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Acoustic Alchemy Biography

Formed in 1981, Acoustic Alchemy first found acclaim as the vehicle for Greg Carmichael (1 January 1953, London, England; nylon string guitar) and Nick Webb (b. Nicholas Webb, 1954, Manchester, Lancashire, England, d. 5 February 1998; steel string guitar). The duo’s blend of instrumental music was neither jazz nor pop, but contained elements of both, together with flamenco, reggae, and folk. Webb was a child actor who studied at the London Academy Of Music And Dramatic Art, and was originally musically influenced by John Martyn and Pentangle, running a folk club in Berkhamsted. After studying jazz at Leeds College Of Music, Webb spent a couple of years attempting to become a pop songwriter. Increasingly drawn towards jazz, he founded Acoustic Alchemy in 1981 with classical guitarist Simon James (b. 13 March 1954, York, England) in the early 80s before linking up with Carmichael in 1985. Carmichael had studied classical guitar at the London College of Music and gained experience playing with jazz groups.

Webb and Carmichael’s break came when, frustrated by the apathy for their music in England, they took a Virgin Atlantic Airlines in-flight gig, and literally played their way to America. They were signed to MCA Records as part of their Master Series, and debuted in 1987 with the excellent Red Dust And Spanish Lace, which contained one of their finest compositions ‘Mr. Chow’, an example of Chinese Reggae! Following Natural Elements (1988) and Blue Chip (1989) they joined GRP Records, although their debut for the label, Reference Point, lacked the life and sparkle of their MCA work. They redressed the balance with Back On The Case in 1991, although subsequent albums began to sound workmanlike. By this time, however, the group had built up a substantial following in America thanks to their popularity on ‘adult contemporary radio’ stations. They were also successful in Japan and mainland Europe.

Webb died of pancreatic cancer in February 1998, and had unfortunately been too weak to contribute to the same year’s Positive Thinking... Carmichael continues to record under the Acoustic Alchemy name, working with longstanding sidemen Frank Felix (bass), John Parsons and Miles Gilderdale (guitars), and Terry Disley and Anthony ‘Fred’ White (keyboards). The group has released albums for the Higher Octave and Narada Jazz labels.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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