Randy Ellefson – Classical guitar
Released September 14, 2010 by Guitarosity Records (indie).
Produced by Randy Ellefson
Engineered by Randy Ellefson at The Firebard Studios, Maryland
Mixed and Mastered by Drew Mazurek at High View Studios, Baltimore Maryland
Artwork and layout by Randy Ellefson
Photography by Ellen Cohan
Blog Critics, Music
by David Bowling, February 2011
Randy Ellefson is an under the radar guitar virtuoso. He has now returned with two new releases. His first two albums travelled in a hard rock direction but now he has made an abrupt change in style. One album can best be described as acoustic pop and the other is classical.
The road to these new releases has been a difficult one for Ellefson. During 1996 he developed tendinitis which made it virtually impossible for him to play the guitar. It took five years to return to what was an acceptable level for him and another five years before he returned to the recording studio.
Serenade Of Strings is his acoustic release. He began the album over a decade ago and only recently has been able to complete it. He performs the entire guitar, bass, keyboards, and a lot of the percussion parts. The only other musician present is drummer Jeff Moos. He also wrote 16 of the 17 tracks.
This is not a laid back album with just some simple guitar picking. The music has punch and rhythm as many of the songs are up-tempo. His style is precise and the notes flow together well. He manages to keep the listeners attention throughout, which can be difficult for an instrumental album. Some of the better tracks are “The Gift,” “Duo,” “Tears,” “Homecoming,” and “Shades Of Blue.”
The Lost Art is an album of classical music recorded during 1995. It was not intended for general release but was meant for his personal use. While his recovery from tendinitis allows him to play the acoustic guitar, he is unable to play a classical guitar at an acceptable level, and may never be able to do so again. This fact prompted him to release this material as a separate album.
His inability to play classical music in the future is a loss as he has an aptitude for the style. It requires a precision and preciseness that not many guitarists take the time to develop. He varies the program so as to make it appealing. J.B. Loeillet de Gant Sonata No. 1, J.S. Bach Cello Suite No. 1, and Heritor Villa-Lobos are all nice vehicles for his explorations.
Randy Ellefson has released two different albums that are tied together by the talent of one person. If you are a fan of the guitar, either one should provide about an hour of pleasure.
When I finished my classical guitar degree in September 1995, earning a Bachelors of Music, Magna Cum Laude, I took a month long break and then recorded these pieces before laying down the guitar. I was in peak playing shape and knew I wouldn’t be much longer because classical guitar had always been a means to an end – the degree – and I wasn’t planning to continue at the same intensity level.
I’d originally been a music composition major, and the switch to guitar halfway through the degree caused a problem. I was supposed to graduate in two years but hadn’t played classical guitar much before, and never seriously. I needed to acquire 4 years of skill in only 2 years if I wanted to graduate on time.
Practicing up to 10 hours a day, I succeeded, passing my final recital in September 1995. I then made these recordings at home, using a simple tape-based recorder and microphone. Some of these pieces were part of my last recital, but others weren’t, and in retrospect, I wish I’d recorded some of the most demanding pieces, such as “Sunburst” by Andrew York, or the very famous “Asturias”, by Albeniz.
But I didn’t. I was exhausted from the grueling schedule and, having recorded these songs in two bouts of about 13 songs and then the remaining 6, with a week off in between, I just stopped playing classical guitar and returned to rock and acoustic guitar. I didn’t know that I’d never really play it again.
In August of 1996, less than a year later, severe tendonitis appeared in both arms quite suddenly, costing me a lot more than just my guitar playing. I couldn’t play at all for a year, and when I resumed, I could only play the simplest material for a few minutes, and only on an electric guitar, since it was easier to hold down the strings. In the end, five years passed before I could play my own rock music, and almost ten passed before I could handle the more strenuous acoustic guitar.
Classical guitar is a permanent part of my past and is “lost” to me. While I enjoyed playing it, it was always other people’s music. I decided to release these recordings when I included one of the pieces, an original called “Fantasia Etude”, on my acoustic guitar CD, Serenade of Strings, released the same day as this album. That’s when I realized that, while not perfect, the recording quality of these songs held up and more than just my friends and family might enjoy the recordings, so here they are.
The opening sonata on the disc was actually written for guitar and flute, but I decided to learn the flute part on guitar in 2010 and recorded it that way instead of finding a flutist. I played it with a pick in my right hand instead of the classical guitar technique of using my fingers, but it seemed to work.