|Taking into account the profusion of reviews of very heavy music I figured it would be nice to balance it all out and review something at the other end of the spectrum (which would also qualify as kvlt material, obviously). Since I recently took delivery of it I decided to go with Paul Gilbert’s Acoustic Samurai.
Till a few years back I wasn’t much of a PG fan. I had him down either as the shredder with the pink guitar, buzzy tone and 80s hair or as the guitarist for the band with that ridiculously overplayed acoustic song. Then, about 3 years back a friend gave me a bunch of music and after wading through tons of black/grind/fuck knows what else metal I stumbled across this little gem.
To cut to the chase – Acoustic Samurai is possibly the ballsiest acoustic album ever made. Now your standard acoustic album is pretty much a band trying to cash in on or heading for mainstream success with soothing music meant to be pleasing to the largest number of (mostly female) ears. The concert will typically involve the whole band walking out toting a ridiculous number of acoustic guitars, shakers etc before proceeding to belt out watered down versions of their wussiest songs with pained soulful expressions on their faces. Paul Gilbert on the other hand, took a guitar, a bassist and his guitar case to tap on and wound up accomplishing a lot more than most bands have with 6 acoustic guitars, elaborate string sections and those perennial shaker thingies in the vocalist’s hands (and no soulful expressions either).
Just about everyone who has had any exposure to Paul Gilbert will know that he has some very insane chops and we aren’t denied here. PG is flat out ripping on the guitar and you get some pretty blazing acoustic guitar leads, which by all conventional logic should not come off a tenth as well as they do here. However come off well they do and everything is nailed with glorious accuracy.
Apart from great chops the one thing which seems to unite most great guitarists has been the curse of being blessed with a less than stellar voice (think Satriani singing. anything). Thankfully PG has somehow managed to avoid this curse to a large extent and has a fairly pleasant voice which manages to fit in perfectly with his quirky lyrical content. Also, while this album is obviously meant for people who like guitar oriented rock it makes for very easy listening and should find favour with the rest of the populace. So if you want to bring your girlfriend around to real music this would be a great starting point.
As expected from a live concert the set list spans his solo stuff and some Racer-X tunes; everything executed with scary precision. So it kind of doubles as a Best of and serves as an excellent means of exposing someone to PG’s discography. In addition to the live set the disc has two bonus studio tracks both of which are quite kick ass in very different ways. “Always for Allison” is a soft mellow number while “Maybe I’ll Die Tomorrow” is plain old heavy metal goodness.
Finally, the best thing about this album and PG’s solo stuff in general, apart from the great musicianship, is that it is just tremendously fun. It’s hard not to smile while hearing a bunch of Japanese people singing “I am Satan” like a church choir. And you can actually hear him having a blast on the record which personally makes for a great listening experience. Especially when having a blast doesn’t run hand in hand with a million off notes. Or one in Paul Gilbert’s case.
Oh yeah. And the greatest cover of Dancing Queen. Ever.