How To Buy: Paul Gilbert


5. Okt. 2007, 19:08

This is the fourth entry in 'How To Buy' series of journals. In this series, I am taking guitarists whose catalogues I know at least ninety percent of and, for the benefit of people who both (i) Still buy CDs; and (ii) Have yet to hear said guitarist in any real depth; I am recommending an order to buy said guitarists back catalogue.

Today, I am going to attempt to recommen an order in which new listeners should buy Paul Gilbert's back catalogue, including both his Racer X work and his Mr. Big work.

This is going to be a difficult one as Paul's work hops from genre to genre depending on whether you are listening to his solo releases or either of the two aforementioned bands. A recommendation for where to start with Paul's material should probably be tailored to which background one, as a listener, is coming to his work from. Nevertheless, I am going to attempt to find the best possible middle ground.

Buy First:
Get Out Of My Yard

Annoyingly, does not currently acknowledge the existence of this album. Hopefully that will change eventually.

Get Out Of My Yard, or GOOMY, is Paul's first all instrumental studio album, and, to date, his only one. The album covers a variety of different styles, from the pleasant laid back likes of Three E's for Edward and Marine Layer to metally rockers like The Curse of Castle Dragon and You Kids. It showcases Paul's playing ability to stunning effect.

Highlights include but are not limited to Hurry Up with its seemingly constantly shifting time signatures and keys, and an arrangement of a Franz Joseph Haydn piece entitled on the album as Haydn Symphony No. 88 Finale.

This album is my first recommendation of Paul's for a few reasons. Firstly, it is a culmination of a notably wider scope of identifiable influences than the majority of Paul's Racer X or Mr. Big material. It is my firm belief that there is far more likely to be something for every guitar enthusiast on this album than some of his others, although I love them all.

Then Buy:
Technical Difficulties
Mr. Big

Technical Difficulties is the album I've chosed to recommend as the first Racer X album you should buy, and represents the intense shred metal choice of the two I'm listing in this category. It features three instrumental tracks, though the first seems primarily to serve as a mood setting intro to the album. Of the other two instrumental tracks, the title track is an absolute treat of metal instrumental goodness, while B.R.O. is a reminder of Paul's Bach influences.
That's not where the interest in the album ends though. Racer X as a band excel during their instrumental breaks and share many desirable qualities with metal legends Judas Priest including a drummer.
Paul Gilbert has demonstrated time and time again that he has an ear for fantastic riffs and 17th Moon is a perfect example of this. There's also a fantastic cover of Black Sabbath's Children of the Grave.

Mr. Big's Self titled 1989 debut is a nice contrast. While with the band, Paul's guitar work was not always a central focus of the music, but in '89 it was right there. Scarcely a track goes by on this album without great work by Paul. The intro to the album's first track features Paul harmonising with bassist Billy Sheehan for a track that Paul even performed at his 2007 solo gigs.
While other albums of Paul's may display a more condensed and intense guitar attack, the Mr. Big album strikes a brilliant balance between shred and tasteful application. Alternatively, Racer X's misleadingly titled 2002 outing Getting Heavier may give you a similar alternative.

Leave 'til Last:
King of Clubs
Acoustic Samurai

While I do believe Paul Gilbert can do no wrong and do like to play these two albums quite regularly myself, I am aware that many people dislike Paul's solo work. It's my belief that this is largely because the 'right' audience don't get to hear about these. I think if someone could get Paul's solo work to the right audience that the albums would be snapped up by a respectable number of people.
However, by the same logic, I doubt this journal will be read by a large number of the 'right' people, so I'm going to make an effort to cater to the people who I think will read it.

King of Clubs is not a bad album. Indeed, it was Paul's first solo album, and, I think, surprised many people with its fun but meaningless pop lyrics. The majority of these songs seem to whizz by as if they were under two minutes long, and indeed some of them are. It has its redeeming points though, My Naomi rips off a lot from The Who's track Baba O'Riley, itself a track well worth ripping off. The record also featured a track called Bumblebee with very silly lyrics, but nice, though not astounding, guitar work and catchy melodies. Also worth mentioning is the final track, the 20 minute The Jam which, if you can handle the length and the concept of Paul trading licks with Bruce Boulliet for 20 minutes has some very nice guitar work.

Finally, Acoustic Samurai. An album I'm very fond of, it has some great acoustic guitar work, and a selection of Paul's most light hearted songs, as well as n acoustic version of the mighty Scarified, although you will have to pick up Racer X's Second Heat for the original. Unfortunately, the album suffers from excessive crowd noise and a plain sillyness of some of the lyrics, which many may find almost intolerable, or possibly even intolerable.

