Monday, March 24, 2014

Michael Angelo Batio - Lucid Intervals and Moments of Clarity


It seems guitar shredder discussions always devolve to a single question - "Who is the fastest guitar slinger?"

Many of the fastest guitarists I have heard play metal.  However, many of those same guitarists, at least for me, lack everything but speed.  Speed for speed's sake makes music an athletic race and not, in my humble opinion, art.

As far as I'm concerned speed is not the most important thing for a guitarist to be great, although being able to knock a listener into submission with a flurry of notes is a great skill to have. Tone, timing, emotion, expression, fretboard and style mastery make for a better guitarist than a guitarist with just exceptionally fast finger speed.  However, there are a select few guitarists that have it all - tone, timing, emotion, expression, fretboard and style mastery, and so much speed that a wake forms that pulls you right along.  One speed demon with exceptional chops is Michael Angelo Batio.
Batio is well-known for his metal guitar antics, such as playing a "Quad Guitar" (four guitars in one) on his 1990's band Nitro's music video and MTV hit "Freight Train."  What is less known is Batio was an award winning session jazz guitarist as a teen making money by playing music in corporate commercials for companies such as Burger King, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC, United Airlines and McDonalds.

The jazz background and metal pedigree have made Batio a "go to" guitar teacher to the stars in addition to  adding to his performance and recording prowess.  Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave) and Marc Tremonti (Creed) are two of his pupils. 

Why do great musicians seek out Batio to learn from him?  Listen to Batio's solo instrumental work, especially Lucid Intervals and Moments of Clarity which he recorded and created with drummer Rob Ross.  I don't care if you listen to the 2000 nine track release, the 2002 re-release with two bonus tracks or the 2004 release called Part 2 that contains all eleven tracks and remixes seven of the original nine tracks from the 2000 release.  Any of them will prove my point.  Batio is fast, way fast, extremely fast, but not fast for the sake of being fast.  He is melodic.  The guitar tells a story on every track.  Between passionate screams and wails Batio places jaw dropping transitions and licks but somehow, unless you listen closely, you don't seem to notice.

That makes a true guitar shredding master.  He makes it look easy and it fits perfectly, never forced or mere trill and frill solely for showmanship.  He doesn't need to.  His penchant for creating and playing bizarre guitars, such as the "Quad Guitar" and the Double-Guitar, a V-shaped, twin-neck guitar which can be played both right- and left-handed, takes care of the showmanship part.  You can't see those toys on his albums and he really doesn't need them.  You only need hear his musicianship to be humbled.

- Old School    

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