I 1st heard Minnesota jazz-rock guitarist Steve Tibbetts in 1980 in The Musicworks' old Capitol Blvd. store in Boise, Idaho -- a barn-sized former Odyssey Records store that was huge enough to hold a football game in, complete with 50,000 fans.
Cranked-up, Tibbetts' homemade album YR shook the walls. Especially the amazing opening track, a GORGEOUS heavy-guitar instrumental called "Ur" that is still my all-time favorite speaker-melting rock instrumental. Beautiful, delicate opening tune, fast-fingered dramatic complications, thunderstorm-like walls of feedback -- if Tibbetts was THAT good all the time he'd B a retired bazillionaire by now.
The rest of YR, Tibbetts' 2nd homemade album, was a little mellower -- gorgeous electric & acoustic gtr work, vaguely Indian or oriental-sounding instrumentals, beautiful washes of sound, & great percussion work by Tibbetts' buddy Marc Anderson. & practically every track hadda memorable tune.
YR was re-released by ECM a few years later -- if you're a jazz-rock gtr fan you oughta track it down, you won't B sorry. But don't Xpect a heavy metal masterpiece, cos Tibbetts only really rocked out that 1 time. I've bn Waiting For More ever since.
A few years back I found a cheap copy of 1 of Steve's later ECM albums, SAFE JOURNEY, which opened nicely with the sustained rumble of "Test" -- which leans toward heaviness but never quite gets there. It won't melt your speakers, it's just sorta a distant echo of "Ur." The resta the album was REALLY quiet, including a 10-minute closer I can't remember a note of.
Finally thot I'd found Steve's ultimate "heavy" album when I read the reviews of THE FALL OF US ALL (1994), which was where Steve reportedly answered the calls of his dozen-or-so fans worldwide who've bn waiting 4 him 2 Crank It Up. (His earlier EXPLODED VIEW is also sposta B loud & is On The Way 2 me....)
The fans were right -- THE FALL OF US ALL does start out loud. But unfortunately it gets quieter as it goes....
The opener, "Dzogchen Punks," makes it sound like heavy fans R gonna B rewarded at last -- opening with swirling, screeching gtr feedback & trance-like drums. Then lotsa lite atmospherics, like outtakes from the gentler parts of YR. The tune turns vaguely oriental, with some distant thunder followed by torrential congas & percussion from old buddy Marc Anderson.
"Full Moon Dogs" adds wordless vocals & some very nice, gentle, melodic acoustic gtr. Later on Steve goes electric & there's lots of droning & then the percussion takes over. Anderson, Tibbetts, Mike Olson on Linn drums, & Marcus Wise on tabla really get a workout on these 1st 2 trax. A little more TUNEAGE would B nice, but the trax R LOUD & ACTIVE, so I've got no real complaints. ... But then there's some "ohhh, chaa" chanting, followed by some torrential drumming that resolves in2 a lite, chanted relaxed-breath finale.
"Nyemma" adds more wordless female vocals & pounding congas. It's very tribal-sounding. "Formless" (nice description of all of these pieces, actually) has more delicate acoustic with added big bell sounds. Again, it's vaguely Indian-sounding (as in India). "Roam and Spy" has lotsa nice screechy, spacey feedback with more ongoing relentless percussion.
"Hellbound Train" has a nice mix of electric & acoustic with the constant percussion. Anderson really keeps the beat going -- he musta beaten his hands 2 death on the congas. His drumming is really the bed over which Tibbetts launches his arcs & drones. They oughta B co-billed.
"All for Nothing" has some nice fleet-fingered acoustic. "Fade Away" opens with forceful electric gtr over a booming, ominous background. Then the acoustic duets with the tabla -- more delicate, oriental sounds. "Drinking Lesson" is low-key & kinda sleepy. "Burnt Offerings" has some almost bell-like tones coming from the acoustic. Tibbetts sounds like he's almost playing a saw by the end.
"Travel Alone" has more oriental bell-like tones -- possibly a marimba? There's some atmospheric loudness, but then it devolves in2 "typewriter music" -- the marimba (or whatever) & congas playing in unison.
Overall, this is nice atmospheric stuff that starts loud & unfortunately gets mostly sleepier as it goes. You'll have pleasant dreams, but that wasn't what I was looking 4. Unlike SAFE JOURNEY, this album WILL hold your attn. I'll probly even play it again 2morrow....
But there isn't a single memorable melody on the whole album. If it was all LOUD enuf, I wouldn't care about that, but....
I'll hang on2 it, but this was not the meltdown-gtr album of my dreams. Maybe the next 1...?