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Paul Gilbert – Fuzz Universe: Review

The highly acclaimed guitar virtuoso, Paul Gilbert, released his latest album this month. It is entitled Fuzz Universe and was released on August 3. As a guitarist, Gilbert has commonly been placed among the ranks of Satriaini, Vai, Petrucci, and other elites; this record clearly demonstrates why.

The Music (rating: B+)

  1. Fuzz Universe
  2. Olympic
  3. The Count Juan Chutrifo
  4. Bach Partita in Dm
  5. Blue Orpheus
  6. Will My Screen Door Stop Neptune
  7. Propeller
  8. Don’t Rain on My Firewood
  9. Plastic Dracula
  10. Blowtorch
  11. Mantra the Lawn
  12. Batter Up

In this album, there is a variety of different styles and genres that include blues, rock, classical, progressive, and so on. However, they all are interpreted from a guitarist standpoint. This means in one’s point of view, this may be a diverse album; in another’s it may be seen as one-sided. Basically, the numerous styles receive their fair share of attention, but only reach their pinnacle through the guitar.

And that is one of the issues with Fuzz Universe, and most guitar solo albums for that matter: the only instrument to reach its full potential is the guitar. The rest of the instruments are merely helping hands to Gilbert’s mastery, albeit they did a fine job. But is there still room for growth regarding the bass, drums, and keyboards? Yes, without a shadow of doubt. There are some groovy basslines throughout the album, as well as good fills and runs. Still, it seemed as though the bassist had more to say, but never got the chance to say it. The drums are rather basic, mostly giving snare/hi-hat rhythms, though there are a few shining moments for the drummer. And as expected, the keyboardist is primarily used in the background for support. These instrumentalists are little more than the record’s stagehands, creating a set up which allows the start to shine luminously.

Gilbert’s performance on this album is exquisite and worthy of the shift of focus towards him. Nothing new is given in terms of guitar solo albums. That being said, Fuzz Universe is execution at its finest. The guitar technicality is at a level that only few can match, while the inspiration and natural feel remains uncompromised. Gilbert is able to consistently slip in his signature into all the present genres. It makes the album feel comfortable yet adventurous. There are a few short periods in the record that feel empty as if the guitar part was written for vocals or a higher priority melody, but this is a very miniscule nitpicked issue. Overall, the guitar is extremely well-done on all fronts (phrasing, fluency, technicality, etc.), but cannot bring a significant level of innovation to the album.

For guitarists or guitar virtuoso lovers, Fuzz Universe is an album to be heard. It offers the finest of everything in the guitar world. However, the rest of the instruments are definitely under-emphasized, which I see as a concrete loss. Although for the target audience, this is a minor issue. But even for those looking for a guitar solo album, Gilbert only offers a refresher rather than a change. Nonetheless, Fuzz Universe shows the brilliance of Gilbert’s instrumental capability and song composition. For that reason, this album is a definite recommendation.

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