The Strat Pack DVD is a guitar freak’s dream come true



By Steve Newton

Last year, in celebration of the Fender Stratocaster’s 50th anniversary, an impressive array of electric guitarists got together at London’s Wembley Arena to see what kind of joyful noise they could all make with Leo Fender’s masterpiece of metal, plastic, and wood.

The result is about two-and-a-half hours’ worth of both instrumental and vocals-driven guitar-rock aimed mostly toward the retro crowd. But anyone who appreciates the glorious sound of the Strat will find something to like on The Strat Pack: Live in Concert.

After five so-so tracks by Buddy Holly’s old band, the Crickets, the DVD hits its high point when the Shadows’ Hank Marvin takes centre stage for “Apache”, “The Rise and Fall of Flingel Blunt”, and “Sleepwalk”. The hypnotic “Sleepwalk” may be the most exquisite guitar instrumental ever, and Marvin knows better than anyone how to coax its melodic beauty.

After that lesson in subtlety, taste, and tone, fleet-fingered Brit Albert Lee brings some twangy fire to the proceedings with his incredibly fast and precise picking on “Country Boy”. I always thought Lee was more of a Telecaster guy, but he can obviously play the ass off anything born in a Fender factory.

Among The Strat Pack‘s 31 tracks, there are a few duds. Mike Rutherford and Paul Carrack needn’t have bothered teaming up for Ace’s “How Long” and Genesis’s “I Can’t Dance”. And why is pop vocalist Jamie Cullum performing the Jimi Hendrix ballad “Angel”, and accompanying himself on keyboards?

These drawbacks fade quickly once metalhead-turned-bluesman Gary Moore cranks up his red Strat for Hendrix’s “Red House”, or when Joe Walsh starts chugging into the James Gang’s “Funk 49”.

The DVD’s special features include some great interviews, with players like Moore, Lee, and Marvin reminiscing about their first sightings of Strats in the ’50s. Former Free and Bad Company vocalist Paul Rodgers offers some worthy insights into the universal appeal of the instrument. He’s the one who leads a show-closing jam on the Faces’ “Stay With Me”, where 10 or more famed pickers try to sneak in a few last licks before their beloved six-strings are safely stored in velvet for the night.

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