Powers Of Ten review by Shawn Lane

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  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.8 (10 votes)
Shawn Lane: Powers Of Ten

Sound — 8
Shawn Lane was a freak at playing guitar, and asides from perhaps Guthrie Govan, there will never be another like him, not only did he never practice guitar after the age of 16, he was an absolute genius, reading three to ten books a day on pretty much any topic, and memorising it perfectly with his photographic memory, was fully ambidextrous, and was capable of the most amazing stretches on guitar, despite his tiny fingers (his hand was 7.5 inches from the bottom to the tip of the middle finger). When Warner Bros. gave him $56000 to record the album, he purchased everything he would need to produce it in a home studio, not only had he no experience with computers, but he was able to learn the software perfectly, and complete a first cut overnight. Shawn Lane back in the early days was half rumour, half legend amongst guitar circles, with guitarists trading bootlegs and demos of him playing around the underground, it wasn't until the release of this album (on a major label too!) that his efforts were concerted onto one record and officially released. Shawn Lane played all the instruments by himself on this album, piano, guitar, drum machine, and the cheesy synth brass sections, making this a completely solo record. It would be very hard to describe a general sound on the album, as each track is radically different, so it would be rather hard to describe a general sound, so I'll cover that track by track later on in the review. But aside from the blistering playing, the raw emotion on tracks suck as "Epilogue For Lisa", the album does suffer from tracks sounding cheesy at points, and borderline smooth jazz, as well as poor production and midiesque synths (Did people back then even know when a synth sounded bad?).

Lyrics — 8
Being an instrumental album, I'll give this an average score.

Overall Impression — 8
It would be extremely hard to compare this to other artists, as this is pretty much the only thing of it's kind, its not one of those shredfest albums that nameless youtube shredders make from their home, or one of the millions of sub par albums Yngwie Malmsteen continuously releases, but something completely unique, infact, Shawn only REALLY plays guitar for about 20-30% of the album I'd guess, perhaps aside from the guitar tracks. As each track is completely different, I can only describe each one individually to give you a real feel of what the album is like. Not again is a beautiful song, with Shawn making extensive use of his trademark wide intervals, which while doesn't even come close to showcasing his playing ability, would still be a mammoth feat for any other guitarist to cover (the keyboard/synth actually has a good tone on this one, my only qualm is that it the song is too short and ends abruptly). Illusions is one of my least favourite tracks on the album, it borders far too close to the cheesy smooth jazz side of Eric Johnson in my opinion (think East Wes, Nothing Can Keep Me From You, and Forty Mile Town), but it does have it's own strong points. Get You Back is Shawn's signature track, its a great tune, with a slight exception. The intro and a bit after it, sounds like the theme tune to a bad late 80s/early 90s hospital drama set in new york. If you have it on DVD, put on the title sequence to "Garth Merenghi's Dark Place, and observe how well the title sequence syncs up with Get You Back. Nonetheless, aside from that bump, it is a great tune, if a little tedious at times. Shred heads will definately love the facemelting shred outro (The speed he plays some really awkward string skips at is incredible). "West Side Boogie" is a cover of a largely unknown guitarist called Ray Gomez, this is definately one of the best songs on the album, a good ol' boogie that you could probably shuffle to (I have done this in private, heh :>) Once again, the guitar playing is extremely tight, and I couldn't pinpoint anything bad at all about this song. The Powers of Ten: Suite is probably the worst track on the album. It is a tedious, plodding affair which while probably does have some sort of musical merit, I can't get my head around how hilarious bad the brass synths sound, and how "dinky" the song sounds (you'll have to hear it to understand why I said dinky). The Piano Concertino: Transformation of Themes is a pretty solid track in my opinion, you can really hear a Rachmaninov influence in this, a great showcase of Shawn's proficiency at piano. "Transformation of Themes" is a fitting title for the album, as the music completely changes this half of the album, starting with Paris, probably my favourite track on the album, as I am really weird and actually like the side of dissonance, as well as how crazy this song is. It has some incredible playing, absolutely incredible, ablaze with time signature changes, the best way to describe this is through two terms "Chaos" "Free Jazz". It seems to me that this is a musical representation of Shawn's amazing mind. Esperanto is another one of my favourite tracks on the album, it has a rather "Spanish" feel to it, and again, many odd time signatures used, and there is plenty of emotion in the song to boot as well. (check out the bridge and solo on this one, they are great). Rules Of The Game is another solid track, with Miles Davis-esque intervals giving a very jazzy feel to it, it has a great use of instruments, and a beautiful, perfectly layered outro. Gray Pianos Flying is one of the best tracks on the album, despite the odd name, it displays some of Shawn's use of very irregular rhythmic groupings, that are extremely hard to play at high speeds due to the odd picking patterns. Like with Not Again, the only problem is, this song is too good, yet too short. The track closes on a beautiful, sombre note that is "Epilogue For Lisa" a song which was written for his recently deceased sister, and played at Shawn's funeral when he died. This track actually made me cry the first time, and that is coming from one of those people who have an extremely grim sense of humour and find AIDS/Cancer/Abortion/dead baby etc etc etc jokes funny. Shawn has incredible control over the tremolo bar as an expressive technique here, and as a result, the track is just, beautiful. I prefer this clean studio version to the live version with the overdrive on personally. If it was stolen/lost, I would likely buy it again, but unfortunately, the album is expensive only as it is very hard to come by, however, Shawn is dead, so I guess downloading it isn't so bad. I believe an overall score of 8 would be justified here, as apart from a couple of bad tracks, and some sour notes on the others, its an amazing album, albeit, one of those ones you need to listen to more than once to get into, let alone appreciate.

5 comments sorted by best / new / date

    8 is justified. But a guitarist like Shawn Lane shall never be there perhaps. His skills, his technique and his unique sound that came from his beautiful mind. If he was alive today, he would have made a huge mark. RIP.
    Just a heads up guys, I wrote this, so its not registered, so I claim full responsibility for the poor form of writing I think I wrote it in etc. I forgot to sign into UG.
    oh shit, i hadn't realize this amazing album didn't have a review on here. pretty good review. it's definitely a hard album to digest if you're not used to that kind of stuff, but once can get into, it's pretty ridiculous stuff.
    It's a good review. The album isn't really balanced, and cheesyness does rear its ugly head now and again, but I'm surprised you rated Suite the way you did. It's one of my favourites, really reminds me of Tubular Bells or Atom Heart Mother.