Electric Sun

Fire Wind [Snapper]

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The same conflict of extremes that had blemished Uli Jon Roth's debut with Electric Sun -- mind-blowing guitar work marred by painfully ineffective vocals -- were reprised with increasingly dire consequences on the power trio's sophomore outing, 1980's Fire Wind. At least on Earthquake, large doses of hard rock akin to that of his former employers, the Scorpions, had helped soften the blow by keeping Roth's outmoded hippie ramblings in check, but on Fire Wind the guitarist was even less disciplined, his songs trippier, and his Hendrix fixation crossing the line from honest inspiration to poor man's imitation. To the latter point, "I'll Be Loving You Always" lifted melodies from both "The Wind Cries Mary" and "Angel," while the nearly 11-minute "Hiroshima" -- spine-tingling as it was as a guitar-playing showcase -- essentially represented the German guitarist's personal take on Hendrix's "Machine Gun." And in broader terms, the heartfelt messages parlayed by Roth's flower-power lyrics were generally stripped of significance when sung in a style reminiscent of Frank Zappa's comedy routines -- an inevitable byproduct of his deficient vocal talents. Even so, the album had at least one undeniable highlight in energetic opening rocker "Cast Away Your Chains," which overwhelmed any vocal failings with a solo and extended coda that's as good as guitar shredding has ever been. Notwithstanding this one track, though, only guitar freaks and Roth completists will likely want to venture into Fire Wind's sonic vortex.

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