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Shawn Lane - Powers Of Ten CD (album) cover

POWERS OF TEN

Shawn Lane

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.78 | 8 ratings

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Gerinski
Prog Reviewer
4 stars This is an outstanding album in its style but beware, this is not prog-rock, and even some jazz-fusion purists may have reservations about it, but I believe it can appeal to many open- minded proggers. Since this is its first review in PA, at risk of getting too long I will try to give extensive information so you can judge whether it may fit your taste or not.

What does it sound like? Well, it's totally instrumental and it contains two very different facets. We have the guitar themes which for using well known references I would describe as a mix of Allan Holdsworth, Steve Vai, Pat Metheny and Steve Morse, with another valid comparison being Frank Gambale. Then we have the experimental themes which are mostly based on piano / keyboards and blend jazz-fusion and classical music elements. The good thing is that while the music of referents often suffers of being "too something" ("too academical, scale-practice-exercise feel", "too much all the songs the same", "too heavy metal", "songs are too long", "too experimental" etc), Shawn Lane blends all the elements in a clever way, the songs are not long and there is enough variation to keep your attention awaken.

Shawn Lane was a natural born musical talent, he was a very accomplished pianist- keyboardist but he specialized in lead guitar virtuoso technique. He dedicated most of his career to clinics and colaborations, mostly with swedish fusion bassist Jonas Hellborg. He also participated in the Mike Varney's guitar chops projects and he is regarded by many as the fastest guitarist ever, which sometimes puts him somewhat misleadingly among other metal guitar shredders such as Paul Gilbert, Jason Becker or Marty Friedman. Yes, Lane was a shredder, but with a much deeper musical dimension and more fusion oriented than the rather hard-metal approach of others. He suffered a degenerative illness which eventually killed him in 2003 at the age of 40, and he left us only 2 solo studio records, of which this is the first one.

He played all the instruments here, for the drums he used a sequencer but he did a very good job and for the most part we don't get that annoying feeling that we are listening to a drum machine (although in a few moments we may do). There is a later edition with a different track sequence, slightly different versions of some tracks and some bonus tracks, I will describe my copy which is the original edition from 1992.

The album starts with 3 delightful guitar tracks "Not again", "Illusions" and "Get you back" which follow a similar formula, length around 4 min, a rock-fusion background with a very tasteful melody which develops into soloing, growing in intensity and becoming speed- of-light virtuoso shredding ("Illusions" being softer and more jazzy). The rythmic structure is not complex for prog standards but they are of great quality.

"West side boogie" is a southern rock (the only track not composed by Lane) which sounds more like the Dixie Dregs / Steve Morse Band, the weakest for my taste.

Just when we might start thinking that this is another guitar-hero album of the Mike Varney school, Shawn makes a 180 degree turn with the 3 tracks which occupy the next 28 minutes of music and show his more experimental and fusion side. "Powers of Ten: Suite" and "Piano Concertino" are focussed on piano and orchestral synths and as mentioned combine contemporary classical music with atmospheric jazz, and the following "Paris" is closer to experimental free-jazz. Guitar-hero seekers may find this middle section of the album tedious but I appreciate it as it provides a welcome change of scenery in what would otherwise be a too much guitar-soloing oriented album, it shows another facet of Shawn's talents, his terrific skills on the piano and keyboards, and brings the album closer to the realm of prog.

After this experimental break we get "Esperanto" which sits in the middle between the guitar tracks and the more jazzy ones, and two more guitar tracks similar in style as the first three, "Rules of the game" which actually reverses the formula starting as hard rock and transforming into a fusion melody after the first minute, and the wonderful "Gray pianos flying".

The album closes with the emotional soft lullaby "Epilogue" dedicated to his deceased sister Elisa, played on clean reverbered guitar on a bed of atmospherical keyboards.

A wonderful record from an outstanding musician which can please a very wide spectrum of listeners, from Steve Vai fans to Chick Corea's to Metheny's to Zappa's to proggers and much more. The drastic difference between the two styles of tracks give it a somewhat inconsistent feeling and maybe it does not deserve 5 stars, but certainly a highly recommended album and I give it 4 stars without hesitation.

Gerinski | 4/5 |

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