Richard Earl Beach, better known as “REB” to friends and fans alike, continues to be one of the scariest and most underrated talents in the world of guitar, and should never be underestimated. Drawing upon everything from prog and fusion to blues and blistering metal shred, Reb has been an alumnus of rock institutions like Alice Cooper, Dokken, Night Ranger, and Whitesnake, when he is not also occupied being the lead guitar superstar in the also criminally underrated Winger, where he enjoys founding member status to this day. As if this resume was not already one of Portnoy-esque stature, let us not also overlook his projects such as The Mob with Doug Pinnick and Black Swan with Robin McAuley and Jeff Pilson.
So what’s the Rebster up to this week? Glad you asked. Way back in the day, in 2001, Reb and a handful of talented hometown friends burned the midnight studio oil recording a versatile little solo gem known as “Masquerade.” In a time where the rock and metal scene found itself adrift and often mired in a morass of directional uncertainty, Reb Beach, a member of the nearly fatally-wounded Winger supergroup, spent the time and introspection to pen an album which so neatly summarized the time period in rock and roll. It was like blues rock and metal, with underpinnings of grungy alternative angst. His vocals ranged from Alice in Chains to Red Hot Chili Peppers in nature, and aside from some over-use of vocal post-processing effects, the whole thing really works, is unique, better with every listen, and has somehow stood the test of time.
Since that album, Reb has been honing the solo thing, quietly, and in the background. Of course, while Kip Winger was producing the Mob album, he was usually making fun of “Smooth Criminal” guitar riffs when he was not tossing aside Reb’s ideas (as only best friends can) for not being quite cool enough, but in Reb’s peaceful downtime, he’s been crafting a little album of creations, and it is upon us today. It is entitled, “A View From The Inside.”
Since this is strictly an instrumental album, it might be better served with a summary review of its character, while outlining some of the highlights, rather than dissecting each and every riff and guitar lead. In fact, the album is a little bit of blending of the old and the new. The album starts with a perennial Reb Beach signature work, known as “Black Magic.” This showcase of speed and innovative lead technique has been a staple of his live shows and guitar clinics for over twenty years, but until now it’s never had a proper high quality performance on an album, so this is an automatic “must-have” for Reb fans. Along similar lines, his high-energy blues rock jam “Get Out and Walk” has been reinvented, reimagined, and reincarnated as “Little Robots,” a slower tempo, much more funk-infused little jam, complete with innovative bass and keyboard work. The original is a Reb classic to be sure, but this reboot may just be even more timeless. “Aurora Borealis” is a bit of a detour back to Reb’s Berklee roots, an energized little dancing duet of electric lead and grand piano. It’s rather complimentary to “First Ending” a brilliant little two-part duet following “Witness” another Reb essential from Winger’s “Karma” album.
A well-balanced track, “Infinito,” blends thoughtful melodies with Reb’s signature incendiary pyrotechnics. Paul Gilbert sometimes remarks upon how there are two types of playing: with the rhythm and outside the rhythm, and neither is right or wrong. This song is a good example of knowing when to dip in and out of that paradigm. Reb taps into his fusion-proggy side with “Attack of the Massive,” hitting us with both spanky rhythm chord structures, and funky excursions into some interesting grooves. “The Way Home” more or less continues this vein of writing, although slightly more Shawn Lane, albeit like Shawn in his “normal” and not completely ridiculous mode. Another fun track is “Hawkdance,” which can only be described as some fresh fusion of Joe Satriani and Steve Morse. Special mention to the very hip keyboard jams on this track.
Thankfully Reb has the Berklee Fusion bug out of his system at this point, and the song “Cutting Loose” is the blues metal riffage we have come to expect when he’s onstage with everyone from Morgenstein to Coverdale. The Floyd-fluttering primary riff is extra cool. The leads are explosive as they should be on the last track of this nature on the album. Which is fine, because the serene final track, “Sea of Tranquility” may be one of the better compositions on the album, if not the actual best. The keys and percussion create a lovely texture, and Reb just sort of goes into another dimension and lets the lead guitar melodies take him, and us, away to another place. It paints a scene like “Love So True,” also the final track from Reb’s “Masquerade” album with its exquisite piano parts.
Although weighing in a little light at approximately 45 minutes, the album scratches the itch of the lead guitar fan without overstaying its welcome. In all honesty, being intimately familiar with Reb’s “Masquerade” album sort of spoils “View From The Inside” because a lyrical album with Reb’s lyrics has already given us a view from the inside. Reb Beach has much to communicate through music and words, and if it were our choice, we would take another lyrical/instrumental album like “Masquerade” in an enthusiastic heartbeat. It’s a little bit like when Gilbert does a 100% guitar album. His playing is great. Possibly the best on earth. But he writes such great lyrical songs that one cannot help but feel something missing when he just goes Godzilla on his Ibanez for an hour. With all that being said, as guitar albums go, this one is one of the best. If Reb understands one thing about guitar, it’s tasteful presentation and execution. This album paces itself well, and has a well-planned variety of ingredients, from blues to fusion to mind-blowing lead playing, and also seems poised to stand the test of time. Although Reb does most of the heavy lifting on this one, the album features a gaggle of talented supporting musicians, from local drum hero Dave Throckmorton to the legendary bassist Philip Bynoe. It hits the streets today, so make sure you check out on this rocker ASAP.
Released By: Frontiers Music Srl
Release Date: November 6th, 2020
Genre: Instrumental Rock
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“A View From The Inside” Track-Listing:
Reb Beach, the omnipresent working man’s lead guitar player, and jack of all bands, has finished one of the definitive lead guitar albums of the decade. It truly has something for everyone, so definitely do not miss out on this one.