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MIDI Guitar Ztar

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Baroque Rocks! Reviews

LES FRADKIN - "Baroque Rocks!"

RRO Entertainment (RRO-1031)

Les Fradkin-

On this album, Fradkin's  expertise on the Starr Labs Ztar Midi Guitar, is simply brilliant  with an added  dash of  amazing.  He used  the Midi guitar to  simulate   fantastic keyboard and orchestral sounds while   providing solid percussion; added with his flawless technique, Les has created another winning disc.   

Baroque Rocks! definitely pays a huge homage to Antonio Vivaldi. The first track begins with the opening movement of the ninth concerto of Opus 8.  As with most of the tracks, Les plays it rather straight and  sticks with the compositional building blocks of the music, but the Mellotron and  harpsichord and  percussion, give it  a new take; surprisingly,  I was hooked with this   excellent new interpretation. 
The majority of Vivaldi's ‘The Four Seasons’  makes up tracks 4 through 7. Aside from the opening track, this  is my personal favorite part of the album. Fradkin varies the illustrative sounds that Vivaldi composed with  the addition of his signature digital effects and technique. In the ‘Winter’ section, Fradkin keeps it  closer to the great  composer by his use of harpsichord sounds.
Mason Williams’ ‘Classical Gas,’ Pachelbel’s ‘Canon,’ and Handel are all Fradkin-ized on the album, the former utilizing some killer synth sounds. But after listening to 2/3s of Baroque Rocks! ,besides the high quality masterly of the instrumentation,  a subtle sameness to the approach slightly overpowered even Fradkin's expertise.  Too much of a good thing? Or not enough variety in the composer's and song choices?  Difficult to say. 
Baroque Rocks! is like having the Boston Pops married  with Yngwie Malmsteen's technique, and clever digital trappings that  make it very enjoyable. I was happily surprised how Les approached  the  body of work, adding his mastery (and  digital spin), without  venturing into  corny or hokey territory.  By the way,  production quality is very good. 
I would consider this one of the best classical  homage albums done by  a rocker. If this is your bag, this  a  definite must  buy.   But  as a  progrocker, I  would have  loved to  have Les used a few more dynamic  composers that  would have  fit  into a more proggy motif.   Still, Les clearly shows a deep love  for the  Baroque Classical  composers, and this fondness definitely is contagious to this listener. Nice job.
Rating  8.9   (If you are a hardcore or experimental prog fans, you  need not apply.  Grading  is entirely subjective).
Les Fradkin- "Baroque Rocks!
LES FRADKIN "Baroque Rocks!"
RRO Entertainment (RRO–1031):

The Myth Of El Cid; Handel Rocks; All The King’s Men; Spring; Summer; Autumn; Winter; Classical Gas; Canon In D; Air On A G-String; Baroque And Roll; Anthem For All Nations

Music of the Baroque era has commonly been raided by rock instrumentalists beguiled by its melodic inventiveness, its variety, its exuberance and its wide-ranging instrumentation, all of which aspects are mirrored in this collection. The Fradkin workshop centres around the remarkable Starr Labs Ztar Midi Guitar (have a look at YouTube to see it in action).

Most of the parts were played from this remarkable instrument, drums included (percussion on this CD is very much to the fore and is handled superbly). Orchestration software takes in Moog, Mellotron and the Vienna Symphonic Library (strings, oboe); the CD insert provides further details of musical resources including harpsichord, organ and a variety of guitars. It’s a joy to listen to this formidable range of equipment in the hands of such an inventive musician.

Vivaldi occupies a special place in the Baroque canon and does so on this disc, as Les exploits to the full key elements of Vivaldi’s craft, not least the “rushing scales, driving rhythms and piercing timbres” singled out by Alex Ross in his fine profile in the The New Yorker of February 2001.

The CD gets off to a cracking start with the opening movement of the ninth concerto of Opus 8, the set which gave the world ‘The Four Seasons’. Presented as either an oboe or a violin concerto, it is best listened to in its former guise — an elegant and tuneful piece featuring smoothly-oiled woodwind played off against penetrating strings and bobbing continuo. In Les’ hands it’s pure dynamite: the Venetian building-blocks are there and fully respected, but the explosiveness of the opening notes is sustained with the Mellotron, harpsichord and the rest reinforced by pounding percussion including — strikingly, in tune with the new title with its Hispanic associations — the clatter of castanets along with timpani and shakers! Track 3 draws on the closing movement of violin concerto No.8 in the relatively neglected but highly accomplished collection published as Opus 7. It’s a sprightly, busy piece wafted along by extremely robust continuo. Here it’s given extra pep, to put it mildly: conjured up is a picture of courtly bustle, ‘a bit European and regal’ as Les himself puts it, hence the title.

