Defying Gravity

Vinnie Moore

Shrapnel Records, 2001

http://vinniemoore.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/10/2002

For every Joe Satriani (or, for that matter, any virtuoso musician), there are dozens of similar artists who get passed up for the spotlight, fairly or unfairly. Vinnie Moore is a guitarist who could be placed in this category. I remember reading advertisements including his album Mind's Eye back when Rip magazine was still being published, yet interest for Moore never hit the level of hero worship like Satriani did.

His latest effort, Defying Gravity, leaves no doubt that Moore is a talented guitarist who could make a fretboard ignite just from the speed of his playing. Yet listening to the different styles on this disc, one wonders if Moore missed his true calling as a guitarist. We'll touch on that in just a moment.

Things don't start out as smoothly as one might hope for Moore; the title track seems to be crafted just to show off Moore's array of guitar licks and his playing speed. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with playing fast or having chops which could light up a room, but there has to be some emotion in the playing - emotion which is lacking on this particular track. Without some humanity in the playing - something even as simple as a little vibrato on single notes - the playing comes off as so much showing off.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

That humanity is added on the very next track, "Out And Beyond," thanks to a solid rhythm guitar track from Moore and the help of his bandmates - bassist Dave LaRue, keyboardist David Rosenthal and drummer Steve Smith. There's almost an earthiness to everyone's playing, and even Moore doesn't use every second he's featured to send out wave after wave of guitar virtuosity. It's a tad more laid back (with plenty of room for Moore to showcase his talent), and it comes off a little better.

Other electric-based tracks on Defying Gravity are hit-or-miss, with the biggest weakness being the music losing its human touch at times. For every excellent moment like "Emotion Overload," there's a weaker step like "Alexander The Great" - not bad moments, mind you, but times when one has to wonder what the motivation is for Moore. Of course, students of guitar will probably marvel at Moore's technique, humanity in playing be damned.

Where Moore truly shines is on the three cuts featuring him on acoustic guitar. Hearing his flashy-yet-clean playing on a track like "Last Road Home" brings back memories of numerous other acoustic guitar discs I've heard, many in a flamenco or jazz vein which showed off the sheer beauty of the instrument. Moore captures this same essence and demonstrates to even a die-hard metal freak that an acoustic guitar can be a cool instrument, and that you can still be flashy on an acoustic without all the effects and distortion. If Moore hasn't done an all-acoustic album yet (and I admit my knowledge of his discography is minimal), that should be the next item on his agenda, 'cause he proves on these tracks he's damned good at it.

I still am not sure whether I'd classify Moore in the same category as Satriani when it comes to guitar gods, but Defying Gravity makes a case that Moore should not have been ignored all these years. All he has to do to cross over into that category, at least on my checklist, is to not lose sight of the fact that he's a human playing an instrument, and that he should let some of his own humanity and warmth penetrate the music. It makes a world of difference.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2002 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 Shrapnel Records, and is used for informational purposes only.