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ANGELICA - Without Words

When Angelica first appeared, it was a project conceived by guitarist/songwriter Dennis Cameron with four albums being released between the years of 1989 to 1992. After a 27 year hiatus, Angelica has returned with a new release, but with a twist.

The songs released during the project’s first run were typical of the pop glam metal era, which is not to say that they were bad songs. They were known for Cameron’s guitar work and straightforward lyrics, proclaiming a bold message. The compositions on this new Angelica recording are very modern with lots of low end and much more growl than the project’s early songs. The twist is that Without Words is, literally, without words. An instrumental album in the vein of Joe Satriani or Eric Johnson, the story is now being told with a guitar instead of a voice.

One knock on this genre is that sometimes a player can come off as being over the top, more interested in displaying technical ability and “shredding” over creating atmosphere or substance. This album contains plenty of technical prowess, but the playing never has the feel of a “look at me” attitude. Instead of cold technicality the songs provide a roller coaster of heart and emotion and you get the feeling that instead of showing off Cameron is opening himself up and sharing an incredible gift that he has been given.

The songs range from heavy and driven, displaying thick chords overlaid with masterful melodies while other songs are gentle with an undercurrent of edginess. And some of them are just plain fun. All are filled with hooks, unique chord changes and sounds that are very satisfying to the ear. All of this is executed with the kind of talent that makes excellence seem effortless.

The flawless execution of drive, melody and sound keeps each song exciting and interesting, even with the absence of lyrics. Every song is unique, yet the album has an unmistakable theme that gives the listener the impression that they are on a journey of great importance.

The 10 songs on this album are placed in perfect order and flow together seamlessly from one to the next. Standout tracks include "Just Amazing," which is built from a beautiful acoustic rendering of "Amazing Grace" that grows into a new creation altogether. "Psalm 91" is an epic song that perfectly captures the themes of the verses found in the psalm of its title. The album wraps up with two interesting tracks, "Gumbo" and "Chick’n Pick’n." "Gumbo" is a rocker with Southern roots, complete with banjo picking and clean country leads dueling with the most metal of guitar solos. "Chick’n Pick’n" is another country influenced song that is in the vein of Brad Paisley. If you know anything about Brad Paisley, you know that the guy can play.

The CD is part of the Legends of Rock Series and is packaged in a jewel case with an 8 page booklet that includes a Gear Talk section.

I have been a music fan for my entire life and I have very few instrumental rock albums in my collection. I’m not a guitar player and these types of albums don’t normally keep my attention. I’ve always appreciated the playing of Jeff Beck, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and others, but their albums have never caused me to want to listen for extended periods of time.

Without Words not only managed to grab my attention but it also managed to hold it. The album caused me to listen in a way that few instrumental rock albums have in the past. Dennis Cameron still has something to say even if it is without words. (4.5 out of 5 stars), highly recommended.

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