‘The Four Seasons’ is made up of four concertos each of three movements, the central slackening the pace and providing sharp tonal and thematic contrasts with the outer. Tracks 4–7 take in the opening movements of all except ‘Summer’, which is represented by the third movement with its dynamic storm sequence. ‘Spring’, that perennial favourite invested with one of Vivaldi’s killer melodies, bursts into life with Moog and Mellotron set against a background of hammering percussion, the famous bird cries given a winningly ‘electronic’ edge as they erupt from either side of the stereo soundstage! Recent flamboyant interpreters of Vivaldi have naturally had a field day not only with these but also with the violent storm scene that follows on, and Les rises to the occasion magnificently with a searing sound picture of the eruption of thunder characteristic of the Mediterranean spring climate, the crashes reinforced by fearsomely droning synth effects. Hailstones accompany thunder in the closing movement of ‘Summer’ in a cascading, swirling flurry of sound from Moog and Mellotron with sharp-toned violins courtesy of Vienna Symphonic Library and adroitly managed percussion. The opening movement of ‘Autumn’ depicts the peasant song and dance that follows upon the safe gathering in of the harvest, the drinkers falling into an intoxicated sleep. The dance here is more of a stomp as Les brings in a characterful Hammond organ to complement the rich palette of sound and hammer home the exhilarating melody. With ‘Winter’ percussive effects take a back seat and the spotlight is on Moog supported by strings and — as scored by Vivaldi to point up the picture of biting winds and icy cold that sets the teeth chattering — that coolest of instruments, the harpsichord.

Tracks 8 to 11 present a mixed programme. Mason Williams’ ‘Classical Gas’ certainly reflects the pace and colour exhibited by much Baroque music (here we are treated to a big bold acoustic guitar sound, actually a nylon string guitar sample played from the Ztar, with snazzy synth orchestration) while Les’ own ‘Baroque And Roll’ is a proud, stately, richly textured piece mirroring the stylistic grandiosity of the period.

Between these we have two thoroughly familiar compositions. Pachelbel’s ‘Canon’ all too often drearily blights Baroque anthologies, but here it comes over as exceptionally vivacious: the famous melody is complemented by a lead Stratocaster that contributes a melody of its own (penned by Les) and accompanied by a sonorous Rickenbacker 12-string. Next, its frequent soulmate, Bach’s ‘Air’, the lead of which consists of a custom made soprano sax patch; it sounds, well, nice and airy, if rather low-key in the context of the CD as a whole.

Let us end with another of the giants of the era. Handel is said to have remarked to a compatriot: “What the English like is something they can beat time to, something that hits them straight on the drum of the ear.” Les has done well to pick out one such specimen for track 2, the boisterous second movement from Opus 6, No.2. What would Handel have made, one wonders, of that larger than life bassline and the thumping percussion competing strenuously with the thrilling lead sounds of Moog and Mellotron? The same ‘Concerti Grossi’ set provides the impulse for the last track. This is the closing movement of Op.6 No.5, a typically elegant minuet dazzlingly transformed into an anthem of truly Handelian majesty (note the striking evocation of an ethereal choir from 2:45). Les deploys four Mellotron dubs to create an awesomely ample soundstage recalling the huge musical resources mustered by the maestro himself in the anthems he composed for the wonderfully reverberant acoustics of Westminster Abbey.

‘Baroque Rocks!’ is very far from being just another ‘RI goes Classical’ collection. Full of clever touches, it constantly surprises, much like Vivaldi’s compositions, and furnishes an object lesson in the skilful use of modern technology to create an illusion of large-scale musical forces — a sleight of hand that brilliantly re-interprets shining compositions sourced from what an eminent writer on the period has termed ‘a fascinating cast of musical magicians’.

Reference: New Gandy Dancer, Issue 90 [July 2009], pp.13-14
Malcolm Campbell - New Gandy Dancer Magazine-July 2009 (Aug 7, 2009)

One Link Between Them Reviews

"One Link Between Them"

LES FRADKIN: One Link Between Them

Two words come to mind after a listen to Les Fradkin's music: Original Genius. One of the most original pieces or music that I have heard in a really long time. Playing his MIDI guitar unlike anyone else, most would call his music Spacerock, which is an understatement. Les crafts each song perfectly to where it flows nonstop. Each song contains amazing rhythms and melodies, which left me on my toes wondering what was coming next. I would recommend this to any fan of Progressive, Electronica, and Space Rock music.

