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Tommy Emmanuel
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 Chet Atkins.

"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 Australia.

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, among others.

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 (bass).

Guests include Tommy's all-time idol Chet Atkins, and fellow guitar maestros Larry Carlton and Robben Ford.

Classical Gas

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 anyone."

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 that."

"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 away."

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 melody."

The Journey

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 many fans.
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 since.

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 happy."
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