MR BIG – LIVE FROM THE LIVING ROOM

Out now on Frontiers Records

I was never a big fan of the “unplugged” phenomenon. It always seemed like a cheap attempt to bestow some “hey look, it’s real music” credibility upon rock. By the time Testament started doing acoustic versions of their tunes, it was clear the shark had been jumped…

So… Mr Big. There’s no arguing their catchy tunes lend themselves to acoustic interpretation better than most. But still…

Paul Gilbert’s electric riffing has been replaced with acoustic strumming and Pat Torpey makes do with what sounds like a minimal kit and some percussion gizmos. For the most part Billy Sheehan seems to be using his normal rumbling bass tone. So far for unplugged. There’s strings in the background as well. To add that certain je ne sais quoi, presumably.

Does any of this add to the songs? Not really. All they’ve managed to do is remove the rock. There is not a single tune where I don’t prefer the original version.

Gilbert’s tone isn’t quite as plasticy as for instance Michael Schenker’s but there’s still way too much piezo in there. Needless to say it doesn’t mesh with Sheehan’s grinding bottom end.

Flawless execution of a poor idea. Very hard to rate.

Rating – 90% for the musicianship and songs.
30% for the tired attempt at reviving the unplugged concept (that should remain dead and buried for all eternity)
Averages out at 60%

Review by Your Daddy Brother Belgian Lover Boy Sancho.

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MR BIG – WHAT IF… (REVIEW)

Released 21st January 2011 on Frontiers Records

After last year’s excellent “Back To Budokan” Mr Big now present us with the first studio album since the reunion.

Opening track “Undertow” has all the typical Mr Big ingredients and sets the mark for the album. “American Beauty” is more up-tempo, referencing “Addicted To That Rush” if not quite so frantic.“Stranger In My Life” is an excellent power ballad. “Nobody Takes The Blame” is a slow paced grinder that sets us up for “Still Ain’t Enough For Me”, another fast track.
“Once Upon A Time” and “As Far As I Can See” introduce more groove to the proceedings.“All The Way Up” is the second ballad, and it’s another good one. Surprisingly, “I Won’t Get In My Way” sees some odd rhythms sneaking in, and sounds more contemporary overall.  “Around The World” takes it up a notch with arguably the most aggressive riffing so far.

The album ends pretty much the same way it started. “I Get The Feeling” once again combines all the required elements for a Mr Big tune. Bonus track “Unforgiven” is just that, a very nice bonus on an already brilliant album.

Obviously both the musicianship and production are beyond reproach. Billy Sheehan is a unique bass player who fills out the bottom while keeping things moving, allowing Paul Gilbert space to branch out with some spacious arrangements and of course insane lead playing. Pat Torpey is rock solid. Say what you will about Eric Martin, but his voice fits this music like a glove.
The guys made a Mr Big album, for better or for worse. Rather than reinvent themselves, they’ve included all the expected elements in a tasty platter. Swagger, melody and virtuosity all combine to make this a very pleasing album.

Rating – 92%
Review by “Green Tinted Belgian Mind” Sancho


GEORGE BELLAS – THE DAWN OF TIME (ARCHIVE REVIEW)

After the previous 78 minute one track effort of the hard to get into ‘Step Into The Future’, world acclaimed guitar virtuoso George Bellas has seen fit to make things more accessible this time giving us 19  tracks for our 79 minutes of listening time.  Obviously George is not short of material or inspiration, with the music proving that he is in the most inspired shape of his career as this is an absolute cracker from start to finish.  That said as Bellas has handled everything on this album himself with the exception of drums coming from Marco Minnemann he proves he is also a master of bass and keyboards also.

Seeing fit to deliver an album consisting of elements from across his career means forays into neo-classical tinted explorations as well as highly progressive skilled compositions gives us the best of both worlds for anyone with a passing interest in George’s career which began on Shrapnel Records in the mid 90’s.

Not only has Bellas looked over his career but also strived to improve things sonically too and this album is a beautiful work of art not only in composition but also production.  Shunning the current trend to overload an CD with volume ‘The Dawn Of Time’ is a god send for lovers of dynamics (even if it means you have to reach to turn your volume control/slider up) with Bellas virtually eschewing compressors for the albums creation.  The album has a wonderful sense of space and breathes beautifully, to top it off Bellas tone has been captured so purely tone fanatics will be drooling over this.

