January/February 1997 Issue
Sandy Weltman and the sanDroids: "Escape Velocity"
by Gene Bertram
One of the things I love is finding music played on the "wrong" instruments. I remember finding a tape years ago (where did that one go, anyway?) of a banjo player whoíd never been told banjos were for bluegrass and country music. He made this wonderful recording of Bach, Vivaldi, and other classical composers transcribed for banjo, cello, and a few other instruments. It gave me a real appreciation for the banjo as a musical instrument, not just a bluegrass one.
Now, I have playing in the background as I write this a new recording by Sandy Weltman and the sanDroids titled "Escape Velocity," and itís also a real treat. Those who are familiar with Mr. Weltman, and I admit I wasnít, probably know what to expect from him, but I was blown away. Now, most of this music isnít the "peddle to the metal" banjo stuff that normally leaves me gasping and wondering just how many fingers that guy has, but donít be fooled by either the slower speed or the seeming simplicity of these pieces. Iím not sure how many times Iíve listened to this CD so far, but I keep coming back for more. And just when I think I know where a song is going next, thereís a variation thrown in to keep you interested. This kind of superior musicianship is rare, but the sanDroids pull it off song after song.
In addition to a very nice instrumental version of the Beatleís "I Will," the sanDroids cover Tico Tico, Carmen Mirandaís fun hit, Jerome Kernís "All The Things You Are," and Tacco Belles Canon, a great cover of, yes, you guessed it, Pachelbel. The other seven tracks are original, all written by Sandy Weltman except "New Road," written with Henry Claude, who plays percussion on three of the pieces. The title track, described as "your typical bluegrass, rock-and-roll, symphonic space journey," typifies the attitude of joy and silliness thatís often missing in this day of overproduced music recorded by people who arenít even in the same room playing together. The sanDroids are having fun, and it shows.