REVIEWS FOR TABULA RASA
Toby Thomas - February 2nd, 2001
Much like Michael Hedges' Taproot, Tabula Rasa reveals LYLE WORKMAN as more of a composer than just another guitarist showing off his latest chops, although his considerable fretboard skills are certainly displayed throughout. But it is the musical compositions themselves that take center stage and the ten songs all seem to contain a common theme and emotional center. A sense of sweet sadness permeates most of the nine instrumental tunes and, save for one exception, the song titles offer little clue as to the source of this sadness.
That one exception, however, Rising Of The Mourning Son, might just provide the vital insight as to that source. Beginning with a subtle chord progression, it spirals upward evoking a spiritual strength and then, as the trumpet falls in, a sense of joy, until finally the music evolves into a swelling mantra of both acceptance and inspiration. The result is a memorable musical eulogy to one's father or perhaps some other essential facet of a man's constitution. Whatever, a sense of resolution manifests itself by song's end.
The first two tracks of the CD, Timbuktu and Here Comes The Cavalry, are actually quite energetic, the former applying some frenetic guitar synths while the latter adds some old western banjo picking from Dave Ristrim. Here Comes the Cavalry ends with a somber keyboard fade-out that proves foreboding to the rest of the disc. Might the cavalry have arrived too late?.. A highlight of tabula rasa is the next track, Splendid Outcast. Mixing in some tinkling electric piano riffs to a jazzy arrangement, Workman adds an unexpected twist to the end with a diabolically mad piano outro.
Mike Keneally offers vocals on one track, the made-for-college-radio number Inhale. A catchy pop-rock melody straight out of the Rundgren-XTC-Belew school of musical thought, the chorus asks the listener to "think of me when you inhale." Perhaps a warning not to take Life or its simple providing act of breath for granted? Again, the song takes quite a turn at the end. Speaking of turns, The Great Race takes a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants arrangement to great heights propelled in part by Dave Gregory's vibrant string arrangement.
The remaining tracks on the CD contribute to the melancholic beauty of Tabula Rasa, from the lonely moonlight serenade of Cowboy G to the simple elegance of Coloratura. The final track, Ithaca, is the acoustic brethren of Rising of the Mourning Son, a quiet farewell to the listener.
Listening to Tabula Rasa brings to mind a passage from John Steinbeck's To A God Unknown: Joseph lifted his head and sniffed the wind. "I can smell the salt," he said. "I shouldn't have brought you here, Elizabeth, to make you sad." Elizabeth answers: "But it's a good full sadness, dear. It's a luxurious sadness." Allow yourself to sniff the salt and feel such emotion within the luxury of Lyle Workman's bittersweet guitar symphony.
MW3.com -October 2000
As far as guitar-based instrumental progressive rock fusion music goes, it doesn’t get much better than Tabula Rasa. Conceived of and created by guitar wiz Lyle Workman, Tabula Rasa is a work of pure sonic genius. Throughout the album, Workman demonstrates his creative expertise on a number of instruments ranging from electric and acoustic guitars to mandolin, guitar synthesizer, bass, keyboards, kantele and drums. A master of musical genres - from rock to eclectic prog-fusion, Workman is further assisted by key players such as Toss Panos (drums), XTC member Dave Gregory (keyboards, strings) and guitar great Mike Keneally appearing as lead vocalist on the album’s only vocal track, “Inhale”. For those unfamiliar with the California native, Workman was influenced early on by greats like Hendrix, Townshend and later Yes and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Following his time in the pop group Bourgeois Tagg, Workman recorded a pair of early ‘90s albums with Todd Rundgren and later worked with the pop outfit Jellyfish and most recently with pop artist Beck. The follow-up to his mid-90’s debut CD, Purple Passages, Tabula Rasa is a mind-blowing musical statement from a guitarist who obviously deserves a great deal of praise and recognition.
Unbelievable Journey - You'll wear this one out., April 25, 2000
Reviewer: Timathea Shays from LA
This CD is a masterpiece, period. The journey it takes the listener on is magical -- just press Play, sit back, close your eyes, and be prepared to be carried through a variety of emotions and images that will inspire you and feed your soul. Anyone who has been fortunate to discover Lyle Workman's talent will LOVE this latest work. The melodies, arrangements, recurring themes, and combination of unusual instruments provide depth; the list of talented "friends" who contributed is impressive; even the package artwork is stunning. You will keep this one in your CD changer for a long, long time. Guaranteed.
Reviewer: Carl Clark from Louisville, KY USA
Lyle has composed and recorded an uniformly terrific collection of songs on Tabula Rasa. I can't say enough about how good they are! This music is as close to perfect as I've heard. It is dynamic and heartfelt. The melodies are so unique, and the arrangements are so inventive, that you will hear something new on each listen. I've searched a long time for an artist that is this good. I totally recommend this cd to anyone who wants more out of a listening experience. Lyle has plenty to offer!
