CD REVIEW: Gord Campbell - Waiting in the Wings
By Alex Jasperse - 04/03/2007 - 02:03 AM EDT
Artist: Gord Campbell
Album: Waiting in the Wings 
Production/Musicianship Grade: 5.5/10
Songwriting Skills: 7/10
Performance Skill: 7/10
We mortals have an innate need to create hierarchies: this is true for society and it is true for music. We assign status and even deify some artists and genres and demonize others, depending on where we align ourselves.
Gord Campbell’s debut release, Waiting in the Wings, is a winning combination of melodic instrumental rock songs. With an immediate and obvious nod to his predecessors, this is a return to the focus on the guitar in the way that ‘gods’ as Joe Satriani, Paul Gilbert and Eddie Van Halen redefined much of the rock landscape throughout the 1980s.
Full of daring fret board acrobatics, Waiting on the Wings is, from a musician’s perspective, a healthy dose of oft-forgotten metal virtue. Campbell’s perfect intonation and ambitious playing blazes a new trail of ambitious and fluid guitar playing. It stings with a powerful voice, but doesn’t leave a pretentious after burn. All this adds up to an obvious indication that these are the first steps of an up and coming guitar god.
But this near Olympia god potential can be a dangerous place. To stand on the sacred grounds of the guitar gods, and release an instrumental guitar album, is to be subjected to a hierarchical structure in which a guitarist’s fate may be ruthlessly judged. It’s unfair, and frankly it’s stupid. But the rules have been in place for nearly twenty years, and in the bow-before-your-guitar-god world, it’s hard not to compare Campbell’s work to veteran guitar soloists.
The immediate problem with this record is the quality of its production, which is reminiscent of the mid-1980s. Opening with the dreamlike “Aurora,” the drum machine that is supposed to complement the fluid and layered axework does the exact opposite. Fortunately, Campbell diverts attention away from cold drum lines with simplistic melodies that gradually ascend into a showcase of masterful leads. Transitioning easily into “News and Amps at Eleven,” things speed up when growling guitars and pulsating bass lines suddenly shift from the fore to the backgrounds to support two blazing solos primed to unleash a panorama of notes.
Midway through, however, the absent musical intimacy of a real band makes much of the instrumental dialogue feel one-sided. Because the focus is solely on Campbell’s playing, tracks such as “Back to One” fail to live up to the anthemic proportions bustling inside. The sense that some of the ideas aren’t fully realized (because of these limitations) continues into songs like “Maniac Moment,” which begs the question: why didn’t Campbell seek out additional musicians to help him reach the potential he set for himself? The transitions between lead and rhythm guitar parts are loaded with enough potential to be symphonic, and perhaps groundbreaking. But where is his support team to assist him? Without a solid foundation behind him, many of his pieces seem as though they were simply recorded to be archived.
The album itself is a bit uneven – Campbell is a flawlessly brilliant guitarist, but as a songwriter, he isn’t quite ready. He’s done the hardest thing first, and has developed a voice on the guitar that can be hair-raising and emotionally charged (notably in tracks like “Racer,” or comforting and inviting “Electric Lullaby”). So the talent is there, but it’ll be a little while before his playing will evolve to a higher plane, before it can escape the confines of all things instrumental rock. Waiting in the Wings may not be a sturdy release, but if it’s any indication of the potential for his hero status to grow, it will be well worth the wait.
The Verdict: 6.5/10
For more information, please contact Gord Campbell at email@example.com
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