The story of Jason Becker should by now be known to everyone: The superb guitarist who, on his way to the top, was crippled by ALS (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig's syndrome) and now spends his days unable to move anything but his eyes.

Usually, ALS is lethal within a few years. Jason's been hanging in there for 14 years, though, and is still holding on. And not only has he merely 'held on', he also managed to release three albums: "Perspective" (partly played by him, all written by him, a beautiful album that is tribute to his indomitable spirit), "The Raspberry Jams" (a veritable hotchpotch of demos and bits, pretty incoherent, quite interesting) and now "The Blackberry Jams".

Those who found fault with the earlier "jams" collection for its total lack of theme will find "The Blackberry Jams" more palatable. It contains rough demos (sometimes with Marty Friedman) of tracks that were done around the time of Jason's first solo album ("Perpetual Burn", 1988) and both Cacophony albums. You will hear rehearsals and jams that provide insight into how the music came about. Sometimes one track contains the rough bits that were later split into two or even three others, there's electric versions of bits of "Air", and a lot, lot more. Almost everything you get to hear is pretty amazing, whether long or short, whether rough or ultra-rough.

People's main gripe with the album will be the fact that these are, after all, demo recordings made on non-professional equipment. The result sounds like MP3s made at a low kbps rate. Also, whenever you hear drums it's a pretty uninspired drum computer loop.

People who would like to get into Jason Becker had better check out his 'regular' stuff (solo or with Cacophony). For fans, though, this is a very cool album - a Jason Becker bootlegger's dream.

Jason could certainly play the guitar. I hope he will be able to play it again in the future.

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Written May 2003


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