Review Summary: It’s ukulele time, motherfuckers!
Have you ever wondered what a ukulele cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” would sound like? Me neither, but you can’t deny that the very idea has already piqued your interest, at least a little bit
. I mean, let’s see you
try to play a classic rock n’ roll masterpiece on an instrument that only has four strings and two octaves. The thought of even attempting something so absurd is what lends Peace Love Ukulele
its pleasing nature to begin with, as ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro bestows eleven uniquely performed songs upon us for what is surprisingly his ninth solo album.
Mastering the ukulele might seem like a strange thing to brag about…“Hey guys, that was some impressive shredding, but check this
out!” But to be honest, Shimabukuro’s prodigy-like ability to play, manipulate, and make relevant the often overlooked instrument is nothing short of astounding. On Peace Love Ukulele
, he provides us with some memorable interpretations (“Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Hallelujah”) along with original works that leave no room to doubt his skill level or his love for the instrument. The opener, “143 (Kelly’s Song)” thrives off of Shimabukuro’s brilliant performances, with a little drumming and bass present to fill the gaps and establish a rhythm, even though he proves on “Bohemian Rhapsody” that he can do all of that on his own without the aid of additional instruments. “Bring Your Adz” is another highlight, commencing with fast paced picking and an urban rock-oriented feel that could serve as the soundtrack to anyone’s afternoon commute home through the city. Somehow, through all
of the ukulele playing on this album, it never manages to feel old…which is in part a tribute to Shimabukuro’s brilliance, but is also due to his awareness of when to switch things up. For instance, “Trapped” breaks the record’s pace for the first time; and on a first listen, the song might seem like it doesn’t quite work with the rest of the album because of its heavy inclusion of the violin. However, the ukulele performance is every bit as varied, technically advanced, and detail oriented as it is on other tracks; and therein lies Peace Love Ukulele
’s most innovative quality. Jake Shimabukuro could woo us every minute of every song with his overwhelming talent, but instead he allows other instruments to play their role in highlighting his
moments, thus expanding the album’s sonic palette, diversifying it, and making it a whole hell of a lot more accessible to the casual listener.
The only thing limiting this album is the fact that it is
mostly a product of just one instrument. The other minor contributions serve the album’s cause admirably, though, and prevent it from sounding stale…so basically, Peace Love Ukulele
is a comprehensive look at the best ukulele album one could create. It is definitely a noteworthy musical piece, to say the least. However, the sheer simplicity with which the album thrives is the same thing that caps its overall potential.
Peace Love Ukulele
just might be the breakthrough that Jake Shimabukuro, and the ukulele, needs. It showcases the most likeable traits of quality ukulele playing while simultaneously shattering the notion that nobody can make a thoroughly engaging, ukulele-centered instrumental album. Shimabukuro has been quoted for saying, “if everyone played the ukulele, the world would be a better place.” Unfortunately, I wholeheartedly disagree…but if everyone could play the ukulele like Shimabukuro, then there is no telling how suddenly vast and limitless all of our musical worlds would become.