With such a rich and varied genre often being excluded from your more public charts, our reviewer delves into the realm of instrumental rock to bring you the top 5 albums.
5) Dream Theater – A Change of Seasons
The first thing you’ll probably notice about A Change of Seasons is the mammoth of a title track, making up one third of an album that already clocks in at over sixty minutes. And perhaps, that is why this reviewer doesn’t regard A Change of Seasons as an EP, but rather as an actual album. Every member of the group John Myung (Bass), Mike Portnoy (Drums), John Petrucci (Guitars) Jordan Rudess (Keyboards) and James LaBrie (Vocals) shows off their abilities, combining them to make one hell of an epic title track: Constant rhythm changes, a good balance of melody and power, and every instrument used to the full extent.
Unfortunately, this is the only actual piece of new material on A Change of Seasons, as the remaining four tracks are all made up of cover versions, which don’t quite strike up to the mark of the 23 minute entry track. Nevertheless, the album should be heard and is an instrumental rock turning point for the title track alone if nothing else.
4) Booker T and The MG’s – Green Onions
As the house band of Stax, Booker T. & the MG’s defined an entire label’s sound by anonymously shaping countless classic records. However, they were always more than just backing.
Keyboardist Booker T. Jones, guitarist Steve Cropper, bassist Lewie Steinberg and drummer Al Jackson, Jr. didn’t stray from their comfort zone – none of them had the technique or confidence to sing. But their own instrumental recordings were, quite improbably, sometimes as compelling as the output of Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and other artists whom they accompanied.
Whilst this may not be the most typical entry into the realms of instrumental rock, due to lack of shredding or truly masterful ability, the album is timeless, iconic and influential. The slinky bluesy tunes are destined for so much more than just backing tracks and deserve a listen for the effortless style they exude.
3) Guthrie Govan – West Coast Grooves
This album is technically the brainchild of James Graydon, a very talented jazz and session musician in his own right due to his contribution in actually engineering the backing tracks that the legendary Guthrie Govan can be heard playing over.
Govan is known for his virtuoso command of the guitar, due to both his technical ability and proficiency in various styles. A 2006 interview hailed him as the “virtuoso’s virtuoso” and said of him, “Guthrie Govan is recognised by his peers as possibly the scariest guitarist alive. Combining an unparalleled technical ability with a mastery of almost all styles, Guthrie is equally at home in a traditional jazz combo as he is performing death-defying ‘shred’ guitar. Coupled with some seriously funky grooves and an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music styles, a wonderfully developed slide style and improvisational abilities to match anyone, he may just be the most complete guitarist out there”. This praise can be heard in evidence on the album West Coast Grooves, a series of backing tracks he was sent by ‘The Truth in Shred’ which he then improvised over, creating a seriously good Bluesy-Rock album. Whilst much of Govan’s work isn’t readily available to stream, it is worth seeking out the CDs of his solo work or that of his side project, Erotic Cakes.
2) Yngwie Malmsteen – Rising Force
Love or hate the man himself (Arrogant, Picky, Narcissistic are but a few words Yngwie is branded with) but after he sent out demos from his homeland of Sweden at age 18, he took the industry by storm and within just a couple of years was already the guitar-world equivalent of Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky. He was that damn good. Malmsteen fused Classical music with metal to create something that was off-the-wall and miles ahead of what everyone else was doing. It floored classically-trained musicians and mainstream rockers alike. This lightning-fast complex playing revolutionised the way people thought about guitar, much in the same way that Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen did in prior decades. Malmsteen’s 1984 debut Rising Force shocked the guitar world and left skilled players everywhere scrambling for answers on how to catch up with this Swede.
1) Joe Satriani – Crystal Planet
Whilst Surfing with the Alien is widely regarded as the legendary Satch’s best work, this reviewer is inclined to disagree. Satriani has been a world-renowned guitar God since the early 90’s with his ground-breaking sounds and pushing the instrument to it’s limits, this for many peaked with the aforementioned album. However, despite this technical prowess and the peaks of Surfing With The Alien, this particular album shows a side to the guitarist rarely seen in his field. The technique is actually attainable by many others, it doesn’t belong to the realms of the mostly impossible work of technicians such as Steve Vai (Satriani’s student at one time) or the previously mentioned Yngwie Malmsteen. Each song has it’s own unique feeling and no song feels similar to the last, allowing the album to showcase the fact an instrument (or indeed a set of them) can perform as any standard set up band with a vocalist can and in many cases, better.
Author: Steve, Southgate store