King Of Clubs

Paul Gilbert

Mayhem Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


OFten, anytime a guitar "god" makes the attempt at proving they can do more than just shred their six-string - namely, they try to sing - the results are less than pleasurable. Eric Clapton tried it and succeeded in a big way; Joe Satriani tried it and didn't do as well.

Whatever possessed Paul Gilbert, present axeman for Mr. Big and former brainchild of Racer X, to take a step up to the mike is not ours to know, but his debut solo effort King Of Clubs proves that he is a more than capable vocalist, even if the songwriting needs to be touched up just a bit.

Gilbert might not be a true "guitar god," but that doesn't mean he's not a talented musician. If anything, his ability on the guitar might not have been as appreciated as it could have been. Evidence of this is his take on Bach on "The Jig," a pseudo classical-Irish dancing number that I can't imagine him doing on acoustic guitar. From the sounds he pulled out of his guitar, I would swear he's tying his hands in knots to hit all those notes. It's a brilliant piece of work that ends all too quickly.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In fact, "quick" could be a key word on King Of Clubs - many of the songs fall in the category of "three-minute-or-so pop song," with one clocking in at just under two minutes! Oh, don't get me wrong, songs like "I'm Just In Love," "Champagne" and "My Naomi" show off a different side of Gilbert that he might not have been allowed to show in bands like Mr. Big, and this is a welcome addition to the world of pop/rock radio.

But how are his pipes, you may ask? The answer is: not bad, not bad at all. He doesn't have the vocal strength he might have had if he had always been the lead singer of Mr. Big, but this is a most definitely impressive outing. While he might have been best known for his guitar work, he wisely allows it to take a back seat to the songs, all but one Gilbert wrote.

King Of Clubs definitely has a bit of a retro-'70s sound to it - mind you, that's not a bad thing. You can hear the influences of bands like Cheap Trick and the Rolling Stones in songs like "Vinyl"... a song in which he ain't singin' about car seats. In fact, many of the songs on this album deal with love and, occasionally, its loss. Gilbert handles the genre well, with only an occasional dip into the extreme side of love and lust.

The weakest link on King Of Clubs, ironically, is the one song where Gilbert is allowed to turn the amps up to 11 and blast your eardrums into oblivion. "The Jam" reunites Gilbert with his former bandmates in Racer X, as they vamp on one particular bar of music for almost 20 minutes. Now, as much as I appreciate the guitar work of Gilbert and Bruce Bouillet, I would have appreciated a bit of variety in the jam itself - I mean, nineteen minutes on one particular chord progression gets old really quick.

Gilbert does need to do a little tightening up on the songwriting - nothing major, just a little fine-tuning for his own work. While King Of Clubs flows rather well, a little more work on the songwriting will make it flow that much better in the final mix.

King Of Clubs is another pleasant surprise that this year in music has brought to my mailbox, and is an album that deserves your money and attention. It's one thing for a guitarist to prove he can sing; it's another to prove that he's more interested in the song than the solo.


Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen 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 Mayhem Records, and is used for informational purposes only.