Paul Gilbert and The Players Club / Mascot Label Group have announced the release of a new seasonal offering titled ‘TWAS. Gilbert’s 17th solo album features a dozen recordings, two of which are new, original compositions. The global release date for digital and CD is November 26. The LP will follow on December 10. Today, Gilbert and the label present a new music video of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” which can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9Ks9XvBDz0.
Gilbert shares, “Many will agree that in recent times, challenging events have been pouring down upon our heads like an Exploding Waterfall of Molasses. At least it sometimes feels like that to me. But while I was jamming Christmas songs with my friends, playing an assortment of red, green, and white Ibanez electric guitars, I felt like life was THE BEST. I hope that this music can put a smile on your face as well. Merry Christmas to all. And to all, a good night.”
The track listing features “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!,” “Frosty The Snowman,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “The Christmas Song,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “I Saw Three Ships,” “Every Christmas Has Love” (original), “Three Strings For Christmas” (original), “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “Silver Bells,” and “Winter Wonderland.” On the Japanese release of TWAS, there will be a bonus track titled “Down the Chimney Blues” (original).
Gilbert offers, “Ten of the songs are classics. I was inspired by the Christmas recordings of Nat King Cole, Loretta Lynn, Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Ella Fitzgerald, and The Ventures. And of course, inspiration came from my guitar heroes, Eddie Van Halen, Alex Lifeson, Johnny Winter, Robin Trower, Frank Marino, Pat Travers, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimmy Page, to name a few. I also wrote some of my own new Christmas songs. As I have been doing recently, I begin with lyrics and a melody. Then I let my guitar take over, as it sings better than I do.”
He continues, “‘Three Strings for Christmas’ refers to the 3-string guitar that I used on my double-neck. I tune the strings in octaves, which allows me to play ridiculously fast arpeggios, and very little else (which is why I have a normally strung guitar for the other neck.) ‘Every Christmas Has Love’ was written quickly, inspired by my panic-driven mental state of album making. When I know that the recording sessions are coming, my brain shifts into survival mode, and melodies start popping out. Then I take all the chords I learned by listening to 70s AM radio, and build a song. The lyrics are nice too. I’ll be printing those in the liner notes of the album.”
Gilbert formed a band of Portland, Oregon’s finest jazz and blues musicians for these sessions. The players are Dan Balmer (guitar), Clay Giberson (keyboards), Timmer Blakely (bass), and Jimi Bott (drums). He reflects, “All brought supreme musical goodness to these arrangements and performances. They certainly steered me to make wiser musical choices than I would have made on my own. And as you will hear, my metal guitar instincts still breathe fire when they get the chance.” The album was recorded in Jimi Bott’s studio, who also engineered and mixed the recordings. The approach was to record two songs every day, for six days, delivering the collected body of work. Gilbert shares, “All songs were recorded live, although I think Jimi snuck some cowbell overdubs in. If anything should be added to a live track, I believe cowbell is the right choice.”
PAUL GILBERT’S EARLY YEARS AS SHARED BY THE ARTIST:
It was December, 1977. I had been banging away on a Stella acoustic guitar for a couple of years. I used an orange plastic tail wing from a model airplane as a guitar pick. It was the closest thing to a real pick the that I could find around the house. I didn’t know how to tune the guitar, so I solved the problem by only playing the low E string. Why the low E? It was the biggest string, and therefore, the loudest.
Despite my limitations, I had developed some authority on that one string. And I very much wanted to move up to an electric guitar. I had seen a Led Zeppelin movie where Jimmy Page played a Gibson Les Paul. It seemed like an impossible dream to have a guitar like that.
But then my uncle, Jimi Kidd, who was already playing guitar in Chicago rock bands, came to visit me in Pennsylvania.
He took a look in my local newspaper, in the “Musical Instruments For Sale” section. He quickly spotted a used Gibson. There may have been other details about the year or model, but I didn’t know anything about those. I was just excited that it might be a JIMMY PAGE guitar.
I had saved up some money from selling ceramic hippopotamus banks that I made in my dad’s pottery studio, and from mowing the lawn. The guitar in the ad was still twice the price what I could afford.
But CHRISTMAS was coming. So, I asked my parents about getting the guitar.
They said they could pay the other half, but that it would tighten their budget. So, I wouldn’t be getting any of the toys that I would normally have under the tree. No Legos. No G.I. Joes. No Stretch Armstrong.
I chose the guitar.
I DID miss the toys. I had just turned 11 years old, and I really liked Legos, G.I. Joes, and Stretch Armstrong. But I felt that it was time to make an adult decision. This was an internal rite of passage. I let the toys go. Now I had an electric guitar!
But I did not have an amp.
So, I plugged the guitar into the mic inputs on my cassette deck, and cranked the faders all the way up. This resulted in a bumblebee buzzing sort of distortion out of my stereo speakers, accompanied by the audible clicking of the needles on the tape deck’s VU meters as they slammed into the red, every time I hit a note.
It did not sound wonderful. But it was THE BEST.
I wore my guitar low, like Jimmy Page, and started taking lessons from a guy who knew how to tune. I mowed the lawn some more, and saved up enough to buy an amp. It was a used Fender Vibro Champ. On the back panel, it said, “6 Watts RMS.” My friend Eric had bought the same amp. He bought his amp, brand new, from a music store. The saleslady at the store told him, “If you turn the volume up past 3, the amp will BREAK.” Both my friend and I were terrified to turn the amp past 3.
But 3 sounded so much better than 2.
What if we tried 4, just very quickly…
Soon we were cranked to 10. The amps didn’t break.
I joined a band, and we plugged two guitars, a bass, and a vocal mic into my 6-watt amp.
It didn’t work very well. But it was THE BEST.
Over 40 years have passed, since then.