Yes, Bernie Williams plays center field for my beloved New York Yankees. And while many revel in the fact they were defeated in the World Series, Bernie can take solace in the fact that he has released a pretty good record, and is a very fine guitarist.
For those not familiar, Bernie grew up in Puerto Rico, playing ball, and playing guitar. And, as one listen will show you, he’s got the guitar chops. More importantly, for this record he’s also got a lot of talent as a composer. “La Salsa En Mi” comes across at first as some sort of weird, off-kilter “La Bamba.” But by the time it’s through, it’s taken you through lots of twists and turns, complete with some tasty acoustic soloing by Bernie and Bela Fleck on banjo. “Desvelado” is a fine Latin piece with a melody that sticks in your mind like glue, and it features Bernie on electric for one of the few times on the record. Again, he’s got the chops. It’s fairly obvious he’s a fan of folks like Larry Carlton, who like to burn and show some soul at the same time. The funky “Stranded On the Bridge” gives Bernie another chance to plug in. His chordal work and leads shine. There are some nice covers, too. “Samba Novo,” the Baden Powell tune, is a piece played by Bernie solo, and it’s as nice a piece of guitar music as you’ll hear for awhile. Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes” has always had a gorgeous melody, and it’s handled beautifully. There are one or two clinkers. His cover of “Dust In the Wind” seems out of place. Or maybe it’s just my general dislike of that song. Either way, it’s a distraction. Williams’s “Enter the Bond” starts with a horrible dance rhythm track, but features some fine, soulful acoustic soloing that helps redeem it somewhat.
And you might be thinking, “He wouldn’t have had the chance to make this album without his sports fame.” Maybe so, but he’s up to the challenge. The CD is enhanced, and can be viewed in your computer. In interviews, players like Fleck and legendary bassist Lee Sklar point to Bernie’s talents. And Paul McCartney has already signed him to a publishing contract.
It’s easy to see why all this has happened to Bernie. He’s definitely talented enough to carry himself in the music world.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Feb. ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.