Watching the Detectives – Guitar Noir III
Mark Doyle’s guitar album, Watching the Detectives – Guitar Noir III, is a unique and defyingly challenging merging of jazz, rock, and soundtrack. There cannot be many like this out there although Doyle will clearly admit to drawing from a few major influences. The title, owing to Elvis Costello, is certainly recognizable and as one digs into the album, sounds will evoke popular TV show and films. For example, the opening medley not only includes the title track but segues into themes for Get Smart and The Untouchables. That’s followed by the theme to Kojak and Man from U.N.C.LE. Doyle started this “Noir” series in 1999 and twenty years later he’s revisiting the underworld populated by detectives and spies.
Doyle chose to avoid what he felt were overdone themes and those he previously covered, aiming for the most melodic and dramatic material he could find. He found some “amazing music” – Nelson Ridde’s “The Untouchables,” Elmer Bernstein’s “Johnny Staccato” and Dave Grusin’s “It Takes a Thief,” among several. He wrote two originals that he felt fit into the criteria and theme of the record.
Before Doyle had the detective concept in mind, he had recorded two pieces that clearly did not fit the concept but that he felt were too strong to leave off. They are Frank Zappa’s “America Drinks and Goes Home,” done as a ballad and Louis Cole’s “Everytime.”The instrumentation is cinematically oriented. Doyle plays guitars, keyboards, bass and drum programming, along with Josh Dekaney on drums and percussion, and a string section that features four violins and a cello, arranged and conducted by Doyle.
Doyle executes brilliantly. Put this on, close your eyes, and it’s not difficult to call to mind those openings to the detective shows, or even some of the action sequences. Noir is an apt term as much of the music is requisitely dark and dramatic. Doyle uses plenty of guitar effects, mostly in the rock mode with his use of feedback, sustain and reverb especially effective. He rarely plays subtly, excepting “Lost Letter” and the Zappa piece where he sounds more like an exacting jazz guitarist. On the other hand, there’s a rush of angry sounds and monster tone emanating from his guitar on the detective selections. Because the album is tied together thematically, it‘s best to play it end to end, rather than singling out certain tracks, unless one wants to try the Zappa and Cole pieces that are outliers.
Doyle is music veteran. His first band, Jukin’ Bone, was signed to RCA when Mark was in his late teens. As a sideman or producer he’s worked with David Werner, Cindy Bullens, Hall & Oates, Judy Collins, Meat Loaf, Bryan Adams and Mary Fohl. He’s also provided string arrangements for New Kids on the Block, The Stylistics, Cavedogs and Tiffany. He is currently the Music Director for May Fohl and leads his own band, Mark Doyle & the Maniacs.
Give this a listen. It’s a striking, dramatic instrumental album with stunning moments.
- Jim Hynes