Scott McGill's Hand Farm - Ripe - 1999


This is the new solo album of the excellent North American guitarist Scott McGill, also known by his work in the band Finneus Gauge. A musician that we could say is one of those that goes beyond the limits or canons of the better known progressive, and in this case I do not mean it in terms of experimentation but of improvisation. A byproduct of this is the coalition of two genres that know each other very well, jazz and of course progressive rock.

Scott made his premiere solo album in 1997 with The hand farm, a title that has been conserved for his second album, adding it to the name of the band. An album that stylistically resembles to this second, but with a less perfect production and lineup. It seems that his signing for the record label The Laser's Edge has improved the result of "Ripe" sensibly.

The lineup of Scott McGill's Hand Farm is Scott McGill to the guitar, Chico Huff (Mistaken Identities) at the bass, Vic Stevens (Gongzilla) to the drums. The truth is that the similarities of the guitar sound of Scott with that of Allan Holdsworth is very evident, becoming in this way his biggest influence. Although… I will later tell you the thoughts that come to me in relation to his influences.


Before detailing the content of the CD, I must say that the resemblance of Scott McGill Hand Farm with the music of the excellent Finneus Gauge is merely stylistic. The frantic rhythm and changes of address of the second take place in a more paused and linear way in the first, creating a more personal musical environment.

The CD opens up with "7-24" that is the shortest piece with 1:34 minutes, where Mr. McGill, in solitary, caresses sensibly sampled strings that give the piece a mystic touch, a cushion that invites to sit down and to enjoy the rest of the album. "The ripe one" (8:23) shows us the band, already in the beginning, with all their power, where the guitar shines in a very intense way emanating an entire series of developments that give colors to the song. Sections of dirty sounding hard-jazz prog combine with softer rhythms of Mediterranean shades, and we can enjoy in the middle section an excellent bass solo. Already from the beginning we notice that the record is the sum of three forces and that it is not, as one could think, monolithic. In no moment the guitar eclipses the other instruments, although it is clearly the main feature.

We continue with "Fred-O-cal" (8:03) with a mid-tempo rhythm that progresses in an overwhelming way, with a hard guitar and a great work of Vic Stevens in the drums, marking a crushing rhythm. It culminates at the end of the composition in the burst of virtuous jazz-prog from the guitar drawing thousands of abstract ways in the air. The following piece is "Un monde de incertitudes"(1:42) completely acoustic, intimate, solitary and short, a perfect interlude, very smartly placed to make us able to digest the rest of songs without a problem. "Skwerbie"(7:44) is a composition of a very marked rhythm, where the rhythm section, overall the drums, shows once again clearly, and where Scott plays with multiple registries, connecting different sections in an almost imperceptible way. The surprise comes from the keyboards of Demetrios Pappas's keyboards that plays a very good solo at an enormous speed.

Once the listen of "Skwerbie" is over, I would like to make a comment on the sensations and what goes on in my head, with respect to the influences perceived in this album, to remit to the comment I made in the introduction.

The truth is that I cannot hide my emotion when thinking that without a doubt, this sounds like Iceberg. Max Sunyer's galloping guitar, the solo of keyboards of "Kitflus", Jordi Colomer at drums… ..Coses nostres, Sentiments… . It must be the Mediterranean touch that they imprint to their compositions that make me have a hallucinogenic vision of the great Catalan group in my mind.

Well, returning to Scott McGill's world, we meet with "DDR" (7:10) with a mid-tempo rhythm and some soft and at the same time strange touches that give an air of suspense to the composition. This time the introduction of the acoustic guitar, for the first time, accompanying the other instruments, makes this one of the most interesting songs. "Industrial Blowout"(6:58) begins in an anecdotal way, as the first guitar notes that last until the middle section of the song, are almost those of "Spirit of radio" of the Canadian Rush. A spectacular song that gifts us in the form of a drum solo that leaves me breathless.

"Marcella" (2:28) disconnects us from the jazz-prog party, with a relaxing acoustic guitar and prepares us for the final set. It begins with "Cause for an effect" (7:32), which brings a very pleasant listen, with a Mediterranean look, on a leisurely rhythm and another keyboard solo by Mr Pappas. He uses fully the small spaces that the rest of the group has left, this time in a calmer and controlled way, accompanying the rest of instruments.

We almost close the album with "Ong’s hat" (6:36) that is mostly spectacular, with a buzzing guitar changing registry and rhythm constantly, making it the rolling mountain of the CD. "24-7" (2:50) ends the album exactly as it started, with some distant howls of guitar that gradually close the piece.


Personally I have enjoyed a lot this CD, and hope I will continue enjoying the music of Scott McGill Hand Farm. Although maybe the lack of drama, epic poetry and the characteristic melodies of most progressive rock from today can deter people from acquiring a work like this.

A CD that will be a full delight and pleasure for progressive fans with an open mind, and that ratifies again the capacity of absorption and adaptation of our dear genre.

author - date - rating - label

Jordi Costa - April 2000 -   - The Laser's Edge