For nearly two decades, the Bartron-Tyler Group (BTg) has inspired, grooved, and enlivened diverse audiences at festivals and concerts all along the West Coast. Bartron and Tyler’s musical partnership began over 20 years ago in the San Francisco Bay Area. Years of playing in rock and cover bands followed before the focus shifted to the intricate structures for which BTg is known. In 1991, they premiered as a guitar duo, soon thereafter recording a disc at the prompting of Nashville producer and friend Bob Tassi. John Hasty joined forces to add percussive spice, building on the group to produce the next two critically acclaimed CD releases, “Fillmore Street Live" (1994), and “Leap Day" (1997). For the CD release concerts for “Leap Day", the band wanted to ground the sound with a bassist. The natural choice was Joey Fabian, with whom Hasty had already performed in diverse musical settings over the last four years. The roots that have been growing over the past 20 years serve as a strong foundation for the group’s unique sound. "Like A Metaphor" (2002), showcases this new, fully realized quartet’s amazing cohesion and flow garnered through four solid years of gigging. “Just About Almost There” (2006), is their most diverse effort yet, combining rock, fusion, folk, reggae, and just about anything else into a truly unique, mesmerizing listening experience.
Their latest CD "Yesterday Never Knows" (2009) is an imaginative romp through the music of the Beatles, and was featured in the January 2010 issue of Guitar Player Magazine.
What kind of music does BTg play? Well, let’s see….it’s rock, jazz, folk, Afro-Cuban, Celtic, bluesy, bluegrassy fusion. They just call it Hardwood music. You can empathize with the problem of recognition in a cookie-cutter genre, one-word-moniker-for-ease-of-digestion world. Let’s examine the individual components for clarity. John Bartron’s fiery technique brings to mind images of Ralph Towner and the late Michael Hedges. Bartron’s compositions are bristling with inventive melodies, twists, and theme and variation. Although initially playing acoustic guitar exclusively, the last few years have seen him stretching out on synth-guitar and electric. Mike Tyler, on a hybrid acoustic/electric guitar, gets tones as smooth as glass or as crunchy as Satriani. He is a slide-guitar specialist that avoids slide-guitar clichés, sounding more like David Lindley than Elmore James. His fusion-tinged compositions blow the player and non-player out of their seats. Joey Fabian, on electric and double bass, brings a solid musical background and lots of fun to the group’s sound. Just to see him on stage is pure joy. He bridges the gap of melody and rhythm with power and grace. Pulsating underneath it all is John Hasty. Playing one of the most bizarre looking drum kits ever assembled, he drives the dynamics of the band from a roar to a whisper. His set blends hand drums and kit to cover sounds from Africa to Zeppelin.
BTg has evolved over the years from their acoustic guitar-duo roots into one of the most distinctive instrumental rock bands to be found, skillfully blending musical sophistication with an innate sense of fun and favoring taste over technical flash. And though it’s one thing to have wonderful recordings, the other side is being able to deliver it live. In concert, BTg leaves fans spellbound and wanting more. With great writing, kick-ass playing, and pristine recording, they are a most remarkable band. Their new album of classic Beatles tunes is quickly becoming their biggest album ever, and with their wildly inventive arrangements this disc is setting new standards on how to approach a “tribute” album.
