Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre steps out from the shadows with Stage Left, his third solo album of mostly acoustic and electric guitar instrumentals. This CD is a personal affair that allows Barre to indulge in a myriad of styles without sacrificing his integrity and own true self. On "Count The Chickens," he rips away on his Les Paul Junior, which he bought after seeing what Leslie West could do with one. For an obvious boost in ratings, the number was played live during several shows of Jethro Tull's 2003 tour. "Murphy's Paw," "After You, After Me" and "Nelly Returns" each do a respectable job of showcasing Barre's ability on the electric guitar. But the real essence of this CD is the acoustic numbers that so elegantly flow from the guitarist's fingers. "As Told By" is a distinct interpretation of the blues; "Favourite Things" has a renaissance feel; "Spanish Tears" embraces a Spanish twang; and "Celestial Servings" is kind of jazzy, largely in the vein of Mark Knopfler. "Stage Fright" finds Barre handling both the guitar and flute parts during its Tull-like beginning before descending into a dreamy and colorful acoustic tapestry. On the whole, Stage Left, aptly named in honor of Barre's permanent spot on stage with Jethro Tull, is definitely worth a spin.
~ Shawn Perry