Classic Rock

Jason Becker

Triumphant Hearts


Eyes-dictated, guest-filled, genre-hopping album from disabled former guitar prodigy.

Any ‘struggling’ artist needing a reality check should take a look at Jason Becker. At just 20 the guitar ace was struck down with motor neurone disease and given only five years to live. Twenty-nine years later he’s still here, but he’s wheelchair-bound, and able to communicat­e only via eye movement. Yet he has continued to compose music, and the crowd-funded Triumphant Hearts is the long-awaited result.

For someone who made his name as a metal shredder, the album is one hell of an eclectic affair. Maybe too much so, if you were a fan of his late-80s work as one half of Cacophony alongside former Megadeth man Marty Friedman, and, as the successor to Steve Vai, as the guitarist for David Lee Roth.

There’s plenty of impressive guitar playing here from a stellar supporting cast, but don’t expecting heavy metal thunder all the way in Becker’s compositio­ns. His long-time passion for classical music is evident in the captivatin­g, soundtrack-style passages of the opening title track, with Friedman’s cellist wife Hiyori Okuda and violin maestro Glauco Bertagnin taking centre stage. Once Upon A Melody also has a beautiful Morricone-esque feel to it, punctuated with rediscover­ed solos from Becker’s Cacophony days.

The lead-off single from the album, the treacly MOR power ballad Hold On To Love’, might cloy a little on rock-hungry palates, but its lyrical sentiments still cut deep when soul singer Codany Holiday croons Becker’s words: ‘I can’t speak, I can’t play, but this flesh has much more to say’. We Are One’s ritzy, horn-spattered funk is a similarly unexpected stylistic adventure, while elsewhere the guitar glitterati are queuing up to contribute solos, leaving axe geeks to guess which ones are whose. A ‘Magificent 13’ of Becker’s favourite guitarists, including

Joe Satriani, Joe Bonamassa and Steve Morse, contribute to Valley Of Fire. If anything it’s an overcooked idea, though, as the solos pile up to outshine the song. More impressive is ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukur­o amid the cinematic sweep of Fantasy Weaver. In case you need reminding how Becker’s creative horizons have shifted, the chugging rocker Taking Me Back and the bluesy Tell Me No Lies – out-takes from 1990 David Lee Roth sessions featuring Jason’s shredding skills – are among the least impressive tracks here. Which reflects just how far Jason Becker has come on a journey that should have been over before it started.

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