Admit it, even when it was the height of summer you wanted an album of Paul Gilbert playing Christmas songs. Well now it's coming down a chimney near you soon; 'TWAS will arrive on 26 November (the the vinyl on 10 December). Check out the video for Hark! The Herald Angels sing above.
“Many will agree that in recent times, challenging events have been pouring down upon our heads like an Exploding Waterfall of Molasses," says Gilbert in the preamble for his 17th solo album. "At least it sometimes feels like that to me. But while I was jamming Christmas songs with my friends, playing an assortment of red, green, and white Ibanez electric guitars, I felt like life was THE BEST. I hope that this music can put a smile on your face as well. Merry Christmas to all. And to all, a good night.”
Keen-eyed guitar spotters will notice from the video one of those Ibanez guitars is a festive Cherry semi-hollow model.
The track listing for the album features a stocking-full of Christmas classics including Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!, Frosty The Snowman, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, The Christmas Song, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, I Saw Three Ships, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Silver Bells, and Winter Wonderland.
Paul being Paul, he's not resting on the past - and he's written three originals too with Every Christmas Has Love and Three Strings For Christmas appearing on the standard release and Down The Chimney Blues featuring on the Japanese release.
"Ten of the songs are classics," notes the guitar maestro. "I was inspired by the Christmas recordings of Nat King Cole, Loretta Lynn, Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Ella Fitzgerald, and The Ventures. And of course, inspiration came from my guitar heroes, Eddie Van Halen, Alex Lifeson, Johnny Winter, Robin Trower, Frank Marino, Pat Travers, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimmy Page, to name a few. I also wrote some of my own new Christmas songs. As I have been doing recently, I begin with lyrics and a melody. Then I let my guitar take over, as it sings better than I do.”
“‘Three Strings for Christmas’ refers to the 3-string guitar that I used on my double-neck," Paul adds. "I tune the strings in octaves, which allows me to play ridiculously fast arpeggios, and very little else (which is why I have a normally strung guitar for the other neck.)
"Every Christmas Has Love was written quickly, inspired by my panic-driven mental state of album making. When I know that the recording sessions are coming, my brain shifts into survival mode, and melodies start popping out. Then I take all the chords I learned by listening to 70s AM radio, and build a song. The lyrics are nice too. I'll be printing those in the liner notes of the album.”
Gilbert's band of Portland, Oregon jazz and blues veterans feature on these festive sessions with Dan Balmer (guitar), Clay Giberson (keyboards), Timmer Blakely (bass), and Jimi Bott (drums).
“All brought supreme musical goodness to these arrangements and performances," says Paul in praise. "They certainly steered me to make wiser musical choices than I would have made on my own. And as you will hear, my metal guitar instincts still breathe fire when they get the chance.”
The album was recorded in drummer Jimi Bott's studio, who also engineered and mixed the recordings. The band recorded two songs every day, for six days.
“All songs were recorded live, although I think Jimi snuck some cowbell overdubs in," notes Paul. "If anything should be added to a live track, I believe cowbell is the right choice.”
Amen to that!