If you are a bassist, or know one, you’ve heard the name Victor Wooten. He’s been called a lot of good things (and bad things), but one thing is a fact; he can play like a mother******. And his techniques and relentless genuflecting at the altar of the Groove are highly influential as well. The unfortunate thing is, he will spawn a generation of shredders without any soul or love, ‘cause the douchebags are attracted to the tinsel and chrome aspects of his music. That doesn’t rob his best performances of their incredible emotional power. Check this out.
Move to his solo albums, though, and you find an emphasis on ‘songs’. Of course, the further back you move in his discography, the more likely you are to find flash, but his latest, Palmystery, promises more music than ever before. Does it deliver? Let’s find out.
The first cut ‘2 Timers’ is in many ways the most perplexing cut. A straight up jazz beat? Soloing without much reference to anything? Hmm. By the beginning of the second track ‘Cambo’, I’m prepared to be sitting through Wooten’s most jazzy album. The groove is nice, but the Arabic vocal parts are a bit half-hearted sounding methinks, because the rest of the song is quite Jazz-Fusion, and it makes no attempt whatsoever otherwise. Lastly, the pointless keyboard solo does annoy a bit.
Next comes the most from-the-heart and fun track, ‘I Saw God’. It’s overlaid with some authentic African vocal choruses, with lyrics talking about God, and Wooten’s view of it. He’s a good storyteller. Moreover, the ‘voices’ of God talking back are in all sorts of genders, ages and accents. Quite something. This is definitely a top track.
Of course, this doesn’t mean Victor Wooten is suddenly becoming a songwriter. He’s still one hell of a bass player. And he reaches out to his hardcore bass playing fans (myself included) with cuts like “Flex” and “Sifu”.
It might seem like a bit of a statement, but on this album, it’s the songs with the vocal cuts that I like the most. Hmm, is it a sign of the youthful bass hero giving way to the mature musician? Maybe. Maybe it’s me who’s getting older, but I can’t help but want- you know- good songs, not just attempts at songs. There are too many chords and too many damn simultaneous solos going on. That said, my favourite solos in the album are the Scott Henderson-y guitar solos and the short bass solo on “Flex” (which I believe to be Wooten’s bass brother Anthony Wellington).
There are too many chords and too many damn simultaneous solos going on.
Now a song like ‘The Gospel’ with that vocal track is amazing stuff. Most of you wouldn’t know it, but the singing of that people on that track reminds me of Punjabi heer singers back in India. Other good cuts are the Jaco (specifically ‘Come on, come over’) like ‘Left, Right & Center’, and the intimidating sounding but actually melodic and beautiful ‘The Lesson’.
The production is, like the rest of the album, mature. It shows a man in the process of controlling his youthful tendency towards shreddery in favour of songs. Of course, I would absolutely hate the bass madness to go, but maybe because I’m getting older, I feel the need for the awesomeness to be meted out to me in bite-sized rather than American-hamburger-sized pieces.
Overall, though, I’m not as impressed with this album as I thought it would be. I expected either kickass grooves or kickass melodies, and while both are there in some quantity, they’re not there enough to satiate the soul. I’m quite surprised to say this, but this doesn’t always sound right.
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