Sound — 8
I could probably make a pretty safe assumption that 90%-95% of everybody reading this review on a guitar website knows who Paul Gilbert is, but I'll give a brief overview for those 5%-10% who don't. Paul Gilbert was one of the many shred guitarists discovered and nurtured by Mike Varney of Shrapnel Records in the '80s, which in Paul Gilbert's case led to him attending and teaching at GIT and forming Racer X with other ambitious musicians. Shortly after, Paul formed Mr. Big with bass legend, Billy Sheehan. The band broke up in 1996, then later re-formed, but without Paul as he had moved on to a solo career. His solo career has been almost completely filled with instrumental rock albums. Paul Gilbert has also been involved in several special project and one-off bands, for either performance or recording, and has also guested on numerous albums. Paul Gilbert has also taught guitar at GIT, released instructional videos, and written guitar lessons for other guitar publications since 1985. A few of his more well-known students include Buckethead and Satchel. "Stone Pushing Uphill Man," Paul's 13th full-length studio album, has 11 tracks and clocks in at approximately 42 minutes. Mike Portnoy played drums on "Working for the Weekend" and "Why Don't We Do It in the Road."
The album opens up with an instrumental cover of "Working for the Weekend," which was originally recorded by Loverboy. Paul gets creative in playing the vocal melody on guitar, and throws in some tricks along the way. Next up is a cover of "Back in the Saddle," which was originally recorded by Aerosmith and included on their album, "Rocks," which released in 1976. "I Got the Feelin'" is a cover of the James Brown song, and is one of the first modern instrumental funk covers that I've seen work out right. "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" is an Elton John cover, which Elton John originally released on his album of the same name in 1973. "Why Don't We Do It in the Road" is a cover of The Beatles from their self-titled album that released in 1968. "Shock Absorber" is one of the few original songs included on the album. "Purple Without All the Red" is another one where I'm not sure what he's covering, but it sounds like a blues song. "Purple Without All the Red" might actually be a Paul Gilbert original. "Murder by Numbers" is a cover of a song by The Police, which was released in 1983 on the album, "Synchronicity." The cover of "My Girl" isn't the version popularized by The Temptations or Otis Redding - I believe it is possibly a cover of the Eric Carmen song by the same name. "Wash Me Clean" is a cover of K.D. Lang's song from her 1992 album, "Ingénue." The album closes out with the title track "Stone Pushing Uphill Man," which is an original and the only song on the album with vocals. It has an almost blues gospel vibe to it, just mixed with some shred guitar.
Lyrics — 8
The only lyrics and vocals on the album are from the closing track, which is also the title track, "Stone Pushing Uphill Man." The vocals were recorded by Paul Gilbert. He almost recorded vocals for the track "Shock Absorber" as well, but stated that at the end of the day he liked the guitar melody he played over it more than his voice over it. Some of the lyrics from "Stone Pushing Uphill Man" follow: "I'm a stone pushing uphill/ I'm a stone pushing uphill/ I'm a stone pushing uphill/ pushing uphill man/ if I stay to smell a flower/ the whole stone goes tumbling down/ it takes a whole day and an hour/ to push it back again/ and I rise before the sun/ I'm by myself; I don't got no one/ I used to have her, now she's gone/ gone away again." While he only sang on the one song, I felt like the vocals and lyrics were very heartfelt, and is probably one of my favorite songs from the album.
Overall Impression — 9
I have always appreciated Paul Gilbert's skill with a guitar, but this is one of the first albums that really impressed me with its musicality - including his originals, as well as the covers. My favorite songs from the album would be the covers "Working for the Weekend," "I Got the Feelin'," "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" (I love a lot of the lead work on that track), and the original and title track, "Stone Pushing Uphill Man." I didn't really dislike any of the songs on the album. This may be my favorite Paul Gilbert album, so far.