Album Review: Warning Will Robinson!
Artist: Gregg Bissonette
Reviewed by: K Bo
The best way to describe long awaited Grammy Winner Gregg Bissonette’s (Maynard Ferguson/David Lee Roth/Joe Satriani/Toto/ELO/Steve Lukather/Ringo Starr/Santana/James Taylor/Spinal Tap) third solo album, entitled Warning Will Robinson! (CD Baby), is to call it a smorgasbord of multi-lingual musical excellence. The reference to multi-lingual is illustrative of Bissonette’s ability to musically speak in many languages (i.e., styles). (Actually, the accolade equally belongs to Gregg’s sibling, phenom bassist Matt Bissonette, who basically wrote all the material (with the exception of a co-author on one track), produced it, and also engineered it (not to mention financed it too)). But as for Gregg, the Detroit native who is 55 years young, we all knew that he is a master of music and his trademark is a highly talented variety of styles a la 2005’s release of Musical Drumming In Different Styles. However, on this record the brothers Bissonette show us how to incorporate all their various styles into actual music and great music at that. (Spoiler alert: Gregg does the lead vocals on the record as well which gives contemporary drummer/lead vocalists like Phil Collins and Dave Grohl a run for their money).
The first track on the album, entitled Mars, offers an aggressive techno/dubstep synthesizer rhythm that is a musical feast for a talented drummer like Gregg Bissonette. The track offers brilliant percussive accents throughout which shows how Gregg has mastered the element of time and space in his playing. There is plenty of open space to let this song breath and as he demonstrates throughout the tune, that sometimes less is more. But don’t be fooled, in the middle bars of this song Gregg Bissonette shows us that he can also offer effective blast beat-type fills with the best of them (a/k/a Thomas Lang, David Lombardi). The sleeper on this tune is Gregg’s vocal contribution. Gregg’s vocal style would easily land him a frontman job for many bands if he chose that route.
The album’s second track, entitled After All, offers a catchy Coldplay-esque melody. Supporting this tune is some great cross-sticking work by Gregg Bissonette who also shows he’s able to play in front of and behind the beat on a consistent basis to add extra support and interest to the rhythmic structure of the composition.
On the album’s lead track, Warning Will Robinson!, Gregg Bissonette’s vocal abilities again come to the forefront. It’s obvious the man can sing and he wants to show you that. But there’s more; not only is this a well-written song (thanks Matt) but Gregg Bissonette also shows that he has good range as a vocalist. Also apparent on this record is the Bissonette brothers’ ability to play and synchronize with one another as a rhythmic entity of their own. Indeed, the rhythm section is solid to the core and one that guitar players would kill to play over. Matt, who is an exceptional bass player in his own right, throws down in the middle of Robinson with his brother in a rhythmic pairing that perhaps is only rivaled by legendary duos such as Peart and Lee.
Following Robinson is the album’s next track, entitled Want Me To Be. In true Gregg Bissonette fashion, the track opens with a complete about-face via a several bar jazz introduction by Gregg himself. (Not surprising to hear this ability if you remember Gregg Bissonette’s 1989’s performance with the Buddy Rich band for The Buddy Rich Memorial Scholarship Concert). The performance on this tune is top notch as is the attention to details. The evident difference in drum sound in the intro is a nice touch and it shows wonderful respect paid to the jazz form of art. Also featured on this track are some unbelievably grooving baselines by Matt Bissonette. The bass guitar is very well represented on this record indeed.
The fifth track on this album, Starbucks Is My American Embassy, is an interesting one to say the least. This track probably spotlights Gregg Bissonette’s playing less than another tracks but around the 3:30 mark drummers are in for a special treat as Gregg lays down some seriously well put together fills that are pretty unique. Also featured on this track is some pretty melodic guitar work by Dan Strain.
Next up is Twenty Dollar Bill which shows the Bissonette brothers and crew can pony up to the best metal bands out there. The song, which is reminiscent of a Sound Garden/Stone Temple Pilots genre, gives some serious credibility to the guitar work of George Bernhardt, Doug Bossi, and, Ron Cohen, who all play on the track. This tune also illustrates Gregg Bissonette’s vocal abilities as well as offering a nicely assembled progression into a bridge portion of the song which is peppered with some well-thought-out drum fills.
The album’s seventh track, entitled Let It Loose, is owned by the Bissonette brothers who show off their funk abilities to the max. Matt Bissonette’s bass work on this track is nothing short of spectacular. The man pays great tribute to funk patterns and quite frankly he nails them like few can. Also engaging is Ellis Hall’s guest vocals which would make James Brown and Bruno Mars proud.
The final track, Not By Human Hands, is essentially a drum clinic. Drummers will be more than satisfied with the playing on this one. Here, Gregg Bissonette shows complete command of time, tempo, and ability, as he basically transforms his drums into a lead instrument for the last half of the track. It’s an interesting dynamic considering how much Gregg has openly said he learned from talking drums with Beatle great Ringo Starr who has emphasized the complimentary nature of drum playing. By far this is one of the more interesting pieces on the album and for any drummer, one will want to spend considerable time studying what Gregg is doing during the latter part of the song. It starts with an interesting high hat pattern and simply goes up from there.
All in all you will get your money’s worth with this record. In fact, for the student in you there is a second disc included with the album which is absent drum tracks. It’s a nice gesture from a great player who just keeps on giving back. The second disc allows the student to hear the teacher and then put their own interpretation on some solid material. The talent is evident in this well written collection of material which doesn’t offer a “b” side. It’s all “a’s” with this one.