Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sonoran Odyssey (2020), by Paul Speer

(CD/digital pre-orders available at Available digitally April 10, 2020.)

Seven years after unleashing the fiery Ax Inferno, guitar master Paul Speer returns with Sonoran Odyssey, which is one of his best albums ever.

Inspired by Speer’s recent relocation to the southern Arizona desert, Sonoran Odyssey is aptly named, for not only is it a musical odyssey of the American Southwest, but it is something of a space odyssey as well.

The track titles are straightforward in terms of conveying the inspirations for and the mood of the pieces, for example, “Sunrise,” “Moonrise,” and “Monsoon.”

“Sunrise” provides a fitting start to the proceedings, a sonic dawn, as it were, to the epic, sweeping guitar/synth opus that follows.

The album includes four versions of “Moonrise” (the full mix, a demo featuring NASA’s audio recordings of Neptune, a guitar mix, and an ambient mix) and two versions of “Monsoon,” one with thunder and rain and one without.

All of the versions of “Moonrise” perfectly capture the beauty and mystique of the celestial Southwestern night sky, and both takes of “Monsoon” are great representations of the sound and fury of nature.

Bonus tunes include a guitar-driven remake of Speer and David Lanz’s worldwide 1985 new age hit, “Behind the Waterfall,” which proudly stands alongside the original in terms of quality, impact, and pure bliss; the enigmatic “Venus Rising” with Sherry Finzer on flute; and “Jupiter Via NASA,” which is layered around NASA’s audio recordings of Jupiter.

Throughout the album, Speer lays down palpable grooves on bass and ethereal textures on keyboards, over which he weaves clean tones and captivating lead lines on electric guitar.

Max Saidi’s driving drums help propel the rumbling rhythms of “Monsoon,” while Ron Krasinski provides a solid, unrelenting backbeat to “Behind the Waterfall.”

Similar in feel to earlier Speer releases including Hell’s Canyon, Oculus, and Wonders, Sonoran Odyssey is an intriguing excursion into cosmic fusion that is both satisfyingly cathartic and spiritually evocative.

--Raj Manoharan


  1. So looking forward to this. Paul never disappoints.

  2. Hi Irving! You're right! Paul's record stands! He absolutely does not disappoint with Sonoran Odyssey! Thanks for reading and writing! Raj