ERIC MANTEL – The Unstruck Melody

ERIC MANTEL - The Unstruck Melody


Holistic Music
Release date: January 8, 2006

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Eric William Mantel was born on February 5, 1963 in Chicago, Illinois. He came from an artistic family and was considered to be a musical prodigy by the age of 14. He studied music theory, composition, classical guitar, violin, piano, etc. at Prairie State College. At the age of 19, Eric independently released his first solo album, Montage. Montage was Progressive Pop/Jazzy songwriting mixed with Fusion guitar playing.

In 1990, Eric released The Politics Of Experience with his new band The Eric Mantel Trio. He got rave reviews and international acclaim. That release got Eric featured in Guitar Player Magazine (April 1991) and in Guitar World Magazine (May 1991). Around this time, Grunge was the big thing and being unable to land a major recording deal, Eric decided to devote his time teaching music. Eric’s instructional business has been in operation for almost 25 years.

What followed was A Time To Remember (1995), Guitars At An Exhibition-Volume 1 (2000), Guitars At An Exhibition-Volume 2 (2004), and his latest release The Unstruck Melody (2006).

Eric’s approach is to delve into an overabundance of styles, composed from all of his influences and combined with his own innovative touch. The finished product as heard is a melange of Rock, Jazz, Melodic Fusion, Country, Bluegrass, Blues, R&B, Funk, Pop, Classical, Ragtime and more.

How does one do justice to a new CD with such a variety of playing styles used to create an assortment of genres? The overall flair of this CD is something Eric Johnson-esque. Most of the better songs on The Unstruck Melody incorporate this style play, for some reason. Even though there are 21 tracks on the CD (20 are shown on the insert and on the back of the CD), a lot of tracks could have intentionally been left off this one and used on another in order to stay with the same format and theme type. This CD is just way too busy with the various genre and themes intermixed into one.

It is as if you are caught off guard right from the start. “Unstruck Melody” is a little over three minutes of something that should not be on here. You hear whistling and then some guy says “I wonder what’s on the radio.” Then some melodic singing comes on followed by some Jazzy guitar playing, then some Bluegrass or Country gibberish, then some of “Shine On,” which is actually one of Eric’s songs, some sports highlights, then Classical guitar, some language that nobody would know, a soothing water sound, church bells, some guitar/sitar/some other Indian instruments as well, and then the second song starts in with Eric playing. Okay, all of that 3:10 is different, but is it really needed on a CD when there is so much talent on it to begin with and the fact that there are 21 tracks? Does it really need filler?

While on the subject of filler material, there are some other tracks that can be put into this category. “Intermission” has you patiently waiting for a snake to come out of nowhere, while “Finger Pickin’ Country” makes you think you’re at some hillbilly outing, trying to catch pigs. Then you have track 21 which isn’t mentioned on the CD itself anywhere, except inside.

The title of the track “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven But Nobody Wants To Die” is another strange one. Even “The Unstruck Melody (Reprise)” makes you feel like you’ve just moved to India. These tracks just don’t follow the theme of this CD.

What does the second track have in store? Now you’re onto something … actual music that sounds like a song, and not bad at that. “Tribute” is just that — not bad. In fact it is very good, highlighting some of Eric’s talents on the electric six-string. A very clean instrumental, showcasing the man himself at what he does best. A bit of Eric Johnson creeps in about two-thirds of the way through. There are two other songs on the CD that are similar to “Tribute” in many ways. “Shine On” has a happy, upbeat tempo to it, and is very melodic with respect to the vocals. When Eric gets to his solo part, you can hear Eric Johnson again in spirit. “Exit 10” sounds a little like “Shine On,” but without any lyrics. Eric keeps busy on this one, since he goes through a variety of playing styles, while highlighting his abilities. It wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t hear any Eric Johnson in his playing at all.

For some reason, the instrumentals on this CD sound better than the tracks that have vocals. That’s not to say every track with vocals sounds bad or is a flop, but you have to face the fact that people want to hear Eric play since he is a guitar virtuoso. Here is a good example: “Gloria” is the definition of a song that shouldn’t have lyrics or vocals in it. The word Gloria is so drawn out and is repeated so often, you actually want the song to end before it is over — not one of the better songs on the album. “True Home” is strange in the way it starts out — with a chant in some other language (perhaps some Indian dialect), but turns into a pleasant acoustic guitar session with some added vocals that don’t seem to hurt it this time.

