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The roots of The Mutual Admiration Society go all the way back to 1972 when a young Stirling Ball was introduced to Albert Lee by his father, Ernie Ball. The music of Heads, Hands and Feet had a profound impact on Ball Junior and would also signal the start of a lifelong friendship between Stirling and Albert.

Several jam sessions and many musos added to the Ernie Ball Music Man roster later and The Mutual Admiration Society was formed. It may appear that it's a showcase for Music Man equipment, and in many ways, of course, it is: but it's also a bunch of musicians who respect the work of each other, getting together and putting something down on tape like musicians have done for decades.

The album focusses on songs that that had an impact on Stirling growing up with country and R&B tracks being the focus, but delivered in their own way. Vocal free and guitar heavy the album feels disjointed and suffers in places sounding like background 70s supermarket muzak: the names on the album feel like they are having a Sunday stroll or trying out new gear in a guitar showroom. Despite the A list guest appearances the music is far too pedestrian, the mix too clinical and doesn't show these first rate musicians at their best, it's far from challenging for Albert Lee, Steve Vai and Steve Morse. There are no extended versions, no real sense of improvisation or stretching the guitarists, which borders on on the criminal, especially on a guitar based album.

Disney nerd Petrucci cranking up the effects and shredding Disney songs in a quasi progressive style is one of the strangest moments on offer; like falling down a rabbit hole with Frank Zappa and Mike Oldfield. Those uninitiated in the musicians' work will wonder what the fuss is all about and the album does them no real favours.

It's not without its merits though, the album has some nice touches such as the mandolin on I Want You Back and Steve Vai going off-piste, proudly doing his own thing during Sugar Shack. And Steve Lukather's guest slot on Baby Please Don't Go, despite being too short is the gustiest playing on the album. Things start to heat up during Memphis AKA Memphis Tennessee, but once again it's over too soon.

Despite the lineage, the album lacks the balls that it should have.

Groupie Rating 2/5

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