MYKE GRAY – Shades Of Gray (2017)
People reading this blog are already quite expert in the type of music featured here, so those of you familiar with UK Hard Rock will know the name of guitarist MYKE GRAY from his time in two much loved bands of the late ’80s / early ’90s: JAGGED EDGE and SKIN.
Some might even recall a brief stint in UFO or recently in RED, WHITE & BLUES. again with great singer Matti Alfonzetti.
Well, “Shades Of Gray” is MYKE GRAY’s debut solo album, almost totally instrumental. It sounds absolutely fabulous and I’m not too much fan of instrumentals, but this album works very well. The lone vocal track features Lorraine Crosby (of Meat Loaf fame).
There are a few guitarists who can make their music say it all without words, but its a real art that is far, far, harder than writing a standard song with no voice to add the dynamics and the emotion. You stand alone, and count on your music to speak to the audience. It’s a form that lays the artist bare wide open to the increasingly inpatient and brutal public.
An instrumental album needs to be something special, needs to connect and needs to do it fast.
On “Shades of Gray” you can hear the passion from the very first note…
The opening of ‘Infinite Power’ displays Myke’s guitar gymnastics up front and sets up an uplifting instrumental that has touches of Vai and Van Halen as well as an inherent sense of melody and exploration. It’s a great opening statement and one that eases the listener in to some of Mykes’ more expensive ideas.
They start in earnest with ‘Maverick’ which roars out of the gates with a such a memorable refrain you imagine that you’ve heard echoes of it before a million times its so familiar. One thing interestingly with the track is that you can’t hide the melody and I found myself making up my own words as Myke’s guitar blossoms like a flower before a bluesy riff kicks in to counter the more orchestral touches.
It’s a work of great refinement and one which makes you wonder if this could be something more than just another ‘guitar album’.
‘Diablo’ starts off immediately heavier and more tortured before the door is finally kicked in by a low down bluesy riff and that sweeping pattern sets up the groove and Myke’s guitar hovers as if waiting for the wrong move.
As the album progresses you begin to get a grasp of the depth here and see flashes of color and texture among the flurry of creative energy. ‘Here and Now’ has some wonderful harmonics and a lilting background that feels more Celtic, like a landscape of green fields and high peaks.
It’s antithesis is ‘Kill the Masters’ which is all power like latter day Thin Lizzy with an eastern twist and you hope that Myke is a Game of Thrones fan as it would be a wonderful soundtrack.
Keeping the momentum going but also turning at right angles to the flow: ‘Grab Life By the Balls’, which you feel might be one of Myke’s mantras, takes a bluesy leaning riff and sets up a great groove and proceeds to ‘party’. Its clearly a party song, fun and free.
It’s followed by ‘Keep Your Nose Clean’ another of the more uplifting moments here, with soaring blue sky guitar and which sounds like it was a real joy to record.
‘The Shattered Illusion of Love’ is more atmospheric, introspective, delicate with a guitar that sighs and weeps and shows a real depth of mood and emotion that builds slowly, and ending with a real moody hard rock solo
The album is driven home by three of the best tracks: ‘I Love Guitars’ again another of those songs begging for lyrics, a sublime piece of music that will really resonate with a lot of fans of Myke’s previous work – I love this song.
It’s equalled by ‘Staring at the Ocean’ which takes the mood down again, you can hear the running waters amidst the lone guitar that stands out like a beacon in the deceptive calm.
‘Take Me Home’ is the only non-instrumental track on the album, featuring the smoky-voiced Lorraine Crosby, its a stunning song, blues with a touch of Hard Rock and it really manages to showcase her wonderful voice as Myke noodles some Georgia Satellites-like shapes in her wake.
‘Obsessive Compulsive Disorder’ ends the album in a racing mode, a hard rocker which if included lyrics it wouln’t be out of place into any JAGGED EDGE album.
Not a lot of guitarists have the balls to put out an instrumental album because it is so hard to engage your average non-muso rock fans without a voice there to ease you along the way. This however is a real triumph, it’s excellent music, beautifully played and full of wonder and emotion.
MYKE GRAY’s “Shades Of Gray” works because it’s written from another perspective: while virtuosos like SATRIANI or VAI compose with guitar in mind, Myke write ‘songs’. Yeah, here’s some terrific hard rock songs with no lyrics, but his guitar does the talking.
01 – Infinite Power
02 – Maverick
03 – Diablo
04 – Here And Now
05 – Grab Life By The Balls
06 – Kill The Masters
07 – Keep Your Nose Clean
08 – The Shattered Illusion Of Love
09 – I Love Guitars
10 – V
11 – Staring At The Ocean
12 – Take Me Home (feat. Lorraine Crosby)
13 – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
BUY IT !