I was absolutely blown away by his skill and intelligence. It will definitely leave a permanent mark on anyone who listens to a song. Amazing.
LES FRADKIN-"One Link Between Them" (RRO-1027)

To say that Les Fradkin’s album One Link Between Them is synth-intensive is like saying the sun is kinda hot. Fradkin layers his tunes with inspiring levels of synthesizer sounds and melodies, mixed for optimal keyboard impact. The opening synth salvos on “Lift Off” are in your face and stereo-riffic, as are the big buzzing sawtooth waves and lively percussion on his far-out cover of Duke Ellington’s “Caravan.” Fradkin makes great use of the Roland GR-1 guitar synth throughout, and there is ample usage of Arturia’s Moog Modular V and Jupiter-8V soft-synths, as well as the GForce M-Tron and, evidently, a real Mellotron as well! Fradkin has sequenced and shredded his way into 2008 with one of the most adventurous digital recordings we’ve heard in a while. Get your synth freak on and lift off with Les Fradkin!
Bro, your style is amazing... I have always loved synths and guitar and you have combined both in a tasty blend of audio orgasmic splendor.... I feel like I ate a quarter of shrooms without the legal ramifications of my actions.... Thanks for capturing what I have heard in my mind for years.... peace, mike

LES FRADKIN-"One Link Between Them" (RRO-1027)

Isn't it a really cool feeling when you discover something or someone that surprises you and simply knocks your socks? Entering the spacerock ring is Mr. Les Fradkin, armed with synthesizers and samples including his featured instrument- Starr Labs Ztar Model Z7S MIDI Guitar. But labeling Les squarely into the Spacerock genre would not be altogether true; combine spacerock, Jean-Michel Jarre and some progrock flair and classical influences and you can at least see where his music is reaching out to.

What I like about `One Link Between Them,' is that Fradkin, makes his guitar synths and the Ztar sing with amazing intonation as if Rick Wakeman was playing a classic synth. His MIDI controller makes good use of a substantial array of equipment and samples but never seems forced, as if he's showing off his new toy. Drum programming is of high standards and on ocassion reaches the height of brilliant, though many of the rhythms, remind me of a classic Jean-Michel Jarre feel.

High points to the album are:

Track 2- `Orbiter,' is a standout! Penned by Mr. Fradkin, the piece starts outs with some tasty Mellotron and settles into some amazing rhythms as well some very cool leads. Les out Jarres Jarre on this track!

Track 3- `From Venus with Love,' composed by Les and Loretta Fradkin is a gorgeous melange of tasty rhythms, beauty and spicy melody. As with Orbiter, I didn't want the track to end, but go on forever.

Track 4- is Steve Vai's `Liberty,' The song really showcases the skill and amazing technique that Les can do, when needed.

The next track is another cover, `Caravan,' (composed by D. Ellington, J.Ticol, I.Mills). Les combines a Middle-eastern influence with his electronic take on Ellington's classic.

Track 6- `Warp Drive,' is exactly what it is titled. Add a little Yngwie, a dash of Jarre, some Tangerine Dream and a classical structure, with a pulsating rocking rhythm and you get a wild track. This track highlights Les' brilliant combination of expression as well as technique.

`Sailing All Alone,' like track 6 was penned by Les, and slows down the pace to showcase his sense of beauty. Again, the music perfectly portrays its title. Tara Coker-Lewis's voice ascends the piece even higher. Beautiful job.

`Longing To Return' briefly returns to the melody and riffs of `From Venus with Love,' but with an amazing beauty that is simply breathtaking. This is a fantastic composition that showcases the simplicity and the sublime. Amazing work Les! I sense a little Vangelis vibe (not soundwise), to this track.

Track 9, "A Dim Twilight", is my favorite, perhaps because it is the more proggier of the album's pieces. Penned again by Les and Loretta Fradkin, the composition to me instills a sense of wonder, some nice interplay with the Mellotron flute, oboe and some tastily bass and digital drums. The song gets stronger as it goes though its 7 plus minute length. The Ztar married with electric guitar is breathtaking! Images of triumph permeate this song- and well it should.

Joe Meek's `Telstar' finishes up the CD. Again, like Vai's composition, I feel that this one of the weaker tracks and personally, I like Les' penned pieces better, yet I do admire his daring as well as giving a nod to tunes and/or performers that he admires.

Did I mention any lows? Nothing to talk about really, the few weaker tracks (IMHO), are still solid because of Les' musicality.

All in all, I really liked this album. The CD has enough change and interest, as well as technique to keep Prog rockers interested. Mellotron sounds are not redundant and over-used, and Mr. Fradkin's musicianship marries well with the (especially his), compositions. If you are a fan of Jean-Michel Jarre, or like new technology, check out this artist- now! But there is more to this man than simple synths; Les combines and transmorphs the new technology with feeling, passion and old-fashioned gusto. He knows how to rock, and can even get you on the dance floor; but also, the music is brimming with intelligence, emotion and care.

I can't wait to hear what this talented performer does on his next venture. It would be neat to hear a few longer tracks, so Les could spin his array of textures with a larger palette. I can envision a modern Supper's ready-like epic piece coming from Les' Ztar. Also, it might be interesting to add a few traditional instruments into the mix, as a highlight or accent.

