From Morocco with Love
Sir Richard Bishop - 2015
An album of improvised solo guitar work with Middle-Eastern and classical flavors is hardly everyone’s cup of tea. Personally, I go for some variety when it comes to spontaneous creation and with that in mind, Tangier Sessions is a little hit and miss. This record offers a total of seven tracks but only four of them worthwhile. Bishop opens with the bright ‘Frontier’. As a lead off track, it’s a sensible handshake as opposed to warm bear hug. It’s a soft sell as he eases the listening into the album. You can feel the ghost of Segovia in the corner of the room quietly judging and preparing feedback. Bishop changes direction on the next track. ‘Bound in Morocco’ is full of interesting twists. The shifting tonality from major and minor keeps you wondering what’s around the next turn. ‘Safe House’ showcases the guitarist’s rhythmic chops. The song charges along and the strings are attacked to superb effect.
Unfortunately, the next three songs (remember, that’s nearly half the album) are remarkably similar. There’s only a very subtle variation in key, tempo, and approach on these tracks. After ‘International Zone’ the album as a whole starts to feel flat.
Tangier Sessions is saved by the final cut. ‘Let it Come Down’ is a charming farewell. The song is stylistically different from anything else on the album. The phrasing is thoughtful and measured. There are flourishing touches that delight. Bishop uses this change of pace to exit his album as carefully as it began.
Tangier Sessions is an intimate look at the world of a skilled guitarist whose fingernails are dirty indeed.
PS The following video features Bishop telling the enchanting story of how he came across the guitar that was used to write and record this album.C. Scott Back