Posts Tagged ‘reviews & articles’

Review of Harmonic Crusader by Music Web 3000 - Posted on July 21st, 2009

Harmonic Crusader (Infrared)

In 2009, one of the most innovative electric guitarists in America today, Lyle Workman released the long awaited follow-up to his 2000 album Tabula Rasa. Similar in scope to that album, 2009’s Harmonic Crusader once again features an album of sonic guitar soundscapes ranging from experimental, orchestral film score inspired epics to full blown instrumental rock-jazz workouts. Produced, engineered, written and arranged by Workman, Harmonic Crusader finds the guitarist kicking ass in the studio alongside guest players including drummers Vinnie Colauita, U.K. drumming legend Simon Phillips, Gary Novak and Matt Laug, who simply shines on a CD closing, Group 87 / Steve Howe inspired fusion march called “Big Reveal.” When he’s not recording his noble rock instrumental epics, Workman will more than likely be found composing for a variety of film scores, including his work on The 40 Year Old Virgin score from 2005 and more recently Superbad, Yes Man and Forgetting Sarah Marshall (of the four, three were #1 box office hits.) Coming from a rock background, having also played his guitar for icons like Todd Rundgren and the L.A. pop wunderkind Jellyfish, Workman’s approach to jazz-rock is very eclectic to say the least but he doesn’t sound very influenced by more mainstream jazz or rock and roll per se. But for an unexpected change of pace from Lyle, do check out the Le Hot Gypsy Jazz influence on track 9 “Ode To The Gypsy King.” Django would approve!

– Robert Silverstein, Music Web Express 3000

Guitars Center Stage Guitarists making waves in the music world, their new recordings and gear!

Musical Background

I started playing guitar when I was 9 years old, learning basic open chords from my dad who strummed as a hobby. I quickly heard the same chords on Beatles records and on the radio, and started to teach myself songs. I refined my ear by learning all kinds of music throughout my formative years, eventually enrolling in a junior college for two years study of music theory and composition. My first appearance on record was on Mike Varney’s U.S. Metal, which is misleading because I was never a shredder metal guitar player, but it was fun for a first timer! Later on I joined a band, Bourgeois Tagg, and we recorded a few records for Island. We had a decent hit single, “I Don’t Mind At All”, off the second album, which was produced by Todd Rundgren. The group disbanded and subsequently I recorded and toured in Todd’s band for two years. I recorded with the S.F. Bay Area band Jellyfish for their second record, Split Milk. I started working with drumming legend Tony Williams, writing some music and later contributing a track to his last record. Next began nearly five years with Frank Black on the road and on record. Around that time I moved to Los Angeles and also started more session work. I recorded with artists Sheryl Crow, Shakira, Jacob Dylan and many others. I toured as a member Sting’s band for a summer tour, beginning with “Live 8” in 2005. Around that time I began scoring films and presently that is the focus of my work.

New CD

In all my CDs, and my newest, Harmonic Crusader, I suppose all of my past influences culminate, regardless of the genre, so it’s difficult to classify and categorize this music. My primary goal when I write is for every piece to stand up melodically and compositionally, completely independent of the guitar. I never think about what I’m trying to present as a guitarist. I only serve the music the best I can and I revere guitar equally as much as any other instrument. On my CD besides guitar, drums, bass, piano, and organ, there are several other instruments. There is one piece that’s purely orchestral
with strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion. There are a few tracks featuring drummers—both Simon Phillips and Gary Novak take drum solos. There’s also a good dose of keyboardist Jeff Babko, who is outstanding, and an organ solo by Larry Goldings who is out of the world talented. As far as my guitar playing on Harmonic Crusader, it covers many bases—epic solos, ambient textures, ebow choirs, processed loops, a track in the style of Django Reinhardt, Brian May style broken up chords played as single lines . There’s a lot of variety. I recorded for the most part in my home studio, but tracked nearly all of the drums elsewhere. Vinnie Colaiuta was recorded in his studio, Simon in his studio, Gary Novak at Sunset Sound in Hollywood. Some songs have several layers of guitars, keys, and an assorted instruments, all tracked in my home studio. This record was in progress for eight years due to my busy work in film scoring and other recording sessions and touring, so it took a while for me to gather enough free time to complete it.