9.2 out of 10 rating
LES FRADKIN- "One Link Between Them" (RRO-1027)

One man and his Ztar...the one man is guitarist/keyboard player Les Fradkin, and for those of you who are wondering (and I'm sure most of you are) the Ztar is a MIDI guitar created by Starr Labs, and sort of looks like a cross between a Steinberger electric guitar and a SynthAxe. One Link Between Them is a fun ten song collection of instrumental tracks that mix space rock, electronica, ambient soundcapes, and progressive rock, showcasing Fradkin's keen sense of melody and adventure. Most of the synth & keyboard samples evoke classic sounds of Moogs, Mellotrons, and various Roland synthesizers, giving the album a very rich and futuristic flavor. Hearing Les tackle Steve Vai's "Liberty" (one of three covers on the album) is a real hoot, and his programmed drums and blinding Moog Modulator, permeated with haunting Mellotron, make "Warp Drive" one hell of a ride. Mellotron and Moog sounds once again rear their head on the severe melancholy of "Sailing All Alone", while the 7-minute "A Dim Twilight" features lush Mellotron & Oboe flutes that eventually give way to majestic synthesizer melodies that will please any serious prog rocker. Fradkin's closing take on the Joe Meek space anthem "Telstar" almost sounds like ELO, with some surf guitar lines thrown in for good measure.

One Link Between Them is an enjoyable listen, and is highly recommended to lovers of keyboard and guitar synth instrumental music.

The cliche "think outside of the box" applies very appropriately to the new disc by Les Fradkin - One Link Between Them. Les builds on an electronic foundation that can be traced as far back as the Rolling Stones' Their Satanic Majesties Request, and he takes the Starr Labs Ztar on a stellar journey via this concept album. Snippets of the Moody Blues, ELO, King Crimson and 80s Eurobeat bands (New Order and OMD come to mind) are also evident in Les' musical blitz on the astral and aural senses. One Link Between Them represents a dramatic departure from the guitar-driven pop-rock that Les is well-known for. However, if you study his earlier prog-rock, synth-rock and instrumental material, you won't be surprised by Les' latest artistic endeavor. Over forty years ago, Roger McGuinn challenged the studio technology of his time to create new forms of musical expression. Les is now taking that art form to places that Roger could never have imagined. As a result, One Link Between Them should appeal to several generations of music enthusiasts. Blast off - and prepare to enjoy the trip!
Eric Sorensen - CD Baby (Mar 14, 2008)

Suite for Ztar and Orchestra

New Interview today from Skope Magazine.... "Renowned MIDI guitarist Les Fradkin continues to WOW the critics and audience by bringing innovative music-making techniques to the forefront".

Interview: "Les Fradkin: "Suite for Ztar and Orchestra in G Minor, Op.1 No.1"



Renowned MIDI guitarist Les Fradkin continues to WOW the critics and audience by bringing innovative music-making techniques to the forefront.   Les has created the first ever “classical” composition on a hi-tech instrument known as a Ztar and this can be heard on his new album ‘Suite for Ztar and Orchestra in G Minor Op. 1 No. 1′.  This modern day musician is always evolving as Today he can be referred to as the “Futuristic Symphonic One Man Orchestra”.  Les combines classical & progressive rock music to make up one uniquely original, digitally-advanced sound.  From George Harrison (RIP) and “Beatlemania” to J.S. Bach, Les Fradkin is sure to peek your interests through this wildly imaginative & extremely informative dialogue. 

J Rae: I see that you’ve been dubbed a “21st Century New Media” artist/composer/producer and so can you please explain to us all what exactly that means? What’s this “21st Century” business all about?

Les Fradkin: I play a new Hi-Tech instrument and release my music as an Independent Artist with my own Digital label across the Internet. That’s as “New Media” as it gets, don’t you think? And this is the 21st Century. I’m really trying to distinguish the future from the past, both for myself and the audience.

J Rae: I noticed that you are a pioneer & innovator when it comes to MIDI guitars and for those who have never heard of these types of instruments would you mind educating the Skope audience?

Les Fradkin: Midi Guitar is defined as: A guitar synthesizer (also guitar synth, alternatively guitar-synthesizer, guitar-synth, guitar/synthesizer, guitar/synth, g-synth or synth guitar) is any one of a number of musical instrument systems that allow a guitar player to play synthesizer sound. Companies who specialize in this technology include Starr Laba, Roland Corporation and Axon. The Ztar is an electronic musical instrument that you connect via a MIDI cable to synthesizers, samplers, sequencers, and computers. The main difference between the Ztar and other MIDI guitar controllers is that there are no strings on the neck. Instead, the fingerboard is actually a specialized keyboard with a touch-sensitive key each note position. You can play the Ztar like a guitar where you fret with one hand and strum with the other hand, or you can tap the fingerboard keys to play them as you would a keyboard, only you’re playing the same scales and fingerings that you use on guitar.

