The Maturity of Mr. Big
The spectacular Ibanez of 'Mr. Big' should be included in the Cultural Heritage of Humankind; that, and a dangerous weapons catalogue because the title of his new disc sure looks like a threat: I Can Destroy. But don’t worry, save the effects on your eardrums and wrists if you try to imitate him, you'll basically survive the side effects. It's the price you have to pay for enjoying the guitar of Paul Gilbert. A 'great' in his own right.
Still going strong at 50, Gilbert's 18th solo album and umpteenth of his career is what they call a 'mature work' in the strictest sense of the word. The incredible Tribute to Hendrix of his 1994 debut is far behind him now and Gilbert has evolved beyond being just a ‘shredder’, a label far too narrow for him these days.
Of course, it's still easy to find the Hendrix admirers on I Can Destroy, the bluesman, and also traces of Racer X and Mr. Big. There is almost an hour to discover that Paul Gilbert's musical universe is infinite, the stamp that sets apart a guitarist who doesn't devote his 'free time' to amazing everyone with recordings that are as perfect as they are boring, but would rather sacrifice exhibitionism and write good songs instead.
Like Love We Had, one of those gorgeous acoustic ballads that give you goose bumps and one of Gilbert's finest moments. There are many others, another 12 in fact, because everyone one conceals some secret, from the '70s licks of I Will Be Remembered to the title track, a track that starts as authentic hard rock and keeps speeding up until it turns into power metal. Like Yngwie... but without the curls.
That is pretty much the exception. What comes afterwards sounds more like classic rock 'n' roll; and there’s a lot of it. The full range of pure 'American music', from the country rock of Adventure and Trouble, to what may be a nod to Stevie Ray Vaughan -who seems to be resurrected for an instant in your ears accompanied by Gilbert's wife Emi on piano- on the funky riffing of One Woman Too Many. Obviously, there's a corner saved for the roots here, reserved for Blues Just Saving Me.
The lyric to I Can Destroy is, paradoxically, a song dealing with humankind’s thirst for learning. When you're a child, you break your toys to discover how they work; when you're an adult, the search for knowledge also requires you to destroy to reveal the secrets of Nature...
When you are Paul Gilbert, you don't create or destroy the music, you just transform it into the energy of your guitar.
Release date: 27/05/2016 [six months earlier in Japan]
Producer: Kevin Shirley
Band: Thomas Lang, drums; Kevin Chown, bass.