Transcendental Sky Guitar

Uli Jon Roth

Steamhammer / SPV Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Uli Jon Roth, once a member of Germany's premier metal bands Scorpions, knows that his approach to music isn't for everyone - and that's okay with him. Whether you climb on board the train that is Transcendental Sky Guitar or you watch it pull away from the station, he's cool with it. If you do come with him through these 25 performances, you have to take things on his terms... period.

There is no doubt that Roth is an outstanding guitarist, and this release is a constant demonstration of his skills. But Transcendental Sky Guitar also proves the old axiom true: you can have too much of a good thing.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

A combination of studio and live recordings, Roth proves that his skills as a guitarist have been underappreciated, even as far back as his days with the Scorpions. As a rock guitarist, his skills are phenomenal; as a classical guitarist (albeit on electric seven-string guitar), he stays true to the original while adding in his own unique signature. This talent duality is one to be envied, as well as studied.

The problem? This two-disc set could have easily been pared down to a single disc. Drop Roth's almost Deity-like worship of Jimi Hendrix and a few of the more self-indulgent moments, and this would have been a damn near perfect album.

In fact, I could make the argument that the entire first disc of Transcendental Sky Guitar would have been more than sufficient to satisfy even the most hard-core axe junkie on the planet. Actually, that's not completely true; throw both "Spanish Fantasy" and "Air De Bach" on from the second disc, and then it would be perfect.

But for some reason, Roth seems to be fascinated with the guitar playing of Hendrix - and if there's anyone who doesn't have to fall back on Hendrix's work to prove he can play the guitar, it's Roth. Granted, Roth only plays one of Hendrix's songs which has gotten to the point of being overdone ("Voodoo Chile"), but Roth proves his capabilities without having to mine Hendrix's backcatalog. (One other side note: while Roth's guitar skills are wonderful, his vocals are not his strong point.)

Likewise, some of the moments where it seems like Roth is playing just to show he can improvise with the best of them (e.g., "Freeflow Gem") only serve to be self-indulgent, and could easily have been cut from Transcendental Sky Guitar without hurting the overall project. While there are some performances on the second half of this release that deserve to be studied diligently, the bulk of it borders on fluff.

Transcendental Sky Guitar is still an enjoyable disc, especially for someone who likes to hear guitar played to near-perfection. But it could have benefitted from going under the blade in the editing room.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 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 Steamhammer / SPV Records, and is used for informational purposes only.