Uli Jon Roth is not a household name in music or even Guitar although he should be. He was respected enough as a player by Jimi Hendrix’s to be his best friend because of his playing which sparked the friendship. Roth has “self confessedly” always played Music for the sake of art and his desire of music not success. Hence, he’s not interested in being a household name as you will surmise if you play his youtube links within this press. He could have easily taken that path, In fact he was on it and deviated course by his own admission. He was the true Architect of Guitar God Shred in Hard rock and most notably Heavy Metal as a soloists even more so that Tony Iommi, Richie Blackmore, Danny Weiss or Jimmy Page. Roth was the infamous guitarist on the live record Tokyo Tapes by the Scorpions that not only launched their career into the stratosphere for 20 years but because of the “Success Machine” left right after the success of the album.
Before their was Eruption by Eddy Van Halen, Before Zap or Cliffs of Dover by Eric Johnson, Before John Sykes, with Whitesnake, Before Kirk Hammet, Before Yngwie Malmsteen and even before the Great God of Guitar Randy Rhodes there was Uli Jon Roth’s Sails of Charon The first true Electric Guitar God jam of Virtuosity ever. I will make sure and post a version of that song at the end of this Press. This is why I laugh so hard when I hear the cliché “Hair Metal” because some of the players who get lumped into that stereo type have gone on to compose symphonies such as Roth who’s done several. Some of these Hair Metal dudes were very well schooled and talented musicians. Steve Vai, Steve Morse, Dr. Brian May (Astrophysicist and guitarist of Queen) and many others are college graduates not glam makeup womanizing coke snorting freaks :)
This week Uli Jon Roth appeared at the Sunshine Festival (a non-profit for cancer research started by Deep purple drummer Ian Paice’s wife Jackie) With Mark King (Singe / Bass Level 42) Covering Cream’s Sunshine of your love. Mark King just nails Jack Bruce’s part in the performance below but more importantly is how Roth builds his guitar solo. Clearly he’s improvising most of this and clearly the lions share of the first solo he really remained true to Eric Clapton’s feel and note placements. The thing that is most noticeable to me about his solo here and others is how it’s constructed from a feel vantage point in that; it starts out simple like a summer breeze then each pass of every phrase he up’s the wind ever so slightly with speed, bends and note choices that “Build” much like hot monkey love. It starts out slow but soon bursts into something much larger then finally arrives at synergy (or sometime regret but not in this case :)
If you listen to the first solo in its entirety you will find the second solo starts off right where the first one ended like a second climb of hill on a long roller coaster ride. The end become a whining vibrato display of sonic Shredery! (That’s a technical term) All of this while playing a guitar designed by himself dubbed “The Sky Guitar” which is the first 7 sting guitar I ever saw long before Vai and Korn made them popular. The guitar has 30 frets and not only plays in the spectrum of a Violin but the bottom cut away is so large there is no bottom cutaway. The whole of the bottom portion of the neck is open with no body restrictions to your hands and fingers. Check out this great comp of Sunshine!
Roth was such an inspiration to me as a player long after his days in the Scorpions, heck he would have to be I’m not that old;) He really inspired me because he could easily blend really bluesy but Ballsy playing with Elements of classical and Post Neo Classical Violin. The minute I heard Sails of Charon as a teenager I could hear Niccolò Paganini in it. You don’t grow up and band geek and get out of years of playing classical music without recognition of Paganini, at least I didn’t and honestly classical didn’t float my boat like Jazz, Blues, Rock & Roll etc did. Uli Jon was the composer that tied the two styles together for me and I’ve been a fan since. The video below is panned left with terrible Video quality but it’s the original cut of Sails of Charon from the studio album and the sound is dam good for how old it is. After all this time it inspires the heck out of me!
Lastly a footnote that has no real baring on the teachings of how to build a good music solo is what Uli Jon has done with is life since the spotlight of Rock and Roll Stardom. Jimi Hendrix and Uli Jon had a close friendship and believed some not so hidden truths about what music is which I have come to adopt, at least in part as my personal truth. Music is divine as well a tangible wonder of science. Simply put the math behind sound and light are parallel liken to how Music warms my insides like the Sun worms my outsides. Have you ever heard a note in a song that made the hair on your arms stand up or a singer who gives you goosebumps? Because of this belief, Uli Jon rather it was because he and Jimi planned this together as some including myself speculate because of things Hendrix said before his death or on his own Roth founded the Sky Temple Academy of music education and spiritually. A place to teach music hand in hand with how the universe exposes itself through sound and how it can impact music, your life and the world. Once held in a beautiful building in Europe much like a cosmic church it proved too expensive to maintain. Now Roth takes his Sky Academy on the road, you can find more about it here: http://www.sky-academy.com