Jason Becker
Triumphant Hearts


5.0
classic

Review

by SitarHero CONTRIBUTOR (53 Reviews)
January 26th, 2019 | 34 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "I can’t speak, I can’t play, but this flesh has much more to say."

Jason Becker’s life story teaches two important lessons. Firstly, it teaches perspective—which was the apt title of his second solo album—because no matter how difficult your life is, it could be worse, so learn to appreciate what you have. Secondly, it teaches perseverance, because no matter what challenges lie in your way, perseverance will help you overcome them.

Thirty years ago Jason Becker was standing on top of the guitar-playing world. He had released three superlative instrumental metal albums—two with Marty Friedman in the band Cacophony, and one solo album—while still in his teens. Then none other than David Lee Roth came calling to ask if Becker wanted to play guitar in his band. You might have heard about Roth. He had previously played with Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai, so he knew a thing or three about guitar-playing talent. That was when fate dealt Becker one of the cruelest blows imaginable. He was diagnosed with ALS and steadily rendered completely paralysed and unable to play guitar within a few years.

But the horrifying failure of his body failed to dim the lights in Becker’s mind or silence his muse. Despite having been given only a few years to live, and and having lost the ability to speak by 1996, Becker began using a computer pointer system controlled by his eyes to communicate and compose music. Over the better part of the past 20 years, this has led to the creation of Triumphant Hearts.

Triumphant Hearts is more than a mere curiosity and is indeed triumphant. While it may not ever be regarded with the same awe as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony—which was composed after Beethoven had become fully deaf—Triumphant Hearts is every bit a testament to the human spirit as Beethoven’s Ninth. Assisted by a bevy of notable names such as Marty Friedman, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Trevor Rabin, Joe Bonamassa and several more, Becker is able to bring to life his opus about life.

The music itself is a combination of symphonic and contemporary classical pieces, adult contemporary pop, and some throwback blues rock and shred metal. There’s even a somewhat elaborate but fairly straightforward arrangement of Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind”. This is a lot of ground to cover in a single album but Triumphant Hearts truly shines on the orchestral pieces that are fortified with, rather than driven by, its guest appearances. The title track, with its climactic solo by Marty Friedman is a case in point for how Becker’s talent for classical music and his love for neo-classical guitar-playing can be perfectly melded. “Fantasy Weaver” which features ukelele contributions by Jake Shimabukuro, and “Magic Woman”, which features Uli Jon Roth and Chris Broderick's guitar playing, similarly find perfect synergy between Becker and his guest performers. “River of Longing” and “Valley of Fire”, while being the centrepieces of the album, are slightly underwhelming because Becker’s contribution to the songs is largely relegated to a backing track for his illustrious collaborators to solo over, which seems a waste of his compositional talent.

However, perhaps the most surprising aspect of the album are the poignant lyrics written by Becker for “Hold On To Love” and “We Are One”, which perfectly complement the rest of the album’s themes of love, optimism and unshakable resolve in the face of overwhelming tragedy. The songs themselves, in their ‘90s R&B/Pop stylings, are an interesting change of pace from the orchestral pieces that surround them, but they are every bit as catchy and uplifting.

Throughout Triumphant Hearts, Becker’s abiding love for music and life shines brightly through his compositions. His unerring optimism even shines through in his arrangement of “Blowing in the Wind”, turning the melancholic introspective tone of the song into one of peaceful acceptance. While the prolonged gestation of Triumphant Hearts may have left some of its pop-stylings sounding a bit dated, it’s hard to argue with the sheer daunting magnitude of a work like this. Becker has, both before leaving his teen years and after becoming fully paralysed, managed to accomplish more than most musicians do in their entire lengthy able-bodied careers. If the sheer existence of Triumphant Hearts doesn’t inspire you to go out and work on your craft and hug your loved ones then nothing will, and really, if that inspiration is the legacy of this album then it's pretty hard to argue with its greatness.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
January 26th 2019


8178 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Damn, I wish I'd reviewed this sooner so it could have been featured. :[



But, if this album proves anything, it's better late than never.

manosg
Staff Reviewer
January 26th 2019


11554 Comments


Great job Sitar, pos. Was about to write something for this one because it needed a review desperately but I wouldn't have said it better myself.

This man is such an inspiration. I was jamming this album a couple of days ago while working and must have listened to it 2-3 times in a row.

Digging: Airged L'amh - One Eyed God

SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
January 26th 2019


8178 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks Manos! I was a little surprised at how much I genuinely enjoyed this album even though I tend to get bored during River of Longing and Valley of Fire. Any chance that this could get featured even though it's been out for over a month?

bloc
January 26th 2019


54725 Comments


Haven't listened to this in full, but I can't imagine I'd give this anything more than a 3 tbh

Digging: Way Out West - Intensify

manosg
Staff Reviewer
January 26th 2019


11554 Comments


This is really good bloc, especially if you enjoyed Perspective. Not your typical shredding album.

For what it's worth, I'd definitely love to see this one featured, Sitar. Maybe you can ask in the meds thread and see what happens.

bloc
January 26th 2019


54725 Comments


Hmm, in that case maybe I'll give it a chance

DungeonBoy
January 26th 2019


5607 Comments


Great review! Will check soon

Digging: Vehemence (FRA) - Par le sang vers

Lucman
January 26th 2019


2111 Comments


Snuck a listen of the t/t and it's got me really curious.
EDIT: And this review. Superb job, Sitar.

Digging: Emily Scott Robinson - Traveling Mercies

WatchItExplode
January 26th 2019


6434 Comments


Thank you for reminding me this exists I'm very intrested to check it out

SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
January 26th 2019


8178 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks guys! And yeah, I don't know why it took me so long to get around to listening to it too.

WatchItExplode
January 26th 2019


6434 Comments


And bloc you know that rating isn't just about the music my man...the fact that this project can see the light of day is just a triumph of the human spirit

swipenet
January 26th 2019


2968 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Exactly, 5'd on principle tbh, and it's a pretty damn good effort anyways

SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
January 26th 2019


8178 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The first half of the album is pretty close to earning a hard 5 regardless of context.

bloc
January 26th 2019


54725 Comments


"And bloc you know that rating isn't just about the music my man...the fact that this project can see the light of day is just a triumph of the human spirit"

Hmm, that is a good point yeah

rockandmetaljunkie
January 26th 2019


7755 Comments


is it really that good ?

should check asap

WatchItExplode
January 26th 2019


6434 Comments


Half way into this there some good stuff and some fairly corny stuff Valley a fire is, well...fire

swipenet
January 26th 2019


2968 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Again, even if this was average it'd be a 5 for what it represents. However, it is far above average to begin with.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
January 27th 2019


8229 Comments


Good review, pos, Becker is an example for all of us!


A minor error

That was was

That was

SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
January 27th 2019


8178 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks Voivod. Fixed it!

TheNotrap
January 27th 2019


9864 Comments


Becker is an inspiration to us all.

I'll check the album in the next couple of days.

Digging: Venom Prison - Samsara



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