Dick Wagner - Captured
Before his tragic and untimely passing in July, the legendary Dick Wagner (known as the Maestro to his friends and fans) quietly put out Captured earlier this year, an album that will most certainly go down as being the most eclectic and diverse sounding release of his storied career.
For this two disc, all instrumental album, Dick comes full circle and returns to his first love, the guitar. Known throughout his career as a singer, songwriter, producer, bandleader and a ‘go to’ session musician, it was the guitar that first ‘captured’ the young Maestro’s attention as a teenager and set him on the course to a full-fledged career in rock ‘n roll.
Consisting of primarily first-take, live performances recorded in his living room, Captured takes the listener on a scintillating journey that incorporates a myriad of different styles and ultimately provides a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a fearless musician. For the most part the backing accompaniment is sparse; often just a basic drum machine or some lightly sprinkled keyboards help flesh out the tracks, as Wagner validates just how accomplished and diverse a player he really was.
Disc One kicks off in grandiose fashion with the almost thirty minute “Blues at The Oasis Suite”. Comprised of nine songs, this multi-dimensional suite commences with the aptly named “Maestro Strut”, a blazing nine minute monster that contains all the swagger and bravado that only the Maestro himself could muster up. More importantly, it also sends the message loud and clear that he was all the way back from the stroke in 2007 that not only almost put an end to his guitar playing career, but also his life. The suite concludes with the majestic “Blues For an All Night Kiss”, a ten and half minute track that definitely demonstrates, that while he wasn’t primarily known for playing the blues, it was just another ace that he had hiding up his sleeve that he could play at any given time. The tender “By The Fire Tonight”, along with the heavier, up-tempo “Dance of The Pharaoh’s” and the heavily synth based “My Blue Peach”, close out the first disc in splendid fashion.
Disc Two also begins with a lengthy composition as “A Long Night’s Journey Home” clocks in at a whopping twenty eight minutes! While it could be misconstrued as ‘noodling’, trust me not a note is wasted over the entire length of this laid back and reflective sounding track. Next up is “B Natural Baby Blues”, which is probably my favorite song on the entire collection, as once again Dick shows just how adept and comfortable is was playing the blues, as he turns in six plus minutes of some of the finest playing of his career. The pace slows down a bit for “A Midnight’s Swim In Love’s Lagoon”, another tender ballad guaranteed to hit the sweet spot, before he shifts gears into the harder edged “Donner’s Pass”, a track that sounds like it was tailor made for an action movie soundtrack. The same could also be said for the following cut, “West Coast Tsunami”, which also feels very cinematic in nature. By the time the disc and the collection has concluded with the final two songs “The Thunder Roars” and the absolutely superlative, “From Madrid to Madness”, you realize that the Maestro has served up an incredible two hours of what has to be some of the finest and most compelling music of his career.
Even at the age of almost seventy two Dick Wagner was still a creative force to be reckoned with, as he continued to further expand his musical horizons through both his guitar playing and songwriting. Captured perfectly blends together his sheer love of playing, with an unyielding desire to continue to add more colors to what was already a diverse and rich musical palette. Whether it was rock, blues or jazz, it didn’t matter, because in the end, it all just felt like a natural an extension of the man himself.
By Ryan Sparks
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