Paul Gilbert preaches Behold Electric Guitar

What can I say about Paul Gilbert? Well the easiest summary is to cite his bands: Racer X, Mr Big and some stunning solo albums as well as numerous appearances on ‘Tribute Albums’ many of which I own…for example, Paul excels on the Purple, Jeff Beck, Jason Becker and Alice Cooper tributes but he is in his element in the ‘tribute band’ Yellow Matter Custard which, as the name is a suggests is all about the Beatles and also features music giants Mike Portnoy, Neal Morse and Matt Bissonette…they have two live albums on release if you want to join in the fun. His new album started its gestation on Pledge Music…I’m sure you know of the troubles with that platform in that they have not been paying the artists the money raised from their fans. Mr Gilbert didn’t let that affect the album or, importantly, his fans…we are getting the pledged product from Paul even though he hasn’t had the money yet…respect sir. The Mascot Label Group is also working with him to make this new album available to everyone.

The title is genius…Behold Electric Guitar without any punctuation says it all as Paul brings his unique attack, tone and innate sense of riff and melody together on a twelve track journey that studies the capabilities of the player and the instrument and both speak volumes. He has the talent and foresight to write lyrics with his guitar so that, even though it an instrumental album, it really does have a lyricism that many sung songs don’t. Plus, the musicianship and flair is beyond doubt, and he also manages to appeal to 70s fusion fans, rock fans as well as guitar geeks like wot I am. It also has some of the best song titles ever and he should be congratulated on that too.

Opening with the declaration, Havin’ It, we are treated to a great keys/guitar in harmony intro before the keys, bass and drums provide superb backing as Paul plays non-shredding phrases of lyricism and depth. The occasional quieter sections have gaps that are filled by the imagination as we interpret ‘Havin’ It’ in our own way…and every listener will hear something different. That is the skill of the instrumental composer and a skill very few have. I Own A Building is the next track and, after the rock riff beginning, I thought we were somewhere else and expected a straw and tin man to appear but the ‘verse’ gives way to a more raucous chorus before the neat and subtle bends of the verse return. How he fits such strong melodies into such a complex composition is beyond me and my pitiful abilities on my Musicman. The dénouement is class incarnate as it builds over arpeggios to the climax of quiet.  Everywhere That Mary Went starts as if we were a 20th Century Schizoid Man but quickly makes its own statement with some superb backing to his incendiary lead. There are no lambs here, so Mary will be free to revel in the runs and solos of stunning virtuosity…including the excellent keys that give the fusion feel a good old bolstering. Love Is The Saddest Thing combines jazz with, courtesy of the keys, a Morse era Deep Purple tinge as Paul rocks like a rocky thing. The slide is where he differs most from Morse and he even has magnets installed in the guitar horn to facilitate quick changes from slide to pick and back again. He is a brilliant slide player too and it’s a part of his playing we see far too little of. (Interestingly (for me at least) Paul uses the bottleneck on his middle finger unlike many who use their little finger: I can relate to this as I too find this my best solution but, each to their own; Blackmore cups it in his palm and still sounds way better than a lot of players…listen to his version of Apache for proof) This is a simply brilliant track that could have been on Infinite as the snare drum paradiddles and hi-hat work evoke the great Ian Paice, as well as a few ‘Morse alikes’. Sir You Need To Calm Down is the next, brilliantly titled, song and features a clever intro before the guitar/keyboard riff establishes itself and gives Paul the freedom to add a dose of funk as he plays around and with the melody in his soloing. This again has a Purplish tinge but it is a damn powerful and evocative individual piece that has so many ingenious variations within it that it takes numerous listens to really appreciate it. Let That Battery Die may be a tribute to the aid of your choice but is more likely, given its more melodic rock approach, to be more esoteric; just like the piano and the voice of the guitar. Or I should say voices of the guitar as this truly melodic song wends its way through so many emotions and textures and Paul manages to put in more expression and storylines into six minutes than many bands spend a whole album trying to achieve. Blues For Rabbit is next and, given the title, it is no surprise when a bluesy shuffle materialises and, again, the guitar actually sings and your mind will picture your favourite blues player singing the guitar verses. Then the bridge brings in a bit more rock before we go to the solo and the hammers don’t get too flash or rapid…it all just fits. Every Snare Drum is a bit more relaxed though still bluesy and is packed with melody and textures. A Snake Bit My Toe may be a strange title (and may even be true); regardless, this slice of dirty blues has superb slide that literally sings to you…I love this track and you will too as you find yourself putting words to the verses played with that majestic slide touch. Now anyone that can pen a song for their favourite piece of garden machinery deserves recognition and I Love My Lawnmower injects fun via its slightly poppy approach. It is a jaunty piece that is pure fun and has a great solo in the middle. Favourite title has to be Herd Of Turtles, although I can’t be sure if that is a euphemism…either way it a fast and funky rock song that has a surprise: a couple of spoken pieces of poetry about said turtles, plus a few rabbits and some musicians that reveals not a lot! It sounds as if Paul is channelling his love of the Beatles as the voice I think is evoking John Lennon. Its still fun and the piano behind the voice is really clever. The last track is Things That Can Walk To You that has a glorious wah’d slide intro that hints at Hendrix, quickly goes a bit Winter and then it is all pure Paul.

In summary then, this is an instrumental album that speaks to you on every track (the spoken poetry notwithstanding) and is not, repeat not, just mindless shredding or egotistical widdling. It is a carefully composed and executed piece of guitar wizardry that says something different on each outing. The band behind him is brilliant too and have made a good album great with their seemingly telepathic understanding of where and how to reinforce the rhythms and lyricism in Paul’s playing.

If you are a guitar lover then there is so much to glean from this excellent album…if guitar isn’t your first love then still give this a try, listen to that instrument talk to you and then decide.

For me, this fits in with my Steve Morse collection brilliantly and will get plenty of plays over the coming months and years…nice one Mr Gilbert.

NINEpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Tracklisting:

  1. Havin’ It
  2. I Own A building
  3. Everywhere That Mary Went
  4. Love Is The Saddest Thing
  5. Sir, You Need To Calm Down
  6. Let That Battery Die
  7. Blues For Rabbit
  8. Every Snare Drum
  9. A Snake Just Bit My Toe
  10. I Love My Lawnmower
  11. A Herd Of Turtles
  12. Things Can Walk To You

Musicians:

Paul Gilbert: guitars

Roland Guerin: bass

Asher Fulero: keyboards

Brian Foxworth, Reinhart Melz, Bill Ray: drums



Produced by John Cuniberti

Paul Gilbert preaches Behold Electric Guitar

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