Genesis guitarist Daryl Stuermer covers Sting, Peter Gabriel on solo album
By: Peter Roche, AXS Contributor
Guitarist Daryl Stuermer worked three killer covers into his set when he opened for Mike and The Mechanics at the Hard Rock in Northfield last winter. They were familiar tunes by popular artists, but Stuermer put own his stamp on each by cleverly transforming their memorable melodies into strident, soaring guitar leads.
Studio recordings of those electrifying tributes now appear on Stuermer’s appropriately-titled new instrumental album,Breaking Cover, alongside fleet-fingered extrapolations of songs made famous by other high-profile bands. Stuermer also includes two remakes of his own.
Leave it to a prog-rock alum like Stuermer to surmise that old-school Peter Gabriel might partner well with vintage Sting both in concert and at home on a digital playlist. Heck, even those iconic singers have come to realize the creative and commercial potential of an extended pairing: Gabriel and Sting are touring together this summer.
But Stuermer, who cut his chops in Sweetbottom before exploring jazz fusion depths with Jean-Luc Ponty, is closer to this music than most, having stinted on-and-off in Gabriel’s ex-ensemble—Genesis—since 1978 (he replaced Steve Hackett on the road) and collaborating with Gabriel’s singing successor Phil Collins on such chart-busters as “In the Air Tonight” and “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven.”
Remember Collins’ MTV staple “Don’t Lose My Number,” the Phil Collins / Phil Bailey duet “Easy Lover,” and Frida’s menacing “Something Going On?” That’s Daryl tearing up the fret board.
The Milwaukee native first flew solo on 1987’s Steppin’ Out and 1989’s Live and Learn. He joined Collins and Genesis in-studio and on tour throughout the ‘90s, traveled the world on the Genesis reunion tour in 2007-08, and performed with jazz trios and symphony orchestras in the ‘00s.
Stuermer has also lent his serrated guitar chops to solo LPs by Phil Bailey (Earth, Wind & Fire), Frida Lyngstad (ABBA), and George Duke (Frank Zappa).
Incidentally, the affable guitar god has family ties in Northeast Ohio: His wife graduated from Magnificat High School in Rocky River. When Stuermer’s mother-in-law fell upon poor health in 2013, he held a special show at Beachland Ballroom to benefit his cancer-fighting friends at the Hospice of The Western Reserve. He was also on hand to inaugurate the Center for Global Health and Innovation in downtown Cleveland.
Dedicated to Daryl’s granddaughter, Breaking Cover Stuermer faithfully recreates 1982 Gabriel hit “Shock the Monkey” (from Security), albeit with sizzling Godin guitar lines filling in for Peter’s panicked vocal. He also tosses out 1979 Police castaway classic “Message in a Bottle” (from Reggatta de Blanc), mimicking Andy Summer’s cool repeating guitar arpeggio and aping Sting’s metaphorical island verses with his six-string.
Stuermer doesn’t sacrifice any of Gabriel or Sting’s exotic world-music appeal. Thanks to his accomplished band members—who simulate the former’s African biorhythms and quirky keys and the latter’s hurried calypso cadence—Daryl captures the “feel” the originals even as he machetes his own path through their dense sonic foliage and navigates their enigmatic oceans. Drummer Alan Arber (Cold Sweat) and bassist Eric Hervey (Street Life, Douglas Spotted Eagle) conspire on Covers’ catchy grooves, building sturdy bedrocks to bolster Stuermer’s aerial excursions.
Naturally, Stuermer takes to his own music like a marathon runner slipping into a favorite pair of sneakers. “Wherever You Are” (from Waiting in the Wings) and “I Will Remember You” (from both Retrofit and Nylon String Sampler) are at once accessible, fantastical, and oozing with finesse. Russian-born pianist Kostia sprinkles both with delicate keyboard notes, adding another layer of texture to the pieces without obstructing Daryl’s leads.
Stuermer channels Walter Becker and Larry Carlton on jazzy Steel Dan gem “Aja,” then dials in a little distortion for the Max Middleton-written “Freeway Jam” (from Jeff Beck’s Blow by Blow). Philly-bred Brad Cole handles the keys here (parts of the album were tracked in his Colemine Studio in Nashville) as Stuermer shreds, helping his bandleader turn what might be rote retreads by any other guitarist into adventuresome, ear-tugging tributes.
Fans who thrilled to Another Side of Genesis will enjoy Daryl’s aggressive spin on their urgent 1983 detective ditty “Just a Job to Do.” And Stuermer gives Derek and The Dominos’ “Layla” a run for the money, covering both Eric Clapton’s clean guitar runs and Duane Allman’s heartbreaking slide passages—and reinterpreting Jim Gordon’s glorious piano coda as a magnificent six-string outro.
Genesis diehards are already hip to Stuermer’s guitar secrets. But fans of Allan Holdsworth, Steve Vai, Al DiMeola, and Eric Johnson would also do well to duck and cover with Daryl’s latest.