July 5, 2020

Geoff Tyson is a California-born guitarist with a long history, but who is only just now releasing his first full-on solo guitar instrumental album. Tutored on classical piano as a boy, Tyson’s world was turned upside-down when he first heard Eddie Van Halen and became a guitar convert. As soon as he hit his teens in the early ’80s, he took guitar lessons from one Joe Satriani, just before Satriani’s Surfing With The Alien exploded into world acclaim and effectively redefined rock guitar.

Tyson himself started writing and recording at age 15, seeing success with the band T-Ride, before branching out as a singer-songwriter, recording engineer, producer, and recording studio entrepreneur.

He went on to record with Snake River Conspiracy, Stimulator and his own Geoff Tyson Band, while his songs have been heard everywhere from TV commercials to Disney movies – but only now has he been moved to return to his shredding roots and blast out this no-holds-barred solo maelstrom of instrumental guitar.

Nevertheless, although all the moves are there, as would be expected from someone who was mentored by Satriani and effectively graduated from the same guitar school as the great Steve Vai amongst others, Tyson has taken an interesting route with his choice of instrument. Some of the numbers feature that creamy, compression-soaked fluid sound we have come to expect from the great shredders, but Tyson chooses to be photographed with a hollow-bodied semi-acoustic. As he says, “I experimented with a variety of guitar brands, pickups, necks, and wood types. I eventually chose something that was definitely not a shredder guitar, but rather a hybrid that was a bit difficult to play. You can hear me struggling with the instrument on the recordings, which I feel gives it a feeling of intensity.”

Tyson handles all the guitar and bass parts on this 36-minute set, with stick work provided by Czech drummer Eduard Štěpánek of Dymytry and Abraxas, recorded in Prague where Tyson now lives. The enigmatically-titled opener Six Weeks Of Tina proclaims Tyson’s influences loudly, with an up-tempo, rocking rhythm, not unlike Surfing With The Alien in form and function, with the next two tracks, Shag and Strawberry Napalm effectively working similar territory.

The first of the slower numbers follows; Like Life Is Set In Stone takes on a Pink Floyd-influenced ambience while keeping Tyson’s complex musical construction. To me though, two highlights flow in quick succession about two-thirds of the way through the album – the ballad-styled Asbara mixes some excellent shred-work with some tasteful clear-toned guitar, followed by Monkey Love, which features some of the set’s most powerful fast axe work underpinned by a driving, repetitive bassline that powers the song along. Although still ostensibly an instrumental, there are some guest backing vocals on this number contributed by Dashi, and layered guitars in different styles, some of which harmonise while others drift in and out of the arrangement with aplomb.

The down-tempo Are You With Me features a foray into blues punctuated by some manic interludes; a total of ten succinctly-structured tracks means the album never lulls or loses interest.

If you are into hot metallic guitar work then you won’t be disappointed, but then neither does this set tread the same old path. Tyson may have interrupted his day job to put this project together, but still one wonders why he didn’t do it sooner.