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The Weird and Dynamic Guitar of Buckethead

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The legend goes that Buckethead was raised by chickens in a chickencoop, escaping at an impressionable age to discover the world at large and learning to play the guitar. Oh--did that boy learn to play a wicked guitar! He became a master of the strung strings, rivaling the talent and passion of the world's best guitarists.

According to further mythology, he is powerless without the bucket on his head. But with a guitar in his hands, Buckethead is everyone's master.

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BUCKETHEAD: Giant Robot (CD on Cyberoctave)

Originally released in 1994, this fantastic release was reissued in 2000, so that the entire world could experience the blazing wonder of these 74 minutes of quirkily humorous power rock.

This release tells the story of Buckethead's mysterious origin and his assault on society (starting with Tokyo) in the form of a giant robot. The tale is related through spoken snippets and lyrics crammed into a cyclotronic assortment of kick-ass rock'n'roll songs.

Be ready to visit Bucketheadland, where Buckethead's Toy Store offers enough dazzling entertainment to send the most jaded kid into a rapt coma. You'll meet Rude Ralph and Onions and the creepy Post Office Buddy and a host of civil and uncivilized oddities. As one track emphatically declares: "Buckethead's a psycho. He's a real psycho."

Guitars blaze with unbelievably fury, and drums pound with monstrous stamina and exhausting rhythms, and electronics soar in-between the few cracks in the mix. Vocals do not appear in traditional form, but most of the tracks feature spoken clues and heavily treated utterances of cryptic importance.

But the core of this music's appeal is definitely the guitar. Fingers moving faster than humanly possible exert frenzied direction to the electric strings, producing growling riffs of superlative beauty. Treatments and filters of every design are applied to these chords, elevating them to astral proportions that resound with adequate power to atomize buildings and crumble mountains.

It doesn't matter what genre you prefer--power rock or heavy metal--this music will more than satisfy even the most discriminating audiophile. All other guitarists of international renown move aside, Buckethead is coming, and the unwary are guaranteed to be blown away by his guitar wizardry.

Making things even more appealing is Buckethead's unvarying commitment to tasty hooks and catchy melodies. His ability to generate an endless stream of innovative tuneage is beyond belief (as will be examined in the next review).

Conspiring with Buckethead on this release are: Bill Laswell, Bootsy Collins, Iggy Pop, Sly Dunbar, and many more.

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BUCKETHEAD: Funnel Weaver (CD on Ion Records)

Get ready to be further amazed, for this 61 minute CD features 49 tracks! And each one constitutes a cohesive song bristling with fiery allure and intense charm. Not possible? Ha--you don't know Buckethead. "He's a real psycho."

From the initial note, your attention is aggressively clutched and held fast. Guitars grind and wail and blaze and growl and titillate and jar and swerve and seduce and bewitch. Drums explode and patter and enunciate and propel. Electronic edging slides sinuously amid the rest of the fury, barely noticeable for the brilliant glare of the guitar's ceaseless pyrotechnic displays.

With each song lasting between 25 seconds and 3 minutes (although the majority of the pieces last on an average of just under 2 minutes), these compositions are compacted and refined to express with immediacy. There's no meandering here--it's right to the riff, repeat, deviate and done. And each track is as rewarding as the last one, sating all desires from dance to trance to gritting your teeth with absolute delight.

"Powerful and compelling" does not adequately describe this music's impact.

How is it humanly possible to create such an array of diverse and entertaining melodies? Ah, you're beginning to understand the scope of this creature's talent.

Aiding Buckethead this time (in the form of provided samples) are: LA Riot Drums, Brain (from Primus), Bill Laswell, Big Beat, and Chopper.

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BUCKETHEAD: Somewhere over the Slaughterhouse (CD on Stray Records)

With this 47 minute release from 2001, Buckethead delivers a more conventional dose of powerhouse instrumental rock tunes.

Buckethead has purposefully pulled back to allow other instruments a chance to contribute to the tuneage, with keyboards and bass enhancing the overt drumming and the blinding fervor of his guitar onslaught. Vocal snippets are employed to goad things along, but they never involve more than a few repeated phrases (as the cry of "help me" begs for release from a barrage of squealing synthesizers and pummeling percussives). A fusion of electronics and BPMs conspire to achieve a techno edge that seethes under the foundations of some songs, creating a contextual blur that is not all that unpleasant.

And how's the guitar fare among this diversification? With stolid dedication to furious velocity and passionate outcry, Buckethead belts out riffs tastier than chocolate and meatier than fillet mignon. There's even one track that delivers Spanish guitar in lieu of the usual power growl of nimble-fingered strings.

Fans of Joe Satriani will go absolutely insane over this music.

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BUCKETHEAD: Electric Tears (CD on Meta Records)

This CD from 2002 offers a drastically different side of Buckethead's talent with 71 minutes of mellow solo guitar tunes. No percussion, no bass, no keyboards or electronics, no vocals--just guitar.

Sensitivity dominates this music. Although acoustic guitar is the primary instrument, there are abundant incidents of electric guitar adding an astral edge to the earthy sound. Charismatic electric strings inject a searing passion that expertly merges with the sultry acoustic strings, generating tuneage that appeals to old school fans as well as contemporary audiences.

Multitracking affords these solo performances more versatility, but the tuneage remains stately and unaggressive. Complexities unfurl among the delicate pieces with relaxed delivery. The overall mood is often sad, but tinged with an undercurrent of hopefulness that defies any languid sentiment. Anticipation and spiritualism are the designs hidden in these instrumental songs.

Whether pursuing meditative melodies or chasing herds of wild mustangs across the prairie, Buckethead creates gripping sonic excursions that invigorate as they pacify. The highs are ecstatic, scraping the ceiling of the sky to peer into heaven's mysteries. The valleys are serene and sensorial, exposing vital emotions that every human being can fathom. This music is masterful in its ability to reach past the strongest pessimism and soften the cynic with inspired confidence.

All tracks are composed by Buckethead, with the exception of Joaquin Rodriago's "Sketches of Spain" (a tune which most audiophiles immediately associate with Miles Davis).

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