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TRACK LIST: 1. Bionic 5:20 2. Man of Constant Sorrow 4:10 3. The Arabian 5:00 4. Choices 5:48 5. Alone on the Sun 4:47 6. Shock and Awe 6:17 7. You Can Fly 4:27 8. Dead in Memphis 4:30 9. Don’t Remember Me 4:30 10. For Alex 6:30 SOLO PILOT: Michael Shouse – guitars; keyboards; backing vocals With: Joey Sanchez – drums Trip Wamsley – bass Gene Booth – vocals &: Several more bass and drum players
Prolusion. US guitarist Michael SHOUSE is based in Kentucky, where he has been a guitar teacher for a number of years. In addition, he has contributed to articles and guitar lessons for online sites and magazines. His first venture as a recording artist, "Enter the Soul," appeared back in 2001. "Alone on the Sun" is his second full-length album and was issued on his own label Spektrum in July 2010.
Analysis. Albums instigated and issued by guitarists are a mixed bag, to say the least. Most of the musicians are highly skilled at what they do, and on a pure technical performance level it's hard to put a finger on the nature of they have recorded, unless you're a skilled and knowledgeable guitarist yourself that is. They tend to have a decent mix and a production for their endeavors too, and as such if merited on a superficially technical level only they should all be given a high rating. The commercial make-or-break for such projects resides elsewhere however, in the ability to craft pieces that are accessible yet also showcase the virtuosity and skill of the instrumentalist. And while I doubt if that is the aim of every guitarist who issues his own album, I'm pretty sure that quite a few dream of accomplishing just that. In the case of Michael Shouse we're dealing with a guitarist whose basis is in metal. He knows his shredding, neo-classical and melodic soloing from a to z and he has nifty fingers of the kind that will make wanna-be guitar gods think hard and long about just how much practice they will need before becoming accomplished themselves. Shouse could most likely walk into a free spot in most active metal bands today as far as skill and variety are concerned. Be it old-school hair metal, thrash or modern heavy metal, he knows the chops, riffs and soloing approach needed. This disc showcases his skills as an instrumentalist rather well, and on some occasions early on we're also treated to some really nice endeavors of the kind that made Satriani big a couple of decades ago: pace-filled, energetic pieces that manage to encapsulate the technical virtuosity within engaging and compelling themes. I'd pull out Shock and Awe as the best example of just that, with Choices and title track Alone on the Sun as the other excursions here that made me raise my eyebrows for aspects beyond mere technical performance. All of this is to my ears not too far away from vintage Satriani as far as the guitar and drum arrangements go, but with some nice touches in the bass guitar department as additional traits, and for the first in this trio for some unexpected compositional developments to, which I don't come across that often. The rest of the material is more of a hit and miss affair. Many pleasant tracks with just a bit too much emphasis on technical performance to really engage me, while the frantic boogie of Dead in Memphis and the dream-laden acoustic guitar and soloing workout that ends this disc, For Alex, didn't quite work as far as my musical tastes go.
Conclusion. If you enjoy albums issued by guitar players in general and metal guitarists in particular Shouse has made a fine effort with "Alone on the Sun". Perhaps a tad too oriented on technical performance to make a grand impact on casual listeners, but those who like to immerse themselves in such productions should find this CD to be a very good example of this type of album.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: Agst 7, 2011
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