Rockenfield/Speer Hell's Canyon
Paul Lawler and Paul Speer Wonders
CD Reviews by Scott "Dr. Music" Itter
November 2009

Rockenfield/Speer Hell's Canyon

Fans of Queensryche will recognize the Rockenfield name. This is their drummer, Scott Rockenfield, beating the skins with a talented guitar player by the name of Paul Speer. Now, it will come as no surprise to hear that this disc is filled with Rockenfield's patent drum technique. The brilliant rhythm patterns, the intricate percussion details, and all of the other great values that the Queensryche drummer brings to the table are in abundance here; that is not a surprise. What really makes this disc so divine is the fact that Rockenfield has found a perfect match with Speer. Speer is a guitar player that has pinpoint intuition and touch. He sets the mood, he explodes, he lies low he does whatever the music asks him to do, and he does it with great flair and passion.

The song "Red Torrent" immediately comes to mind when I try to come up with a track that best represents this disc. It has a drum pattern that is obscene, and a guitar part that's practically lyrical when it swoons. Speer plays the perfect piece of music for the concrete rhythm that's been laid by Rockenfield. Speer also acts as the other half of the rhythm section here, playing bass on all of the tracks. "River Of No Return" and "Seven Devils" find Speer exhibiting his bass chops as well as his guitar prowess. Rockenfield's work on "Seven Devils" and "Red Torrent" might be some of the best he's ever done, while Speer shines brightly throughout the effort.

The top notch production, the haunting Queensryche-inspired background choir sound, and two immeasurable talents make this a disc that's sure to please any fan of great music.


Now that I've told you about Paul Speer's work with a venerable hard rock drummer, I'd like to introduce you to another side of Paul Speer. Speer's solo discs are filled with atmospheric guitar tone and an overdose of feel. Oculus, the CD before his most recent solo release, Wonders, has an accompanying DVD that takes you on a visual journey through that record. Filmed in visually enchanting spots around the world, the music from the Oculus CD becomes your legs as you walk, run, and crawl about in a musical menagerie of guitar pleasure. It really is a unique concept that is very entertaining.

This Wonders CD is very much like the Oculus release in that it carries you away on an exciting aural journey. This one is not a journey of sight and sound like Oculus was (not yet anyway), but as you will find out, sound turns out to be quite enough on this trip.

Paul Lawler and Paul Speer
(featuring Satine Orient) Wonders

I've always thought music was made as food for the soul. The thick, rich melodies and the fervent waves of sound prepare a meal for your mind. There are a few artists that really tap into this thought process and deliver in robust fashion. Pink Floyd is probably the most popular of these cerebral types. I'm talking about music that feeds that one spot in your mind; the spot that nobody else seems to reach. Keyboardist/percussionist/flutist Paul Lawler and guitarist / bassist / keyboardist Paul Speer deliver massive quantities of that kind of sensation throughout this record. You'll close your eyes and drift out to seas, where the waters are sometimes calm and other times more rousing and demonstrative. You'll visit worlds inside your mind that you've never ventured to before.

There is a wondrous power exuding from this record. With the help of French vocalist Satine Orient, Lawler and Speer create landscapes that have peaks and valleys. The track that immediately comes to mind for me is "Petra," which finds Speer jamming over a canvas of various sounds. There is a low hum in parts of this song that almost sound like a pan flute, but upon closer more intensive listening you can hear breaths. Is this a vocal, perhaps?! Shhh&&don't tell me, I don't wanna know. I love the mystery here. The track also finds Lawler delivering a tin whistle-type sound reminiscent of that from the Titanic hit, "My Heart Will Go On." All of this blends beautifully to create an astonishing body of music.

"Angkor Wat" is another track that immediately comes to mind when I think of this disc. Speer and his guitar are the main focus on this one, and he delivers a passionate, David Gilmour-like performance that literally bends and shapes itself into something musically penetrating. And speaking of "musically penetrating," the most diverse track on the disc has got to be "Tahoma." This song layers an acoustic guitar and an ultra-melodic electric. It has a slight classic 60's kind of keyboard sound buried deep underneath everything. It has an enchanting breathy flute. And to highlight the track, we get an emotional burst of vocals from Orient that serves as a centerpiece to all the action.

This CD is one of the most unique in my collection. Is it unique because of the way it sounds? Not really. Is it unique because of the selection of instruments that are involved? No, not really. Then you ask, "Why is this so unique?" This disc is unique because it's one of the only of its kind that kept my interest all the way through. It's unique because of its perfection. There's not a note out of place here. That's rare, even for records by the best artists in the world. Do I consider Lawler and Speer to be two of the best musicians in the world? Well, I haven't heard enough from either of them to make that distinction, but this Wonders disc is one hell of a mouthpiece to state their case.