Can't Get Enough
Tommy Emmanuel see his career as a journey of discovery. So don't pin him
down to anything. Since he discovered the guitar as a child, he has slowly
and steadily achieved every single one of his ambitions. These have
included recording his own compositions, playing drums in a band (in
Goldrush, with brother Phil), playing concert halls and jamming with idol
"To say I'm blessed would be an understatement, laughs the unassuming
Australian multi-platinum guitar virtuoso. Half the time I'm waiting for
someone to pinch me and wake me up from this dream."
In 1995, he realised another ambition, playing with an orchestra. The
resultant Classical Gas CD received critical acclaim and has gone gold in
Can't Get Enough is another giant step, rediscovering his acoustic voice.
Tommy works with Nashville keyboard player and songwriter, Randy Goodrum.
Tommy first heard Randy play piano with Chet Atkins on the Chester and
Lester record, and has been a great admirer since. Randy has also written
songs like You Needed Me, Oh Sherry, Foolish Heart and I'll Be Over You,
Randy and I started writing together two years ago, Tommy explains. At
this stage, I was realising that as much as I love playing electric
guitar, the acoustic guitar is my real voice. I had learned how to get the
recording sound I wanted from an acoustic guitar, and discovered some
Maton Guitars which got me that sound.
My wife and some very close friends had also told me that people were
waiting for a Tommy Emmanuel album which was the same throughout. I
understood what they meant. My last few albums have been quite diverse.
Can't Get Enough was recorded in Melbourne, Nashville and Los Angeles. It
was produced by Randy and Tommy. The band on the record included top-notch
session legend Warren Hill (sax), Tom Brechtlein (drums) and Nathan East
Guests include Tommy's all-time idol Chet Atkins, and fellow guitar
maestros Larry Carlton and Robben Ford.
There's a very simple reason why Tommy Emmanuel chose to make an album
with a symphony orchestra: he'd never done it before. In a professional
career spanning almost 36 years, Australia's foremost instrumentalist has
done virtually everything else - jazz, country, bluegrass, rock n roll -
but he'd never worked with a full-size orchestra.
"It was something I'd wanted to do for many years" says Tommy.
"I wanted to try things I'd never tried before - but at the same time
I didn't want to bite off more than I could chew. Much as I love classical
guitar albums, that wasn't what I was setting out to do - because in my
heart of hearts, I knew I'd never come close to something like John
Williams with the London Symphony Orchestra."
"So I spent a lot of time going through my own catalogue of songs,
picking things that would work well with an orchestra, and then I sought
out a few covers that I felt I could do justice to. I didn't want to be
pretentious about it; I didn't want to pick things that would just impress
other guitar players. I was looking for songs that could appeal to
1996 sees Tommy Emmanuel's orchestral vision brought to life. Partly
recorded live in Geelong - at an outdoor concert - with the Australian
Philharmonic Orchestra, and partly recorded in the studio in Melbourne
with the same ensemble, Classical Gas is a fascinating album of exciting,
emotive music. Along with well-loved Emmanuel staples like "The
Journey", "Run a Good Race", "Who Dares Wins" and
"Initiation", Classical Gas features two new tracks written by
Tommy Padre" and "She Never Knew" as well as energetic
readings of well-known works such as Mason Williams' "Classical
Gas", Rodrigo's Guitar Concerto and Debussy's "Gollywogs Cake
Walk" (with a passing tribute to Percy Grainger's "English
Country Garden."). The selection is rounded out with a fiery duet
between Tommy Emmanuel and Melbourne's 20-year-old Spanish guitar
sensation, Slava Grigoryan.
"When I first started planning this album out, it occurred to me that
it would be great to record something with a real classical guitarist, if
you know what I mean," says Tommy with typical modesty. "When I
heard Slava Grigoryan's album Spirit of Spain, I knew I had the right
person. But when I started going through all my old albums, I couldn't
find anything that was really suitable."
"Then one day Slava came over to my house with this song called 'Pan
Man' that his father had taught him. Slava already knew the piece, so he
just showed me the chords, we rehearsed a few times and I realised it was
perfect. So we just set up a couple of mikes in my lounge room, fed them
into a little eight-track DAT, and put it down three times. I chose the
second take and that's all there was to it." Classical Gas was
produced by Robin Smith - a British expatriate who is best-known in
Australia for his work with Margaret Urlich and The Rockmelons, although
his body of work extends back to the original sessions for Mike Oldfield's
Tubular Bells album.
