I’m actually feeling a bit lazy today.  I’m still catching up on things after a hectic weekend, so if my friends at www.progressiveears.com don’t mind a bit of cutting and pasting from me of an album review I did there on August 14, 2003 …

Offramp
Offramp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Guitarist Pat Metheny has been nothing short of prolific in his musical accomplishments through some 37 years or so of recording.

And how many other musicians, aside from Metheny, can claim that they taught at the University of Miami and Berklee … as a teenager?

I’d been a fan of Metheny’s music since hearing 1980’s American Garage and my following was bolstered by his last release of that year with keyboardist Lyle Mays (who’s been with Metheny almost from the beginning of his recording career), As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls. But my trust in his consistency was sealed with 1981’s release of Offramp with the Pat Metheny Group.

It all started the first time I listened to the opening track, “Barcarole,” with Metheny laying out a smooth processed guitar sound, wrapped in Mays’ lush synthesizer texture, topped by Nana Vasconcelos‘ driving percussive beats.

Then came the song that would become one of Metheny and Mays’ signature pieces, “Are You Going With Me?” While this is one song that you can grab your partner and dance to, there’s also some great complexity here. Early on in this piece, Mays sets his keyboard to make you think Toots Thielemans must have shown up in the studio to lay down some tasty harmonica sounds before giving way to a long Metheny synth guitar riff.

Steve Rodby and Pat Metheny
Steve Rodby and Pat Metheny (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The complex minds of Metheny and Mays come through again in “Au Lait” with their guitars and keys, backed by Dan Gottlieb‘s drums, lending a soft circus-like atmosphere, with the occasional strong breeze occasionally blowing Vasconcelos’ ethereal vocals through the big top.

There’s nothing terribly complex about “Eighteen,” it’s just a good groove song with solid rhythms coming from Vasconcelos, Gottlieb, and bassist Steve Rodby. Oh, and Metheny and Mays are still there with more down-to-earth guitar and piano/synth touches. This is also one of PMG’s better-known pieces.

Just when things get simple with “Eighteen,” they become complex again with the title track, “Offramp.” This one’s simply mind-bending, with Rodby and Gottlieb hanging together nicely on acoustic bass and drums and Metheny going off in all kinds of directions. It’s all cool.

Ah, but then there’s “James” to ground you again in some basic piano and guitar moods to slow-dance along to.

“The Bat, part II” is quiet, moody, reflective, darn near spiritual, a fine conclusion to a quite interesting ride.

If you’ve never made the plunge into PMG’s work, this is a great place to start.

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