PAUL GILBERT – Stone Pushing Uphill Man

Shrapnel 2014

PAUL GILBERT - Stone Pushing Uphill Man

PAUL GILBERT –
Stone Pushing Uphill Man

MR. BIG axeman goes on a covers rampage: no casualties reported despite the notes overkill.

“That’s the most important shit you’re gonna hear in your life,” warns bluesman Rick Estrin before “Shock Absorber” starts to dissipate its funky rock ‘n’ roll all around. Given this is one of only three Paul Gilbert’s originals on offer, one can see the seriousness of it all. But then, when it comes to a borrowed material, the guitarist has always been at it, what with a SPICE GIRLS’ tune he recorded early in his solo career. Not an occasional song reimagining this time, Gilbert embraces a lot of popular music history on the album devised while his main band were busy with “…The Stories We Could Tell” and telling a lot of stories, too.

Paul starts it with LOVERBOY’s “Working For the Weekend” which could be his modus operandi outside the group yet, like many neo-classical types, tends to overplay what had much simpler arrangements originally, so his take on “Murder By Numbers” by POLICE could have quite summed it up if it wasn’t so airy. Does Elton’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” really need so many notes, no matter how well they’re aligned harmonically? Still, it’s impossible not to appreciate such a choice, as well as the grinder’s perspective of Macca‘s “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road” with Mike Portnoy’s on drums, and the preserved catchiness of all the pieces.

The latter track and Gilbert’s reading of AEROSMITH’s “Back In The Saddle” also demonstrate he’s no mean bassist, whereas the soul wail is a saving grace of Gilbert’s shred on James Brown’s “I Got The Feelin'” before the axeman elegantly chops the blues on Eric Carmen’s “My Girl” and the tremendous title cut, the only vocal addition to the album, and revisits Peter Green’s school of twang for an instrumental version of k.d. lang’s “Wash Me Clean.” But the record rolls on the strength of the songs, rather than performances, too often, so its audience most likely will be guitar buffs. A masterclass, then.

***1/2

February 20, 2015

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