The “Stone Pushing Uphill Man” is me. Of course, the image is inspired by the Greek myth of Sisyphus… a story about a man who spent every day rolling a heavy stone up a mountain, only to have to roll back down once he reached the top. This seems like a very frustrating fate. But there is a philosopher (Albert Camus) who wrote, “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” I agree. I am happy. And the reason is… I love my “stone.” My stone is many things. One of them is music. I have played guitar for many years. But recently, I have realized that I am not satisfied with much of what I have done. This felt like my stone rolling down the mountain. But I am happy. The stone is mine. I love pushing it back up. It takes effort. But I am in control. I have a goal. I can do it. It feels great. And when I get to the top, I don’t mind that it rolls back down again. Because by that time, I have spent enough time with that stone. And I’m ready for a new one. This album is my newest stone… and it rocks!
Of course, I also wrote a song with this title, and I’m very happy with both the lyrics and the music. It starts off with just my voice, an acoustic guitar, and my foot stomping on the ground. The energy of the song builds, as I describe what it’s like to be a “Stone Pushing Uphill Man.” The other instruments join me. (Including a string section that I created with all guitars.) By the end of the song, there are huge vocal harmonies, a passionate guitar solo, and the whole band jamming like crazy. It is a very honest song, sometimes dark, but with a deep feeling of inner strength.
With the “Stone Pushing Uphill Man” album, I decided that I am ready to bring my guitar to the center of the stage and let it sing. To do this, I wanted to use the inspiration of my favorite singers. Paul McCartney, Steven Tyler, Elton John, James Brown, Sting, k.d. lang… These are the voices that I wish I had. With my guitar I can reach their notes. The challenge is to match their emotion and expression. This is my goal as a guitar player. It requires many new techniques. I have to look at the guitar differently than I have in the past. For many years, I was inspired to play guitar like a harpsichord… very fast, very accurately, and with nearly every note being the same volume and tone. I wanted to be sort of a “perfect note factory,” with every note being the same. But a great rock singer adds expression that goes beyond the harpsichord. Every note is unique. They are not all the same. But they aren’t an accident. They are that way on purpose… to give the music maximum emotion.
Imagine trying to play the vocal line from Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle” on a harpsichord. Even if you played every note perfectly, it wouldn’t sound right. On “Stone Pushing Uphill Man,” I have worked hard to invent new ways to play the guitar and to get it to sing, scream, and rock like it never has before. And of course, when the time is right, I still throw in plenty of the shred style that I am known for. I still use my “harpsichord” when I need it, but mostly I’m enjoying my new voice!
“Stone Pushing Uphill Man,” is the first big step to truly find my voice on the guitar. I wanted the inspiration of my favorite singers for such a big challenge, so I chose a lot of cover songs. I think the listeners will be amazed at what I’ve been able to do with the guitar. Besides the melodies, I’ve also created most of the production with guitars. If the song needed to have keyboards or strings… I found a way to make it happen with the guitar. I think that the listeners will be surprised that the Elton John ballad, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” has one of the most exciting rock guitar solos that I’ve ever played… and of course, one of the best rock melodies ever written, thanks to Elton’s tune.
Another original song on the album is “Shock Absorber.” I first wrote this song with vocals, and I wrote a complete set of lyrics for it. Then I decided to have a competition with myself. I recorded myself singing the lyrics. Then I recorded myself playing the same lines on guitar. I actually read the lyrics as I was playing guitar, so I could follow the same phrasing. Then, I listened back to see which I preferred.
The guitar won. But the intention and melody of my voice was behind it.
This is the first time that I am singing with my guitar for a whole album. I think it’s the best “singing” that I’ve ever done!
I should also mention the drumming, because I have some fantastic drummers on the record. Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater and Winery Dogs fame plays on Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend, “ and The Beatles’ “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road.” And the legendary Kenny Aronoff plays on James Brown’s “I Got the Feeling,” The Police’s “Murder By Numbers,” Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle,” Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” Eric Carmen’s “My Girl” and my original songs.
One of the most surprising songs on the album is my cover of k.d. lang’s “Wash Me Clean.” k.d. lang is one of my favorite singers, and also one of the most challenging styles to play with the guitar. My co-producer and assistant is a young metal fan from Sweden, and he told me that “Wash Me Clean,” is his favorite song on the record.
My favorite… just might be the Loverboy track. It’s really fun to play that melody. The song rocks, and Mike Portnoy goes crazy on it!
And the title track of course. Because I am a...
STONE PUSHING UPHILL MAN
Wait until you hear this album!