PAUL GILBERT – ‘Twas (2021)
Mr. Big guitarist PAUL GILBERT graced us this year with a very good new solo album, and now surprises with a second release for 2021 and 17th overall solo release “ ‘Twas ”. This is something Gilbert always wanted to do: a Christmas album. On ‘Twas Gilbert delivers his own versions of all your favorite chestnuts, and 2 new original, own penned songs. Christmas has never been shreddier!
Unlike the earlier eclectic work featured in his recent album ‘Werewolves of Portland’, ‘Twas’ is a much more ‘song format’ focused album in terms of production and scope and serves as a brilliant musical backdrop to throw on while unwrapping presents.
It’s quite whimsical and easy to listen to, blending smooth basslines and percussion with bluesy key parts and guitar that acts as a stand-in for vocals. And as you will hear, his metal guitar instincts still breathe fire when they get the chance.
The production itself is extremely organic and has the depth that comes with the “all players live in a room” vibe that cannot be captured any other way. This is thanks in no small part to the session players he had with him in the studio including Guitarist Dan Balmer, Keyboardist Clay Gilbertson, Bassist Timmer Blakely, and Drummer Jimi Bott.
All of these players have had long, distinguished careers and are all Portland locals like Gilbert himself.
Speaking about this stellar lineup of musicians, Gilbert articulates “All brought supreme musical goodness to these arrangements and performances. They certainly steered me to make wiser musical choices than I would have made on my own. And as you will hear, my metal guitar instincts still breathe fire when they get the chance.”
The tempo speeds up and slows down ever so slightly and the dynamic range of the songs is frankly breathtaking. Occasionally they’re quiet and crescendo into huge reverb/delay laden passages of shred backed by pretty instrumentals, especially on the half funky, half epic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.
There’s some kind of a surprise at the beginning of “Frosty the Snowman” as it’s dark and dissonant before erupting into the happiest tune ever.
There’s a fun and light-hearted nature of the album which mixed with its Christmas focus makes for a lovely backdrop for when you’re passing the peas, corn, and gravy, surrounded by friends and family while sharing stories of the year gone by or otherwise enjoying the happiness that comes with that company.
Reflecting that view, Gilbert contemplates “Many will agree that in recent times, challenging events have been pouring down upon our heads like an Exploding Waterfall of Molasses. At least it sometimes feels like that to me. But while I was jamming Christmas songs with my friends, playing an assortment of red, green, and white Ibanez electric guitars, I felt like life was THE BEST. I hope that this music can put a smile on your face as well.”
Paul Gilbert is the gift that keeps on giving. He is an absolute gem of a musician and come December 25th, you better be jamming “ ‘Twas ” and having a damn fantastic day!
01 – Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
02 – Frosty the Snowman
03 – Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
04 – The Christmas Song
05 – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
06 – I Saw Three Ships
07 – Every Christmas Has Love
08 – Three Strings for Christmas
09 – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
10 – We Wish You a Merry Christmas
11 – Silver Bells
12 – Winter Wonderland
Paul Gilbert (guitar, vocals)
Dan Balmer (guitar)
Clay Giberson (keyboards)
Timmer Blakely (bass)
Jimi Bott (drums)