JASON BECKER — Perspective (review)

JASON BECKER — Perspective album cover Album · 1996 · Neoclassical metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
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Tragedy is certainly no stranger to musicians across the centuries whether it be the untimely demise of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or the much larger list of modern rock guitarists ranging from Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Randy Rhoads or Kurt Cobain who met an untimely death before their time. Being snuffed out in your prime is one thing and as bad as it is, it has to be even monumentally worse when an artist is perched to be the best thing in his game only to suddenly be stricken with a disease that leaves him alive yet paralyzed and unable to play for the rest of his remaining life.

Such is the case of a young JASON BECKER who had taken the guitar world by storm with his insane technical shredding that found him on virtually every guitar magazine in the 80s. While creeping into the scene with Marty Friedman and their band Cacophony, BECKER cemented his status with his pyrotechnical guitar wizardry on his Shrapnel Records debut “Perpetual Burn” which found his neoclassical compositional prowess coupled with blitzkrieg guitar soloing taking him to the world of Ygnwie Malmsteem and beyond. The late 80s saw this fast riser at the mere tender age of 16, to be chosen as the next coveted guitarist for David Lee Roth following hot in the heels of Steve Vai.

BECKER’s success was all but guaranteed but then fate dealt a strange blow to this modern day Mozart. He quickly began to lose his motor skills and was soon diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. This could not come at a worse time and despite his efforts to record on Roth’s “A Little Ain’t Enough,” lost mobility so quickly that he was unable to tour. Struggling to comprehend his impending doom, BECKER was forced to make sobering decisions beyond his years and race the clock before his body would completely shut down and he would be unable to move even a single finger. 
That’s where this album PERSPECTIVE comes into the scene. Faced with his entire career stolen from him, BECKER had to take the little time he had left and dish out his magnum opus in a rather short time. This album displays an artist’s love of music and the process of losing his physical ability to move all the while the music keeps churning inside. At the beginning of recording PERSPECTIVE, BECKER had already lost a significant portion of his physical ability to play guitar and therefore took the show to the computer where he painstakingly composed the album and allowed other guest musicians to lend a helping hand.

What normally should’ve been divvied up into a lifetime of work suddenly had to be condensed into a single album and therefore PERSPECTIVE displays a completely different aspect of BECKER’s musical abilities. While already a proven composer albeit submerged beneath the cacophonous din and speed of his guitar shredding techniques, PERSPECTIVE finds BECKER in a much more relaxed and contemplative mood with not only the neoclassical leanings on display but a plethora of disparate musical genres joining in for good measure. The album includes a veritable who’s who in the music world with guests ranging from Steve Perry of Journey on guest vocals to fellow David Lee Roth drummer Gregg Bissonnette.

The album starts of with the rather odd sounding “Primal” which is about as non neoclassical guitar leaning as one could’ve imagined but instead an rhythmic African music inspired track that adds various strains of ethnic music from around the world. The guitar playing showcases BECKER’s last ability to play simple power chords before he would lose all guitar playing ability completely. The following “Rain” borrowed a guitar riff from the vaults and orchestrated it whereas the three tracks “End Of The Beginning,” Life & Death” and “Serrana” display BECKER’s love of classical music in his own unique compositional flair with multi-suite parts and outstanding musical dynamics, tempo changes and excitement. They are the crown jewels.

The album is rounded out by an outstanding a cappella version of a track BECKER had in the vaults called “Higher” and inspired by Bobby McFerrin, whose back up group Voicestra would find two members joining in for recording. “Blue” is a rather basic blues track which lightens up the thick atmosphere of the album and “Meet Me In The Morning” is a vocal led Bob Dylan cover. “Empire” is a Japanese soundtrack sounding piece. The album took nearly six years to finish and finally saw the light of day in 1996 well after the disease had completely crippled a young BECKER and left him in a wheelchair for the rest of his days but much like Stephen Hawking, his mind remained alert and continued to crank out music through his computer albeit at an infinitely slower pace than before.

PERSPECTIVE is point blank a testament to the human spirit. This album symbolizes the sheer will power to complete a project before the point of no return. It could be argued that this could be a better album than it is and those arguments would be quite valid however the point of PERSPECTIVE is not to display the talents of a normally talented composer but rather one who has been compromised beyond human comprehension. While not perfectly executed, PERSPECTIVE dishes out nine outstandingly brilliant tracks but most of all conveys his most tragic chapter in full emotional regalia.

Most of all, PERSPECTIVE displays what could’ve been. Once BECKER matured past his shredding stage, he was primed to become one of the best musicians on the scene whether it be for film soundtracks, classical performances or a continued interested in metal. This is one of the few albums that can literally bring me to tears as the notes touch deep in the soul. A perfect album perhaps not, but considering all that went into making it, the best possible album under the horrific circumstances at play. I’ve always loved this album for its uniqueness as it single-handedly unleashes nine distinct paths BECKER could’ve continued his musical talents. While only a teaser of what could have been, this is a brilliant life’s work for such a young artist faced with the impossible.
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