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…
I remember sitting in a Paul Gilbert guitar clinic and one of the attendees asking “why do all your records open with the best song and then kind of, well, dwindle down?” This must have been after Bump Ahead and the guy was referring to Colorado Bulldog, Daddy, Brother, Lover and little Boy, and Addicted to that Rush. Well, this isn’t such a record.
Yes, I am a Mr. Big fan. Although I have only seen them live once unfortunately, I have seen the VHS (!) of Live in San Francisco about 100 times and have all their albums, including Raw like Sushi 1-24, the Richie Kotzen ‘effort’ and the Hard Rock Cafe gig. What do you expect, I play guitar and love Paul Gilbert (have all his solo records, too). I am pointing this out, because I think I had pretty high expectations.
One big how-could-you up front: How can you release an album in Japan and wait for the rest of the world for weeks in this day and age? Sure I’ll pay for the limited physical edition of the album when it comes out. Gladly. Thanks for all the memories. But would I not be looking on the torrents for the Japan release to bridge the wait? Well, sure you’ll understand that I cannot answer that.
That out of the way, here comes the actual review:
The opener Undertow is awesome and features a guitar solo that epitomizes how Paul Gilbert has evolved his guitar playing over the year, unlike for example John Petrucci who until the last release Black Cloud and Silver Lining had no solo I want to immediately learn how to play since almost Metropolix Pt. 2. And What if? continues that way. They get the ballad out of the way early, but it is the “rock album” sound that carries all the way to the final track. Solid base, solid drums, solid songwriting. One could argue that Mr. Big songs are not as fast as they used to be, but that case could be made for everything from Bump Ahead on. They were never a metal band but a rock band with exceptionally talented musicians, a fact which they do prove time and again on this album. So in conclusion, this is a great rock album, not just for fans.
Update: Read this review on melodicrock.com, too, it’s worth it. Billy Sheehan thinks so as well.