J Rae: You’ve been called a “virtuoso” MIDI guitarist and I’m curious to know what originally attracted you to this different type of guitar?

Les Fradkin: Although I’ve played guitar since 1964, and I’d been playing MIDI Guitar since 1983, I needed something new both for touring in the modern age and for musical advancement. In 2007, I was surfing YouTube and came upon a couple of videos from Christopher Currell (ex- Michael Jackson guitarist) (Gemini Puzzle Pt 2 -Christopher Currell In Concert (Preview) ) and an Italian shred guy, Fabrizio Chiruzzi  (fabrizio chiruzzi ztar jam part 3(Preview)) playing the Ztar and saw some amazing possibilities for myself. Among those possibilities was the realization that this new technology could allow me to be a true soloist accompanying myself onstage with a portable package, at speeds unheard of with previous MIDI Guitar technology. You know, after 30 years of playing Pitch to Midi Systems, I got tired of having to play on top of the beat to have the notes appear “on time”.

After purchasing my first Ztar in May, 2007, I began the process of trying to learn it. Harvey Starr (the Inventor of the Ztar) and many other end users played it like a glorified Piano. I felt, intuitively, with previous experience with the SynthAxe, that some other approach, given the multiple note polyphony on each “string”, might hold more promise, for myself, at least. After reading the Manual over 2 dozen times, I soon discovered that, since every note on the instrument could be tuned to any pitch, or group of pitches, in any sequential order, I could invent my own personal playing method and approach the instrument as a One Man Orchestra. I feature a number of Midi Guitar innovations for technique, previously impossible on Pitch to Midi Systems.

J Rae: On the cover of your latest album ‘Suite for Ztar and Orchestra in G Minor Op. 1 No. 1′ you are shown holding a Starr Labs Ztar MIDI guitar and wondering what you have to say about this new toy of yours? 
Les Fradkin: Well, to me, it’s not a “toy”.There is a very sophisticated Computer built into the body of the Ztar. It’s used to program MIDI setups, response curves, Program Changes, zones, etc.  As I said, the Ztar can do things that can’t be done with a conventional guitar. Multiple nested layered tunings, discarding the Chromatic scale, tuning each individual note to any pitch in any order, regardless of neck position. Of course, constant practice must be a regimen every day, since maintaining Ztar technique and speed requires vigilance and dedication to craft.

J Rae: Speaking in terms of your new CD, what went into the making of the record and what made you want to incorporate elements of Johann Sebastian Bach? 
Les Fradkin: I wanted to compose an extended work completely intertwining Classical and Progressive Rock approaches. I had already recorded quite a bit of Vivaldi on my 2009 CD “Baroque Rocks!”, so J.S. Bach seemed like the logical choice, given my Baroque inclinations. Bach invented many chord progressions that are still in use today in Rock culture. It took 4 years to complete the new CD because I had to continue to develop new ways to play the Ztar interactively with a Computer to realize the results you hear and I had to learn to use Ableton Live and Reason which were new technologies for DAW Software that could be used, in tandem with the Ztar to create utterly random wonderfulness. The unexpected is always, the Acorn of inspiration. 
J Rae: Being that you’re a classically-trained musician who plays multiple instruments with intricate Progressive Symphonic Rock as your staple, it’s no wonder that you’ve been called a “Futuristic Symphonic One Man Orchestra”! Creativity, originality & diversity are definitely in your vocabulary and so that is why I, along with the Skope Universe, are dyin’ to know who some of your musical influences are?

Les Fradkin: J.S. Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Niccolo Paganini, King Crimson, Robert Fripp, Yes, Rick Wakeman, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Jeff Beck, The Beatles, Procol Harum, The Left Banke, Renaissance, The Yardbirds, Queen, Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, Silver Apples, The Byrds. Too many others to mention here. 
J Rae: Just like the great B.B. King has Lucille, do you have any cool, snazzy or even obscure pet names for your “Pride and Joy”?

Les Fradkin: Nothing special. I have a white one and a Blue one. Big Z and Little Z. They both are Z7s models.

Jimmy Rae: I couldn’t help but notice that you played the late, great George Harrison as one of the original members of the late 70s hit Broadway show “Beatlemania”.  What a thrill that must have been! What was that experience like and is George Harrison your favorite Beatle? And do you have a favorite Beatles album/song and why?

Les Fradkin: “Beatlemania” is a great memory. We made history and I’m proud of what we collectively accomplished. We were a great team.  George is/was my favorite Beatle. Favorite Beatles album: “Sgt. Pepper”. It convinced me that conceptual art could be brought to rock and Pop culture. Favorite Beatles song? Too many to list. 
J Rae: It just so happens that you were also a successful songwriter/composer back in the day along with playing on dozens of Top 40 hit records throughout the early 1970′s and 80s.  How has your music evolved since then and are you at liberty to mention any of the hit records you played on?

