I almost did this last week, because I misread the theme, which was “Favorite Rock Bands of the 1980’s.” If it had asked for “Favorite Bands of the 1980’s,” this would have been appropriate.
I discovered Acoustic Alchemy shortly after moving to Atlanta. I don’t remember how, but I remember hearing one of their songs and thinking what a great sound they had, which led me to buy all of their albums available at the time and every album since then. Their music is usually lumped in with “smooth jazz,” which I’ve since discovered is a bit of a misnomer, simply because everyone has their own definition of what it is, from Motown oldies to “lite rawk” to soft favorites as well as Kenny G, Yanni, and actual legitimate jazz players like Lee Ritenour and Larry Carlton.
The “alchemy” refers to the blending of steel-string acoustic guitar and nylon-string classical guitar, and also refers to the blending of genres they do in their songs, practically all of which have been written by the two guitarists. When they started in 1981, Simon James handled the classical guitar and Nick Webb played steel-string. When James left in the mid-1980’s, Webb recruited Greg Carmichael to handle the nylon-string side. They managed to get a gig with Virgin Atlantic Airlines as in-flight entertainment, and while on one of their trips to the US sent samples to MCA Records, who signed them and produced their first three albums, after which GRP, the label that had emerged as the primary one for smooth jazz acts, bought MCA and produced their next few offerings.
In the late 1990’s, I hadn’t seen anything new from them, and assumed they had split, but a quick Google search revealed that Nick Webb died from pancreatic cancer in early 1998, and the band was re-forming with Miles Gilderdale taking over on steel-string. As of right now, AA has sixteen studio albums, two live albums, and two “greatest hits” albums.
As with last week, I had a hard time keeping the number of songs in this list down to ten, and honestly tried to reduce the list to five. I did finally decide to restrict the list to songs from their first five albums.
- Ariane: From Blue Chip (1989), their third album.
- Casino: From Natural Elements (1988). They’ve recorded this one several times; it’s also on Early Alchemy (1992), which was culled from demos Webb and James made in their early days, on Arcanum (1996), and on the DVD of Sounds of St. Lucia (2003). I saw them in concert in the early 1990’s and they led off with this one, which really got the crowd into it.
- Mr. Chow: From Red Dust and Spanish Lace (1987). This was their first single and combines Asian and reggae music.
- Overnight Sleeper: From Natural Elements.
- Catalina Kiss: From Blue Chip. Another concert favorite.
- Take Five: From Reference Point (1990). As far as I know, this is the only cover they’ve done.
- Cuban Heels: Also from Reference Point.
- Georgia Peach: From Back on the Case (1992). Their international fan club was once based in Atlanta, so this is likely someone local.
- On The Case: Title track from Back on the Case.
- Sarah Victoria: From Red Dust and Spanish Lace. An alternate version is on Early Alchemy.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little excursion into the music of Acoustic Alchemy and that I haven’t overloaded you. If you liked this, check out some of their other albums. That’s this edition of Monday’s Music Moves Me.