Friday, June 08, 2007

John 5 - The Devil Knows My Name

John 5 - The Devil Knows My Name

Two things are evident to anyone who’s ever listened to an album by John 5. The first is that he is just a monster of a guitarist, with the chops and technique to stand with any notable guitarist in recent memory. The second is that he has issues…serious issues. On The Devil Knows My Name, John 5 seems to shift gears between the sonically disturbed and divine without so much as a second thought…it just happens. It’s almost as if he has split personalities, one angel and one devil, both of whom happen to be virtuosic guitarists.

Most of The Devil Knows My Name is simply devastating in terms of an electric guitar instrumental album. Nearly all of John 5’s original compositions are dark, technical and all the more interesting given that he generally plays a telecaster. On 27 Needles, he outwardly flirts with “chicken-pickin,” as he has done on his pervious releases, but then apparently slips it a ruffie, drags it behind the barn and proceeds to have his way with it. I can almost guarantee Fender may have rethought introducing the model if they knew the abuse that would be hurled at it on The Devil Knows My Name.

But…and there’s always a but, early on The Devil Knows My Name offers up what may be the most uncharacteristic and, essentially, sweet piece of music John 5 has ever released. Bella Kiss is a clean electric guitar piece, played on a “B-Bender” if I’m not mistaken, that sounds so simple that it effectively masks its technicality. This is a piece that’s so easy to fall in love with that it almost makes you forget the serial killer nature of the rest of the album…actually, it makes a lot of sense in a John Wayne Gacy kind of way.

Another exception to the welcome and expected aural assault that is The Devil Knows My Name is the Eric Johnson reminiscent track Young Thing near the close of the album. With the clean echoes of country and rockabilly, it is more apparent than ever that should he want, John 5 could play anywhere and in any genre he chose to.

My only problem with the album as a whole is John 5’s cover of Welcome to the Jungle originally by Guns ‘N’ Roses. It’s nothing against this particular instrumental version of a vocal song, technically it’s perfect, it’s all there…I just don’t the idea in general. To me it sounds like something that was either recorded for someone else or as a piece that used to get played at sound check and someone said, “Hey that’s pretty cool, you should record it.” It is cool, and as a novelty, it’s interesting as far as it goes, but when placed up against the more memorable original work on The Devil Knows My Name, it seems to fall a little short. Still, I wouldn’t let that stop me from recommending the album to anyone who would listen.

In the end, it really comes down to this…with each of his releases, John 5 has never come close to disappointing guitar fans and The Devil Knows My Name is no different. While primarily showcasing his blistering prowess as a rock guitarist, and doing it well…amazingly well actually, John 5 and The Devil Knows My Name also continue to show what a versatile composer and musician he really is.

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