Friday, June 02, 2006

John5 - Songs For Sanity

John5 – Songs For Sanity

I guess that I have been holding on to a misconception as fact for quite sometime with regard to the modern guitar player. I’ve listened to a lot of music and I have labored under the delusion that modern guitarist really couldn’t play all that well, being a guitarist…that gave me hope, but I digress. I don’t mean that as a slam against today’s guitarist, I just mean that it seems as if the art of the guitar solo has been dying a slow death. Once in a while, you’ll hear someone take a lead, but they’re not really focused on as part of the song anymore, they’re more a novelty…hell, solos are even cut from radio versions of the songs they are in.

That little diatribe brings me to this…I recently read an interview with John5 and while I don’t really remember what was discussed, I do remember being very impressed with him. Granted, with a lot of what’s published today there’s always a spin on it, but I was impressed by the way he spoke about music and his playing. So…when I saw John5’s Songs For Sanity, I decided to give it a try. After listening to it and more specifically by the time I finished the song Blues Balls, I was not too proud to admit that I was wrong. Actually, my initial reaction was more like, “HOLY S@#%, THIS F#@$%# GUY CAN PLAY!!!”

I’ll be the first to admit that as an album, Songs For Sanity is a bit weird. It’s not terribly cohesive in terms of the tracks relating to each other, it doesn’t tell a story…actually it’s more like an album with a split personality. On one hand you have exactly what you might expect by looking at the cover…a dark, heavy, shred-fest with mood swings. However, after the first few tracks you’re presented with songs that end up being a bit more like that little red-headed kid you heard about from down south that spent a few years too many locked in the root cellar. Mom always said, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”

There are several tracks on Songs For Sanity that just drip with southern flavor like the proverbial gravy off a biscuit. Gein With Envy, Behind The Nut Love, Fiddlers and Death Valley, featuring guitar legend Albert Lee, all showcase John5’s amazing talents as a picker as well as what appears to be his deep appreciation and respect for the art form. The tracks are stellar in terms of their technical proficiency, but if you didn’t know what you were listening to you would think you had ended up on a Steve Morse album, not an album by one of the guys who played with Marilyn Manson.

Mind you his duet with Albert Lee is followed by Perineum, featuring the equally renowned Steve Vai. Perineum couldn’t exist in a galaxy further away from Death Valley. If these two tracks were kids in the same high school, they wouldn’t even look at each other much less get close enough to share an album. Between John5 & Vai, the speed of sound seems to be increased by a few mph. Just as a side note, I’ve never heard Vai sound less like Vai with the exception of his work on the Halo 2 soundtracks…maybe.

The remaining tracks on the album just fly by in really heavy (and really cool) rhythms and blurs of speedy melodic lines. I keep saying speedy, but there is a lot of melody here too. Soul Of A Robot is a track that mixes both, with plenty of those really tiny connected notes you see on sheet music but a middle section that has a very melodic theme, as short as it may be. You also have a track like 2 Die 4, that’s made up of a haunting acoustic guitar part backed by odd and eerie sample tracks.

In terms of an instrumental guitar album, it’s really right up there with the better one’s I’ve heard. I don’t think it will ever be as well know as say, Joe Satriani’s Surfing With The Alien, but players and aficionados of the genre will recognize Songs For Sanity for what it is…an amazing display of fret board prowess that is hardly one dimensional. I see lots of reader’s poll awards in John5’s future.

You can purchase Songs For Sanity @


thatgirljulie said...

oh my gosh, I love this guy! Thanks for have an ear or 2!

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