Review: Paul Gilbert – Vibrato

As you might remember from entries like this about Steve Lukather, Steel Panther and of course my review of the latest Mr. Big album that I am quite a fan of Paul Gilbert. As mentioned not only of his guitar chops but his songwriting as well. For those who don’t know Paul aside from Mr. Big, he has done about 12 solo albums in addition to Mr. Big and Racer X…

This month his latest opus Vibrato (Spotify-link, but I bought it!) was published and it is classic Gilbert an then again not. His last release Fuzz Universe was all instrumental, more in the instrumental guitar album vein, and Vibrato is nothing like it. It’s very bluesy, very song-oriented (Gilbert is a highly underrated songwriter) but also has jazzy touch too it. The whole album has much better ‘band’ feel too it than e.g. Fuzz Universe, Thomas Lang on drums (he who also auditioned for the Dream Theater drum job, among many other accolades), Kelly LeMieux on bass and his wife Emi on keyboards are the guilty parties. My guess is that a lot of the studio tracks were tracked partly live, at least that’s how I hear it.

Vibrato is a very accessible record, not a shred record, although there is great musicianship on display as well as Paul’s virtuosity of course. If you have so far not tried his solo records and would like to  this is a good place to start. It definitely is a more serious record than e.g. Alligator Farm

Review: Richie Sambora – Aftermath of the Lowdown

Richie Sambora is mostly known as Bon Jovi guitarist and ex-husband of Heather Locklear and Denise Richards. Very unfortunate because he’s a brilliant blues guitarist and composer. Stranger in this Town (1991) and Undiscovered Soul (1998) were great blues records and I was very much waiting for a new record, especially since Bon Jovi are taking it slower these days.

Aftermath of the Lowdown features 12 very diverse songs ranging from classic full-band pieces to just his voice and acoustic guitar. In Bon Jovi he sings a strong second voice but aside from being a very important songwriter of the band (and he’s in the Songwriter Hall of Fame), he really does have a strong voice and is able to carry lots of emotion, a feature many singers curiously lack. Lyrically the album seems like a retrospective on his recent struggles with substance abuse and relationships.

If you like your Mellencamp a bit stronger, thought the last Bon Jovi albums lacked a certain originality or just want to listen to a classic American A&R album give this a spin.

Review: Flying Colors – Flying Colors

(before you get any ideas, I have the pre-order confirmation so I think it’s ok to write about it)

Although it’s only March I can say without a doubt that this album will contend for album of the year. Flying Colors, the supergroup consisting of Steve Morse (Dregs, Deep Purple), Neal Morse (Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, Solo), Dave LaRue (Satriani, Dregs, numerous others), Casey McPherson (Alpha Rev) and of course Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Transatlantic, numerous others) was for once not the brain child of Mike Portnoy but producer Bill Evans. With maybe the exemption of singer Casey McPherson, Evans put together a room full of egos and made it work. Flying Colors – Flying Colors is a great debut album and I am not just saying this as a Dream Theater/Mike Portnoy fan boy.

During the first listen, I didn’t even notice/remember/pay attention to the drums because they don’t stand out. Portnoy’s playing is of course outstanding, but this isn’t a drums album. When Portnoy characterized the album as Beatles meets Yes meets I don’t remember, I was thinking that this might be a tall order to follow. Of course I was hoping for it to be true but then of course the artist is going to laude is work.

Rest assured though: This album is a must have for music connaisseurs as it is as song-oriented as you would like a Beatles album to be, yet delivers enough nuggets for lovers of every instrument/fans of all participants to be very happy. Although only Portnoy knew singer McPherson and he was kind of the wild card in that quintett the vocal lines are catchy to a degree that I was whistling some lines after one listen. For a bunch of guys who haven’t been rehearsing material for half a year but just got together in a studio for 9 days, this album is truly epic. You think I am exaggerating? Listen to Blue Ocean and Kayla and try not to sing the chorus under the shower tomorrow? Listen to Fool in my heart and try not to think of old Steve Morse , listen to Better than walking away only to have your heart ripped out by McPherson’s lyrics.

Seriously, give it a spin.


Review: Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth

So, Van Halen has a new record out, some 13 years after Van Halen III. I am not a Van Halen super fan, I like 5150, OU812 and the one with Poundcake on it. And I wasn’t too thrilled after news got out that most of the songs came from the vault and came of pre-1975 demos. And after  two listens I thought Tattoo, the first single was flat. But… Big But:

I love the new album. Tattoo gets better and better and has just the right tempo. The second track She’s the Woman not only showcases the classic Alex Van Halen drum sound but what’s more a second snare stroke in the down beat that is just irresistible for me not to like. Almost like Foo Fighter’s My Hero a bit faster. The album continues like that, catchy riffs by Eddie, lots of syncopation, great backing vocals in the chorus. There is even the obligatory oriental riff with a killer guitar line reminding me of Nuno’s deep bendy vibe in the Hip Today verse. All in all a great rock’n’roll record with the chance to stay in rotation for a while.

8 of 10