Guitarist Paul Gilbert seems a man not satisfied with what he's accomplished, so he doesn't stand still and keeps pushing forward. Curiously, he uses the myth of Sisyphus, an evil king destined to push a rock uphill, only to have it fall back, as his eternal punishment, as a metaphor for his musical career. His rock is his music, which he's happy to push uphill, only to allow the advance to fall back so he can stretch and grow once more.
With Stone Pushing Uphill Man, Gilbert spins himself a new idea for his guitar work. Recalling the voices of legendary vocalists that have intrigued and inspired him, he puts his lead guitar to the task as the voice of the vocal melody for some cover songs. I'm sure this is not an all that novel of an idea, as there are likely many who have thought of or attempted this very thing. But when it's Paul Gilbert, a guitarist of some merit and skill, you take notice.
But here's the rub, the dilemma as it were, with this album. If you don't know the songs he's covering to begin with, you'll have no clue whether Gilbert is on spot or not. Loverboy's Working for the Weekend, Aerosmith's Back in the Saddle, Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and, maybe, James Brown's I Got The Feelin' quickly resonated with me because I know the tunes. Others not so much, only because I've never heard them or haven't haven't heard them in so long that I've forgotten them. And I didn't take the time to find the original versions for comparison. These include The Police's Murder By Numbers, Eric Carmen's My Girl, and k.d. lang's Wash Me Clean.
But for the latter, I don't listen to her as a rule because I don't think she's the 'shit' every Rolling Stone music elitist thinks she is. But before I digress to pissing on the mainstream liberal press, the fact that I don't know these songs does not make Gilbert's interpretation of them bad. Quite the contrary. He's too good of a guitarist to do things poorly, half-assed, or incongruous to the original material.
Gilbert also offers three original numbers including two more instrumentals, the guitar busting rocker Shock Absorber and the lighter, with a gentle swing, Purple Without All the Red. The title cut is the odd man out, a vocal number that furiously merges blues with rock groove for a monster anthem. Fundamentally, Paul Gilbert is a master craftsman, a man and guitarist of singular perseverance and creativity, willing to press on to new adventures. Whether the Sisyphus metaphor applies or not is left to philosophical argument.
On Stone Pushing Uphill Man, accomplished guitarist Paul Gilbert applies his lead guitar to the vocal lines of some notable and popular songs with interesting results.
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