Favorite Guitars

I used many guitars—a ‘58 reissue Les Paul, ‘63 Fender Strat, ‘72 Fender Thinline, Hamer Monaco, Fender Baritone Tele (a “Bajo sexto”), ‘56 Martin D-18, ‘53 Gibson LG-2, ‘59 ES-335, ‘55 Fender Tele. Amps—Marshall ‘69 100 watt, Marshall ‘72 50 watt, Divided by 13 37+ and RSA 23, Fender Princeton Reverb. Effects—Line 6 DL4, Line 6 MM4. Guyatone MD3 delay, Moog “Murf” and EBS Multi- comp compressor. Strings are D’Addario .10 to .46. Some solos have a dose of Soundtoys “Echo Boy” plug-in for delay (I tracked onto Pro Tools).

Musical Influences

Certainly The Beatles, especially Sgt. Pepper and post records. As a young teen, like most all players of my generation, I was bowled over by Hendrix – Band Of Gypsies, Electric Ladyland, The Who Live at Leeds, Who’s Next. A little later on I was crazy over Mahavishnu Orchestra -Birds of Fire, Johnny Mc Laughlin, Electric Guitarist. Genesis Selling England by The Pound. Yes – Yessongs, Close to the Edge. Jeff Beck – Blow By Blow, Wired, There and Back. Narada Michael Walden was influential especially as a writer and, on a few of his records guitarist Ray Gomez is featured, another favorite. Steve Morse and The Dixie Dregs made a big impact- What If, Unsung Heroes. I also listened to John Scofield and Pat Metheny. On the pop side I loved The Police, pretty much all of their records, and was a huge fan of Peter Gabriel’s solo records. Loving orchestral textures in pop I loved ELO On The Third Day and Eldorado. I listened to Weather Report – especially Heavy Weather, Black Market. I wanted to hear who influenced the bands and musicians I was listening to, so that’s how I discovered Django, Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis, George Benson, Albert King, Robert Johnson, Son House, and many more. My favorite of the younger generation of jazz guitarists is Kurt Rosenwinkel; he’s astounding.
Upcoming Plans

More film work. The Goods comes out in August, and Get Him to the Greek, a spin off of sorts of Forgetting Sarah Marshall sometime next year. Session wise I’m slated to record on a Norah Jones record in late July. I’m hoping to start another record soon.

Guitar Player Magazine + Harmonic Crusader & Vintage Guitar Player Magazine - Posted on July 21st, 2009

A few recent articles covering all sorts of topics—my new record “Harmonic Crusader” as well as inspirations, gear, recording technics, and recent film compositions.

Guitar Player Article, August 2009

Review of Harmonic Crusader by Music Web Express 3000

Vintage Guitar Magazine article

Reviews of Superbad CD - Posted on August 16th, 2007

Check out these reviews of the Superbad CD. One from Lostatsea.nt and this one from IGN.

Review / Interview for Tabula Rasa in Guitar Player Magazine, 2000 - Posted on October 24th, 2000


Lyle Workman “Clean Slate”
By Matt Blackett

“Doing my own record was incredibly liberating,” says super-sideman Lyle Workman. “When I play other people’s stuff, which is how I make my living, my goal is to make them happy and give them what they want. It’s still me, but it’s a small percent as opposed to the 100 percent on my album.”

Workman’s latest solo outing, the mostly instrumental Tabula Rasa [Infrared] – a Latin phrase meaning “clean slate” – is aptly titled. After years of playing parts to accompany music by Todd Rundgren, Frank Black, or Beck, Workman was able to start with a truly blank canvas for Tabula Rasa.

