopefully my comments have painted a glowing enough picture to make you want to investigate Uncommon Measures. But before signing off, what else might you want to know? The recording and production are top notch, perhaps knowing that the orchestral tracks were recorded at Abbey Road might be an indicator. The performances from all concerned are exemplary. And a final note of mention for Lyle Workman who has not only composed and delivered a diverse and enthralling album, but his years as a session guitarist really is the proverbial icing on the cake. I mentioned a couple of players in the review, but so accomplished and divergent is Lyle’s mastery of the guitar, I could have easily added several more ‘greats’ of the six-stringed instrument, without hesitation.
01. North Star (9:18)
02. All the Colors of the World (7:25)
03. Noble Savage (4:02)
04. Arc of Life (10:26)
05. Imaginary World (4:29)
06. Unsung Hero (6:08)
07. Labyrinth of Love (2:48)
08. Rise and Shine (4:07)
09. Our Friendship (3:34)
Total Time – 52:17
Lyle Workman – Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Keyboards
Vinnie Colaiuta – Drums (tracks 1 & 2)
Abe Laboriel Jr. – Drums (track 3)
Toss Panos – Drums (track 4)
Donald Barrett – Drums (tracks 5 & 6)
Matt Chamberlain – Drums (track 8)
Tim Lefebvre – Bass (tracks 1,2,5,6 & 8)
Dan Lutz – Bass (track 4)
Sam Wilkes – Bass (track 3)
Jeff Babko – Electric Piano, Organ (tracks 1,5 & 6), Moog Solo (track 1)
Greg Leisz – Pedal Steel (track 8)
Wade Culbreath – Vibes, Marimba, Glockenspiel (tracks 1,2 & 3)
Katisse Buckingham – Alto Saxophone (tracks 5 & 6)
Ron Dziubla – Tenor Saxophone (tracks 5 & 6)
Jamie Hovorka – Trumpet (tracks 5 & 6)
Chris Bleth – Oboe, Flute, Clarinet (track 2)
Charlie Bisharat – Violin (tracks 1,2 & 3)
Lachsa Choir – Aleta Braxton (choir master), Skylar Lehr-Bryant, Leilani Patao, Rachel Goodman, Monique Ramirez, Coco Mori
John Ashton Thomas – Orchestra Conductor
(at Abbey Road Studio – all tracks except 5 & 8)
Record Label: Blue Canoe Records
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 19th February 2021 (Digital) | 16th April 2021 (CD)