RON THAL - BUMBLEFOOT - GUITAR MADMAN - INSTRUMENTAL AXE - 9.11 - " aka Eclectic Earwig Reviews Music and More for You!"
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Bumblefoot: 9.11 (CD, 41:57); 2001 Hermit Inc 1002 Website: I came across Bumblefoot aka Ron Thal long ago with his guitar frenzy, Zappa-esque release of The Adventures of Bumblefoot. My youngest daughter quickly “borrowed” the disc because of its comical side but I missed hearing it because of Thal’s amazing guitar playing style. Not only does he play unique riffs that rival Vai and Satriani but he physically mutates his axes into bizarre and surreal things. I cannot really describe them except to say think, Dali, Bosch or Pee Wee’s Playhouse.
"What the -- ??" This release was to be titled Guitars SUCK but with the unforgivably insane madness of the terrorist attack on America by u- know-who on 9-11-01, Thal re-named the release to 9.11, marking the tragic event, and to raise money to help lessen the dire straits of the victims and their families. 100% of the profits from the sale of this release go to the American Red Cross. If you are into pumping and hard-slamming axe with killer solos laced throughout you’ll love this release. There are seven way-cool instrumentals showcasing Thal’s magic-man fret stunts and a bevy of techniques. And there are five tunes with lyrics and yet again more crunch-worthy explosions of Thal’s fingertips. This is not shred nor aimless noodling jams without soul. Thal bursts out of each track with exuberant guitar pyrotechnics that show form and function in just having fun playing. Some moments of this CD are light-hearted and others rip out with angst. It’s all here, the heaviness of Prong’s Tommy Victor, some acoustic splendor, and mainly the riff-tech rock mirroring Vai yet this work remains uniquely Thal. Frank Zappa tips his fez to you Bumblefoot. Good stuff. High recommendations for Thal’s noteworthy guitar and his obvious mastery. ~ John W. Patterson, Personnel: Ron Thal on a myriad of axes and more along with his wild friends like Joboj and Dweezil Zappa and others . . . Tracks: Fly in the Batter, Lost, Raygun, Hole in the Sky, Children of Sierra Leone, Don Pardo Pimpwagon, Legend of Van Cleef, Guitars SUCK, Hall of Souls, Top of the World, R2, Time

Ron Thal: The Adventures Of Bumblefoot 1995, Shrapnel Records CyberHome: What can we say about you Ron Thal? You are bizarre, unconventional, and probably off your rocker. But, there is genius in your madness. Bumblefoot is a collection of diverse and boundary- stretching tracks that are intended to broaden your musical experience. There is some good guitar work here, but the striking aspect of this album is the composition and not the techniques that Ron deploys, but rather the psychological effects he achieves with them. Ron Thal goes where no guitarist has gone before, and none are likely to go again. If you like the music in video games, commercials, or dimented movies, you are sure to like this CD. Be forewarned, this CD will take several listenings for you to ajust to the style and composition. Ron Thal has a unique view of the world that shows through in his music. That view is sometimes realististic, sometimes captures the off-beat or the bizarre, sometimes surreal, but always has an unexpected optimistic side to it that becomes more striking because of the other aspects that contrast this sparing optimism so boldly. Bumblefoot opens with the title track that sets the climate and makes it very clear what you are in for. The bumbling bassline establishes the mood and feel that is like some awkward troll or Scuzzlebutt creature from the South Park cartoon (my favorite episode!), but then becomes a little more intricate and gains some depth of character with the guitar work that ensues. Bumblefoot then turns toward the sun from the shadows under a troll's bridge in the track "Orf". There is still a dark overtone to it, but there is now a ray on sunshine bursting forth from the clouds. "Scrapie" follows with a very uplifting melody and progression that sharply contrasts the tortured riff that the track opens with. And, so the album continues on in this fashion, changing from shadow to light, from sin to redemption, from sickness to health, from depression to elation, and from sadness to happiness. But, there is always an eery, disoriented feel that is only mastered by Ron Thal. Thal make's "Ick" feel good, probably better than it really does, and this is probably my favorite track, though I appreciate the salvation given in "Fistulous Withers" too. And, just to give you a sense for Ron Thal's dimented nature, all of the tracks have titles that are equine health disorders. Ron's wife is a veterinarian, so there is probably some connection here that is known only to Ron, and maybe his dear wife. Are these the emotions that horses undergo when they experience these terrible health problems and recovery from them? We may never know because horses can not talk and therefore will not tell us... but maybe they have told Ron who has some strange ESP abilities with horses? ... !!! The purely instrumental tracks definitely convey that tormented feeling that you have when you are sick and tired of it. But, Ron is not a pessimist and always heals you before he is finished imposing the torture of illness on you and taking you with him as he indulges in his morbid fascinations. Ron Thal's mastery of emotion in music is unparalleled. The musical styles that he brings in and integrates to achieve his intended emotional effect is nothing less than brilliant. This is not music... This is art. And, like most good art, you will have to stretch your boundaries to appreciate it! There is no doubt that Ron Thal is out there and probably off the deep end. But, give it a shot. You will never look at the world the same way again. Tracks: 1) Bumblefoot 2) Orf 3) Scrapie 4) Blue Tongue 5) Limberneck 6) Q Fever 7) Strawberry Footrot 8) Ick 9) Malignant Carbuncle 10) Rinderpest 11) Strangles 12) Fistulous Withers ~ Christopher Ruel ~ TOP PICKS

