Paul Gilbert’s new record “Stone Pushing Uphill Man” is, as you would expect from one of the world’s best shredders, a guitar-oriented instrumental record however it differs from his last few albums in that on this record Paul Gilbert has recorded instrumental covers of some of his favorite songs such as Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, The Beatles “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road”, the opening track chock full of 80’s rifftastic goodness, Loverboy “Working For The Weekend”, Aerosmith “Back In The Saddle Again” and The Police “Murder By Numbers” are among the 11 tracks. With each track Paul uses his guitar to become the iconic voice from each track trying to pick up on all the nuances that make each of these vocalists so special. Interestingly enough Mike Portnoy actually plays drums on two tracks, Working For the Weekend and Why Don’t We Do It in the Road.
The challenge was to match their emotion and expression. This was my goal as a guitarist. “Stone Pushing Uphill Man,” is the first big step to truly find my voice on the guitar. I wanted the inspiration of my favorite singers for such a big challenge, so I chose a lot of cover songs. I think listeners will be surprised at what I’ve been able to do with the guitar.
I love this idea, I quite often hear tracks that people say are classics (The Beatles are a good example) and there’s something about them that I just don’t like, maybe it is the vocalist or the style, what Paul does is to keep true to the original in terms of the progressions, harmony etc. but put his own stamp on the track and then use his guitar a la Jeff Beck to become his voice. Some of these tracks you may thing “WAT?!” such as covering Elton but Gilbert applies a Hendrix style rhythm guitar track that highlights what an amazing writer Elton John is in terms of using interesting chord progressions, can you imagine a modern day pop star using such complex harmony?! The vocal part is then played keeping pretty true to the original with harmony leads that give it an orchestral texture in the chorus. Of course it wouldn’t be a Paul Gilbert track without a guitar solo and he totally rips in this track in particular! This is just one example but each track is so different it makes for a very varied and enjoyable journey listening to ‘Stone Pushing Uphill Man’ from start to finish.
As far as I can tell there are three original Paul Gilbert tracks on the album including the title track “Stone Pushing Uphill man”, the only track on which Paul sings which begins with a simple acoustic guitar backing (with a nice acoustic solo) and the sound of his tapping foot keeping time and turns into a groovy rock track with a group of female backing singers. Also the 60’s inspired ‘Purple Without All The Red’ and one of my favourite tracks on the album ‘Shock Absorber’ which is a sort of 70’s rock blues based track. I could be wrong though, these may be covers I just couldn’t find out who the artists were for these couple of tracks.
If you are a fan of Paul Gilbert I don’t need to tell you that you need this album, if however you are not a fan of his super shredding music you might like Paul’s more vocal style of playing on this album and it might even make you enjoy songs you previously didn’t like!
Paul Gilbert ‘Stone Pushing Uphill Man’ is available on Shrapnel Records from 5 August 2014.