Another installment in my awkwardly-abbreviated ‘What I Listened To On The Way To Work Today’ (WILTOTWTWT) series. I keep using that name for them because it makes me think of a little birdy trying to catch the attention of Queensryche’s Michael Wilton. See previous WILTOTWTWT posts HERE.
Monday morning. Time to catch the tram into the city. Incidentally, there’s a dude who catches the same tram as me that looks a lot like Steve Lukather. I call him the Lukalike. The last time I saw the Lukealike I was inspired to listen to Luke’s Ever Changing Times album. Man I love having my entire music collection sitting in my pocket so I can follow inspirational whims like that. Anyway, today I was in an Andy Timmons mood despite the presence of the Lukealike, so I loaded up Timmons’s ‘Resolution’ album. I’ve had this CD for a while and I return to it every now and then.
There are a few things I really like about this album, and I’ll list them in point form because that’s fun:
* Live vibe. Just guitar, bass and a single guitar. Gives the music a lot of space and dynamics.
*Tone. Timmons’s guitar tone has increased midrange and attenuated treble which makes it easier to listen to for long periods. As someone who grew up on stuff like Pantera and Sepultura, bands who favoured pretty treble-heavy mixes, I’d often feel a bit let down that while my raging teenage adrenaline still wanted to rock out by the end of the album, my ears would feel a little strained and I’d guiltily turn down the treble. Then I’d feel like a total pussy for compromising something as awesome as ‘Far Beyond Driven’ for something as lame as being able to hear into my 20s.
* Songs. Timmons is under no illusion that he’s writing music for the world at large to listen to. I don’t even think he’s writing specifically to please guitar audiences. He writes to please himself. And if that means traditional song structures are all but abandoned as he chases a particular sonic idea, so be it. Not everything should be verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-solo-chorus-modulate-fade.
And yet for all its awesomeness, there’s something about this album that keeps it from crossing over into my list of favourites, and indeed something that keeps Timmons out of my list of personal Guitar Gods (oh, he’s on my Guitarists I Really Really Dig list, don’t you worry about that). And I finally figured it out. It’s the lack of rhythm guitar. Now, I really dig the live vibe of ‘Resolution.’ I like the arrangements, and all the space. Yet part of me also wishes I could hear it with intricate double-tracked rhythm guitars. When I think back to a great instrumental album like Passion & Warfare, it wasn’t just the lead guitar that grabbed me. It was the whole production. If you listen closely to Vai’s rhythm stabs during tracks like ‘Erotic Nightmares’ and ‘Greasy Kids Stuff’ there’s some really complex stuff going on there. True supportive rhythm guitar rather than riffsmanship or rhythmic strumming. And it’s taken me a while to realise that the thing that’s keeping Timmons out of my list of Guitar Gods is that I feel I’m missing an aspect of his playing by not having that rhythm guitar happening throughout the songs on ‘Resolution.’
I have no doubt that Andy is a more than capable rhythm guitarist, and that the lack of rhythm guitar on ‘Resolution’ is a compositional choice. I also get the irony of loving the live vibe but wishing there was a bunch of overdubbage too. But I feel that by leaving rhythm guitar out of the songs, I’m not getting the full picture of who he is as a guitarist. When that happens, I’m sure I can move some chairs around to find some room for Andy in my personal Guitar God banquet table, instead of giving him the VIP key for the Guitarists I Really Really Dig self-serve buffet.
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