Les Fradkin: Bach was introduced to me by my Mother who was a Classical Concert Pianist. I loved Bach’s work immediately. It spoke to me, as did Mozart, Paganini, Vivaldi and other Classical and Baroque composers. When The Beatles, The Left Banke, Procol Harum, The Moody Blues and other groups came along, I saw that Classical, Baroque and Rock could be effectively combined. I wanted that synthesis for my own music. I’ve always had those influences since I was young. In the 1970′s, that manifested itself in my folk-rock orchestrated creations for MGM. Nowadays, I am simply doing a much more advanced version, as instrumentals, with a more overt Classical and Baroque influence. Of course, the Hi Tech instrument also impacts the musical choices, doesn’t it?

My unofficial discography is maintained at:

J Rae: With the release of your new album ‘Suite for Ztar and Orchestra in G Minor Op. 1 No. 1′, what do you hope listeners will get out of it and what did you want to get across to listeners on this one? 
Les Fradkin: Well, it’s the first “Classical” work ever composed for the Ztar. Like Paganini before me, I like to compose works, specific to my personal instrumental technique and approach. He, as you may know, did this with the 24 Violin Caprices. Many critics and Classical music enthusiasts, at the time, could not believe that Paganini could actually execute his passages with such grace and ease. They were considered, at the time, impossible. Yet he played them, and played them consistently with a spectacular technique which opened up the now, modern approach, to Violin playing. Perhaps, an examination of his unconventional Violin tunings might have yielded more belief in the ears of his audience because Paganini did NOT tune the Violin in a conventional manner. I am doing the same for the Ztar which uses certain new scales and tunings which were, heretofore, impossible on conventional instruments. That said, the Suite is a One Man Orchestra work. One doesn’t see too many Classical musicians, if any, playing all the instruments on a recording, in this manner and no one classical soloist certainly can not reproduce a complex Orchestral work as a One man show. While One man Bands are not uncommon in rock (Paul McCartney, Stevie Winwood, Todd Rundgren, Roy Wood, and myself, etc),
I have not heard of Classical music being handled in this manner. For what it’s worth, many in the Classical community have embraced this warmly with enthusiasm. I have over 80 Orchestras and conductors and Classical musicians following me on Twitter and Facebook. Actually, most of my fans are Progressive Rock enthusiasts. I hope to see this CD set a trendsetting example in modern Symphonic Rock.

J Rae: Looking ahead, what’s in store for Mr. Ztar, King of the MIDI’s?

Les Fradkin: I have no idea specifically what I’ll do next. I wait for the future to present itself. I do intend to perform live shows with the Ztar and that schedule is increasing as we speak. Next? Just keen to keep improving as a musician, composer and as an Artist. I do feel that the ‘Suite for Ztar and Orchestra’ is the best CD of my career. Hopefully, your readers will agree.

Suite for Ztar Links:

The Amazon link for the Physical CD

CD Baby:

Download Links:

Google +

Apple iTunes

Amazon UK



Guitarist / composer / vocalist Les Fradkin has a rich history in the music world going back to the 1970s when he was a member of the original cast of Beatlemania (with his uncanny guitar skills Les played the “George” role). Following years away from the music world, Les returned big time in the early 2000’s with a number of amazing instrumental guitar based albums followed by a rock opera called Reality. In the last few years Les has released a number of self-produced albums of both vocals and instrumentals on his RRO label and in 2013 he steps back in the limelight with his latest all instrumental CD entitled Suite For Ztar And Orchestra In G minor Op.1 No.1. Suffice to say, the album is a major sonic breakthrough for both electronic music and classical music. For hisSuite For Ztar And Orchestra, Les combines 21st century technology enabled by the amazing Ztar (a futuristic guitar looking creation) and puts a new spin on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. What Wendy Carlos did for Bach’s music on moog synth back in 1969 withSwitched On Bach, Les does for Bach’s music in 2013 on Suite For Ztar And Orchestra. With its futuristic guitar shaped body, the Ztar is able to recreate the sounds of a number of musical instruments including 6 and 12 string guitars, strings and a vast number of other sounds and is combined by Les adding in more traditional instrumentation including Roland synths, Rickenbacker guitars, bass and much more. If you thought you’d heard the last of Bach in a “switched-on” mode and concept, think again. Somewhere in the heavens above, Johann Sebastian Bach must be looking down and smiling on Les Fradkin.


