Music Reviews

Review – Steve Oliver “Illuminate”

 August 20, 2018

By  ExoticDJ

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Guitarist Steve Oliver has a new offering for you to enjoy. The album is called Illuminate and it is his first release since 2012.

What the heck has taken so long?

If you are familiar with Oliver’s music, you know he has a distinctive guitar sound. As soon as he strums that guitar, you know you are about to hear some great tracks. This album is no different. Illuminate consists of 11 original tracks, all with a feel-good vibe.

Let’s take a peek!

Review – Steve Oliver “Illuminate”

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The album kicks off with Full Tilt. The intro has an EDM feel to it, and it is an uptempo dance track. Oliver has the whole arsenal on display here, and I love his signature move….you see, he likes to scat as he plays the guitar. I love that, because there are no lyrics to learn and you can just scat along with him as you are cruising down the highway. Walle Larson plays the sax which also adds to the hook.


[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/Cjx1Pg-m3Fs” el_width=”60″ align=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The Game Is On is next. This is a mid-tempo funk track where the bassline guides the groove. Be sure to listen to this on a nice system so you can feel that bottom. There is a great breakdown a little more than halfway through where you can appreciate Joel Taylor’s drums. Oliver also rides that groove quite nicely.

Next is the title track, Illuminate. This is a feel good song where Oliver is at his best. Tateng Katindig is featured on piano, and at six minutes long, the track gives you plenty of time to just enjoy the music.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]If you are the kind of person that just like to groove in your seat, then you will LOVE Visions of Light. This is my favorite type of Steve Oliver track. The groove is more on the mellow side, and the guitar seems to be telling you a personal story. To hear yours, just put everything down and immerse yourself into the music.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/D94M6hkjHVc” el_width=”60″ align=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Do you want a Latin style groove? Vamonos is next and in addition to the guitars, Chase Huna‘s saxophone is also the featured instrument here. I am definitely feeling the hook where everything comes together.

Circles is next, and at first listen, it sounds like one big jam session. The legendary Nelson Rangell is featured here. Rangell takes command of the track with his saxophone. Not to be outdone, Oliver is at his best with those guitar licks.

Raise Up is just an all out jam. This is the type of song that should open a live show. The signature scat is apparent, but I would like to hear four or five vocalists sing those riffs. Now THAT would set it off!

Oliver breaks it all the way down with Hidden Sun. The song overall is a mellow one, but as the track comes to an end, the instrumentation picks up a bit to end on a more uptempo note.

The mellow grooves continue with Soul Deep. Oliver’s guitar has an edge to it, giving the track a slight Blues feel. Listening to the track, I actually caught myself a couple of times as I was looking out my window, lost in reflection for a few minutes.

Up next is the classic Steve Oliver sound. City of Lightning is next with some play between the guitars and a strong saxophone lead. BillyRay Sheppard entertains us with his horn, and I would have to say that they definitely saved the best for last with this one.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/tUdLYs0OFYk” el_width=”60″ align=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The set concludes with an Illuminate reprise with Oliver’s solo guitar.

I was first introduced to Steve Oliver with the track High Noon and I have been a fan ever since. My favorite album from the guitar man is 3D, and Illuminate takes me back to that signature sound.

This is a solid effort, and I am sure you will be listening to this album for many years to come.


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  1. To clairify, this is Steve’s first album of contemporary jazz instrumentals since 2012 but he did release an all vocal album in 2016 which featured Leland Sklar on bass (James Taylor, Phil Collins) and Vinnie Colauita on drums (Sting, Joni Mitchell). It’s quite good…but different.

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