As we are gearing up for the Rockstar Mayhem Festival, we have been checking out the bands from the festival’s line up. An underlining element amongst these heavy metal bands is the impeccable guitar rifts displayed in the tracks. In the past, our ears often headed straight to the vocalist then eventually reaching the guitarists. As our musical knowledge expands, so does our appreciation for all the members of a group. We are ashamed of our musical ignorance back in the day, so we are making up for plenty of lost time and getting to know those iconic instrumentalists we used to look over.

There is no better way to make amends than with Tony MacAlpine also known to us as “a man who has done it all.” What we mean by all is that MacAlpline is a producer, band member, solo artist and a guitarist. Born in the 1960s, he began his musical education at five years old as a piano major at the Springfield Conservatory of Music and then he furthered his studies at Hartt College. Through his 25-year career, he has played with the progressive rock band, Planet X, with the jazz-fusion group, CAB, and with guitar hero Steve Vai. The Massachusetts native has written and arranged numerous solo instrumental studio albums and contributed his guitarist and keyboardist talents to a long list of records by other artists.

Damn, we should have practiced a few more hours before our weekly middle school piano lessons. As instructors like to say “practice makes perfect.” We beg to differ with this statement because we did practice, but we never obtained perfection due to that missing MacAlpine musical gene. Practice only makes perfect when you are given the instrumental foundation to build upon. This basis cannot be acquired. You are either born with it or not. It has been well over two decades and he still cannot put that guitar down; MacAlpine was undeniably born with it.

Our jealousy persists with MacAlpine’s 13th solo album, ‘Tony MacAlpine’, which was just released on June 21st via Favored Nations Entertainment. Drummers, Virgil Donati and Marco Minnemann, and bassist, Philip Bynoe, are featured on various tracks, but MacAlpine plays everything else, the seven-string guitar, the eight-string guitar, the keyboard, bass and programming. Written and recorded at “The Cottage” studio in Pasadena, California, MacAlpine shows how a track of just instrumental sounds can uphold a storyline. This plot doesn’t convey a standard message, which we often hear on vocal tracks. Instead, the interpretation is widely open to each individual listener. Full of musical freedom, the 12 track album puts whatever musical talents we thought we had to shame. We’ll stick to the writing.

The album begins with the tune, “Serpens Caudo,” which reminds us of a tempo Bono and the Edge were trying to achieve for the Broadway show, “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark”, but failed to accomplish. Transitioning from heavy metal sounds to rock and to alternative, MacAlpine can unite a variety of sounds in a track without having the genre boundaries be noticeable. Each beat flows right into the next. The consistent guitar rifts keep a recognizable pattern within the song and identify a chorus amongst all the instrumentals. We might sound a bit naive, but we have to be honest with you Shockya readers. Until this tune, we hardly ever attributed a chorus to a song without vocals.

Continuing our unawareness of the powers of instrumentals, we fell for the tune, “Flowers For Monday.” The somber song evoked our “hard to find” solemn emotions with lingering chords strung together that at times reminded us of the sounds you would hear at a bar in Spain. The classical guitar melody is unguarded and the fluidity of the rhythm causes the musical rawness to unveil our not so obvious personality characteristics. We used to think the lyrics of a tune were the main cause of our feelings, but after hearing a track void of words, we can no longer make the same ultimatum. “Flowers For Monday” caused us to have a musical reawakening. The meaning of the instrumental beats of a tune does not have as vivid of a message as vocals would, but the cloudiness allows you to address it to yourself in a personal way, which makes the impact of the song larger than life.

That’s enough of showing you our deep side. Let’s get back to the musical arrangement of MacAlpine’s album with another standout tune, “Blue Maserati.” At the start of the album, you are aware of his musical chops. You just know when an artist has it, but the challenging part is his or her ability to control these skills and not overwhelm a listener. This skill is clearly shown in the track, “Blue Maserati.” Each chord is intricately construed within the song, but it is his guitar restrictions that keep the melody adrift. We are not saying the guitar rifts don’t run. They run without a doubt, but within the tempo are musical inclusions that positively halt the beat from becoming bigger than the ears can handle.

We would have never thought we would thoroughly enjoy an album comprised only of instrumentals. Don’t get us wrong, we still love the lyrics of the track, but our musical appreciation goes far past that now, thanks to Tony MacAlpine. Relieving our struggles through music used to be cut and dry for us. We would find a track that had the most relatable lyrics. This process no longer just applies solely to words anymore. The emotional freedom an instrumental track provides has made music all the more appealing to us and we didn’t think that was even possible. Our lyrical bias no longer exists. So take our advice and let yourself run wild with the tunes of Tony MacAlpine.

by Lonnie Nemiroff

Tony MacAlpine
Tony MacAlpine

By lonnie

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