It was good news, hearing that audiophile record label AIX was releasing a deluxe John Gorka performance DVD/CD. But this disc is surprisingly somber given that Gorka is normally an animated, highly amusing live performer.
Most of The Gypsy Life (excluding a live cut from McCabe’s) was recorded December 18, 2006, at the Zipper Auditorium in Los Angeles. Gorka is accompanied by Michael Manring on fretless electric bass, Russ Rentler on mandolin, Amelia Spicer on background vocals, and Susan Werner on acoustic guitar, piano, and background vocals. All are talented performers in their own right, but none step out to deliver much spice. The problem may be that everyone is so conscious of the recording process that they play conservatively to avoid mistakes. Trying to play everything perfectly leads to musical constipation. Even Glen Gould, who was perhaps the ultimate musical perfectionist, realized that to play an entire piece perfectly he had to be able to edit the final recording. With AIX’s recording method, editing is verboten. The performers know this and adjust their playing accordingly.
Playing The Gypsy Life at first reminds one of seeing a gorgeous woman at a social gathering, finally meeting her, and finding out she has the intellect of a junior-high student. Your initial impression is full of promise, but the actual experience is void of content.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s May ’08 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.