Album review: Stanley Jordan, Magic Touch (1985)


By Steve Newton

On the back cover of the debut album by 25-year-old guitar genius Stanley Jordan is a “WARNING: do not be deceived. Despite what your ears might tell you, there is only one guitarist on this album. And there are no guitar overdubs whatsoever.” After hearing Magic Touch, one can understand the reason for a such a monition. It’s hard to perceive how one player can create such a simultaneous array of sounds from six strings.

While rock guitarists like Eddie Van Halen and Steve Lynch of Autograph have toyed with hammer-on effects to embellish their solos, Stanley Jordan has furthered the idea by evolving a fully-realized theory based on the two-handed approach. He uses both hands tapping on the fingerboard at once to perform independent parts–to comp chords, walk bass lines and play melody lines. As he says in the liner notes: “It gives you a level of musical and orchestral complexity previously possible only on keyboard instruments.”

And the many styles and flavours he can conjure up this way make Magic Touch a very appealing and mood-inducing piece of vinyl. There’s bluesiness in the form of Miles Davis’s “Freddie Freeloader”, as well as “Angel”, Jordan’s homage to Hendrix. He injects new life into jazz standards like Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight”, or the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis piece “A Child is Born”. There’s his own composition, the African-influenced “Return Expedition”, and a seven-minute, syncopated rendering of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”. Jordan even pulls off a soulful cover of Michael Jackson’s ballad, “The Lady in My Life”.

Magic Touch was produced by Al Di Meola, no six-string slouch himself. Guitarists, guitar freaks, and just anybody who appreciates a burgeoning, unique talent should be interested in this record.


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