Mourning Widows

Mourning Widows

A&M Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Matthew Turk

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/17/2001

The last thing I expected to hear shine on a pseudo-solo album from the former guitarist of Extreme was amazing vocal prowess. I had rather expected it'd be filled with Pornograffiti-esque solos or more wank-rock in the style of the "faded guitarist" mode. Truth be told I like Extreme, and I think that the influences they drew from Queen should have been allowed to shine through more, as they seemed most successful when channeling Brian May and Freddie Mercury. Tales of Nuno Bettencourt (or just Nuno as he's been called of late) on stage with Brian make me grin, as both are among my favorite guitarists.

The one aspect of Mourning Widows that stuns me is Nuno's amazing vocals. This is actually his second full-length effort outside of Extreme, and the first one that sports a band name - Mourning Widows. After some troubling starts, it never did get distributed in the US, so I've had to content myself with an imported copy.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The album starts out with a monologue about keeping the performances in the studio as real as can be given onstage. The idea of somewhat stripped-down rock is held through the entire album, with enhancements in just the right places - as evidenced by the hard-rock infused with harmonies of the first three tracks. The fourth track, "The Air That You Breathe" is one that I really don't get into - but otherwise the first third are songs that feature great hooks, glossy harmonies and beautiful execution.

The fifth track is one that allows Nuno's subtle, Springsteen-ish humor to shine through. "I Wanna Be Your Friend" starts out with two minutes of interestingly distorted drums reminiscent of the solo from Zappa's "Packard Goose." The song always makes me grin, with lyrics like "I promise not to drool / On your date / When we hang." This piece is one of the highlights from the album.

The second half of the album sparkles with a couple tracks, but the others can probably be glossed over. "Love Is A Cigarette" is a very nice showcase for the amazing guitar stylings of Nuno, which amaze me every time I listen to this song. "Hotel Asylum" is a fun track, but certainly not the greatest on the album.

"Over & Out" and "Too Late" are gorgeous, each in its own right. Jon Anderson of Yes has often been accused of writing "beautiful nonsense" - Nuno Bettencourt seems to have studied at the more modern school of beautiful nonsense, and both of these tracks demonstrate that ably. "Over & Out" has Nuno screaming emotional epithets tempered with resignation at a former lover; it certainly shows that his writing, if nothing else, is terribly genuine. "Too Late" resonates with abstract notions solidified in concrete images - and it kicks the vocals again into the forefront.

The remaining three tracks on my Japanese import include the only real "slow" song on the album - "True Love In The Galaxy," a song that really must be heard to be experienced. The solo closing it out is one of the most restrained solos I've ever heard, and Nuno manages to make the guitar cry with anguish and scream with desire. The other two tracks, both bonus, are just that - a final cap to a very satisfying album.

Nuno's vocals and songwriting show through here far more than the guitar playing, which seems to be exactly what he needs and aimed for. The hits are strong hits, and the misses are more fouls than strikes.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2001 Matthew Turk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of A&M Records, and is used for informational purposes only.