John Bartron: Acoustic and electric guitars/guitar synth
Mike Tyler: Electric and acoustic guitars/slide guitar
John Hasty: Drums and percussion
Joey Fabian: Fretted and frettless electric basses, acoustic bass
All full-length CDs:
Yesterday Never Knows (2009)
Just About Almost There (2006)
Fillmore Street (2005)
Like A Metaphor (2002)
BTG reconstructs the Beatles
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Mashing up bits of Beatles tunes into new sonic concoctions is nothing new, with George and Giles Ma...Mashing up bits of Beatles tunes into new sonic concoctions is nothing new, with George and Giles Martin's celebrated "Love" being the foremost example. But on "Yesterday Never Knows" (Hardwood), the Bartron Tyler Group crafted guitar-driver instrumental arrangements that also mess with the fundamental song structures, such as setting "Eleanor Rigby" to a Latin-inflected 6/8 groove and arranging "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party" for Duane and Dickey- like harmonized guitars. "Every song had to have some sort of angle to it" explains John Bartron. "Setting a tune in a different groove or meter allowed us to make these versions our own". For this album, Bartron Deployed an arsenal of guitars that included a Lowden Acoustic, a Godin Multiac through a Roland GR-33, and a Wechter Pathmaker, and conjured Beatle-esque effects from and Line6 PODxt. Mike Tyler opted for a Parker Fly and an early-70's. Gibson Les Paul Deluxe through a Boss GT-3 and a Vox Valvetronix amp, but also played an Epiphone Riviera 12 string and Oahu Diana lap-steel. "Most of the time we weren't concerned with duplicating the tones on the albums because our arrangements were so different for the originals", explains Tyler. "Instead, we would try to evoke the sounds that have become associated with the Beatles. Such as an electric 12-string or a guitar through a Leslie." However they were arrived at, Yesterday Never Knows is chockablock with Great tones and groovy guitar work, including gorgeous side work by Tyler.
The album opens with "I'll Follow the Sun", the melody of which is played over the "Taxman" groove. "We tried several different settings. the only constant being Mike's phrasing of the melody on slide," recalls Bartron. "We tried to a half-time groove with a Luau geel, Travis picking the chords to 'Julia'- But nothing was clicking. Then, 'Taxman' came on the radio on the drive home, and when I hummed the melody along with it I knew we had it. We added the #9 punches, and for the beginning bassist Joey Fabian suggested a King Crimson-like variation, with Mike playing the intro riff 6/8 on 12-string while I played it 5/8 on acoustic". Tyler took the first solo playing slide on the Parker, Bartron added the warbling echo to his Lesile sound for the second solo, and the third solo Tyler played slide on the Epi 12-string." The fourth solo has three different guitars with reverse delay, and the second bridge morphs into the acoustic environment of "And I Love Her", says Bartron. "For the finale we return to the Crimson arpeggios played an octave higher, while drummer John Hasty pounds out the solo from 'The End'- and the final chord just had to a major 6th."
The remaining arrangements are equally inventive, employing dropped-C tuning, bowed piano, solos tracked at half-speed to produce mandolin-like sounds, ambient recordings, and sampled Mellotron. "We were able to convey our obvious love and respect for the material while at the some time displaying a playfulness and spirit of experimentation that seemed appropriate for the tunes," says Tyler. "To me, the 'Beatles' willingness to explore any style of music that caught their fancy is one of the most enduring qualities of their legacy".
Bartron Tyler magical Beatles tour
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By Jean Bartlett In February of 1964, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Star...By Jean Bartlett
In February of 1964, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr played "I Want To Hold Your Hand" on the Ed Sullivan Show and blew the proverbial lid off of pop music. Over the decades, Beatles songs have been recorded successfully by a wide genre of artists including: Joe Cocker, Aeorsmith, Elton John, Fiona Apple, Pat Benatar, Emmylou Harris, Ike and Tina Turner, Yo Yo Ma and James Taylor. (And let's not forget the William Shatner "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" — hmmm, but, then again...)
So what is it about the Bartron Tyler Group's CD "Yesterday Never Knows" that opens a new page on Beatles tunes? First off there is the wonderfully clever, visual power of the CD which manages in one sweep to celebrate the Beatles record label, Apple, the "Revolver" track "Tomorrow Never Knows" and the "Meet The Beatles" album jacket layout from print style to the black, white and blue tone Robert Freeman photo of the Fab Four.
Released Oct. 1, 2009, The Bartron Tyler Group CD cover was designed by band member, band art director, photographer and Pacifican Mike Tyler. Tyler has designed all six BTG album covers.
"For this release, I wanted to utilize an image that alludes to an established Beatles icon without resorting to collarless jackets or mop-top wigs," said Tyler. "I eventually settled on the apples."
Members of BTG are John Bartron on acoustic guitar, Mike Tyler on electric guitar and bass, John Hasty on drums and
percussion and Joey Fabian on electric and acoustic bass. Musician and Pacifican Lee Parvin stops by for a few highly satisfying CD contributions on keyboards and accordion.
