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5 stars Buckethead is a very unique and often misunderstood musician. He is proficient with so many genres that it's mindblowing. He can shred, he can riff, he can make you cry, he can make you laugh, he can scare you, he can play some MEAN funk basslines, he can drum, he can slay a keyboard, he can even make freaking techno music with a guitar. A lot of times Buckethead likes to let his experimental side shine through, but when he wants to focus on putting feeling, emotion, and soul into his work, the results are profoundly amazing. I am a massive Buckethead fan, being introduced to his work through the just as eclectic bass god Les Claypool, and there was a point in my life where I was either listening to Primus or Buckethead. I was actually a bigger fan of his softer material, although I loved his funk, metal, and avant-garde releases as well. When it comes to his softer, more peaceful and relaxing material, A Real Diamond In The Rough is my favorite from him. This album is an absolute musical masterpiece. Words cannot express how amazing this is. This is a tapestry of true musical beauty weaved by a true musical master.

A Real Diamond in the Rough takes you on a journey, it touches on melancholy and joy, loneliness and happiness, and everything in between. The album's progression can really be thought of as an experience. It starts off rather upbeat and happy, with some awesome, heavier riffs offset with charming soloing. The album continues down a similar path for the first two thirds of the album, with generally more peaceful, but mid-paced to faster tracks that weave in and out with a spectacular atmosphere. There are some parts that dabble in eerie or sad, but the tone (I mean literary tone, not literal tone) generally will fluctuate between different levels of happiness or peace. The musical style for this first two thirds is generally composed of straightforward styled songs full of rich solos, interesting interludes, and catchy yet peaceful riffs. There are no lyrics to any of this, but it doesn't need any whatsoever. Buckethead conveys exactly what he wants to through each note he plays. Some of the solos are magical, the solos from "Dawn Appears", "Separate Sky", and the title track are marvelous. Once the short and delightful "Four Rivers" finishes, then the album drastically shifts gears. It enters the really sad part of the album. "Allowed to Play", "Formless Present", "Squid Ink Part 2", and "The Miracle of Surrender" are all pretty depressing and dark. They are all slow and absorbed, sometimes it will be a few seconds between notes. This part of the album is just as good, just extremely sad. "Allowed to Play" always makes me wanna cry, it is absolutely depressing; and keep in mind: no lyrics. "Squid Ink Part 2" is quite simple and is just a simple arpeggio played up and down, yet it is very atmospheric and for a 50 second song, it's amazing. Once the album finishes this section, in comes "The Return of Captain EO", which changes the tone one final time. This is the heaviest song on the album, kicking in with a killer riff and some neat sections and licks. This song ends the album on a high note, rather than ending on a somber one. I think that this makes the album even more powerful, as I find that ending the record with a sad song would harm the overall feel.

Everything on this album is done masterfully, and while it might not be his most technically blistering work, it is definitely one of his best releases. This is saying a LOT, as Buckethead has released album after album of quality material. The playing is magnificent, and the production is top notch. The infamous Brian Mantia plays drums on a few songs here and he does a great job, as does the producer, who also plays the bass lines. This is one of the albums that I can recommend to everybody reading this. This album isn't for fans of just one specific genre, this will be a wonderful listening experience to everybody who hears this. Amongst all of the other millions of hours of music out there, both good and bad, this album truly is, A Real Diamond in the Rough.

Originally written for The Metal Archives

Report this review (#1554716)
Posted Friday, April 22, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars A Real Diamond in the Rough!

After reading a super cool review in these pages about this 2009 "A Real Diamond in the Rough" one of the zillion releases in BUCKETHEAD's discography and my early acquaintance with lots of his works and the luck of owning a couple of my personal favorites (which I have reviewed also in these pages), well, I got caught.

A true to life stardom surrounds this anti-stardom composer/performer. As if to ellaborate on this maybe his virtuous skills, the same his detachment, his heartfelt and intelligent compositions the sum of all parts and yet something intangible is present as in his best releases.

Non-stop creativity guided by a totally inspired composer/guitarist aided by Dan Monti on drum programming and bass and Bryan "Brain" Mantia on drums also and 13 tracks to prove it, which adds up to BUCKETHEAD's genius like albums.

The routes traveled are diverse, all BUCKETHEAD imprinted as expected. From classical Rock to proto/prog moods to classic like progressions to blues rooted sections to latin based rhythms to magnificent acoustic guitar only structures to clean cut Jazz swings to the experimental borders of sound engineering and to wherever the roads may lead.

The obssesive attention to detail throughout the whole album is simply remarkable.

****4 PA stars.

Report this review (#1557407)
Posted Saturday, April 30, 2016 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
3 stars With the release of his 24th album and 2nd of 2009, BUCKETHEAD dedicated this one to his legal representative Stan Diamond and thus is titled A REAL DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH. Yet another album with BUCKETHEAD handling guitar duties, Bryan "Brain" Mantia on drums and Dan Monti on bass. He also handles the drum programming on some tracks. Like many of his "tribute" albums, this one is a warm sentimental collection of tracks that focus on emotion inducing stripped down melodies that are calm and reflective rather than bombastic and experimental. The album is much like earlier albums "Colma" or "Electric Tears" that take a journey into the placidity of atmospheric melodic tracks. Unlike those there a few upbeat guitar parts with heavy distortion and more energetic riffing. The production is crystal clear.

Tracks like "Dawn Appears" are as slowed down and ambient as the name suggests and have clean guitar parts, snail's-paced tempo and very melodic developments. Others like "Separate Sky" offer more variables that add greater dynamics including more rocking out and fuzzed out feedback. "Sundial" is a nice peppy series of popping echoey guitar lines that without percussion creates an interesting effect for its short duration. "Squid Ink" relies as much on the heft of percussion as it does on the ultra clean textures of the guitar riffs and clean production techniques. "Formless Present" takes the slowing down to the ultimate level providing a sample of slow core guitar riffing while "The Return Of Captain EO" takes on a heavy bluesy rock style.

For the most part A REAL DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH is could hardly be called a rock album at all and focuses on chilled out clean guitar oriented tracks that slowly mediate rather than pulverize. There are nice tracks to be heard on this one but for me there are too many slower tracks that sound as if they could've been leftovers for previous albums of the similar style and even when BH rocks out, it feels purposefully held back. On top of that the album doesn't flow to my liking as the placement of certain tracks doesn't make sense in the big scheme of things. Fans of BH's mellower albums will probably dig this more than i do and as i stated, there is plenty of decent material here but there also seems to be a lot of recycling going on in the creativity department as well.

Report this review (#1801671)
Posted Sunday, October 8, 2017 | Review Permalink

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