Tag Archives: Michael Sweet

CD Review – “Tapped In” by Don Lappin


TappedIn

I came to find Don Lappin through facebook and even though I follow guitar players, I wasn’t aware of Don’s playing until recently although being a fan of Michael Sweets (Stryper) I had probably heard Don before and didn’t realize it. Don is currently an Assistant Professor at the Berklee School of Music specializing in rock techniques for the guitar. Don has also played with musical greats such as Jon Finn, Chad Wackerman, Guthrie Govan and Jonathon Mover to tell you how talented he is. Don’s approach to the guitar incorporates a lot of tapping and 4 note-per-string playing which is slightly out of the norm and about as technical as I am going to get for this blog. This about the music and not his technique. You can contact Don for more information on that for you guitar nerds.

“Tapped In” is Don’s second solo release and it is full of stellar guitar work by this modern day guitar virtuoso. From the intro straight in the first song “Lappin it Up,” you know you are in for something very different for a guitar instrumental CD. I have done a few reviews of guitar instrumental CD’s and having listened to hundreds if not thousands of these guitar players, it is very hard to find one with their own distinct voice. The kind that once you hear them anywhere on any CD you know it’s them. Don has that unique voice. His playing is extremely fluid partially due to his tapping technique but also his mastery of his instrument of choice. Don is very melodic and his vamps are not your the tired typical power chord vamps that guitar players love to play over. After being sent so many bad CD’s to review, you almost dread getting another wanna be guitar shredder CD in the mail. Thankfully this is NOT one of those CD’s. There is a lot of creativity in every part of the songwriting on “Tapped In”.

The highlights on “Tapped In” for me are the songs “Lappin it Up, Captain’s Lady and A Song for Robert.” The first song “Lappin it Up” could possibly be the most original sounding guitar song I have heard in a long time, especially during the verses. It’s a fast paced groove with a different sonic texture then you’d expect and moves into some nice melodic lines and an uplifting chorus that is hooky. Laden with some tension coming out of the chorus to bring you back to earth, Don creates melodic passes that always keep the song fresh and interesting.

“Captain’s Lady” is a “pretty” song in the way Don constructs the melody from the opening. Although it’s a rock song, it has a light quality that brings you to a feeling of taking off in the chorus. One of the great things about artists like Don is you never know where the song is going to take you because they have so many tools in their arsenal. This keeps the songs fresh and invigorated which is great for longer instrumentals and can really show you that you don’t always have to have a typical ABABBABB type song to have a listener friendly tune. Great songwriters will keep you engaged at all times and Don does this very well.

“A Song for Robert” is a slow song that reminds me of the feeling I get when listening to an Eric Johnson composition. Don and Eric are completely different players and writers, but here Don achieves that same ability to create a musical picture that takes you away and creates that sonic landscape you can picture in your mind’s eye. It’s a beautiful song that will pass without you realizing it’s 9:29 long. That is effective songwriting when you get lost in the music and forget about time altogether.

“Tapped In” being Don’s first full length CD is an amazing effort with a great sense of melody phrasing and songwriting ability that is already very strong and I am sure will only get better as he puts out more CD’s. For fans of instrumental music, “Tapped In” should appeal to those that like listener friendly songs and tunes with a slight fusion feel for lack of a better term. You never really get thrown by anything here even though there are parts that shine with sparks of jazz influenced lead lines that drift from the main melody motif which again is another sign of solid songwriting.

I give “Tapped In” a solid 4 out of 5 stars. The only thing missing is that break out “Cliff’s of Dover” type song that just amazes your ears but also knocks you on your ass like nothing you have heard before.

You can purchase “Tapped In” here: http://donlappin.bandcamp.com/

You can find out more about Don Lappin here:

http://www.donlappinmusic.com/fr_home.cfm

https://twitter.com/DonLappinMusic

http://www.facebook.com/tappinlappin

http://www.youtube.com/user/TappinLappin?feature=mhee

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Stryper Concert Review With Black Water James The Wildhorse Saloon Nashville, TN March 18th, 2011


Stryper Concert Review With Black Water James The Wildhorse Saloon Nashville, TN March 18th, 2011

By David Lowry

I was anticipating a good show on this night, as I have never seen a “bad” Stryper concert, so I was excited to be there from the beginning. What I left the show feeling was a shock even to me. I came as a fan; I left as an even bigger one. Let’s start with the opening act Black Water James.