BTG is a rock frontier band nicely salted by string blues talk, acid jazz fusion and a few doses of Afro Cuban and Celtic. Their influences jump the genres but they list at least Chick Corea, Jeff Beck, the Beatles, Beethoven and the English progressive rock band, Yes, as inspirations. Their purely instrumental sound has brought on comparisons to Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and Jimmy Page. Michael Molenda, "Guitar Player Magazine" Editor and Chief, called their music "slinky, sexy, animated, and multi-textured instrumental music."
BTG's take on the Beatles' "Don't Let Me Down" (from BTG's "Like A Metaphor" CD) has been a standard on KFOG's airplay since its release.
"Since that track ended up being our most popular track ever, we thought we would do a complete Beatles-themed album," said Tyler. "We've also included a remastered version of this tune on our new album."
"The Beatles have had the biggest influence on popular music that we've ever experienced in our lifetimes," Tyler continued. "They had a profound effect on the guitar-playing culture when they hit in the '60s and are the primary reason so many people took up the guitars around the time we were growing up. I couldn't name another group that had such stylistic variety, level of quality and rapid growth as artists."
The band has been in the studio a little over two years working on this CD.
"Some of that time was spent setting up our individual studios," said Tyler. "We all have the ability to record tracks at home now which can be a great asset. It is also an open-ended schedule so that instead of tracking all the basic tracks in a weekend it can expand to take months, or longer. The luxury of owning a home studio!"
The song "Flying" is one of the tunes on the new BTG CD. The song is one of the few credited to all four Beatles and its 12-bar blues form takes off in flight with overdubs and chanting and the rocket-like use of a mellotron (a polyphonic keyboard). Way hot when it came out on the Magical Mystery Tour album, the Bartron Tyler version is a groovy, cool, long overdue thoughtful remake of a seldom heard masterpiece.
BTG also performs "Goodbye," not to be confused with "Hello, Goodbye." A toe-tapping old timey tune, originally written by McCartney for Welsh-born singer Mary Hopkins, BTG keeps it hip, present and loaded with saddle-riding sweetness. BTG describes their version of "In My Life:" "rich voicing, subtle chord substitutions color the musical reminiscing of a melody which demands a level of emotion that can only be culled from personal experience." BTG's "Yesterday Never Knows," which also includes: "I'll Follow The Sun," "Nowhere Man," "Eleanor Rigby," "Because," "Blackbird," "Mother Nature's Son/Girl," "I Don't Want To Spoil The Party," and "Don't Let Me Down" — is smart, highly listenable and way off the scales with jaw-dropping musical acumen. It raises the bar on how to pay tribute to the most influential band of all time.
BTG's "Yesterday Never Knows" can be ordered on the band's website (www.btgmusic.com) and CDBaby, with upcoming availability on Rhapsody, iTunes and other digital downloads. Come and get it.
"Like A Metaphor" CD review
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This is slinky, sexy, animated, and multi-textured instrumental music that effortlessly seduces list...This is slinky, sexy, animated, and multi-textured instrumental music that effortlessly seduces listeners to undertake a journey of both comfort and surprise. While the CD played, I kept musing about awakening in a warm, sunny climate with some ravishing beauty who defined eroticism and sensuality. Not that this sort of thing has ever happened to me, but BTG’s music suggested what it might feel like if it ever did. The diverse and brilliant arrangements- which make evocative use of acoustic and electric timbres- are further enlivened by the exquisite tones and cagey phrasing of guitarists John Bartron and Mike Tyler. Everyone in the band (which also includes bassist Joey Fabian and drummer John Hasty) is obviously a good listener with a solid connection to the music and the idiosyncrasies of each player. For a moment of sublime beauty, check out ”How They Eat In Heaven,” and for a peek into the ingenuity and heart of the ensemble, listen to how the guys interpret the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down.” If you’re like me, Metaphor will become one of those treasured Sunday morning CDs that always seems to creep into the rest of the week. MICHAEL MOLENDA, Guitar Player Magazine
A typical concert set runs about 90 minutes with selections from all of our CDs, probably 90% originals, although our current live set consists of imaginative instrumental re-interpretations of Beatles tunes. We used to regularly perform at Street festivals playing 8 hour days without repeating tunes. Because of this we can be extremely flexible according to the venues needs.