Mind’s Eye 2022
With a shred of revelation in his lines, veteran axeman finds voices to tune into the world.
Vinnie Moore has worn a guitar hero mantle for nigh on four decades, setting a bar for shredding so blindingly high that many of his followers ceased to see many nuances of the veteran’s delivery, and while boarding UFO about twenty years ago saw the American artist tone down his histrionics to serve the song, it didn’t affect the axeman’s solo career – until the pandemic halted the ensemble’s work and found him at home. This was when Moore, used by now to align his filigree with Phil Mogg‘s voice, realized a few of his fresh cuts could feature vocals – chosen as carefully as instruments to be a perfect fit for each track – to become full-fledged pieces bearing both melody and message, something Vinnie’s never tried before. Thus, “Double Exposure” came to life to possibly signal a new era in a well-established musician’s oeuvre, even though some of the material presented here should facilitate the shifting of focus from what is sung to what is played.
However, if the initial salvo of “Vertical Horizon” may suggest he’s back on a familiar, fret-running turf, once the welcoming assault turns into infectious funk and the first of four guest singers, Ed Terry, struts into the frame to help Moore ride a sharp riff to rapture, measuring his band’s dynamic range along the way, the new approach is revealed, whereas the swagger of “Rise” logically, with Mike DiMeo fronting the parade, directs the upward drive to the Hendrix-figures-infested festival of six-string flurries. Once there, “Still Waters Run Deep” will offer an acoustically lined bluesy balladry that Brian Stephenson’s pipes heat enough for Vinnie to elevate sweet sorrow to celestial heights before the sway of “Paid My Dues” sees Keith Slack’s choir inhabit his friend’s guitar harmonies and bounce off the soulful rumble of Pete Griffin’s bass, and the countrified strum of “Hummingbird” opens a wider vista for the listener to roam.
Since there’s no alternation between vocal-embellished and instrumental numbers, almost all of the latter laid down in a trio format, the dozen cuts on display clearly divide “Double Exposure” in half, in two mini-albums – but then, the platter’s very title alludes to the record’s dual nature, so no one would complain of not being warned. Still, why complain when the wah-wah-washed psychedelic swirl launching “Astro Man” beyond stratosphere, where it’s left to spin hypnotically, feels extremely alluring, and Moore’s vigorous pull on “Rocket” equally irresistible? And if “Breaking Through” marries a many-layered glide to primeval energy, “In Too Deep” goes as far as fetching rock ‘n’ roll jive to the fore of Vinnie’s virtuosic passages, and the album’s loosely woven finale “Southern Highway” catches the veteran cage his own myths to add to the cache of “Free Bird” and “Whipping Post” – only with no second guitarist to trade licks with.
That’s where genuine heroism lies.