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"Songs From The Home Planet" CD review
by Mike Alvarez


The members of String Planet are excited about the release of their new disc, and with good reason. It’s a rollicking good time that also puts a lot on the table for the musical sophisticate. Unlike their first album “String Planet”, this CD boldly includes unique interpretations of famous music as well as their own infectious original tunes.. With this collection Chapman Stick virtuoso Larry Tuttle and top session violist Novi Novog (joined by drummer/percussionist Jo Pusateri) continue to create music that is both accessible and interesting.

The centerpiece of “Songs From The Home Planet” will undoubtedly be the cover tunes. There are six: three pop songs and three arrangements of classical pieces. The album opens with a bang--their enthusiastic take on The Beatles’ “Lady Madonna” that turns it upside down and inside out. In typical String Planet fashion they take the major themes and find clever ways to re-state them to give the song a fresh new sound. The same approach is taken with “Stranger On The Shore” and “Sukiyaki”. Their choices of classical music are inspired: Prokofiev’s “Love For Three Oranges (March)” is an wild workout that “rocks the classics” as skillfully as anything from the Emerson, Lake and Palmer songbook. “Anitra’s Dance” from Grieg’s “Peer Gynt” loses none of its original mystery and power under their deft hands. Their arrangement of Saint-Saens’ “Carnival Of The Animals (Finale)” is a welcome reminder that classical music has its fun side.

The original compositions are no less appealing. They create moods that run the gamut from pastoral to boisterous, never losing sight of the importance of melody. As you might expect from its title, “The Whizzer” is an energetic jaunt with a bouncy rhythm. “Goodbye Goodluck” has a laid back feel that is evocative of the emotions one might experience when wishing somebody goodbye and good luck.. “Big Pig Jig” and “Pepe The Circus Dog” are fun romps that continue the animal theme that runs through their first album as well as their previous work (when asked about the significance of the recurring animal motif in their song titles, they replied that it meant “absolutely nothing--how about that?”). “Big George” is a slow number whose bluesy jazz chords and melodies have a “Porgy and Bess” feel in many instances, leading one to an educated guess as to the identity of the titular George. The album finishes with “East Is West”, an oriental-style melody that brings to mind imagery of Chinese junks sailing across exotic seascapes.

Both Tuttle and Novog have instrumental chops to spare, but they never display them just for the sake of showing off. They are seasoned performers who know how to use their skills to great effect. Their approach when making this album was to use fewer overdubs or additional instruments so that the sound more closely matches their live shows. Larry reports that it was “a joy to record, and with any luck at all, a joy to listen to.” Luck seems to be with String Planet because that’s exactly how it turned out. This album is well worth your attention. Please go to their website for ordering information. While you’re there check out their great live videos too!

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