Paul Gilbert has always been one of those guitar heroes who never really broke into the mainstream like his peers Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, or Yngwie Malmsteen. Sure, Mr. Big hit the big time for a brief period in the early 90's, but that was due to the band putting together some great songs as opposed to Gilbert winning over the masses with his shredding guitar licks. Numerous solo albums, both instrumental and more song based, and nearly two decades later, Gilbert teams up here with little known singer Freddie Nelson for United States, a CD that has the potential to surprise a lot of people, and show a different side to this talented guitar hero. As the tale goes, Gilbert and Nelson grew up in the same area of Pennsylvania, hung out around many of the same people and musicians, but never had the opportunity to work together until now. United States is a highly enjoyable mix of guitar rock and power pop, as these two clearly seemed to have a blast putting this album together. Images of The Beatles, The Raspberries, Queen, Cheap Trick, Aerosmith, Sweet, and even a little latter day Rainbow can be heard throughout this engaging platter, Nelson's Freddie Mercury-meets-Eric Carmen vocal style meshing with Gilbert's meaty and acrobatic guitar work on all ten of these catchy tracks.
Opening up with the heavy rocker "The Last Rock and Roll Star", a song that might remind you of Joe Lynn Turner era Rainbow, with a touch of Van Halen, United States starts off on an energetic level. Intricate guitar chords permeate the bluesy rock of "Hideaway", but the duo really hits you with something magical on "Waste of Time", a quirky, addicting pop rock piece that is a perfect combination of Queen and The Raspberries, Gilbert's crystalline guitar riffs and Nelson's soaring vocals working overtime around a chorus that will stick with you for hours. "Bad Times Good" is a driving, Queen styled rocker, Gilbert's clean riffs and tasty solos ringing through his Marshall Vintage Modern combo amp, and Nelson brings it all to the table on the whimsical "Paris Hilton Look-Alike". The latter is quite simply a wonderful little pop ditty, Nelson's charming vocal delivery once again bringing to mind the late Mercury, and Paul's chunky riffs and intricate lead fills adding the right amount of rock power to this majestic and fun song. The guitarist lends some lush acoustic guitar to the opening of "The Answer", a song that eventually turns into a upbeat power pop rocker with a killer guitar solo, before the duo settle into the dreamy "I'm Free", a song that could have easily come from Night at the Opera, Gilbert even doing his best Brian May impression.
The guys switch gears on "Pulsar" is somewhat funky heavy rocker that will appeal to fans of Richie Kotzen's solo material, Gilbert's fat riffs battling with Matt Muckle catchy grooves before he unleashes a blinding solo that shreds from start to finish. Emi Gilbert's bubbly synths drive the alluring rocker "Girl From Omaha", another must hear power pop piece that fires on all cylinders, which gives way to the equally engaging closer "I'm Not Addicted", a fascinating song that conjures up the sounds of Queen, Aerosmith, Van Halen, The Tubes, and Cheap Trick in one nice neat package. Gilbert's lightning licks and blazing tapping technique are on full display here, as he proves that you can include some virtuoso fretwork in the confines of a great pop-rock song.
There you have it, one of 2009's biggest surprises, and a CD that absolutely deserves to be heard by the masses, plastered all over the media, blasting on every FM rock radio station, and selling millions of copies. We all know what a talent Paul Gilbert is, but now welcome with open arms Mr. Freddie Nelson, a singer who absolutely brings the goods here.
Rock music was always meant to be this fun-check out United States and get your groove on people!
- The Last Rock and Roll Star
- Waste of Time
- Bad Times Good
- Paris Hilton Look Alike
- The Answer
- I'm Free
- Girl From Omaha
- I'm Not Addicted