Album Review of
Respite Guitar

Written by Robert Silverstein
January 7, 2021 - 2:49pm EST
Review Rating Star Review Rating Star Review Rating Star Review Rating Star Review Rating Star

I was writing about the fretboard genius of Chicago-based, classical guitarist and composer Tom Salvatori ever since I first heard his CD Late Night Guitar, released way back in 2002, as well as his 2007 album When Evening Falls, recorded with the late U.K. pianist Iris Litchfield and cellist John Catchings, and released on the artist’s label Salvatori Productions. Following a series of album releases that are mentioned below, including a double CD made with the late Ms. Litchfield called Ever Ever On (2010) and a solo album called A Year In The Life (2013), I was lucky to reconnect with Tom again after hearing his 2020 album Respite Guitar. Essentially, a 7-track set mixed and presented in two different ways, Respite Guitar is one of the most impressive and most relaxing sounding solo acoustic guitar albums of 2020. Tom was always influenced by prog-rock guitarists such as Steve Hackett and Steve Howe, and in the spirit of those masters, Respite Guitar is skillfully performed on six-string, nylon string guitar. The key here is that the album takes on a different dynamic when track eight cues up and combines and recreates all seven tracks as one lengthy suite, complete with a variety of sound effects from the big city, (on the lead-off track “New York Minutes”), while then proceeding to recreate the other six tracks of music with a number of mostly meditative nature and ambient sounds. I like the idea that track 8, “Respite Guitar In Nature Suite” combines all seven tracks as one uninterrupted 28-minute piece of music complete with the ambient and nature sounds, all of which really adds a lot to the music. Throughout all the movements of Respite Guitar, Tom keeps the melodic-based guitar ideas at the center of his sound and, played acoustically, each one of these songs is like a classical-based work in its own right. The 7 tracks, followed by the seven-part “Respite Guitar In Nature Suite” combines for a total time of 50 minutes. Any way you view this CD, Respite Guitar is a true masterpiece of creative and very accessible guitar magic from guitarist / composer and producer Tom Salvatori. As mentioned above, Respite Guitar followed a series of other albums by Tom, including a unique, 13+ minute mini album released by Tom in 2017, called Ballad Of Dwight Fry Suite. Arranged by Tom for nylon string guitar, Ballad Of Dwight Fry Suite is actually a tribute to the fabled rock band Alice Cooper, focusing on the songs “Ballad Of Dwight Fry”, “Second Coming” and “Sun Arise”, which are all featured on the 1971 Alice Cooper album Love It To Death. In the spirit of guitar greats like Steve Hackett, Ballad Of Dwight Fry Suite is a remarkable performance that turns Tom’s tribute to a forerunner album of hard rock into a remarkably ear-opening classical guitar suite. Before Respite Guitar and Ballad Of Dwight Fry Suite, in 2016 Tom released Parlour Favorites, an 11-track tribute to his prog-rock guitar heroes including Steve Howe, Steve Hackett, Jan Ackerman and Robert Fripp, who are each covered here with a track apiece (Hackett’s music is featured on two tracks), the Parlour Favorites album is also enhanced by six Tom Salvatori originals. Salvatori completists will also note that Tom released another EP in 2020, a quite humorously titled one at that called, I Like Beer. Essentially four different solo guitar versions, played by Tom, of the famous Miller Brewing Company jingle, which was heard all over television and radio stations for years in praise of their world-renowned beer (“If You’ve Got The Time” – they’ve got the beer), and that was quite popular throughout the 1970s. Tom explains, “Just as having a couple Miller beers can provide a special comfort when it’s time to relax, this project, which was light and very fun indeed, served as a musical elixir of sorts to help balance the darker, spiraling abyss of immersion I experienced during my Alice Cooper Ballad Of Dwight Fry Suite project.” This little one off CD EP also provides clear proof that even classical guitarists like to inject a little humor, and maybe a little beer, into their hard work. Start with any of the above releases, while there are even more albums at Tom’s web site. Long-time fans of Tom Salvatori's original music will enjoy Respite Guitar, which is surely among finest solo guitar albums of 2020.