The Deception of the Thrush (ProjeKct Four ‘King Crimson The ProjeKcts’)
Having been fortunate enough to have witnessed a mesmerizing live performance of this piece I can honestly say there’s nothing quite like it. Absolutely astonishing, jaw dropping, emotive, colourful art at it’s very best. There isn’t a single riff, hook or pentatonic lick in sight. When I watch the Crimson boys improvise I recognize just how far from greatness I am. The Deception of the Thrush won’t gather enough popularity to make the Guitar Hero game that’s for sure but this is truly spell-binding, beautiful, visionary music.
Declan (Jeff Beck ‘Who Else!’)
This is a cover of a Dónal Lunny tune and if this doesn’t make your heart bleed then you’re surely made of stone. This is one of the most amazing recordings I’ve ever heard. Truly beautiful and haunting. What’s especially humbling is that even though Jeff is phenomenal and so expressive, he simply doesn’t convey as much chilling sadness as the absolutely stunning players accompanying him. If only there were more music as good as this. At this point in his career I would say that this was the best recording Jeff had done to date.
Just Like You Imagined (Nine Inch Nails ‘The Fragile’)
Think of NIN and you think more about synths, machines and Trent’s vocal. And yet there is actually a wealth of amazing experimental guitar work on these records, although it’s sometimes disguised so much you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a machine. As he had done previously on The Downward Spiral Trent drafted in the ridiculously talented Adrian Belew to add some texture. I still can’t quite work out whether some of the parts are a synth or guitar and I love that. The Fragile is one of my absolute fave albums ever made.
Fever Dream (Steve Vai ‘The Ultra Zone’)
Lil Stevie Vai won a Grammy for the seventh track on the album but for me it’s Lucky Charms and Fever Dream where he really blows my mind. Fever Dream was the track where I had to pick up my guitar and try to work out what was going on. Steve’s playing is scary. There’s some whammy pedal work that is truly frightening that he has that kind of accuracy at such pace.
Blitzkrieg (Yngwie Malmsteen ‘Alchemy’)
This was the first Yngwie album that I really enjoyed since his 1990 release, Eclipse. I was so excited that it had the singer from Yngwie’s 1986 album Trilogy. To me this album was Yngwie-squared, magnified Malmsteen and I honestly used to lie awake late at night with it on headphones unable to sleep as I just kept listening over and over. There are some great tracks on this record and of course Yngwie is on fire throughout. Listening back now I still get excited by the energy that Yngwie captures in his recordings. His guitar tone is astonishing. His rhythm playing is incredible, so much energy and finesse. His solos simply spark off the fretboard with dazzling electricity.
Surprisingly I had a fair number of other inspirational tracks I had to hold back for 1999. A bit of hope for a new decade and millenium maybe? Y2K bug permitting we were all excited that something new and spectacular was going to happen in the new millenium. If only we’d had the gift of foresight and could see what was going to come and influence this art we love so much.
I wish you all a very happy holiday!
Many thanks from me to Jon for allowing me to ramble on here and for being so patient with my very slow review output (something I hope to address in my new year’s resolutions!).
I hope you all get everything you dream for!