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CD REVIEW: Craig Welton - Atomic Man (double CD tribute)

by: Cyrus Rhodes


"Welton brought the mojo.'




Artist: Craig Welton

Album: Atomic Man (double CD tribute)
Label: Independent Artist

Website: http://www.craigwelton.com/

Genre: Jam Band, R&B, Psychedelic Rock-Jazz,  Soul Rock, Progressive Rock

Sounds Like: Steely Dan, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Peter Frampton, Jeff Beck, Leon Russell, Rare Earth, Lil Feat, Grateful Dead

Technical Grade: 5/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 6/10
Commercial Value: 3/10
Overall Talent Level: 10/10
Songwriting Skills: 7/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs:
Step In It, Organizer, Funky Dog, Ridin’ Low, A Short Blues, Man-iac

Weakness: Lackluster sound quality, overly synthetic drumming and drum, programming, lack of instrumentation, no barcode, CD manufacturing




Craig Welton (1952 – 2002) was a multi-instrumentalist from Hollywood who’s untimely passing in October (due to an aortic aneurism) came as a shock to many. In his memory, I Now have in my hands a  double CD of Craig's music - of both songs and instrumentals. To say the least It illustrates how he was as comfortable, and incredible, on piano as he was a legend on guitar. This first collection of songs and instrumentals is all Craig - piano, guitar, drum machines, synth, organ, etc. While most of the music was remixed and fine-tuned from older 4-track analog cassette tapes it still contains a lot of bite, beauty, and intensity. This is a double CD tribute CD brought to you by Craig's' brother Kent who is also a respectable musician within his own right.   


The CD kicks things off with “Organizer” and upbeat intro piece that serves-up driving rhythms, up-beat solo guitar melodies accompanied by inviting feel, amazing R&B style guitar licks and impressive keyboard accents. Track 2 “Stargate” shifts gears a bit with its impressive bluesy groove, rock solid musicianship, against a grand slam musical chorus. Track 3 “Rough Edge” delivers smooth moving heartfelt ditty with well-placed melody, impassioned Piano and hypnotic musical flair that flows and ebbs its way through to musical fruition. As the CD slowly unfolds you will notice a lot of musical variety from Welton reminiscent of classic Steely Dan, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Peter Frampton, Jeff Beck, Leon Russell, Rare Earth, Lil Feat and Grateful Dead. First the music itself has a lot of originality and possesses a psychedelic progressive 70’s/80's rock R&B persona. Some of the music even borderlines Progressive or Smooth Jazz. The CD offers a rich melodic vocal foundation and lush layers of instrumentation. I would classify this music as classic 70’s Psychedelic Rock, R&B, Soul Rock and even Jam Band with a strong emphasis on guitar/keyboards and good songwriting and superb musicianship. All in all the CD has some truly impressive moments on it showcasing amazing playing, dynamic arrangements. Besides the standard 4 piece delivery you will also notice brief splashes of Hammond Organ, well placed strings, and slamming R&B style guitar layered within the music. As far his playing abilities, Welton bought the mojo and  lets it all hang out with a lot of groove-ability. His mind-blowing fretwork and keyboard chops deliver more than enough playing and soul to go around. His playing style works well across the board possessing a musical swagger reminiscent of classic Steely Dan (Skunk Baxter, Donald Fagan) on both Organ and solo guitar. Welton's keys/guitar playing fit this style of music perfectly. Welton clearly demonstrates a strong and confident musical ability as he takes many impressive risks along the way on the freeboard. CD quality is as good as it can get under the circumstances of a 4-treack analog re-mix.  Kent Welton, Craig’s brother deserves a lot of credit for bring this all together (re-mix from a 4-Track analog cassette tape format). Despite the lackluster sound quality the true musical brilliance of Welton shines through like a priceless diamond. He is a brilliant composer and masterful guitarist/Pianist/Keyboardist and was clearly a musical mastermind. Make no bones about it folks it took a lot of work to put this CD in my hands. This double CD release from Craig Welton has something for just about everyone. My top tracks for disk I are as follows: Organizer, Funky Dog, Low Down Man, Intersection.  My top tracks for disk II are as follows: Ridin’ Low, A Short Blues, Step In It and Man-iac. My favorite track on the whole album is “Step In It” I feel the true brilliance of Welton shines through in his Jazzy/Blues pieces.  


This mix though adequate is lacks a modern day marketability, flair and dynamic. The cheesy drum machine doesn’t do the keyboards/guitar any justice either. Perhaps more instrumentation/musicians were needed to add more spice and variety to the repetitive catalog. Things like Harmonica, Saxophone, Horns, sporadic vocal and percussion would take the edge off this quite nicely. There is no barcode located anywhere on the package indicating to me a retail non-compatibility. The CD’s themselves are made from high quality print paper rather than the Industry standard Silk Screen material normally used. The 2 panel Insert is also made from print paper and are slapped together with glue.


In closing this epic double CD release entitled “Atomic Man” by the late and great Craig Welton was an absolute pleasure to listen to. The music is highly original, extremely hooky, catchy, easy to groove to and highly  melodic with amazing chops, writing and playing from Weston. Weston was a world class musician – especially on guitar. As the CD’s progressed I became more and more impressed with him. The musicianship is first rate, the songs are quite impressive in extend play format will take time to digest. Each song possesses a unique personality, flair, and signature groove. Lastly - there's a quote on the Press Sheet that really sums it up: "Any problems of a technical character cannot cloud the talents of any true artist, and the late Craig Welton was certainly one of them. I couldn't agree more. 


Purchase Link via CD BABY: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/craigwelton

Cyrus Rhodes