If you ask album producer Brad Tolinski (and former Guitar World editor) where the guitar is headed, he’ll tell you the future is female.
And he puts his money where his mouth is on She Rocks, Vol. 1: A Collection of Kick-Ass Guitar Goddesses.
The compilation of 11 tracks, executive produced by Steve Vai and released January 20 on his Favored Nations Entertainment label, gets off to a roaring start with Orianthi’s “Transmogrify,” a tune that opens a bit pensively then blossoms into a melodic, wailing guitar-fest.
Orianthi (Michael Jackson, Alice Cooper) has been in the spotlight as one of the most visible, leading young guitarists, and having her launch us into this guitar journey is an excellent choice.
From there we roll right into a full on assault with Yasi Hofer’s “Cosmic Stars.” Hailing from Germany, this shredder was mentored by Steve Vai and certainly has the chops to deserve the attention. Her track, clocking in at eight minutes, takes us on a roller coaster ride of guitar frenzy, with Hofer’s technical ability and musicality leading the charge. It’s simply glorious.
Next up is Kat Dyson (Prince) on “U Know What I Like,” a bluesy track with a sassy attitude, sly vocals, and an understated guitar bed that rolls into a tasty solo. It’s a perfect transition into an alternate style of guitar perfection.
Perhaps one of my favorite tracks is Sarah Longfield’s “The Taxi Time Travel Task Force.” With all parts recorded by Longfield, this jazzy, swirling tune impressively moves in and out of distortion-laden shredding, artfully melding genres.
One of the most visible tracks on the collection is tribute band Lez Zeppelin’s interpretation of “The Lemon Song,” featuring guitar queen Lita Ford. With all the balls of the original, Marlain Angelides’ vocals impressively lead us down new paths, with Steph Paynes and Ford delivering Page-like guitar raunch in spades.
No mention of women and guitar would be complete without Jennifer Batten (Michael Jackson, Jeff Beck), role model for many of the younger players on the collection. Here she shares “In the Aftermath,” an artsy, meandering mind-bender with a tribal beat.
With my vote for the most explosive track on the album, Nita Strauss (Alice Cooper) takes it up a notch with “Pandemonium,” a non-stop shred-fest that showcases her obvious chops. A melodic, driving frenzy from start to finish, Strauss lays it all down with precision, passion and plenty of hell yeah!
Steph Paynes, guitarist for Lez Zeppelin, contributes a Zeppelin-esque track in “The Sun at Her Eastern Gate.” This original unwinds with a Middle-Eastern vibe, a cool melody and superbly crunchy tone. It’s an excellent and intriguing track.
You might not know her name, but you should. Nili Brosh follows with a progressive melodic killer of a track in “A Matter of Perception.” Obviously skilled with chops “like butter,” Brosh effortlessly winds through notes aplenty as she displays her prowess brilliantly.
For “Scrap Metal,” guitarist Gretchen Menn (Zeparella) showcases her harder side. Yes, she’s from the OTHER female Led Zeppelin tribute band, but here she shares an original and solidly heavy and driving track that originally appeared on her album, Hale Souls.
To top off the collection, Yvette Young’s “Hydra” swirls us into a hypnotic, mixed meter dream catcher of a tune. In stark contrast to the more metal tracks on the album, Young winds us up and then settles us right back down to earth, with a smile on our faces, of course.
She Rocks, Vol, 1 shows us that there’s no doubt that these kick-ass guitar goddesses know their way around an axe. But beyond gender, this collection is just darn good. These artists share a mastery, musicality and a sensibility that makes the compilation simply shine. While each song is unique and worthy of praise, it’s the total picture that leaves us breathless and dreaming of Volume 2. Yes, she does, indeed, rock.