Tyson debuts with heavyweight offering
Instrumental albums are tricky ones to review; it’s easier when you have something like the recent Joe Bonamassa “Sleep Eazys” project, which contained fresh takes on either well known or more obscure tracks, which, while less well known were still melodic gems from established artists, so, lots of points of reference to get your teeth into.
It’s the trickiest part of the review, describing the actual music, which is of course while most reviews in your Mojos, etc focus on biographical details about the artist (the more tortured the background the better) and frequently limit observations to the lyrical contents, with the result that the music you are reading about could effectively be the results of a piece of twine being twanged between two baked bean tins, to the accompaniment of the mating call of a randy fox, for all that you would know, given the lack of description about what the music sounds like.
So, following tradition, who is Geoff Tyson I hear you ask? Well, like the aforementioned JB, Geoff Tyson was a child prodigy on the guitar, who at the tender age of 13, back in 1983, began studying with one Joe Satriani. Tyson along with fellow student Steve Vai were the only two players who studied with Satriani that he considered “graduated” following their time together. Clearly the guitarist knows his scales! Following a number of associations with different groups in the US, who probably, from their names alone, were on the heavier side of the musical spectrum, the guitarist has finally got around to making his first solo instrumental album, which it’s a relief to report is a real peach!
Given that he can probably play a mile a minute and shred all over his guitar with the volume up at 11, the album is not simply an ego boosting display of finger muscling (although it has to be said that there’s a fair bit of that going on). The guitar playing is pretty immense throughout and if Geoff Tyson had something to prove then this collection does the job.
The intriguingly titled opener “Six Weeks of Tina” is a fantastic example of what can be achieved with multi-layered guitars with different effects playing melodic, rocky runs against each other to create a wall of interesting sounds. Building to a crescendo with a screaming guitar soloing over the swirling underlying guitar lines, the drums cut out midway to highlight a very nimble bass run echoing one of the main themes, before a heavy riff repeats and the opening motifs are repeated, leading to some beautifully fluid and continuous ascending runs. It’s a stupendous opener and would be tremendous to see played live (which would need at least three nimble-fingered guitarists to get anywhere near recreating).
It’s worth mentioning that this is a really well-produced set of songs; the music bursts out of the speakers in a hard-hitting, dense audio spectrum that also has space for the multiple elements to be heard, and there’s certainly a lot going on. “Shag” the second track (probably means something different in the States, unless Geoff T is a keen bird-watcher) kicks off with some electronica before a heavy bass riff (synth-heavy) kicks in with equally heavy drums. The squalling guitar seems to be heading nowhere and just as you’re thinking “aimlessly self-indulgent” a memorable melody emerges before disappearing and making the listener stay alert for its return. Clever. The good thing with self-penned instrumentals is that you can play around with the titles and have a bit of fun without worrying about what it all means, e.g. “Strawberry Napalm”, which, like all the tracks, features some fine playing, including some of that super widdly playing that I associate with metal bands where the fluidity of the hammerings on and off creates a unique sound which is contained in a short hypnotic loop. Otherwise, this track is not all that memorable, which can be a problem with this type of full-on instrumental playing; no matter how good the playing the relentless full-on nature of the music makes you want the band to relax a bit, take a breather and play some chords behind a singer.
This seems like sacrilege to suggest as I’m not entirely sure I approve of things like Spotify, despite it making it possible to discover all sorts of new artists, but someone making up a playlist on the streaming site would probably get more out of this collection if it was broken up and mixed in between non-instrumentals.
The numbers that work best for me are the fast, riff-based ones, where the repetitive themes crash along to underpin the inevitable thick toned solo guitar that soars above. “Monkey Love” is one of these and sticks out as a rare example where multi-tracked backing vocals support the melodic theme that appears now and then from the maelstrom of competing guitars. “Are You Me” is another distinctive track where things are slowed down slightly and a number of different melodic flowing lines appear in complementary fashion.
There’s a lot happening on this collection and if Geoff Tyson was being paid by the note he’d be a multi-millionaire! It’s definitely worth checking out for all lovers of spectacular guitar playing.
Bluesdoodles rating: Great Listening – A worthwhile addition to your collection
1. Six Weeks of Tina
3. Strawberry Napalm
4. Like Life Is Set In Stone
7. Monkey Love
9. Are You With Me
10. Liquid Kitty
“DRINKS WITH INFINITY” – NEW ALBUM
RELEASED FRIDAY 31 JULY 2020
AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER FROM www.geofftyson.com
PRE-SAVE & STREAM FROM
“Great songs and stellar playing. Interesting production and mixing ideas too, making it all a fun musical ride.” – Joe Satriani