Among instrumental artists tagged with the "New Age" label, former Jefferson Starship guitarist Craig Chaquico is one of the few who energized the genre with music bearing a distinctive personal imprint. Chaquico's early recordings (Acoustic Highway, Acoustic Planet) were amiable affairs made memorable by their waves of chiming, glistening chords and refreshing pop-rock propulsion. Yet smooth jazz flourishes gradually crept into his compositions, absorbing his guitar into a generic sax-bass-keyboard mix that obscured his individual stamp. Midnight Noon, his eighth release, is a modest but encouraging move toward more of a middle ground. Chaquico, said to play 50 different guitars on this recording's 10 likeable, upbeat selections, still exhibits an allegiance to jazz (with brassy big-band and Latin accents surfacing at random intervals), yet includes a few pop-infused charmers ("Her Boyfriend's Wedding," "Outlaw in the City," "Always with You") that serve as welcomed throwbacks to his original, looser sound. While at times it sounds as if Chaquico is composing tautly structured television themes ("Jazz Noon"), several of his animated solos (try "El Gato") remind you just how well this guy can play. --Terry Wood
Chaquico secured his big break as the guitarist of Starship, who had evolved from the '60s hippie band Jefferson Airplane. Fronted by vocalist Mickey Thomas, Craig participated on the memorable yet dated Top 40 hits "We Built This City" and "Sara". By 1997, Chaquico was ready to explore new frontiers and released the interesting Higher Octave freshman effort Acoustic Highway. With the title track receiving bountiful airplay, I for one enjoyed the very unique soft nylon sound of his guitar and found the disc immediately enjoyable. However, the long-term effects were not as enduring and his second disc followed a very familiar format making it a safe yet enjoyable revisit.
Since then I have lost track of this artist and was presented with the task of reviewing his latest endeavor Midnight Noon. Though I have no idea as to what has occurred between his projects, Chaquico continues to cling closely to the Smooth Jazz format that has made his solo career more famous than his rock and roll roots. Yet this album also shows some genre exploration the most notable being the jazz-fusion fueled "El Gato". Some additional electrical work is presented in the arrangement of the title track that also features prominent keyboard work from co writer and co producer Ozzie Ahlers. Along with soulful saxophone work of Kevin Paladini the composition has a very musky jazz club feel to it.
Otherwise, Chaquico sticks with what he knows and is clearly comfortable with the Smooth Jazz format as exemplified in the opening track "Her Boyfriend's Wedding". The other bookend of the album "Outlaw In The City" follows his tried and true format that will keep his fans more than happy. That fact alone will surely make this another best seller.
However, his 2004 comeback album entitled "Midnight Noon" comes as his strongest set of songs since his debut and after waiting so long, brings back the incredible sound that made his early solo music so amazing to listen to. Listen to the incredible pop/jazz anthem "Always With You" with it's beautiful vocals as well as it's great sunny melody! Another incredible song is the opening track "Her Boyfriends Wedding" with it's fast high-speed drum rhythm as well as it's incredible keyboards and great guitar sounds. Even if you despised his 'smooth jazz' works from immediately before this, "Midnight Noon" is a must-have. I haven't heard Chaquico sound this great and energetic in so long. Welcome back Craig!