It would be very hard to find another pair of musicians that can so seamlessly combine genres, and do it with such style and technical ability as McStine and Minnemann…
McStine & Minnemann
Randy McStine and Marco Minnemann
16 tracks / 43:22
These guys have got more chops than a Brooklyn butcher - let’s establish that first. Of course, there are lots of players with good chops - sometimes so good it gets boring. One thing about II, by McStine & Minnemann - it’s not boring.
Amazingly, less than half a year after their debut project, Randy and Marco have crafted a collection of sixteen songs - some rather short - that grab the listener by the ears and don’t let go. The Freddy Mercury-like opening of “Love Before Algorithms” (the first track) quickly gives way to the quirky prog-pop of “I Don’t Need It,” which is followed by the richly vocalized and intricately-timed “I Don’t Feel,” – a song that has an instrumental opening that would be the envy of any jazz fusion band. And that’s the way it goes with II - one great track goes into the next - and you never really know where the trail will take you (the aforementioned track ends up in fusion territory again before it ends). Classic rock gives way to prog, which becomes hard pop, which evolves into Zappa-esque intricacies – all with a hook!
Once again McStine proves that his vocals are every bit as masterful as his guitar playing. He delivers a lyric using everything from traditionally gritty rock sounds to lush harmonies. Even if he had never picked up a guitar, Randy would be a sought-after lead singer for any rock genre from prog to pop. Luckily for us, he did pick up a guitar, and the man can absolutely play the speakers right off the shelf. Not just a speed player, McStine’s phrasing is intelligent and oh, so tasty - and the textures he produces fill the songs with layers of thick, proggy sound.
Minnemann, of course, brings the thunder with powerful drumming that seems to roll through the songs like a hurricane but also can stop and take a quick turn at any given moment - and those moments are frequent. This is a drummer that plays like a composer - which, of course, he is. Minnemann never sacrifices finesse for power. The way the two musicians play with timing and rhythms is one of the beauties of this project. The two obviously have a good time creating together.
Randy McStine once again provides Vocals, Electric and Acoustic Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, Percussion, and FX. Marco Minnemann stuns us again on Drums, Percussion, Electric and Acoustic Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals, Bass, and FX. The album was written and recorded from April to October 2020 and was produced and arranged by McStine & Minnemann with “Big Wave” Co-Produced by Tim Palmer. II was mixed and mastered by Forrester Savell. “Love Before Algorithms” and “Big Wave” were mixed by Tim Palmer. The result is a very listenable mix of influences, from Kings X to Belew-period King Crimson to Queen to Zappa. Yes, there’s an element of prog but the duo never fall into the trap of pretentiousness or over-playing that progsters are sometimes guilty of. The songs are tight and economically paced.
Lyrically, like the debut project, there are dark moments and maybe just a little more anger in the mix (an explicit content advisory would apply to a couple of tracks). “Hello Dear Miss Swan Song” and “dumbdumb” take a bit of a turn toward the invective at the end of each track. Still, there’s a spirit of fun behind some of the wry observations - another Zappa-like aspect of what’s going on here. Whether or not this is an issue in terms of enjoying the album will be a matter of individual taste - but now you know.
It would be very hard to find another pair of musicians that can so seamlessly combine genres, and do it with such style and technical ability as McStine and Minnemann. That they’ve done this twice in such a relatively short period of time is nothing short of astounding. These two men are masters of prog/pop/jazz fusion/classic rock/metal - and they make it sound easy.
- Bert Saraco
you can see Bert’s concert photography (including some concert shots of Randy McStine) at www.facebook.com/express.image