My tendency to get off on technical virtuosity in music explains two things. First it explains why I think a lot of todays 'popular' bands are, to tell you the truth, frightfully boring. Last, it explains why I really dig bands such as Dream Theater and generally almost any instrumentalist who wields his instrument well.

Joe Stump, who recently released his latest work, "Rapid Fire Rondo", in Japan, has been called an Yngwie Malmsteen rip-off. He's been called far worse than that, alluding to a supposed relationship between his right hand and his guitar. Tish and pish, I say, Joe Stump plays the guitar brilliantly, and I like it a lot! No matter if at times his songs indeed bear an uncanny resemblance in general structure and setting to specific Malmsteen tracks. Joe never hid the fact that he's influences by Malmsteen; as a matter of fact he plays a Fender Stratocaster Yngwie signature model, and dresses Yngwie-style, too.

I believe "Rapid Fire Rondo" is his fourth instrumental effort after "Guitar Dominance", "Night of the Living Shred" and "Supersonic Shred Machine", whereas he's also done at least one album with vocals. For all I care, Joe can continue to make instrumental albums like he's done so far; each exceeds the previous one regarding technical virtuosity. Although his playing sounds less 'clear' than Yngwie's, the important fact is that I enjoy listening to what he can do with the guitar. Some of the songs are incredibly heavy, some of them technically brilliant, but all of them interesting due to some or other reason. And what I really like about his recent albums is that the CD liner notes include remarks by Joe himself, describing some of the things that went through his mind when writing the songs, or pointing out particularly difficult or interesting passages. I like that.

The Japanese version (clocking in at around 65 minutes) included bonus tracks "Big Bad Groove" (which is, indeed, big and bad), and "Still I'm Sad" (an interesting cover of the Rainbow cover).

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Written July 1998


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