Ron Thal: Hermit
1997, Shrapnel Records / Interference Records

Ron Thal follows up his earth-shattering, boundary-stretching Bumblefoot with Hermit that continues Thal's exploration of tonal, timing, and thematic arrangement relationships for the purpose of effecting psychological impact on listeners with the music as a medium. This time around, Thal has added his vocals to the list of vices that he uses to actuate your synapses with impulses they have never before encountered, nor were they ever, in a million years of evolution, designed to be exposed. If this is your first listening to Ron Thal, there is nothing anybody can say to prepare you. Just brace yourself and hear it through.

Ron Thal makes a full-frontal assault on your psyche, adding his twisted vocals and clever lyrics to his off-beat musical style. Normally, I have a general disdain for vocals, unless the message is a good one or the vocals are extraordinary. However, in the case of Ron Thal's Hermit, I have had to expand my boundaries of acceptance to include messages that come from a very unusual angle or are very amusing. Though, Thal's vocals are really not too bad, it is the lyrics that make the vocals justified. And, it actually helps the eery Ron Thal mood that he voices his message with his own, unique vocals that really convey the emotion behind the lyrics.

Honestly, if I had not listened to Bumblefoot prior to Hermit, I might have just given Hermit a cursory listening and passed it off. But, what I learned from the strictly instrumental Bumblefoot, was that Ron Thal has some very interesting ways of capturing human emotions with his instrumentation, tones, arrangements, and phrasings that he deploys so tactically to this end. So, having this in mind when approaching Hermit, it is definitely helpful because it makes a listener quicker to pick up on these things the second time around. My take on Ron Thal is that you can't look at the chops, tones, and guitar work he utilizes in his compositions for their own value. But, you do have to look at the way that he arranges them to see what emotional effect they convey in the context of the rest of the composition. To me, Ron Thal is not about guitar chops and technicianry, he is about emotional impact on your psyche through composition... and now lyrics. But, his guitar capabilities definitely widen the scope of emotions that he is able to convey. And, this is just my view of things and I wouldn't want to state it as Ron's purpose, because only he can say what that is!

So, now on to the hunt! Hermit opens with an instrumental composition, "Zero", that arpeggiates some chords based on outside-sounding harmonies that carry Ron's disillusioned emotional baseline to the listener. The title track, "Hermit", ensues with Ron's signature, unpredictable changes that make drastic transitions between widely varying musical themes, liberally mixing up heavy-handed, crunching riffs with more sensitive themes for the purpose of emotional contrast. If it strikes you as severe, that is probably the intended effect. Read the lyrics and you will understand! So, Thal continues once again in this fashion of drastic contrast to assault your psyche and senses to get your attention on his message.

My favorite track that is aimed at a certain breed of guitarist, "I Can't Play The Blues", is a track that many musicians will probably find amusing because it ridicules the egocentric guitar hero. Ironically, to satire the egocentric guitar hero, Ron must deploy some pretty speedy and progressive runs to paint the image... very clever cover, Ron! Another notable track that rubbed me the right way is "Rowboat". Thal drags you down into a very disillusioned state for so long that when he finally gives you redemption and freedom from the chains, you will appreciate it that much more. And, "Rowboat" is the vessel that Ron uses in Hermit to cast off those shackles of oppression with its feel good transition and theme that pulls the entire perspective into the sunlight, and throws in some witty humor to wink at you knowingly. If not for this brief ray of sunlight, we might not know that behind all of Ron Thal's satirical and drastic views of the world, there lies an optimistic heart. But, with all the pain, turmoil, and disillusionment he drags us through, we appreciate it that much more when we see it.

OK. And, one final track that is notable is "Every Time I Shake My Head". This track is notable to me because of the musical styles that Thal pulls from including the smooth jazz Christmas guitar genre that one might hear in the mall around December. It really is impressive that Ron hears music whereever he goes, identifies the emotions that people correlate with that music, and then he deploys that music in a capable manner to achieve his desired psychological affect... which is usually pretty disoriented, if not dimented!

I think to enjoy Hermit, you have to approach it for what it is. Don't try to analyze Ron's technique and guitar capabilities for their own value. Just listen to the music and forget what you know about technique and theory and all of that. Ron can play, but don't get distracted by it. If you can do that, the message will find its way to your ear and you might remember why you became so interested in music in the first place... because it captured or drove your emotions! And, that may just be what Ron Thal is really all about.

1) Zero
2) Hermit
3) Fatback
4) Freak
5) Sweetmeat
6) I Can't Play The Blues
7) Gray
8) Unsound
9) Goodbye
10) Rowboat
11) Hangup
12) Every Time I Shake My Head (It's Like Christmas)

~ Christopher Ruel ~ ~




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