"Strad to Strat II: Vivaldi" (DeBone; 2008)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

“Strad to Strat II: Vivaldi” arrives a full thirteen years after the first “Strad to Strat” album which showcased Kevin Ferguson’s extraordinary talent on compositions by renowned violinists Paganini, Wieniawski, de Saraste, and Rimsky-Korsakov.

The main selections for “Strad to Strat II: Vivaldi” were taken from Vivaldi’s “Harmonic Inspiration” and “La Stravaganza.” When I choose to listen to classical music I often prefer the stormy violence (relatively speaking) offered by more modern composers like Richard Wagner – but Vivaldi approximates the furious majesty of the classical masters such as Wagner which I enjoy listening to so much.

Kevin Ferguson’s excellent performances of Vivaldi aside, the album reminds me of how crazy it was for me and thousands of other aspiring guitarists who bought recordings of Paganini’s “24 Caprices” in the hopes of somehow approaching the insane skills of Yngwie Malmsteen. Ferguson’s expert navigation of the virtuoso compositions indicates I could have easily learned a few things from listening to Vivaldi when I was younger.

Nowadays, with the technical skills of guitarists seemingly expanding as though it were the ‘80s all over again (Scale the Summit and Animals as Leaders just to name a couple of bands with hotshot gunslingers), it seems likely that today’s youth could learn a few things from listening to the classical masters as well as artists like Kevin Ferguson who take their inspiration directly from the original sources.

The bottom-line: Ferguson’s renditions of Vivaldi’s works are top-notch performances worthy of being heard by today’s adventurous rockers and metalheads.

“Strad to Strat II: Vivaldi” was produced by Kevin Ferguson.

Kevin Ferguson plays all guitars and keyboards (orchestra) on “Strad to Strat II: Vivaldi.”

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"Subtle Hint" (DeBone; 2006)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"Subtle Hint" is more of what Kevin Ferguson does best. Fascinating and entertaining electric guitar versions of classical pieces make up most of the album and, as he's done in the past, Ferguson gives them a sound all their own. The tracks here, for the most part, lean more toward the cleanly classical side than the revved up, heavy metal side but Ferguson's fretwork is stunning throughout.

The album delivers a varied potpourri of sounds, including the above-mentioned classical pieces, pseudo movie pieces (especially 80's movies), and tracks that sound like they could have come off of Pink Floyd's "The Division Bell."

I especially like "Ben's Journey," which sounds like classic Goblin from the "Dawn of the Dead" soundtrack with its bizarre synthesized background and Spanish guitars.

An interesting album all around, "Subtle Hint" is especially recommended for those who enjoy classical music and electric guitars combined.

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"Exotic Extremes" (DeBone; 2000)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

On "Exotic Extremes," Kevin Ferguson has conveyed traditional Macedonian, Bulgarian, Egyptian, Serbian, Israeli, and other Middle Eastern dance and folk music to the electric and acoustic guitar. The CD cover reads: "Kevin Ferguson & Teshkoto," but "Teshkoto" is not a person or a group; "Teshkoto" is one of the more difficult (and not to mention more 'rock' sounding) pieces on "Exotic Extremes"; think of it as the high-water mark for succeeding in Ferguson's chosen task on "Exotic Extremes."

At sixteen tracks, "Exotic Extremes" is chock full of dazzling melodies and even more dizzying time signature changes. The second track, "Romanijda," sounds as though it could have been source material for Dream Theater's more exotic sounding instrumental passages. Ferguson's performance on the track "Teshkoto" reveals what Randy Rhoads might have had in mind if he had gotten a chance to fully explore his musical interests. Finally, many of the tracks (especially the disc-ending "Shatty Ya Denny") feature melodies that remind the listener how well Amorphis incorporated folk music into their heavy metal tapestry in their early days.

Along with the title, country of origin, and length of each track, Ferguson is kind enough to list the time signature of each song. This is helpful when listening to songs that are not in the normal 4/4 time signature as the listener gets a feel for the underlying difficulty of each track.

"Exotic Extremes" is probably only for fans of Malmsteen-esque Paganini craziness, but any self-respecting metal or hard rock guitarist could find something of value in the aggressive delivery of these exotic melodies.

"Exotic Extremes" was produced by Kevin Ferguson.

Kevin Ferguson is joined by Chris Goldthrope on bass and Craig Carney on drums and other native percussion.

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"Strad to Strat" (DeBone; 1995)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Out of the clear blue came a couple of CDs from solo guitarist Kevin Ferguson -- I really had no idea what to expect. Turns out Ferguson is guitarist that focuses more on classical and exotic forms of music. My first choice for review turned out to be the classical disc. Even the CD's title told me all I needed to know: Strad is short for Stradivarius, the famous violins made during the Golden Age of violin making in Italy, and, of course, Strat is short for Statocaster, which is Kevin Ferguson's instrument of choice for this recording.

Of course, it goes without saying that "Strad To Strat" is not a great fit with the hard rock/heavy metal focus of Rough Edge, but I'm not complaining. Kevin Ferguson's selections lean more towards the fast and furious styles from the likes of Nicolo Paganini, Henryk Wieniawski, Priest Antonio Vivaldi, Pablo de Saraste, and Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov. Most likely you've never heard of these violinists, but metal guitarists such as Yngwie J. Malmsteen certainly have. "Strad To Strat" features mostly speedy material with an added emphasis on technical skills.

Kevin Ferguson arranged all of the pieces by the virtuoso violinists on this recording although -- if memory serves me correctly -- the versions here don't stray too far from the original compositions. Additionally, the material on "Strad To Strat" was recorded during a live performance, but specifically recorded without audience noise so you get the full presentation without any troubling distractions. The live recording gives the performance vibrancy and 'bounce' often lacking in stuffy studio recordings of guitarists playing classical music's well-known material.

In the end, Kevin Ferguson's "Strad To Strat" reminds me of Alex Masi's "In The Name Of Bach" and nearly all of Yngwie J. Malmsteen's work. There's a good balance between the compositions of the recording which include the previously mentioned composers as well as Johann Sebastian Bach.

"Strad To Strat" is an excellent choice for fans of Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Therion, and other solo classical guitarists.

"Strad To Strat" was produced by Kevin Ferguson. Kevin Ferguson plays guitar and complements himself with synthesizer in the form of an 'orchestra' to round out the performances.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Revised: 26 Feb 2024 13:06:28 -0500.