Mandatory Listening, December 21, 2000
Reviewer: elltabes from Sacramento, CA USA
If you're a guitar player looking for gratuitous chops and fret board pyrotechnics, then let me direct you to the "Shrapnel" CD catalog. However, if you're a guitar player looking for music with a panoramic scope and the ability to challenge and inspire you, this is the CD to have. Forget the fact that it's an instrumental guitar album and the fact that Lyle Workman is one of the most gifted and unique guitar players around. Workman's compositions, in and of themselves, stand on their own. As with all great music, this CD gets better with repeated listenings. Not only should this CD be mandatory listening for all guitar players, it should be manadatory listening for all music lovers in general. It doesn't get any better than this.
Workman Redefines Modern Guitar, November 28, 2000
Reviewer: Michael Kelley from Los Angeles, Calif
In a day when the guitar has been abused from over-emphasis on the popular 'shredding' style of playing, Lyle Workman is one of the very few out there who has approached the instrument with a unique style that avoids the modern cliches. This is a beautiful, well-crafted record that continues to reveal its charms by degrees, listen after listen. Its yields new discoveries, and gets larger, each time I hear it. As someone who finds most contemporary music to be designed with a 'dumbed -down' aesthetic, I find 'Tabula Rasa' to be an elevated and superbly wrought piece of musical artistry.
Tabula Rasa - A New Fusion Classic, October 12, 2000
Reviewer: firstname.lastname@example.org (see more about me) from Corte Madera, CA USA
With "Tabula Rasa", Los Angeles guitar virtuoso Lyle Workman has created a brilliant jazz/rock/folk fusion album, worthy of mention in the same breath as such classics as Jeff Beck's "Blow by Blow", "Romantic Warrior" by Return to Forever and the Mahavishnu Orchestra's "The Inner Mounting Flame". In the course of a given track, you'll find memorable melodies, swirling strings, other-wordly effects AND good 'ol fashioned screaming guitarisms. Music fans and insiders have been aware of Lyle for year through his work with Todd Rundgren, Bougeois Tagg and (most recently) Beck, and now, hopefully, "Tabula Rasa" will introduce the world to the unique musical genius of Lyle Workman.
Buy this cd or I'll kick your dog, September 23, 2000
Reviewer: david s baker (see more about me) from S.F. Bay Area, CA
This review is not going to say anything that hasn't already been said (and said better) in the other reviews. I'm just going to say that if you like guitar music that's interesting, creative, heartfelt, and played by talented musicians with terrific sound quality, then buy this damn cd! This is not a shred cd, although Lyle can and does burn on some of his solos. He has plenty of chops. He just puts more emphasis on the feeling than the number of notes per second. And the songs themselves are so unique. This is an album that gets better with each listen. And if you like this, please buy his first (and equally great) cd, "Purple Passages". It's a gem as well. Can't wait for cd # 3!
Killer!!, September 13, 2000
Reviewer: stefburns from San Francisco
This is my favorite CD. From the beginning to the end it's great. I never have written a review before so I don't really know what to say except this CD is amazing. The compositions, melodies, harmonies, arrangements, recording quality, all superb and very emotionally moving. You can tell that Lyle's heart pours into the music, and his playing is out of this world though very human. I love it and everyone that I play it for wants it and buys it. That says a lot I think. Enjoy!!
There are NO WORDS in my BRAIN...!!!, September 13, 2000
Reviewer: ric molina from brooklyn, new york USA
...That's because it's so full of music after listening to Lyle Workman's album, Tabula Rasa. In a world inundated with "here today, gone tomorrow" fluff, Lyle Workman emerges with another recording featuring an exciting, original and evolving musical language all his own. This is the kind of talent and vision that doesn't need to be associated with any particular instrument. The fact that Lyle is a wizard at guitar, is merely the setup. The real magic is in the beauty of his musical vision. He just happens to take you to imaginary places that inspire and delight without ever being academic or showy. This is the work of a very gifted composer adept at a wide range of styles which always stay true to his unique voice. From blistering virtuosity to delicate meditations Lyle provokes the listener with fresh takes on a wide range of sounds, never losing his sense of balance or humor. Check out his duet with Mike Keneally on "Inhale" and you'll know what I mean. This record is a treat. You can't go wrong with Lyle Workman's, Tabula Rasa.
Composition Major, September 13, 2000
Reviewer: Stan J Cotey from Brentwood, TN USA
Lyle Workman has put together a CD of breathtaking scope and adventure. It is intellectually deep and simultaneously exciting to listen to without relying solely on displays of musical technique. Without undercutting the staggering musicianship displayed here, I feel the strongest single quality of this CD is the wonderful composition.
Lyle's musical vision includes melodies, chords and rhythms not often heard together. Imagine if Shostakovich and Stravinsky were today composing music for the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Lyle has a fine sense of writing without adhering to traditional tonalities or rules. He takes many risks, which are paid off warmly.