Final words
If you've found this journal to be helpful to you, I'd love to have you comment to say so. Similarly, if you haven't, I'd be interested to hear from you. Similarly, if you already know Paul Gilbert's material and agree or disagree, feel free to comment.


  • SmellyStuff

    I'll agree with GOOMY being the first album to get but I would recommend Second Heat or Street Lethal as being the first Racer X album instead of Technical Difficulties, especially if the listener is a fan of 80s heavy metal like Maiden and Priest. Why would I recommend Racer X's first 2 albums before Technical Difficulties? Mainly because a lot of people who will hear of Racer X will have heard of them through Scott Travis' involvement in Judas Priest and those 2 albums are more similar to Priest than TD.

    6. Okt. 2007, 0:29
  • GrantRS

    That's interesting...I always thought Superheroes (or at least its title track) sounded more like Priest than any of the other three. I guess I'm largely a fan of the production and tone on the recent albums, but I love the first two as well. I thought long and hard over this, and I could easily have given that slot to Street Lethal, Second Heat or Superheroes, but in my opinion TD just edged it. Anyway, it's great to hear any and all opinions on this clearly very important matter of determining the greatest Racer X cd. A break into the mainstream is long overdue and well and truly deserved.

    6. Okt. 2007, 1:59
  • SmellyStuff

    I don't know why I think SL and SH are more similar to Priest, probably just because Jeff Martin's vocals are more reminiscent of Halford in those first two albums as he tends to hit more high notes on the first two albums than the recent ones .

    6. Okt. 2007, 5:00
  • HBKisGod

    Thanks a lot GrantRS. I'm just getting into Racer X and Paul Gilbert, in fact I'm into my first listen of Street Lethal as we speak.

    6. Okt. 2007, 9:21
  • GrantRS

    That's no problem, HBK. Feel free to ask any questions you may have. I can't guarantee I'll be able to answer all possible questions, but I'll give it a shot.

    6. Okt. 2007, 9:58
  • HBKisGod

    Compared to Street Lethal , would you say 'Technical Difficulties has more variety in the proper songs and maybe catchier choruses ? I will be getting it soon, it would be good to know what to expect I guess.

    7. Okt. 2007, 13:07
  • GrantRS

    That's a tough question. I'd say that the Technical Difficulties songs grow on you quicker though. There's a fair bit of variety with songs like Waiting and Bolt In My Heart being kind of semi-ballads. Then you can consider the fact that a couple of the songs on Technical Difficulties were written over ten years before the recording of the album, and there is an identifiable progression in the sound from the earlier ones to the later ones. The songwriting of all the band members became more refined, IMO. I think in many respects it is just easier for songs to sound more individual with more recent production techniques. The vocals are definitely more of a focus in the modern production styles. It'd be interesting to hear what Smellystuff has to say on that question though.

    7. Okt. 2007, 16:50
  • SmellyStuff

    Personally I think that Street Lethal and Second Heat have the catchiest choruses (Hell, how can you not love the choruses to Hammer Away, Loud and Clear, Dangerous Love or Street Lethal?!) but I will agree that Technical Difficulties has far more variety than either of those albums. I'll also agree that the recent Racer X albums place a greater emphasis on the vocals. To me, Street Lethal and Second Heat were merely licences to shred for Paul (and Bruce on Second Heat) while in Technical Difficulties there is more well, song writing so to speak with the vocals nearly (but not quite!) as important as the guitar.

    8. Okt. 2007, 7:52
  • SmellyStuff

    In other words, if you want mere shredfests then you'll probably prefer the first two albums but if you want proper songs you'll probably like the recent stuff more.

    8. Okt. 2007, 7:53
  • GrantRS

    Paul Gilbert: License to Shred Couldn't have said it better myself. I think Jeff's vocals are more clearly pronounced in the recent ones though. I mean with the first two albums I'm mostly left guessing as to what he's actually singing. With TD, Superheroes and GH I nearly always know what the actual lyrics are...and you've gotta love Snakebite. Snakebite coming from insiiiiiddddeee ...Your Mind

    8. Okt. 2007, 18:59
  • SmellyStuff

    I'm not sure if the pronunciation of lyrics is due to the production or if it's because Jeff Martin uses his high pitched voice less often in the recent albums.

    9. Okt. 2007, 7:56
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