Tony MacAlpine Returns With Self Titled 13th Solo Album

Posted by Michael Mueller on June 24, 2011 at 4:21 PM

I was just a wee lad beginner guitarist when I first heard Tony MacAlpine, around 1985, and decided that I wanted to play like him. Well, that may not have happened, but I do still enjoy a rip-roarin' round of shred from time to time, and few guitarists pull it off with more grace and style than Mr. MacAlpine, which is why I was rather excited to see his new self-titled album arrive in the mail last week.

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Tony MacAlpine coverTony MacAlpine is the guitarist's 13th solo album (and 26th, overall) over the course of his 25-plus year career, and from the opening downtuned roar of "Serpens Cauda," it's apparent that MacAlpine has not been resting on his redlined riffs since his last solo record, nearly a decade ago.

One of the more interesting aspects of the record is how much it leans progressive. Few and far between are the basic rock beats and bass/rhythm guitar root chugs that too often dominate "shred guitar" albums. From opening rocker "Serpens Cauda" through "Ölüdeniz" and "Fire Mountain," evidence mounts that MacAlpine has been paying attention to progressive metal bands like Dream Theater, Nevermore, and Symphony X, which in turn makes for a richer, more complex listening experience. The fact that MacAlpine brought in drummers Virgil Donati and Marco Minnemann to play on various tracks certainly doesn't hurt that effort. Both are skin-beating beasts who not only match MacAlpine's intensity but also stretch boundaries.

At the same time, MacAlpine shows he can play equally well inside the box, borrowing from the Eric Johnson and Joe Satriani school of melodic mastery on "Dream Mechanism." But following that, perhaps the most mainstream-sounding track on the record, MacAlpine takes his cues from his fusion work and perhaps from his employer of late, Steve Vai, for some rather quirky and brilliant outside ventures on "10 Seconds to Mercury."

On "Flowers For Monday," MacAlpine explores his Classical roots, with a dirge-y bed of piano arpeggios topped by a sparse steel-string acoustic melody, whereas "Angel of Twilight" is a throwback to MacAlpine's uptempo mid-'80s material, as is "Pyrokinesis" (see video below) albeit with a bit of an early Oughties' "nu-metal" groove in the riff.

The album's standout track, though, is "Summer Palace," a highly syncopated, fusion-leaning piece with Donati on drums. The sparse arrangement puts you at the edge of your seat, as it invites anticipation and gives MacAlpine plenty of room to explore, both harmonically and rhythmically.

For more info or to order the album, visit TonyMacAlpine.com

Complete track list:
Serpens Cauda
Ölüdeniz
Fire Mountain
Dream Mechanism
10 Seconds to Mercury
Flowers for Monday
Angel of Twilight
Pyrokinesis
Blue Maserati
Summer Palace
Salar De Uyuni
The Dedication

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openmind on July 27, 2011 at 6:05 PM

I have felt like a Tmac crack addict ever since i saw Freedom To Fly advertised in an old Shrapnel records add in guitar magazine back in the early 90s. Ever since ive been completely blown away by this mans incredible imagination and musicianship. I always was under the impression that the more popular musicians were; the better their music. Mr MacAlpine completely destroyed this idea for me and helped me to see past outward apearances. Why he isnt as much of a houshold name is simple....he doesnt exactly fit the media mold of what a guitar slinger should be like. That having been said i think his latest body of work is just yet another example of the true potential of the beauty of the human mind and spirit rock on!!

xfernan22 on July 10, 2011 at 9:59 AM

Right on the nail with that explanation about inviting new listeners to his music. Yes, "Summer Palace" is just a whole 'nother level of an instrumental, hands down the best piece on this album! Brings back memories of Maestro di Capella from Premonition, if you know what I mean. For me, it's taken a couple more listens than the average TMac cd, but as someone said earlier, with every listen you get to discover and experience something new. Thanks!

GuitarInstructor on June 27, 2011 at 11:45 AM

@NotEvenClose: Chill, dude. No disrespect at all intended for TM in that review. Obviously he doesn't need to "borrow" from those guys, but it's also true that both Satriani and EJ are more "household names" than MacAlpine. As such, using that sort of comparison helps newcomers to TM's music better understand the sound.

Ian H (UK) on June 25, 2011 at 4:34 AM

Yes I thought that was an odd comment to make about TM, as he certainly has no need to look elsewhere, to see how a well crafted melody over a shifting arrangement is done; TM is more of a master than they are! The album does seem more progressive which I like and is also a real departure from his previous albums. Often this can be a bad thing with other artists, but with TM he always changes for a good reason and not simply as a desperate act to keep going. His Master Of Paradise album was a good example of this, and was very underated I thought and one of my most favourite albums. I feel this is an album with legs, that will keep shedding a layer to reveal more treasure to the listener as the years pass by. It's a mature work by an ever youthful guitarist.

NoNotEvenClose on June 24, 2011 at 8:43 PM

I really enjoyed how you implied that Tony "borrowed" some of his song ideas from other guitarists; it really shows your true colors and your ignorance of his past work. "MacAlpine shows he can play equally well inside the box, borrowing from the Eric Johnson and Joe Satriani school of melodic mastery-" Just lol. Just lol.