LES FRADKIN- "Hyper Midi Guitar" (RRO-1033)


Prolific musician/composer Les Fradkin has recorded ten classic rock tracks that once again showcase his wizardry with the Starr Labs Model Z7S MIDI guitar. The result is a very cool, fresh and instrumental take on classic rock tracks of the 60s and 70s. The electronic effects are so vibrant that you won't miss the vocals at all; if anything, you'll just sing along! Four and five-member rock bands wish they could emulate classic rock in this manner; Les does it by himself. So why settle for less ... when a man who has covered the Beatles, the Byrds, Dylan, prog-rock and surf classics now focuses on classic rock with his MIDI? Long may you run, Sir Les! *****

Eric Sorensen - CD Baby (Mar 24, 2010)

Instrumental Reviews



Once upon a time, instrumental rock music ruled the airwaves. Back in the early 1960's, songs like "Wipeout" and "Pipeline" were as well known in America as the hits the Beatles cranked out. Instrumental surf-rock is a uniquely American style of music. Created entirely within the surf culture of Southern California, surf-rock has become a genre that represents all sorts of extreme sports and lifestyles. Modern films such as Pulp Fiction have awakened new audiences to the joy of surf music, and new surf bands have been cropping up all over the world.

Get Wet, who are based in Colorado, are a surf-rock band built around the genius of guitarist Les Fradkin. Fradkin is a guitarist of the first order, and it's our good fortune that he decided to direct his talent to melodic instrumental music instead of the six-string masturbation that is common to modern area axe shredders. Make no mistake - Fradkin could show Joe Satriani or Eric Johnson a thing or two. But instead of dazzling us with how many notes he can play per second, Fradkin layers his songs with melodies that will have you humming hours after the CD has been turned off.

The album sets a fast and furious tempo with the title track, "A Day At the Beach." Hyper percussion and layered guitars combine to create the audio equivalent of a caffeine-charged large espresso. Pounding drums open "Kick Sand," but Fradkin smartly dials the volume back for the main melodic theme. The tempo is slowed a bit in "Pintor," which showcases some very stylish spaghetti-western style picking. "Key West Sunset" is a romantic sounding tune, perfect for an evening with a beautiful beach babe or dude. Sharp melodies and haunting dynamics make "Nature Calls" one of the album's highlights.

You might wonder why Get Wet decided to cover the classic Beach Boys tune, "Good Vibrations," but after hearing this version, you'll never care for the original. The Beach Boys were never a true surf band - they were more of a manufactured clean-cut version of the Beatles. Fradkin takes this tune and completely transforms it into an instrumental masterpiece.

Get ready for some real fun - after "Good Vibrations" fades from the speakers, a collaboration between Get Wet and their friends The Dirt Surfers ("The Dirt Surfers Get Wet (Wet Mix)") blasts forth like a nuclear explosion. If you can remain seated while listening to this tune, check your pulse. Do not miss this song - the gorgeous middle part alone is worth the price of this CD.

Other standout tracks include a solid cover of "Beck's Bolero," and "Hurricane Warning," which could have easily been the theme song for any recent television police drama. Just for fun, the album also includes a very memorable version of Bach's holiday classic, "Joy of Man's Desiring."

Instrumental rock doesn't get the attention it deserves these days. The recording industry, which once made stars of bands like the Ventures and artists like Dick Dale, hasn't got a clue about how to market this invigorating music. They don't understand that the melodies and driving rhythms may be enjoyed by anyone desiring high-energy rock and roll without angst-filled vocals and nasty lyrics. Whether you're cleaning your house, gardening, or heading out to hit the big waves, "A Day At the Beach" will get you moving. You can forget that large espresso, because this album will reach out, slap you across the face, and shout, "Wake Up!"
LES FRADKIN- "Strat Heaven"
""Les has got out there and grabbed some of today's brilliant indie themes for great instrumentals. In this light, listen to Mr. F. play the fab Fall Out Boy's "This Ain't A Scene (It's An Arms Race)" and All American Rejects' "Move Along" and recognize that good instrumental material and sources of it, didn't stop in 1963!" (Dav Peckett-New Gandy Dancer Magazine-Issue 87)"

Fall Out Boy,All American Rejects,The Ventures,Gnarls Barkley,The Beatles,Bon Jovi

This is the real thing- an absolutely joyous, stunning album which restores our faith that surf is way,way alive in the fingers of Les Fradkin. Album of the year without doubt!
Davy Peckett - New Gandy Dancer Magazine (Sep 28, 2006)

LES FRADKIN: Pepper Front To Back

It is hard to see how anyone who is both a Beatles admirer and a fan of guitar instrumentals could fail to be won over by this latest release from the Fradkin workshop. We have already had from him some material from the stellar ‘Abbey Road’ album, but it would be good to see a follow-up offering the entire set in true Come Together fashion!
Malcolm Campbell - New Gandy Dancer Magazine (Aug 3, 2008)
You gotta have chutzpa to tackle what is often considered the all-time greatest album in rock. I mean, it's one thing to cover a Beatles song, but to take on the entire Sgt Pepper album ?! No problem for Les Fradkin. He has the credentials and the chops to pull it off, which is exactly what he does on Pepper Front to Back, and then some !

