About Terry R. Brooks and Strange
Mr. Strange, I suppose……
By DANIEL GHISONI
Terry is one of those guitarists who have made the solo his life goal, just like Randy Holden, Jimi Hendrix, Wilburn Burnchette, but not out of narcissism or anything like it just because the instinct of guitar genius allows them, when the muse strikes to improvise and create incredibly personal and unrepeatable weaving of sounds. (Have you ever heard Jerry Garcia or Duane Allman live repeat the same solo voice? It just doesn't happen!)
Terry forms his own band, The Strange, in a classical trio with Bob Griffin on base and Don Hastle on the drums. But when the time comes to sign a record contract, given his success with the public and the critics, he turns down a profitable RCA contract (which would have forced him to denature his sound) and accepts the offer made to him by the local label, Outer Galaxy, where he has ownership interests.
The result was Translucent World (1973), an extraordinary piece of work, unique, with pieces written by Brooks. They were stupendous because of his fluid guitar, almost impalpable, sometimes having an acid atmosphere, sometimes dreamy and ethereal, constructed by a truly unique and personal style that no one else has ever been able to imitate. To fully understand what I've just written, it's enough to listen to cuts like Some People Play Music, Of all Existing Things, Other People Feel Music and the seminal Mental Escape Into the Translucent Frequencies.
Despite the success decreed by music critics, three years go by before we hear a new Terry Brooks album. Raw Power, is another masterpiece, comes out in 1976 in the name of Terry Brooks & Strange. The record is made up of new compositions by Brooks (you'll take note of Love Me, Raw Power and Life Jam which makes up the entire second side of the record, more than twenty minutes of music that will really make you dream). The two records I've cited up to now were reissued in the eighties under the English label Psycho, whereas they've just been reissued by the Italian label Comet Records with an excellent re-mix (available either in LP or CD digipack, with a bonus track, they should be easily available in stores, at a good price and in a numbered edition). After that, another long silence ensues. The two records are sought after by vinyl maniacs and Terry finds himself being turned into the classic cult figure, with his regular bevy of fans perennially waiting for word of him.
In 1980 Terry sends me his new album (with a dedication and in colored vinyl.. .. yes, I do want to make a few of my friends crazy with envy) called To Earth With Love, released by his private label, Star People Records under the name of Terry Brooks & Strange. Recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami, and produced by Brooks himself (he also wrote all the tracks) musicians like Donnie Cappetta, Brian Leary and John Kotch collaborated on the album. As always, the music is unique and stupendous and Terry even introduces some pleasant fingerboard touches in a guitar duo, the sound reaching unimaginable peaks in pieces like Woman, Mister Strange, It's a Beautiful Day and Down & Dirty Blues. High Flyer is born the following year and is a confirmation of Terry's state of grace.
He's busy with concerts, producing a video, television appearances and he reaches new levels of popularity in Florida where he's already a legend. During that time, even those of us here in Italy who read the music industry magazines for years contributed to the surge in his popularity in Italy and Europe. In fact, even the new album garners a lot of praise from both the public and the critics, so much so that the album was also released in Italy by CGD. Once again, we find ourselves listening to an incredibly pure sound, indefinable, in songs like You'll Be Loved, Rock and Roll Woman, Love of The Ages and High Flyer. Once again, Terry's the one doing it all, from writing the songs, to production and everything else in-between. This time Brooks takes advantage of his success, even coming to Europe (but he doesn't come by here) and grants rights to the German label Rock City Records which will release two excellent albums: No Exit and Blastin Thru, both containing part of the excerpts recorded in the studio and one recorded live, successfully capturing the unsurpassable atmosphere of a live concert, full of that guitar playing touched with the genius of our hero. Just to give you an example, the second side of No Exit includes two terrific versions of Rock the World and Down & Dirty Blues, whereas that of the second album is completely made up on an incredible and extenuating You Will Be Loved, both recorded at a Florida concert that Brooks had recorded in Orlando and which should have been released by his own label (never happened).
It's been quiet since then, except for a few letters, a couple of promotional singles, whereas the always well deserving Comet Records, in addition to the dozens of other re-prints designed to keep us busy, is about to launch a 1982 unedited concert of Terry's, Rock the World, that will be offered either as a double LP, or in CD form. A few months ago I received, after many years, a package from Terry with his new CD, Earth to Infinity, on the Strange Records label. I know you won't believe this, (I'm kidding) but it's an incredible work. I'll probably review it in one of my next columns under the title "In twenty years .... " It includes new pieces that recall the stupendous and dreamy atmospheres of always, those that only Terry's guitar knows how to give us.