I have seen Black Water James once previously about six weeks ago, so I knew what I was in for when they came on. I was looking forward to seeing them again as I was hoping to see improvement because they were in a much better venue.

Black Water James has a lot of energy and a lot of potential as a rock band. They were pretty good for about the first four songs but then I noticed that all the songs started to sound the same. Both times I have seen them now, about three quarters of the way through their set, everything does sound a bit the same.

Greater dynamics are needed and catchier hooks to keep the audience in it the whole time. The band brings a decent image and are decent musicians, but the song writing is still a little weak for such a long set. I also question the order of the songs. It seems their best material is all in the front of the set closing it out with weaker, less “hooky” songs.

They attempt dual guitar solos, which is great, but would be better if they were in harmony, not just an octave apart or in unison. Also the guitar solos themselves are a bit weak in stating anything. They aren’t a story within the song. It comes off as mainly pentatonic noodling. Both players are capable and have great potential for doing more with this.

For a band of only 2 1/2 years, they are still one of the top five rock bands in Nashville and do portray a great energy on stage. The drummer is worth watching alone. He’s got great groove, stays in the pocket very well and puts on a great show. This band will do great things if they keep improving and don’t lose focus. They were certainly up to the challenge of opening for Stryper and aren’t afraid to let it all hang out.

When Stryper took the stage, the bar was raised tenfold. Not only do they look great, but also everything looks pristine. The stage is clean and uncluttered, the guitars are polished, the clothes are clean and pressed and they look like they belong in a band together. Their image is always good and their show is impeccable.

The songs were flawlessly played and crystal clear and they burst with energy. The band met the crowd with respect and humor. They really know how to connect with their audience and bring them in. During the whole show, the crowd was singing along word for word with every song. The band threw out many Bibles and picks to the fans who were all to eager to get one.

Michael Sweet’s voice was as amazing as ever. He hasn’t lost a thing vocally and in many ways is probably stronger. His guitar playing is on par with most of the great guitarists we think of. How often do you get to see a performer who is a world class vocalist and guitar player? Oz Fox has always been a top tier guitar player as well and successfully backs up Michael vocally on a few parts, giving Michael the rest his voice needed, showing again how incredibly talented this band truly is. Timothy Gaines, who is an amazing bass player in any style of music, drove the bus with Robert Sweet, keeping the rhythm section tight and thundering. His bass tone was perfect and really filled out the sound. Whether using his finger or a pick, the bass cut through and gave a serious foundation to the heavy guitars. Robert “The Visual Time Keeper” Sweet was as solid as he has ever been and always puts on an amazing drum workshop each concert. Easily one of the most underrated rock drummers of all time and he proves it every time I see him.

The one thing Stryper does better than anyone else I have ever seen is sing in harmony. Their harmonies were awesome! This band should be teaching younger bands what it takes to put on an incredible live show. They are so well rehearsed and professional that they are able to put it all on the line for a show that puts most bands I have ever seen to shame.

Stryper did three cover songs as well as the usual classics. They did “Over The Mountain” by Ozzy Osbourne, “Heaven and Hell” by Black Sabbath and “Shout It Out Loud” by Kiss. Their performance was flawless and on par with any of the performances I have seen of the original artists.

On a scale of 1 to 10 this concert gets a 9.5. The only deduction being it wasn’t long enough. The fans are having so much fun singing along at the show, the times flies by and it’s over in an instant. After doing the encore, Michael Sweet closed out in prayer, praying for everyone in the building and in Japan — again showing the heart this band has for its fans and the world.

In a nutshell, Stryper put on a better live show then 95% of any bands I have ever seen and they do it consistently. They are a text book band for younger generations to follow to learn from and understand why practice, talent, songwriting, vocal harmonies, solos, set preparation, stage presence and connecting with their audience are so critically important to the success of their career.

If you are on the fence about seeing Stryper on tour this year or have never seen them, go! Spend the money; it is so well worth it. You’ll get so much more than just a good show or performance. You’ll get a band that cares about its fans, the world and doing something greater than themselves. To find out more about Stryper and their tour dates, check out their website www.stryper.com.

Note: The Lowry Agency has no affiliation with anyone mentioned in this review.