(All Album Reviews by shadow)
In what is an emerging Magna Carta tradition, their compilations are as much, if not more of an event as their regular releases. Guitar Greats, Vol. 1 brings eleven fretbusters together onto one disc for over an hour of what is for MC, a very diverse set of ‘tudes and moods. A noticeable metal-studded, leatherclad ambiance, circa 1990, permeates the disc, eliciting the notion that this is what transpires (no denigration intended) when erstwhile cock-rockers grow up.
Explorer’s Club kicks it off with an “in progress” edit of “Fate Speaks” (from Age of Impact), a slamming stadium rocker led by John Petrucci, featuring a potent rhythm section of Billy Sheehan and Terry Bozzio, Bret Douglas and Trent Gardiner singing, and a slippery synthesizer solo from Derek Sherinian.
From the brilliant Jethro Tull tribute To Cry You a Song, Derek Trucks slips, slides and churns through the early repertoire blues rocker “Cat’s Squirrel”, aided and abetted by none other than Mick Abrahams and Clive Bunker! Harmonica veteran Charlie Musselwhite contributes some fine low-flyby blues harp.
“Analog Kid” is the first of three tracks from the Rush tribute Working Man we’re treated to. Symphony X’s Michael Romeo leads Jack Russell (vox) Mike Pinella (keys), Mike Portnoy and Billy Sheehan through a prog tour-de-force, with tasty “additional material” mid-section embellishment. Jake E. Lee and Sebastian Bach lead the same grouping through a truncated “Working Man”, and George Lynch, Stu Hamm, James Murphy, and drummer Deen Castronovo render a fiery reading of “Anthem”, vocalist Mark Slaughter coming closest to nailing the manic Geddy helium timber of the three.
A previously unreleased jam, “Roadside America Medley” finds the Bozzio/Levin/Stevens trio, by turns, contemplative, melodic, and ferocious.
A pair of deadly prog metal blasters from Jordan Rudess’ Rhythm of Time clearly displays why he was chosen to co-headline this year’s MoogFest. With Rod Morgenstein and Dave LaRue manning the beat, Jordan whips up a batch of breakneck baroque riffery guaranteed to spin your head. The only problem is, his synth patches are so crunchy, and his order of execution so idiomatically guitaristic that his performances tend to overshadow those of Vinnie Moore (“Time Crunch”) and Joe Satriani (“Screaming Head”).
Niacin assumes a rare guitar quartet setting, and John Novello’s B3 unobtrusively comps with Steve Lukather’s “three Kings” (B.B., Albert, and Freddy) inspired licks on the awesome blues original “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” (from Deep). Glenn Hughes delivers the lyric with passion and soul.
Steve Morse waxes acoustic on “Cool Wind, Green Hills” (from Major Impacts 2), and finally, Testament’s Alex Skolnick conjures an Allman Bros. on strychnine ‘n’ mescal stew vibe with “Western Sabbath Stomp” (from Last Day in Paradise), a country metal jamboree that utilizes several slyly referenced Black Sabbath riffs.
Now, Pete has recently taken some gass on these pages for his tendency toward superstar studded compilations, tributes, and one-off groupings that some believe is mere exploitation. Check out some of the young blood in the MC stable (Oz Noy, Khallice, Michael Lee Firkins, to name a few), and you’ll see that his artist development program is alive and well. As for Guitar Greats, Vol. 1? This ones a keeper for sure. And I eagerly await Volume 2!
Vlad the Inhaler