“Most of the time I’m winging it when I write,” he says. “I very rarely have an idea of what I want the song to sound like as I’m composing. For instance, I wrote ‘Timbuktu’ the day I got an Ovation mandolin. I didn’t know how to play it, so I just started messing around, and I happened upon a few things that turned into a song.”

Such an innocent approach to writing might seem surprising to those who assume Workman’s rich chord progressions, staggering lead chops, and a style that melds elements of rock, progressive fusion, classical, and country are products of intense premeditation. For Workman, however, some degree of naiveté is essential for keeping things fresh. “When I write on piano, I move my fingers around until I find a chord I like,” he explains. “I don’t approach it from a series of learned voicings. I apply that same philosophy to the guitar. That’s why on almost every song on this record, I’m playing chords that I’ve never played before.”

Because many of the arrangements on Tabula Rasa are thick and complex, Workman was careful to choose instruments that would complement each other. To balance the rhythm tracks of “Timbuktu” – which were tracked with a Telecaster through a Matchless DC30 and a Vox AC30 – he used a Roland GR-300 guitar synth. “I still love that GR-300,” says Workman. “It tracks amazingly well, and I can always come up with something on it.” To produce an ear-catching, unusual tone on “Here Comes the Cavalry,” Workman relied on a Finnish kantele. “The kantele has 13 pretuned strings – like a little harp,” he explains. “I tuned it differently for every song so I could play melodies on it. I miked it with a Neumann M582 and played it with a pick. It’s a great timbre.”

Tabula Rasa also features plenty of Workman’s lead guitar – an ample feast of pretty melodies, tasty fills, and go-for-broke solos. As with everything else on the record, Workman sees his single-note playing as a wide-open road. “All the solos are off the cuff,” he says. “I’ll solo over a progression until I hear something I like, and I’ll just record over the parts I don’t like.”

On his previous solo album, 1995’s Purple Passages, Workman played nearly all the instruments and programmed all the drum machines. But this time out, he brought in a stellar cast of musicians that included guitarist Mike Keneally, percussionist Luis Conte, drummer Toss Panos, and ex-XTC guitarist Dave Gregory. According to Workman, being the bandleader comes as naturally as being a sideman. “Once I get the basic idea for a tune down, I start to get a clear picture,” he offers. “By the time the others come in, I pretty much know what I want – especially from the drums. I’m very specific about beats and fills. But I always bring in musicians whose playing I respect, so most of the time all I have to do is give them suggestions.”

Although Tabula Rasa offers listeners an extremely rich musical palette, the hired guns, exotic instruments, and dense arrangements all serve Workman’s quest to produce a work that is true to himself. “I made this album to make music that is honest and a part of me,” he says. “I think that’s what people respond to. I have a small but very appreciative following, and I’ll continue making music for them. When someone genuinely likes something you’ve put your heart and soul into, it’s the best feeling in the world.”

Fuse Magazine & Music Web Express 3000 review Tabula Rasa - Posted on June 24th, 2000


Tabula Rasa
By Dave Dorkin

Guitarist Lyle Workman has turned out a beautiful and mature disc of instrumental prog-rock-fusion on this his second solo effort. Workman’s compositions range from Dregs-ish twang to symphonic pomp executed with precision and class. Any fan of instrumental rock and strong solos and melodies will want to pick this up. Guests include Luis Conte on percussion, Toss Panos on drums, Jeff Babko on keys and Mike Keneally on vocals on the hypnotic “Inhale.” Recommended.


