Hooked on Roth
Q/ What do an Uli Jon Roth guitar solo and premature ejaculation have in common?
A/ You know it's coming and there's nothing you can do about it.
Oh the thunder, the mighty wind swirls and The Tempest has arrived. The opening track of this double CD 'Best of...' collection is extremely impressive. The dramatic orchestration and structure is superbly complemented by Uli Jon Roth's widdley guitar style. First impressions! Oh yes, we're in for a treat! The build up is fantastic until...until...UNTIL!!
Ex Scorpions guitarist Uli Jon Roth left the Scorps in 1978 and formed Electric Sun. Three albums later Roth was venturing towards a more orchestral approach to his rock music, and during the 80's he almost devoted himself to exclusively writing symphonic neo-classical music. Apart from a lapses to do a tribute to Jimi Hendrix, Roth's back catalogue since his Scorpions days have been a fusion of classical music and rock music...or to put it an even simpler way, Roth solo's over Bach! (or Hooked on Roth if you like)
This sort of music is, I would guess, quite rare. Metal and Classical rarely go hand in hand, and so side one of this collection is quite a novelty. When Roth gets it right, boy! Does he get it right. 'The Tempest' and 'Tod Und Zerstorung' are wonderfully theatrical. It is almost Savatage like in its delivery and presence. But whereas Savatage use their use of orchestration sparingly, the first 19 songs on this album are almost of the same ilk. Personally I love the idea every now and again, but after track six I was losing the will the live. Tapping my watch as appose to my foot, praying for a solid beat than a guitar/harpsichord trade off.
Several Electric Sun tracks great disc two and what a feeble lot they are. They're about as catchy as the sound from a 9-pin dot matrix printer and with as much punch as dead fish. 'Burning Wheels Turning' promised so much in its title but delivered like a My Little Pony tricycle against a jet plane. It is very much a case of "quick lads, let's get the singing out of the way so I can start soloing!" which is strange because Roth provides the vocals for the Electric Sun tracks. But one listen to Roth's rusted copper tonsils suggests why the above is possibly the case.
'Hiroshima Today' is the pick of disc two. It's a beast of a track that doesn't suffer from the 'lets get to the solo' syndrome due to its 12 minute run time. His Hendrix tribute is fitting and Roth does a pretty good job at capturing Jimi's style. 'Rondo Alla Turca' is a cute piece of playing perhaps more suited to a musical comedy dub than a rock album, but then again, we're rarely in the realms of rock long enough for this collection to be considered rock.
Obviously, it's all a matter of taste. There's no disputing that Roth is a player of immense skill and talent, tracks such as 'Pegasus' and 'Dance of the Water Spirits' bear this out (they are truly stunning pieces of work). But it all depends on how much fret wankery you can withstand. His fusion into Classical music is interesting but, for me at least, soon became tiresome, lethargic and bloody hard work to listen to. His attempts at straight rock music are fairly lame, proving once again that great players can't always pen a good tune. I can safely say that this double CD 'Best of...' is one for the fans...and i wish you the very best of luck with it.