REVIEW: PAUL GILBERT – “Twas”
Season’s greetings! Several months ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing Paul Gilbert’s (of Mr Big fame) “Werewolves of Portland” and here we are, surprised with a second album for the year and 17th overall solo release “‘Twas”.
Most of the tracks are Gilberts’ rendition of classic Christmas tunes in a live style that effortlessly and brilliantly blends Jazz and Blues into a highly accessible collection of tunes. He also penned the three original tracks “Every Christmas has love”, “Three Strings” and the Japanese exclusive bonus “Down the Chimney”.
Unlike the earlier eclectic work featured in “Werewolves”, “‘Twas” is a much more focused album in terms of production and scope and serves as a brilliant musical backdrop to throw on while unwrapping presents. It’s quite whimsical and easy to listen to, blending Jazzy basslines and percussion with bluesy key parts and guitar that acts as a stand-in for vocals which is similar to Gilbert’s recent work.
“Ten of the songs are classics. I was inspired by the Christmas recordings of Nat King Cole, Loretta Lynn, Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Ella Fitzgerald, and The Ventures.” explains Gilbert of his influences and continues “of course, inspiration came from my guitar heroes, Eddie Van Halen, Alex Lifeson, Johnny Winter, Robin Trower, Frank Marino, Pat Travers, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimmy Page, to name a few.”
Many of the songs have a classic type of vibe that reminds me of Earth, Wind and Fire, The Kinks, and definitely the influences he mentioned. I would even go as far as to say that Gilberts’ playing style on this album is very Mariah Carey, perhaps without so many notes but with her range and expression.
The production itself is extremely organic and has the depth that comes with the “all players live in a room” vibe that cannot be captured any other way. This is thanks in no small part to the session players he had with him in the studio including Guitarist Dan Balmer, Keyboardist Clay Gilbertson, Bassist Timmer Blakely, and Drummer Jimi Bott. All of these players have had long, distinguished careers and are all Portland locals like Gilbert himself.
Speaking about this stellar lineup of musicians, Gilbert articulates “All brought supreme musical goodness to these arrangements and performances. They certainly steered me to make wiser musical choices than I would have made on my own. And as you will hear, my metal guitar instincts still breathe fire when they get the chance.”
The tempo speeds up and slows down ever so slightly and the dynamic range of the songs is frankly breathtaking. Occasionally they’re quiet and crescendo into huge reverb/delay laden passages of shred backed by pretty instrumentals, Especially on the half funky, half epic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. I actually had a bit of a giggle at the beginning of “Frosty the Snowman” as it’s dark and dissonant before erupting into the happiest tune ever.
Normally this is the part where I’d offer a critique but I don’t really have one outside of I would have a hard time listening to this out of the holiday season unless it was to study what Gilbert is playing on a clinical level. That being said, the fun and light-hearted nature of the album mixed with its Christmas focus makes for a lovely backdrop for when you’re passing the peas, corn, and gravy, surrounded by friends and family while sharing stories of the year gone by or otherwise enjoying the happiness that comes with that company. Reflecting that view, Gilbert contemplates “Many will agree that in recent times, challenging events have been pouring down upon our heads like an Exploding Waterfall of Molasses. At least it sometimes feels like that to me. But while I was jamming Christmas songs with my friends, playing an assortment of red, green, and white Ibanez electric guitars, I felt like life was THE BEST. I hope that this music can put a smile on your face as well.”
Paul Gilbert is the gift that keeps on giving, pun intended and I don’t at all care. He is an absolute gem of a human being and come December 25th, you better be jamming “Twas” and having a damn fantastic day! The album drops on November 26th.
You can pre-order “‘Twas” by clicking here!