"Robin has a lot of experience with orchestras," relates Tommy,
"and that gave me some confidence for this project. We wanted to keep
the intrinsic qualities of the orchestral sound, but a lot of the time we
needed them to play like a rock band - and Robin was crucial in achieving
"The great thing about an orchestra," he continues, "is
their range. They can play with this incredible subtlety, and it can be so
beautiful - but when they really rip into something, the volume is just
unbelievable. If you're standing next to them, it nearly blows you
With Classical Gas, Tommy Emmanuel has - once again - completely redefined
himself. The latest in a long line of albums that have slowly expanded and
embellished his broad-ranging artistic vision, Classical Gas still manages
to tap into the qualities that make Tommy Emmanuel great: his virtuosity,
his versatility, and his consummate ear for a great tune.
"I never shy away from a word like 'pop'", says Tommy.
"Frank Sinatra is a pop singer, he sings popular music. Bach was a
pop composer, and yes, I'm a pop guitar player. I have roots in all sorts
of different styles of music, and I'm able to draw on all of that. At the
end of the day, the thing that pulls it all together is my sense of
Nineteen-ninety-four is the year that Tommy Emmanuel arrives.
That's probably a strange thing to say about this masterful Australian
guitarist, who's been playing, composing and performing for 33 years--but
only now will see his first US. release with a striking all-instrumental
collection called THE JOURNEY, on Sony 550.
As a guitarist, Tommy has long been in demand for sessions; he can count
two of his personal guitar heros, Chet Atkins and Eric Clapton, among his
Best-selling Australian albums like Determination and the #1 Dare
To Be Different have clinched Emmanuel's chart status. He's gone from
pubs to concert halls, and in 1993 experienced one of the biggest thrills
of his career when he performed a series of Australian concerts with the
backing of a symphony orchestra.
But The Journey marks a career turning point for Tommy Emmanuel.
For the first time, he's been granted total artistic freedom in the making
of an album, the chance to work for as long as he felt he needed to and
with a hand-picked cast of supporting musicians. The rich textures and
sublime playing on The Journey are a testament to his efforts.
Among Tommy's co-travelers on The Journey: Nashville legend Chet
Atkins (guitar), rock veteran Joe Walsh (guitar), Jerry Goodman (violin,
ex-Mahavishnu Orchestra, now with Dixie Dregs), and saxophonist Dave Koz. The
Journey was produced by American guitarist Rick Neigher, who became
Tommy's virtual cosmic twin during the recording sessions.
When forced to choose a few of his favorite tracks from the twelve which
comprise The Journey, Tommy picks "Hellos and Goodbyes"
for his performance on it; "The Journey," because (in Tommy's
words) "two different songs fell together like pieces of a jigsaw
puzzle"; and "If Your Heart Tells You To," because it's one
of the prettiest melodies he's ever written. "Amy" is another
Emmanuel favorite, because the song has been hanging around since 1976 and
this recording captures the atmosphere Tommy had been trying to find ever
The Telecaster licks fly fast and furious on "Tailin' The Invisible
Man," for which Tommy and Rick went to extraordinary lengths to get
the crackling sound of an old country blues 78 r.p.m. disc. "We
couldn't get a 78," Tommy recalls with a chuckle, "so we got a
regular LP, threw it on the concrete floor, jumped all over it, and spun
it quickly on the turntable to make it sound like a 78!"
"Villa Anita" features Tommy's boyhood idol, Chet Atkins. At age
seven, Emmanuel "heard a track of his on the radio and did a total
backflip. That lovely fingerpicking led to my picking up the guitar. When
I was in my mid-teens, I sent Chet a fan letter and he wrote me back--I've
still got his letter. In the early `80s, I went to Nashville for the sole
purpose of meeting him.
"When we were recording The Journey in L.A., I read that Chet
was playing a club date. I told Rick we should go and check out his gig.
Rick said, `Check out his show, hell--we're gonna get him on the album!'
Chet was more than happy to do it, so I flew to Nashville, recorded his
track and the next day flew back to L.A."
What sets The Journey apart from many other guitar extravaganzas
isn't just the quality of Tommy's playing, but of his original
compositions. By the time sessions began in Los Angeles, Emmanuel had 26
new songs in hand. "I don't want to be the fastest guitar in the
West, riding off into the sunset. I try to come up with songs and
performances that I hope will stand the test of time."
"To me, music is something that is beautiful and positive," says
Tommy Emmanuel. "If I can pass that torch on to others, then I'm
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