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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".http://www.skopemag.com/2013/10/25/king-of-midi-guitars-les-fradkin-strums-along-with-jimmy-rae
Interview: "Les Fradkin: "Suite for Ztar and Orchestra in G Minor, Op.1 No.1"
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.
Baroque Rocks! Reviews
LES FRADKIN - "Baroque Rocks!"
RRO Entertainment (RRO-1031)
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!"
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
One Link Between Them Reviews
"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.
LES FRADKIN - "ONE LINK BETWEEN THEM"
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!
While My Guitar Only Plays Reviews
"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.
"WHILE MY GUITAR ONLY PLAYS"
Les Fradkin's latest release, "While My Guitar Only Plays"
A collection of Beatles instrumentals in Les' distinctive guitar play'n style.
Beatles fans this is a GREAT CD!
"WHILE MY GUITAR ONLY PLAYS"
I first heard this album on Archer's 'Breakfast With The Beatles' show and was amazed how Les Fradkin had duplicated the exact sounds of the lead guitar trade-offs in 'The End.' Then, when I got to listen to the CD, I was further impressed by Fradkin's unique interpretations. The moody, soulful 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' and the extra-jangly version of 'And Your Bird Can Sing' are truly phenomenal. Plus, the first cut I heard The Mountain radio station play, 'Here Comes The Sun,' features Nokie Edwards of the Ventures. I'm not usually a fan of Beatles covers, but this album really stands out.
"WHILE MY GUITAR ONLY PLAYS"
The local Breakfast With The Beatles show on The Mountain (in Denver, Colo.) has softened me up to cover songs with its special features, but as a die-hard Beatles fan I usually won't go out and buy any, but Les Fradkin's CD has changed all that. When I first heard him duplicate the lead guitar effects on 'The End' I rushed to CD Baby and got the CD and, wow, it is great. His guitar and synth (which I usually don't like, but Fradkin takes the classic mellotron route) breath new life into these songs, especially 'And Your Bird Can Sing' and 'Here Comes The Sun.' No one will ever surpass a Beatles original, but Fradkin does the best re-interpretations I've heard since Aretha Franklin's 'Let It Be.'.
"WHILE MY GUITAR ONLY PLAYS"
Les Fradkin has a new CD out, called While my guitar only plays. As you can guess it's not only a tribute to George Harrison, it also has all Beatles covers. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not much of a fan of this type of album, but this is one that will REALLY surprise you. In the first place because it's an all-instrumental album, which kinda takes away the urge to compare to the Beatles' original. And with Les' guitar very much taking the lead part in all the songs, you tend to concentrate on that. But there's so much more...there's bits of mellotron, percussion, guitar layers...they all contribute to the fact that this album is a unique listening experience. Each song has its own character, sometimes close to the original, sometimes taking on a life of its own. But Les always makes them his own, not in the least because of his unique guitar sounds. Just listen to that guitar solo in the Abbey Road medley !! In short, this is a CD I can strongly recommend !!
Eric Sorensen Reviews
Les sure does love that fireglow Rickenbacker 360V64 12-string guitar of his! Once again, this George Harrison model Rickenbacker is featured on the cover of Les' latest album (Les confided that he is a disciple of the Frank Zappa school of prolific recording) - Jangleholic. The album features several original tunes and Les' cover versions of some of his favorite songs from the past five decades. The title track recounts Les' lifelong love affair with the jangly, chiming sound of a Rickenbacker 12-string guitar.
Roger McGuinn turned many Bob Dylan folk songs into sing-along pop tunes with 4/4 time and chiming Rickenbacker riffs; Les does the same on his version of Dylan's "I Want You." If you ever wondered what a Simon & Garfunkel tune would have sounded like with Rickenbacker 12-string accompaniment, check out Les' fab version of "The Dangling Conversation." Les shines on the other cover tunes as well as on his own compositions. Les further enhances the chiming guitar licks with the use of the superb effects pedal - the JangleBox. (It's a small world - I met JangleBox inventor Steve Lasko last year, and I ran into him again at a Roger McGuinn concert!) Les is busy working on his next release; until that disc hits the street, this album should be the top attraction for jangleholics in 2006! You can find it at the following web link: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/lesfradkin10. Move over Starry Eyed & Laughing and Starbyrd; Les Fradkin belongs in that first pew of Jangledom with you!
"PERFECT WORLD" (RRO-1004)
Perfect World - by veteran jangly artist Les Fradkin, who once played with Edison Lighthouse. If you admire 60s pop, you can't help but sing along and tap your feet to this disc! Fradkin's guitars chime on numerous tracks, but his great cover of "Funny How Love Can Be" should delight Rickenbacker 12-string fans. This album also has the distinction of featuring the 60s studio artists affectionately known as the "Wrecking Crew." Fradkin wears his love of 60s pop music on his very talented sleeve. Long may you run, Sir Les!