Review Summary: One of the guitar greats creates a captivating and emotional joyride of jazzy fretwork, elegant melodies, and a real passion for music.Shawn Lane - "Powers of Ten"
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Shawn Lane came into this world with a gift for music. He became a major component to the guitar world with his wizardry in Black Oak Arkansas, a popular act at the time. From there, Lane soon ended up going solo and creating this incredible album of sheer genius, spectacular musicality, and fantastic songwriting. It has impacted not only myself, but friends and colleagues alike. You don't have to be a guitar jazz-freak to really grasp the beauty that is "Powers of Ten."
Opening with "Not Again,"
Lane immediately shows his ability to create a jazzy, yet beautiful plethora of notes that immediately grab you in and forces you to keep listening. What makes this piece so unique is that it quickly builds up and takes you away ( a uniqueness not too often found by a good majority of the guitar community) . The chorus, if you will, is one of my favorite parts of the album and the interweaving of the double bass on the drums is just a nice touch. A note here, is that all instruments were arranged by Lane which really makes it that much more of a focused and refined album.
Lane infuses a calmer mix of instrumentation on his next piece "Illusions."
The solo is the first hint of "shred" on the album, which is just so fantastically placed and not overdone. The subtle orchestration is just the cherry on top. I got a little Al Di Meola vibe from this song as it feels a lot like I'm in some foreign country or something.
In songs such as the next one, "Get You Back,"
Shawn utilizes his fantastic chops to create a masterpiece. If you were to listen to one song on this album, I'd say it would have to be this one. It's a fan favorite amongst his community of faithful followers and for good reason. From the opening notes, the music again grabs you and doesn't let up. It is filled with amazing melodies and the passion exuding out of the amplifier just sends shivers down your spine. Some of Lanes faster fretwork (towards the end of this song), is pretty intricate and extremely fast but superbly placed and well-done. This song is really a summation of Lane himself; graceful and passionate, a kindred spirit. This song is constantly being played and showed to friends who immediately went out and bought this album. Check out the live performance if you can. Just incredible.
Songs like the elegant "Esperanto"
and the rockin' "West Side Boogie"
show a hipper side of Shawn and goes back to his roots with Black Oak Arkansas (especially "West Side Boogie.") It reminded me of a couple songs off of Joe Satriani's 1987 hit album "Surfing With The Alien."
Lane sort of steps outside the box a little bit here with a fantastically jive number the hints at Lanes love of the blues and southern rock. With "Esperanto," "Piano Concertino,"
and "Powers of Ten: Suite,"
Lane steps away from just the guitar and moves on to his proficient skills on the piano. This also dates back to when he would play with his sister at an earlier age. These pieces are just as emotional as his guitar pieces and show a different side of Shawn. I sort of saw it as an ode to his sister and a reflection of his youth. With the "Powers of Ten: Suite,"
Lane utilizes all thirteen minutes to create a musical journey of epic proportions as he crescendos from one genre to the next in typical fashion. A really cool and different approach not often seen would be found at the end of this song where Lane sort of plays around with circus-like and big band music. A mixture of horns incorporated in the piece add a bit of creative flair and ends the piece on such a nice note. If you listen closely to the main melody, he hints towards later parts of the album, a neat little touch.
With "Rules of The Game"
Lane gets back into the groove of things and picks up his guitar once again. In "Rules of The Game," the use of horns are again apparent and adds another layer to the overall sound of the piece. That signature tone of Lanes slaps yours eardrums and wails at the most inner crevasses of your skull in typical Lane fashion. With "Paris,"
Shawn takes a different approach with one of his jazzier pieces, paying homage to the older generations of jazz greats. The bass really stands out on this one as it keeps a jazzy groove throughout. What is so great about this song is that is holds a more free-form and improvised aura about it. This is probably the jazziest song on the album and I'm sure it would intrigue most connoisseurs of the genre.
As the album draws to a close, Shawn hits us with two great performances, both of which are highly recommended. "Grey Pianos Flying"
is a special piece because of the uplifting presence it portrays. Clocking in at a bit over three minutes, it really says a lot and again, showcases the musicality and fantastic fretwork. The opening is something I caught myself rewinding again and again because of how cool it sounded. The drumming really stands out and the interwoven structure of the drums, guitar, and keys accents the song perfectly. Definitely a recommended track.
The final song of the album "Epilogue (For Lisa)"
is one of Shawn's finest moments. From the opening notes, you can just feel the emotional faucet opening up at its widest. With just a guitar and backed orchestration, Shawn tells a story that just his instrument could only mutter. The dream-like atmosphere really sets the mood for the piece and is one of the saddest pieces of guitar work I've heard (though it may not have been intended for that). Tone wise, this song is just immense. The notes just jump out at you and radiate throughout your heart. It is just a fantastic way to end a fascinating and moving album.
"Powers of Ten"
is such a great achievement in musical history. The reason for the lower rating, is due to its accessibility and sometimes repetitive drumming and bass work. Though they are different per track, sometimes you forget they're in the mix and it sort of feels hollow. I for one am honored to have listened to this album and grow cheerful in knowing that such music even exists. Shawn Lane was a great guitar player and musician and though he has passed away, he will and still will be remembered and admired by many musicians. With this album, Shawn Lane did what most of us hope to all do; touch the lives of others.
"Get You Back"
"West Side Boogie"
"Powers of Ten: Suite"
"Epilogue (For Lisa)"