RACER X - "TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES" (MASCOT)
In the late eighties, Mike Varney's Shrapnel records unleached upon mankind a hitherto unbeknownst number of shred guitarists. It was a period of ecstasy for those who liked guitarists like Malmsteen, Vai and Satriani, for these new guys all sounded more or less like one or several of these three. Some of these bands even features two guitarists, and one band in particular didn't only have to ace guitar players, but also an ace bassist and an ace drummer. The band I am speaking of, of course, is Racer X.
Unfortunately, even before I'd properly discovered them, they had already split. Guitarist Paul Gilbert went to Mr. Big, and drummer Scott Travis was later found back in Judas Priest. Too bad, although a few years later there was the occasion of the second live album "Extreme Volume Live Pt 2.". Well, Racer X have re-formed and done a studio recording that combines today's recording techniques and production with their playing of old. Second guitarist Bruce Bouillet, although co-writer of one new track on "Technical Difficulties", is not actually in the band on account of him having strained his hands too much earlier in his career and incapable of playing live for nights on end. Paul Gilbert makes up for the lack of Bruce by playing with redoubled vigour, so it seems. The album is full of classic rock tracks with many flashy guitar parts, as well as the odd bass showcase moment.
The title track is probably the climax of the album - an instrumental. This is not coincidence; singer Jeff Martin was always their weak link, though thankfully there is a lot less of the high-pitched screams now. Having said that, there are plenty of other good tracks on the album that do feature Jeff Martin activity, such as "God of the Sun" and the Sabbath cover "Children of the Grave". There is a bit of cheese, too, in the form of "Bolt in My Heart" (could have been a Mr. Big song, but Martin is way better than the Mr. Big singer) and the ballad "Waiting". This latter track has some really good and quite sensitive playing by Gilbert, though, that saves the day.
All in all, "Technical Difficulties" is a very interesting album that will not disappoint fans of good rock with good musicians. Perhaps they should have included two more new tracks instead of rehashing "Poison Eyes" and "Give it to Me". These new versions sound better, of course, but don't add that much really.
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Written April 2000
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