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Becker, Jason: Triumphant Hearts

We review writers are prone to hyperbole, extolling the achievements, hard work and dedication of bands and artists as they release their best efforts. However, all of that pales into insignificance when compared to the journey of Jason Becker. First coming to prominence alongside Marty Friedman in the fret-explosion otherwise known as Cacophony and also as a solo shred master, the guitarist caught the attention of David Lee Roth as the ex-Van Halen man looked to move on from the fret monster many thought to be irreplaceable, Steve Vai. The A Little Ain’t Enough album was the result and any fears that Becker couldn’t fill his predecessor's shoes were quickly quashed. The devastating news that followed rocked the music community and fans of DLR and, most importantly, Jason Becker; the guitarist revealing he had been diagnosed with having Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS and also known as Motor Neurone Disease or Lou Gehrig’s Disease). A situation that initially resulted in Becker pulling out of the tour to support A Little Ain’t Enough, but as the condition progressed, he found himself wheelchair bound and, eventually, unable to talk or breathe unaided.

Becker’s determination was clear from the outset, he and his father devising a manner of communicating through eye movement as the composer chose to face his condition head on. An album called Collection in 2008 gathered together tracks from his past alongside three new, painstakingly constructed songs that the musician created with the help of his caregivers (his mother, father and close friends) via the composing software LogicPro. And to help people understand his journey, the determined musician also released the film, Not Dead Yet in 2012, which chronicled his life in the music business alongside his battle with ALS, which was received to great acclaim.

Triumphant Hearts is Becker’s first new album since Collection, a host of stars coming together to embellish the recordings the resilient musician has created. It’s an incredible act of resilience, but over and above that Triumphant Hearts is an excellent listen. Opening with the title cut, Becker utilises the guitar prowess of his old sparring partner, Marty Friedman, to help get his message across, but it might actually be Marty’s wife, cellist Hiyori Okuda and the violinist Glauco Bertagnin, who make the strongest impact on this extremely cinematic piece. Singer Codany Holiday interprets Becker’s words and emotions towards his own journey on “Hold On To Love”, where the composer proves to be remarkably pragmatic towards his situation and thankful for the difference those round about him make to his life.

“Fantasy Weaver” is another soundtrack like piece, grandiose in scale and execution, although it will be the more obvious guitar-centric excursions that grab most people’s initial interest. “Valley Of Fire”, featuring The Magnificent 13 (Steve Vai, Joe Bonamassa, Paul Gilbert, Neal Schon, Michael Lee Firkins, Mattias IA Eklundh, Greg Howe, Jeff Loomis, Richie Kotzen, Gus G, Steven Hunter, Ben Woods and Friedman) is therefore the most obvious place to turn our attention and quite rightly so, because the beautiful contributions from this baker’s dozen are not only jaw droppingly mesmerising, but also remarkably sympathetic to the music they front. Joe Satriani, Aleks Sever, Guthrie Govan and Steve Morse turn up for the building pulse of “River Of Longing”, before Trevor Rabin reprises the piece in different tone; whereas it’s Uli Jon Roth who casts his spell on “Magic Woman”.

Three tracks also hark back to Becker’s past, “Once Upon A Melody”, featuring a solo from the guitarist’s Cacophony days, as well as audio of Becker as a three year old; allowing the track to feature the three ‘ages’ of Jason Becker. Leaving “Taking Me Back” and “Tell Me No Lies” to be unmistakable, adapted demos from the David Lee Roth days, although the singer doesn’t make an appearance.

If there was ever proof that love, and music, can conquer all, then Triumphant Hearts provides it from start to finish. Even without the back story of its creation this would be seen as an excellent album, but there’s no doubt that it is also a heart warming example of the human spirit triumphing over adversity.

Track Listing
1. Triumphant Heart (feat. Marty Friedman, Glauco Bertagnin, Hiyori Okuda)
2. Hold On To Love (feat. Codany Holiday)
3. Fantasy Weaver (feat. Jake Shimabukuro)
4. Once Upon A Melody
5. We Are One (feat. Steve Knight)
6. Magic Woman (feat. Uli Jon Roth & Chris Broderick)
7. Blowin' in the Wind (feat. Gary Rosenberg)
8. River of Longing (feat. Joe Satriani, Aleks Sever, Guthrie Govan, Steve Morse)
9. Valley of Fire (feat. Michael Lee Firkins, Steve Vai, Joe Bonamassa, Paul Gilbert, Neal Schon, Mattias IA Eklundh, Marty Friedman, Greg Howe, Jeff Loomis, Richie Kotzen, Gus G., Steve Hunter, Ben Woods)
10. River of Longing (feat. Trevor Rabin)
11. Taking Me Back
12. Tell Me No Lies
13. Hold On To Love (feat. Codany Holiday) [Chuck Zwicky Remix]
14. You Do It

Added: December 8th 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Triumphant Hearts @ Mascot Label Group
Hits: 442
Language: english

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