JASON BECKER — Triumphant Hearts (review)

JASON BECKER — Triumphant Hearts album cover Album · 2018 · Metal Related Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
JASON BECKER has become one of the more memorable talents of the rock universe. While beginning as a child prodigy and dazzling the world with his insanely technical and lightning fast guitar chops in the 80s with his band Cacophony, BECKER easily caught the attention of the guitar nerd’s universe and scored the highly sought after position of becoming guitarist for David Lee Roth following in the footsteps of such greats as Steve Vai and Eddie Van Halen. He managed to record on album, “A Little Ain’t Enough” with Roth before a tiny little pain in his leg was diagnosed as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease which would soon rob him of any future as a guitar player. His destiny would change quickly.

Suddenly BECKER was forced to enter a new chapter of his career long before its time. He would turn to the computer to crank out a magnum opus with what little physical ability he retained and after several years released his album “Perspective” which displayed BECKER’s many possible paths that his career could’ve taken him. Despite being condensed into a mere album’s length, BECKER displayed new aspects of his compositional creativity which seemingly were as vast as his fingers were fast. By the time the album was released in 1996, BECKER had been relegated to a wheelchair with only the ability to move his eyes. His diagnosis was to survive five years but now nearly 30 years later, he’s still alive and has finally released a new album.

While remaining out of the public eye, BECKER released the 2012 self-documentary “Not Dead Yet” which showcased this warrior’s longtime battle with ALS and how his family’s dedication had kept him from an early grave. He announced in 2016 that he would launch his TRIUMPHANT HEARTS project in the form of a crowdfunding campaign which ultimately raised more than $100,000. Once again, BECKER wrote all 14 tracks on TRIUMPHANT HEARTS on computer which display his love of classical music. Unlike his 1996 album “Perspective,” the tracks on this one are performed by a lengthy list of guest musicians including Steve Vai, Joe Bonamassa, Paul Gilbert, Neal Schon, Marty Friedman, Michael Lee Firkins, Mattias IA Eklundh, Greg Howe, Jeff Loomis, Richie Kotzen, Gus G., Steve Hunter and Ben Woods all of whom perform together on the opening single “Valley Of Fire.”

TRIUMPHANT HEARTS is quite a diverse ride through its 78 minutes of music that traverses 14 tracks. Much of the music is heavily fortified symphonic classical music as heard on the outstanding opener “Triumphant Heart” which takes a seductive folk melody and orchestrates the hell out of it, however there include several vocal tracks which include the sappy ballads “Hold On To Love” (2 versions) and a more funkified rocker “We Are One” featuring Steve Knight. “Magic Knight” is a tender acoustic guitar track that features both Uli Jon Roth and Chis Broderick. “Taking Me Back” and “Tell Me No Lies” are the only two heavy metal rockers and are both instrumental.

The rest of the album is a mixed bag. “Blowin’ In The Wind” is a rather sappy Bob Dylan cover and both versions of “River Of Longing” once again gets a little too sentimental although it features some outstanding guitar work by the guests on board. Overall i’m surprised there’s not more guitar shredding given the guest talent on board. While the one track “Valley Of Fire” does feature some finger breaking workouts, it is also quite generic in how it provides a rather basic rhythmic groove that the soloists work around. While the music itself may be a mixed bag, the production is actually really, really well done and BECKER obviously paid a lot of attention to the details.

Ah, i was hoping this would be more like “Perspective,” an album that i really love. TRIUMPHANT HEARTS while it has its merit doesn’t really take me anywhere that i want to go. This is more like a heart tugging tribute or something. While it’s cool to see BECKER still working behind the scenes in his perpetual state of paralysis, it seems perhaps his creative edge has been left somewhere in the past as well since TRIUMPHANT HEARTS doesn’t really seem to get airborne. I was really hoping for a better product and i’m a lenient critic when it comes to an album released under such circumstances but unfortunately i can’t seem to find much to latch onto on this one. While the album kicks off with an interestingly (mellow) opener, the second track as a cheesy ballad throws it off track quickly. Standout tracks are the opener, “Valley Of Fire,” “Taking Me Back” and “Tell Me No Lies.” Hopefully BECKER can find a new lease on a creative edge in the future but this one is somewhat of a disappointment.
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