The man who portrayed George Harrison in the original Broadway cast of Beatlemania! and who already has two George Harrison tribute cd's under his belt confirms himself here as one of the great guitar players of our time. Actually he had already done so on previous albums, but this time he's taking things even further. With the entire album performed on guitar synthesizer, a first for a Beatles cover album, Les brings Pepper right into the 21st century.

So how does all that translate into music ? There's of course no need to introduce the songs. Like the title says : it's Pepper front to back and has All you need is love added as a bonus track.

What makes this album so amazing is that you can easily compare it with the original Beatles album and Les Fradkin still comes out smelling like a rose ! From the powerful opening of the first track to his own "inner groove" sounds, Les always puts his personal stamp on each track ! While still staying fairly loyal to the original song, each song is approached with a fresh new look. It makes each and every song a pleasure to listen to for very different reasons : the "horns" on Lovely Rita, the lead and harmony guitars on She's leaving home, the Joe Cocker touch on With a little help, the "animals" on Good Morning, the "horns and strings" on All you need is love... the album is filled with all kinds of gimmicks that'll make you want to listen to it over & over again!

This is an album that will absolutely thrill Beatles fans and everybody who's into guitar albums. Les has been putting out some amazing music over the past years and has been building a loyal fanbase with it. This is a perfect opportunity to discover this unique talent !
Eddy Smit - Rock Of Ages (Apr 14, 2007)
LES FRADKIN- "Guitar Revolution"

LES FRADKIN: Guitar Revolution

George from the original cast of Beatlemania has 11 more Beatles guitar instrumentals for ya. You will hear snippets of Jeff Beck, Jeff Lynne, the Ventures, the Fab Four and a host of other "classic rock" influences in Fradkin's interpretations of these Beatles and McCartney songs.

"Live And Let Die" is the standout track among the eleven songs that combine Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" with classic rock to surf treatments. Good for instro fans and parties.
RRO (1024)

LES FRADKIN: Guitar Revolution

Nobody covers the Beatles like Les Fradkin and if his own songs weren't that great, I'd say that's what he does best. His reconstruction of the entire Sgt Pepper album was nothing less than a revelation. And he continues in the same direction on Guitar Revolution.

In case you still haven't acquainted yourself with the music of Les Fradkin, this is as good a place to start as any. Les is all about guitars. Those in the know will drool over the equipment as it is listed on the inside cover. Those who listen to the music will file Les right next to Jeff Beck. The songs are a mere vehivle to display his amazing talents on the guitar. Although these are a bunch of the Beatles' best & well-known tracks, it almost doesn't matter as you always get caught up in the way Les treats them. I'll Be Back has that Ventures rhythm woven in, who would expect that solo piano on Within you Without you... I mean, there's something about each and every track that makes it stand out and why it's not "just" a cover of a Beatles song.

Once again two thumbs up for Les. WAY up !
Eddy Smit - Rock Of Ages (Dec 15, 2007)

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While My Guitar Only Plays Reviews


LES FRADKIN: While My Guitar Only Plays

Guitar virtuoso extraordinaire, Les Fradkin, performs a refreshingly breathtaking instrumental album of Beatle pop tunes on his new CD entitled "While My Guitar Only Plays." Born and raised in New York city, Les played the role of George Harrison in the original Broadway cast of Beatlemania. On this new album, almost half the tracks are Harrison compositions which is Les's own way of paying homage to the late great Beatle. The remaining album tracks has him giving the nod to the other two composers, John Lennon and Paul McCartney by including some of their great songs that have become well-known to Beatle fans. Les's cover versions of "I Feel Fine", "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Paperback Writer" are filled with high energy performances with lots of interesting guitar improvisations. Any listener who plays these catchy instrumental tunes will easily come to appreciate and understand the reason why Les had been chosen for the part of Beatle George in the production of "Beatlemania." Rather than a rocker, Les chose to turn "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" into a light, graceful acoustic ballad almost like a quiet inner reflection of oneself. If this was Les's intention for the listener, then he definitely succeeded. Featured on "While My Guitar Only Plays" album is special guest Nokie Ewards of The Ventures. Between the two guitarist, they perform a very heart-warming version of "Here Comes The Sun" -- a recording that, if George were alive today, would surely put a smile on the face of the former Beatle (and sure to delight the ears of Beatle fans.) The medley that closes the album, "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End" has Les and the band pulling out all the stops: THEY ROCK!!! Aided by drummer Joe Rotondo and bass guitarist Dave Stalheim, Les puts in some gutsy guitar licks. If I may use a phrase here from John Lennon, Les can easily "make a guitar speak" and then some, especially his lead guitar improvisations that trade off of each other on "The End" are simply brilliant.
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