Picks and Pans Review: Pictures from the Front
About 15 years ago, the rumor started humming that guitarist Robin Trower was going to be the next Jimi Hendrix. Fizzle. It soon became apparent that where Hendrix had been thoroughly original and pyrotechnic, Trower was somewhat derivative, short on pyro and long on technique. When Jon Butcher started creating some buzz up in Boston earlier this decade, the rumor of a Hendrix reincarnation reared its specious head again. For a gifted, young black guitarist playing rock, the comparison was probably inevitable, and Butcher underlined it by naming his group Axis, a reference to a Hendrix album title. By the time of this, Butcher's fifth (and by far his best) album, no one's comparing him with Hendrix. But we may have found our next Robin Trower—with a little more going for him than the original had. Butcher's plangent voice even sounds the same as Trower's.
Although Butcher has raised the level of his playing a few notches on Pictures from the Front, he isn't asking his guitar to carry the record. Instead, for the first time in his career, Butcher has made the song the thing. He does take a plunge or two into Hendrix territory. "I'm Only Dreaming" is an appealing mock-heartland rocker with a searing solo. "Might as Well Be Free" is set to an urgent, screaming riff, like Foreigner with a sharper attack. It too has a wicked little solo. "The Mission" is an incendiary Jeff Beck-like instrumental. If Pictures from the Front is an indication of things to come, in a couple of years we could be referring to some hotshot young guitarist as the next Jon Butcher. (Capitol)
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