Some of the better songs on here, where you can listen to Eric let it all hang out and do his thing, are “Only Want Your Love” and “Wings Of Fire.” On “Only Want Your Love” the vocals and guitar work don’t fare well together. The vocals seem to slow the song down at various spots, and this takes the energy right out of the moment. Eric’s playing is perhaps his best on here by far. He is mind-blazing fast, but clean and meticulous at the same time. “Wings Of Fire” is probably the heaviest tune on the entire CD. It almost has you believing that Carlos Santana is opening and that Eric will take over from there on out. Eric does indeed let it all hang out on this one in particular. He plays incredibly fast from the first note to the last. Probably the best tune on the CD.

“Why So Lonely” puts you in the Christmas mood. There’s nice background vocals with at least 4 people singing at once. There is an E-Bow used on this track for a very nice touch and sound.

“Affectionately Yours” is a very nice-sounding, mellow, acoustic solo, that Eric plays with feeling. You can feel him playing the notes. Just the perfect length. Another mellow tune, “Under A Different Light,” has Eric mixing it up a bit with a little Jazz, some Flamenco, some Traditional, and finally some Electric. One would think that it would tend to get messy with all these styles used in one song. Eric can do this with his eyes closed standing on his head. A slight variety of “Under A Different Light” is “There Are No Words.” In this tune, Eric changes speeds and mixes it up a bit with time signatures as well. A mixture of Jazz and Rock acoustic and electric makes it an atypical 4/4 tune. Probably one of the most original and best-sounding songs on the CD.

“The Simple Things” puts you in the mood for Jazz. Listening to this track takes you away to a smokey Jazz bar on open mic night. “The Real You,” on the other hand, has a non-stop Funky groove to it. Keyboards and even a talk box are used on this track … all played 80s style. Has anyone seen Peter Frampton? Speaking of Peter Frampton, “Merry-Go-Round” opens with vocals that sound a little like Mr. Frampton himself. It is a contemporary tune with keyboards, bass, drums, vocals, and some electric guitar added in for good measure. Nothing too flashy or fancy, but a decent enough tune. “Tai-Chi” has a more definitive Jazz theme to it than “The Simple Things.” One thing can be said for sure: Eric likes to play. He sounds like a studio session guitarist here.

The closing song is “Don’t Let The Day Go By.” It begins with a guitar synth making some interesting sounds. At first there is only vocals and guitar, but after the first verse, the bass and drums come into play and the song comes alive. All the instruments are played at a level as not to drown out the others. Eric takes command through a good portion of the song and his playing is more pronounced as it moves along. A solid performance.

Eric employed an unusual staff of musicians who utilized their talents in the making of The Unstruck Melody. In no particular order there is: Eric Mantel-vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, guitar synth, talk box, E-bow, slide, and others; John Falstrom-electric bass guitar, stand-up acoustic bass (on track 18); Rusty Hall-keyboards; Patrick Doody-drums and percussion; Keith Marx-backup vocals (on some tracks); Paula Mantel-lead intro vocals (on one track); Amanda Elliot and Mari Zen-backup vocals (on several tracks); Rich Koch-pedal steel guitar (on track 18); Clar Monaco-sitar; GiGi Monaco-tanpura & tamboori; Anil Datar-tablas; Rose & Shari Joly-track 21 “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven But Nobody Wants To Die.”

You can find much more information on Eric’s Web site, including a much more in-depth bio on the man himself, a discography and lyrics section, news, tour info, management, and contact info, etc. Give it a try and learn everything you ever wanted to know about this guitar great.


  • George Fustos

    George was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. He has engineering degrees in Chemical and Electrical Engineering. He favors Metal, Rock, Hard Rock, Classic Rock, Blues, and even some Jazz and Motown (depending on the tune). He used to dabble with the bass quite some time ago. His most influential bassists are Jaco, Billy Sheehan, Stu Hamm, Geddy Lee, and John Entwistle (RIP Ox). Band-wise he's really into Rush, Tool, early Metallica, Pink Floyd (including Waters and Gilmour as solo artists), The Who, Iced Earth, Iron Maiden, Halford, Joe Satriani, certain Judas Priest, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins (Blues guitarist), Motörhead, and a German band called Skew Siskin that Lemmy says in an interview as being "the best band out there today."

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