Some musicians are there from the start, founding members who guide the group to success. Others come along at opportune (or inopportune) moments. This can be a dicey proposition. Joining a group after they have been successful either means living up to already high expectations or saving a group from itself. In the late '80s, the Red Hot Chili Peppers offered guitarist John Frusciante a shot a delivering on both counts.
Frusciante, born in Queens of musical parents, though his dad was a judge, came to the attention of the RHCPs following the death (heroin overdose) of original guitarist Hillel Slovak. Vocalist Anthony Kiedis and bassist Flea (Michael Balzary) found an initial replacement. When that didn't pan out Frusciante was enlisted. He played on two of the Peppers' more notable efforts, '89 release "Mother's Milk" and the follow-up "Blood Sugar Sex Magik." But Frusciante was hooked on hard drugs. He eventually quit the Peppers and Dave Navarro stepped in. But Navarro's stint wasn't permanent either.
Meanwhile, Frusciante continued to record, releasing "Niandra Lades & Usually Just A T-Shirt" in '95. But the unraveled effort met with little success. At rock bottom, Frusciante went into rehab. Cleaned up, he was invited back into the Peppers. He accepted with the group releasing "Californication" in '99.
In between "Californication" and the Peppers' next effort, '02's "By The Way," Frusciante issued "To Record Only Water For Ten Days" which garnered some attention though Frusciante claimed he never wanted to be on the radio or MTV.
'04 was a remarkably productive year for the guitarist. Working with multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Josh Klinghoffer, Frusciante released "The Will To Death," "Shadows Collide With People" and "A Sphere In The Heart Of Silence." The following year "Curtains" hit the streets.
Lead singers are notorious for producing solo albums that are pale impressions of the groups they front. Guitarists take a different tack. Anyone expecting a Chili Peppers derivative from Frusciante's solo work will be disappointed. Not that there aren't Peppers touches here and there, like "A Doubt" on "The Will To Death." But the rest of that album delves into '60s influenced material spanning Folk to garage. That's not entirely a good thing. In fact, Frusciante's solo career could use fewer acoustic ramblings. And that's the odd thing about Frusciante. Many guitarists would take a solo album as an opportunity to show off blazing fretwork without having to worry about overshadowing a temperamental vocalist. While Frusciante frequently demonstrates his chops it is often on an acoustic rather than electric guitar.
"To Record Only Water For Ten Days" features concise tracks filled with power and tension. "Going Inside," "Someone's" and the jangling shuffle "Away & Anywhere" leap out. This is arguably his best effort.
"The Radiohead/"Kid A" influenced "A Sphere In The Heart Of Silence" has a great song in "Afterglow" but there's a lot of time wasted noodling around with spacey, electronic sounds. "Shadows Collide With People" is a moody, expressive set that's highlighted by "Second Walk," a straight-ahead shot of guitar Rock. "Curtains," with help from Omar Rodriguez (Mars Volta), provides an acoustic airy sound with a high proportion of ballads.