Tabula Rasa
By Robert Silverstein

As far as guitar-based instrumental progressive rock fusion music goes, it doesn’t get much better than Tabula Rasa. Conceived of and created by guitar wiz Lyle Workman, Tabula Rasa is a work of pure sonic genius. Throughout the album, Workman demonstrates his creative expertise on a number of instruments ranging from electric and acoustic guitars to mandolin, guitar synthesizer, bass, keyboards, kantele and drums. A master of musical genres – from rock to eclectic prog-fusion, Workman is further assisted by key players such as Toss Panos (drums), XTC member Dave Gregory (keyboards, strings) and guitar great Mike Keneally appearing as lead vocalist on the album’s only vocal track, “Inhale”. For those unfamiliar with the California native, Workman was influenced early on by greats like Hendrix, Townshend and later Yes and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Following his time in the pop group Bourgeois Tagg, Workman recorded a pair of early ‘90s albums with Todd Rundgren and later worked with the pop outfit Jellyfish and most recently with pop artist Beck. The follow-up to his mid-90’s debut CD, Purple Passages, Tabula Rasa is a mind-blowing musical statement from a guitarist who obviously deserves a great deal of praise and recognition.

Praise for Purple Passages - Posted on July 24th, 1995

Guitar player magazine, July 1995

Truly a solo album, these eight tracks are compositionally advanced and restlessly imaginative. Workman’s thickly layered tunes orchestrate nylon-string, solid body, guitar synth, and E-bow into complex, shifting pieces that funnel a zillion influences-from Holdsworth to The Beatles-into a compelling whole.

Dave Gregory, XTC

Lyle Workman’s astonishing album Purple Passages reveals a musician of consummate skill, creativity and taste. He virtually single-handedly crafts a great bunch of tunes with meticulous care, abandoning the usual guitar hero cliches in favor of melody, texture, and feel. Purple Passages should put Lyle Workman’s name on anybody’s list of favorite players – he’s already on mine.

Robin Tolleson, contributing editor for Billboard, Downbeat, and Musician:

From the breathtaking to the sublime and all points in-between, Workman is musical and sure on this stunning debut. His timely melodic flair, powerful chops, and overriding sense of fun in it all give Workman a voice that rings out above the crowd.

Guitar Techniques, August 1995

The press release for this album is extraordinary, with ravings from artists as diverse as Vernon Reid, XTC, and jazz drummer Tony Williams. So who is this Lyle Workman? Well, he’s sessioned for Todd Rundgren and Jellyfish, but he’s also a composer of highly original instrumental music, some of which is on this album. Some of the cuts are very intricate and complex, but the melody always comes first. Highlights include multifaceted Lionhearted, Metheny influenced East Of the Sun and haunting Bygones. Workman’s music transcends the usual rock, folk, ethnic and jazz boundaries. Definitely a cut above your usual instrumental guitar album!
Star rating: ***1/2

Guitar, September 1995

Talk about an esoteric resume; guitarist Lyle Workman has recorded with Bourgeois Tagg, Frank Black, Todd Rundgren, Jellyfish and Jude Cole. So, what does his music sound like? None of the above. Workman is a impressive, rock-schooled player with the rhythmic blood of a jazz man, the conceptual savvy of a orchestrator, and the multi-instrumental talents of a dedicated studio nerd, and his highly developed compositions are laden with majestic guitar work and a rich melodic lyricism.

Vintage Guitar Magazine

Even if you don’t know Lyle Workman by name, you’ve probably heard his guitar on occasion… This instrumental CD gives him a chance to show off his chops and compositional skills. The opener Lionhearted, is a tour-de-force that highlights his strengths. It covers the gamut from loud metalesque flourishes to beautifully worked out two and three-part solos, to melodic single line soloing. And finally, to a nice acoustic finish with a nice overdriven solo cut. And that’s just the beginning. There’s some nice reflective Pieces, like Bygones, which features Workman on both electric and acoustic. East of the Sun, West of the Moon is a nice rolling piece with sitar and spacey, floating solo section in the middle. The title cut melds together with Exiled in Paradise to form a beautiful semi-suite of sorts… Workman manages to put his craft, sprit and compositional skills together to become a fresh voice on guitar. Definitely worth checking out.