I highly recommend this CD for anyone who loves adventurous, well-performed, unusual sounding instrumental music.
good stuff...again!, September 13, 2000
Reviewer: robb from Niagara Falls, NY
Lyle Workman has done it again with his "Tabula Rasa" recording. This guy is a great songwriter and musician.He plays excellent electric and acoustic guitar, baritone guitar (i love the sound of this instrument), mandolin, synthesizer, bass, etc.. I especially like the track "Rising of the Morning Sun", clocking in at almost 10 minutes. The cd also has some great guest musicians...Toss Panos, Mike Keneally and Luis Conte to name a few! A very enjoyable cd throughout and is highly recommended for people who like good music.
Lyle? Love it!, July 29, 2000
Reviewer: Geof O'Keefe from San Miguel, CA. USA
Lyle Workman has released a magnificent second album that almost defies description. Workman, a studio session cat for artists such as Todd Rundgren, Frank Black and the late Kevin Gilbert (in addition to being a member of Bourgeois Tagg) released his debut, Purple Passages back in 1995. Tabula Rasa continues along in the style of that offering, mixing layers of acoustic and electric guitars into a blend of music that can't be easily classified. It has elements of fusion, progressive rock, classical, folk, world and pop, sometimes within a single song. On a track like "Here Comes the Cavalry," beautiful multi-tracked electric guitar harmonies swirl over an acoustic guitar backing, which then leads seamlessly into a section backed by banjo and pedal steel as Workman works out on the acoustic guitar. "The Great Race" starts out with a Holdsworth-like flavor to it, but changes to a lively acoustic segment and is one of three tracks featuring a string section to great effect. The 9:30-long "Rising of the Mourning Son" opens like the soundtrack to some beautiful cinema epic and leads up to the powerful end section, featuring Workman laying down some jaw-dropping soloing, full of fire, blinding speed and melody. Backed by an impressive cast of musicians, including ex-Toy Matinee drummer Toss Panos and former XTC member Dave Gregory, Workman has created a masterpiece of riches, an album of power and glory, of melody and muscle. My mere words cannot thoroughly describe how cool this album is. If you're a musician or into musicians, this is one you should support.
Lyle began guitar at 10 years old. After learning basic chords from his father, Lyle taught himself Beatles songs and by his teens, classic icons like The Who, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. In college became interested in blues, jazz, classical and studied music theory and composition.
Lyle’s first break into the profession of music was as a member of Bourgeois Tagg, who recorded two records for Island records in ’86 and ’87, including Yo-Yo, which was produced by Todd Rundgren. Reflecting Lyle’s earliest influences were the Beatlesque pop strains of "I Don't Mind at All", Bourgeois Tagg's hit single co-written by Workman and band co-founder Brent Bourgeois. This propelled the group into the international spotlight with concerts throughout North America and Europe.
After Bourgeois Tagg disbanded in 1989, Lyle, along with fellow Bourgeios Tagg members, recorded and toured in Todd Rundgren’s band. This lineup yielded the recording of "Nearly Human" and "Second Wind". During this period Lyle began to write instrumental music and assumed the title of musician, composer, arranger, engineer and producer for his premiere solo project, Purple Passages, released by Immune Records. Recorded in a spare bedroom, this CD received international acclaim and was dubbed "possibly the best guitar album of the year" by Guitar Shop Magazine.
Back to pursuing new musical adventures in the pop field, Lyle hooked up with the group Jellyfish, who brought his guitar work on board for the recording of "Spilt Milk", released in ’93. Shortly afterwards, Lyle hooked up with ex-Pixies front man Frank Black for the recording of "Teenager Of The Year" and as a member of "Frank Black and the Catholics", toured and recorded up to the summer of ‘98. In the midst of recording with Frank Black and the Catholics, Jazz great drummer Tony Williams brought Lyle in the studio and recorded one of Lyle’s pieces for his record "Wilderness".
After moving to Los Angeles in 96’ became more active as a studio musician, and recorded with artists such as Sheryl Crow, Shakira, Steven Curtis Chapman, They Might Be Giants, Jakob Dylan, and Kevin Gilbert. Lyle worked with notable record producers such as Steve Lillywhite, Rick Rubin, and Dr. Dre.
After temporarily leaving the road to concentrate on composing and working at home in Los Angeles, Lyle finished his second instrumental project "Tabula Rasa" and in late ’99, his love for live performing brought him back on stage playing guitar with the pop artist Beck up until August 2001.
Lyle’s distinctive guitar work can also be heard on many film scores including TWO FOR THE MONEY, IN GOOD COMPANY, STARSKY AND HUTCH, OLD SCHOOL, CHARLIE’S ANGELS (I and II). In his home studio Lyle produced and engineered the group Smash Mouth for the soundtrack of Mike Myers’ “CAT IN THE HAT”.
As film composer,, Lyle wrote the music for Universal Picture’s THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, released in August 2005. Lyle also co-wrote the score to MADE, a film by Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn (SWINGERS). This association led to Lyle composing the music for DINNER FOR FIVE, a show hosted by and starring Jon Favreau for the Independent Film Channel. Lyle wrote several pieces of music for the Will Ferrell film KICKING AND SCREAMING.
On July 2, 2005 Lyle performed in Sting’s group for Live 8 and in the following summer toured throughout Europe.
Another solo record is in progress – look for a 2007 release.