Highlights of the album come in almost every track from the simplistic (by Bellas standards) opener ‘Cyclone’ which will draw you in with its neo-classical feel, before the more progressive time signatures of ‘Seeding The Universe’ makes you wonder how George does it.  The neo-classical edge comes back with the glorious ‘Let There Be Light’ which is home to an absolute scorcher of a solo with tone to die for, rich in harmonics yet not overloaded with gain, the sound really shows that its all in the fingers and Bellas makes the string moan, cry and scream big time here.  The title track is home to advanced time signatures which Bellas manages to make sound easier than the average 4/4 before the stripped down almost easy approach of ‘Machine Man’ with its deep bass guitar sound (again tone to die for folks) and Hammond organ make a fine backdrop for Bellas to work his guitar magic over with some eastern tonalities and some Zeppelin style orchestrations. 

‘Voyage To Triangulum’ is a slow minor blues progression allowing George to get all emotional on us and the result is pure beauty. ‘Mysterious Light’ is one of the most experimental tracks on the album being mostly orchestral with space age fx, before the Bach n roll of ‘Mystical Dream’ will please fans of Malmsteen/Uli Roth etc, again the solo section is pure aural ecstasy for lovers of guitar.

‘Glimmering Stardust’ is another absolute highlight building throughout its journey where again the bass guitar and drums of Marco Minnemann (Paul Gilbert) are a joy to behold building with piano flurries.  The solo that begins at 2:09 is so emotionally charged it brought a lump to my throat such is the soul on offer here.  This coupled with the lone guitar over soft chordal backings really showcases how well Bellas has captured his new found tone and again the result is nothing short of stunning.

‘Electromagnetic’ has an almost 70’s rock vibe ala Focus to it with its pulsating rhythm and Hammond organ, it’s an easy track to digest too and a nice fusion of styles.  ‘Genesis Of Life’ harks back to the progressive territories explored on his ‘Planterary Alignment’ album with some nice synth work whilst ‘Carbon Creature’ is dark, with a fine sense of impending doom about it allowing Bellas to deliver some lush classical sounding melodies. The joyful light and air of ‘Suns Of Andromeda’ is a nice contrast to its predecessor and wouldn’t be out of place on an Uli Jon Roth album.  Trumpet fanfares introduce ‘We Are Not Alone’ which has an Uli vibe about it also thanks to its beautifully worked vibrato and stunning note choice.

‘Nightmare Awoken’ is the heaviest track on offer in terms of rhythm guitar with a riff that sounds like vintage Malmsteen yet Yngwie would never be this bold when it comes to the lead guitar patterns which sees Bellas maintaining a neo-classical edge yet eschewing all the stock motifs made famous by Yngwie.  ‘Primordial Atom’ is like Mozart on steroids and here Bellas is really smoking tempo wise in his lead work.  ‘Metropolis’ then takes a radical change of direction being built around a groovy bass line which leads into a nice new sound that adds another string to Bellas’ armoury. The delicate major tonality and laid back tempo of ‘Always At My Side’ yields more fine melodies and a sense of calm before the progressive and heavily orchestrated closer ‘The Angels Are Calling’ sees the album out.

I have written a lot about the music on offer on ‘The Dawn Of Time’ the music on offer is worthy of much more and its been a sheer delight listening to this album numerous times in run up to the review. 

With ‘The Dawn Of Time’ George Bellas has delivered his magnum opus and this is a stunning all round release.  Yes there is a lot to absorb, but there is also enough here to draw you in on first listen and from then you will be hooked.  George Bellas has proven himself to be the guitar virtuoso of 2010 and despite living in a different time and playing in a different genre deserves to be remembered as we do now with the likes of Mozart, Bach, Lennon and McCartney.  This is timeless music of undisputed quality making it definitive George Bellas.
 
Hot Spots : Pretty much the whole damn thing.
Rating : 98%

PAUL GILBERT – FUZZ UNIVERSE (REVIEW)

Out Now / Mascot Records

Instrumental album number three from one of the biggest names in rock guitar Paul Giulbert. As with his previous two efforts the quality is undeniable, it seems though that Paul is rocking a little more this time and making more use of melodic structures and themes, not that these were lacking on previous release, only they are stronger and more concise here.

“Fuzz Universe” is an easily accessible instrumental release, full of fun tunes, plenty of jaw dropping “wow” factor yet a great deal of love for the art of guitar is also present. Highlights abound in pretty much every song, but the Rush-esque tints in “OIympic” are a joy, the melodic slabs of “Will My Screen Door Stop Neptune” and the dynamics of “Blowtorch” also rank amongst the albums best.

Topped off with an organic live clean sounding production this is another fine instalment from Pablo Gilberto and worthy of your time.

Rating – 90%