Paul Gilbert – Werewolves Of Portland – Review3rd June 2021
Paul Gilbert‘s musical output over the years has seen him go from one extreme to another. He burst onto the scene as a million notes a minute shredder in Racer X during the late 80s. Following this he gained his greatest commercial success with pop rockers Mr Big in the nineties. Werewolves Of Portland sees him sat proudly in the middle ground between the two, with a great album to boot.
What we have here is a first for me, an instrumental album by a virtuoso guitarist that I’ve really enjoyed! With an emphasis on melody, he uses his guitar to deliver what would have been vocal lines. Subsequently he delivers a hook laden set of ten songs, rather than ten instrumentals.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still glimpses of the Paul Gilbert of old. But, influences on display range from not only Queen and The Beatles, but also Motown and R’n’B providing a very 70’s vibe to the material. He doesn’t play notes for the sake of it, differing from peers such as Yngwie Malmsteen, for example. If you’re expecting a shred-fest then you’re going to be rather disappointed.
Hello! North Dakota! ‘s intro features the unmistakable guitar tone of Brain May, before moving into a showcase of his undoubted abilities as the song moves through a few different themes and motifs, before returning to the Queen– esque fanfare that began it. Great stuff.
Next we move into the R&B of My Goodness, featuring a guitar line that sticks in the head immediately. It’s like listening to a foreign language where they are trying to talk to you, while you try to work out what they are saying. For example, think of the Steve Vai intro to David Lee Roth‘s Yankee Rose where you can almost hear the guitar talk. That sort of thing.
The title track features a delicious blend of funk and 70s classic rock. A mix that also appears on the spectacularly titled Professorship at the Leningrad Conservatory. In addition he also adds a dash of The Beatles into middle of it too. It’s his ability to mesh together different genre’s into a track that stands out here. He puts the song front and centre, not his desire to show off his undoubted guitar virtuoso status.
When he delves into the more traditional field of the blues, he delivers with aplomb. Without a doubt, I Wanna Cry (Even Though I Ain’t Sad) and (You Would Not Be Able To Handle) What I Handle Every Day are as accomplished displays of bluesmanship as you’ll ever hear. There is nothing better than hearing twelve bar blues played with such obvious joy.
Despite being a very upbeat album throughout, he slows things down once with the balladic Meaningful. It sounds like something Elton John forgot to write, but don’t that put you off. Its’ guitar line is obviously played from the heart, definitely bringing to mind Mr Big in power ballad mode.
The brilliant video of Argument About Pie, once again demonstrates his ability of using the guitar as a vocalist. With supposed lyrics accompanying the music, you can hear what he is trying to say as you read them. And has a truer word ever been said than you can never get into an argument about pie? This 70s influenced track is one of the album highlights for me. The other being the brilliant A Thunderous Ovation Shook The Columns. Catchy as hell, and you can’t help but wonder how good it would be if vocals were added on top of it.
This is a really good piece of work. If you’ve previously been dubious of these sort of albums, don’t be on this occasion. It’s a really enjoyable listen, that flies by in no time. The hole left by the lack of vocals is expertly, and melodically, filled by a virtuoso secure enough in his abilities to let his ego take a backseat and let a great song be the star. A very rare circumstance in the world of the guitar hero.
1 – Hello! North Dakota!
2 – My Goodness
3 – Werewolves Of Portland
4 – Professorship at the Leningrad Conservatory
5 – Argument About Pie
6 – Meaningful
7 – I Wanna Cry (Even Though I Ain’t Sad)
8 – A Thunderous Ovation Shook The Columns
9 – Problem-Solving People
10 – (You Would Not Be Able To Handle) What I Handle Everyday
Release Date: 4th June 2021
Label: The Players Club