REB BEACH
"A View From The Inside"

(Frontiers Music)

01. Black Magic
02. Little Robots
03. Aurora Borealis
04. Infinito
05. Attack Of The Massive
06. The Way Home
07. Whiplash
08. Hawkdance
09. Cutting Loose
10. Sea Of Tranquility

RATING: 7.5/10

Nearly 20 years on from his last solo record, Reb Beach is going to delight fans of his more extravagant, shred-friendly work with this long-awaited instrumental splurge. Best known as a member of WINGER and WHITESNAKE, the Pennsylvanian clearly enjoys throwing off the shackles of straightforward hard rock and letting his imagination run riot. And while "A View From The Inside" is not radical in any meaningful way, it does demonstrate the astonishing breadth of the guitarist's abilities, not to mention his eclectic taste.

Opener "Black Magic" is a no-nonsense prog metal instrumental, with our hero ripping his way through several unfathomably technical solos. But as with obvious contemporaries like Marty Friedman and Joe Satriani, Beach can't help but fill the gaps with giant hooks and moments of exhilarating ensemble precision. Drummer David Throckmorton deserves particular credit for keeping up with his leader's relentless energy levels. Once the fieriness of this enterprise has been established, both "Little Robots" and "Aurora Borealis" veer into jazzy, fusion-fueled realms, rich with proggy keyboards and AOR sparkle, but resolutely tight and funky. "Infinito" is a low-slung, moody rocker, with swooping slide guitar, an air of dewy-eyed melancholy and strong '80s metal vibes. In contrast, "Attack Of The Massive" is a riveting funk metal freak-out, as stridently syncopated as any classic BRECKER BROTHERS jam, but pumped up with the swagger of rock 'n' roll and blessed with some of Beach's most effortlessly magical soloing. Elsewhere, "The Way Home" is an oasis of shuffling, sauntering jazz-funk; "Whiplash" is a bubbling, strutting string of crescendos and AOR money shots; "Hawkdance" is all prowling blues rock bravado and STEELY DAN finesse; "Cutting Loose" drinks from a more traditional, prog metal wellspring, with shades of Vai and Satriani's imperious '80s phase.

It probably doesn’t need saying that the bulk of this will appeal primarily to guitarists and fans of virtuoso progressive metal showboating, but there is a beautiful musicality to even the most indulgent moments here. The closing "Sea Of Tranquility" is particularly stunning, and showcases a more refined, understated and gentle side to the esteemed sideman's singular vision. Like everything here, it is played with a mind-blowing level of skill and dexterity, but there's no shortage of soul (and funk) on show either. The only downside is that "A View From The Inside" fits firmly and squarely into the name-guitarist-lets-rip-instrumentally realm and does little to reach beyond that rather niche audience. WHITESNAKE fans probably won't be whistling these tunes in the shower, but diehard students of the six-string will love every minute.

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