Roth, Uli Jon - Transcendental Sky Guitar

Year of Release: 2000
Label: SPV
Catalog Number: SPV 089 72032
Format: CD
Total Time: 121:02:00

This is one of those easy to reviews to write, and could be done in a sentence: Uli Jon Roth's Transcendental Sky Guitar is a stunning work that defies adequate description - and that exactly what he wanted. It's easy only because words fail, you have to hear it to understand. Of course, you can describe this album in technical terms. There are two discs of music, Roth's own compositions as well as his interpretation of classical pieces by Mozart, Chopin and others, and material by Jimi Hendrix ("Voodoo Chile," "Villanova Gem," and "Atlantis") You can mention that each disc has a subtitle - "The Phoenix" for disc one, "The Dragon" for disc 2, and that there is more than 2 hours of music here. But once you get beyond the dry facts, words don't quite come as easily. Stunningly beautiful and expressive is the closest I can come - there were moments that were so achingly beautiful, tears nearly came to my eyes. I'm not one to show much outward emotion -- ironically. I say "ironically," because I have always been a guitar person and have appreciated the talents of various artists who seemed to play with a dexterity and deftness that I could never muster. One of the things I latch onto with guitarists is the emotive quality of their playing, are they playing licks or are they giving voice to their soul? We could argue, of course, about who exactly fits each category, and then we have to throw in the technical guitarists, who fall somewhere in between. But I know who I think of when I think of emotional guitar playing, and I have to say, they pale in comparison to Uli Jon Roth. Now, I have to tell you that other than this release, I've not heard much of Roth's playing, except, perhaps, the odd Scorpion's track.

All the material is interpreted and expressed by Roth and his Sky Guitar. If you are unfamiliar with Roth, you might be thinking, what the heck is a Sky Guitar? After just one listen to this set, you'll know. But, not to be as cryptic as all that, they are customized guitars that Roth plays. It's more than just name, of course, it's an approach, a living, breathing way of interacting with a guitar. For more about the guitars, there is a page on a US-based fan site at
where you can see pictures of both guitars used on this album, Sky IV "Mighty Wing" and Sky V "Destiny".

Disc one, subtitled "The Phoenix" features Concert-Pieces, while disk two "The Dragon" features Encores and Improvisations. We had an extensive news item about this release in December, which I'll include parts of here as well.

This is a beautifully produced 2-disc set -- the booklet is graced with spectacular photography, much of it by Roth himself. "[It] is a double CD and shows the two sides of a coin from my point of view. The first of the two CDs, subtitled THE PHOENIX, presents predominantly the European style that is based on classical music, performed with phrases that stem from rock music. The second CD, THE DRAGON, tries to bring across the very opposite - American, extremely bluesy and more freely structured rock music is moved closer to the classical school of thinking," Roth said, and elsewhere notes, "It is two CDs because the material demanded it. I wanted to explore new possibilities through the Sky Guitar with a vengeance. I wanted to share this kaleidoscope of emotions with my audience."

About the range of material, Roth says: "There has never been an era with more contradictions and opposites than ours. This overkill of extremely conflicting stimuli is a real and active component of the current Zeitgeist. You can try to get away from it - or to face it - or indeed make a virtue out of necessity, but you can't stop the course of time. The journey happens to head towards the unknown. I for my part prefer to filter out of the currents of the time that move me personally the most and to arrive at a new synthesis. The result is generally an unusual mix of old and new, which can in turn influence and inspire the Zeitgeist."

"This album is for people who are ready to go on a journey without preconceptions and ideological baggage," notes Roth "[I]t is for people who can feel and think freely without clinging to dogma. It was made to transcend boundaries, but it is not an easy ride for the listener who expects repetitive moods, modes, and structures. This is not entertainment music - it is really only for people who are able to leave their preconceived notions at the doorstep and go on a journey into another person's frame of mind. I needed to get it out of my system and I knew there would be people out there who are able to appreciate it."

The mainly instrumental album also features Don Airey on keyboards, Steven Bentley-Klein on violin and trumpet, Liz Vandall on vocals, Shane Gaalaas on drums, and Barry Sparks on bass. Roth was once a member of German rockers The Scorpions, but left to pursue his own symphonic rock project, Sky of Avalon. And while this is a "comeback" album of sorts, Roth has been far from musically idle, as he has written four symphonies, a concerto, explored music and philosophy, oil painting, as well as other pursuits.

"I'm eccentric, but there are a lot of misconceptions about me," Roth said. "A lot of people don't get what I'm trying to do...but there are also quite a few who do."

If you are anyone who appreciates music and the power of music to communicate without the need for words or concrete ideas, then you will be overwhelmed by Transcendental Sky Guitar.

Disc One: Sky Overture / Rondo Alla Turka / Sehnsucht In A-Minor / Tuona E Fulmina / The Hut Of Baba-Yaga / Earth Quake / Meditation De Thais / Paganini Paraphrase / Fairy Dance / Beethoven Paraphrase / Recuerdos De La Alhambra / Air De Aranjuez

Disc Two: Hiroshima / Villanova Gem / Voodoo Chile / Stormy Passage / Gypsy Czardas / Freeflow Gem / Scherzo Alla Paganini / Atlantis / Turn The Time / Event Horizon / Mighty Wing / Air De Bach

Uli Jon Roth - sky guitar, vocals
Don Airey - keyboards
Steven Bentley-Klein - violin, cello, trumpet
Liz Vandall - vocals (2:1)
Shane Galaas - drums
Barry Sparks - bass

Scorpions - Fly To The Rainbow (1974)
Scorpions - In Trance (1975)
Scorpions - Virgin Killer (1976)
Scorpions - Taken By Force (1977)
Scorpions - Tokyo Tapes (1978)
Electric Sun - Earthquake (1979)
Electric Sun - Fire Wind (1981)
Beyond The Astral Skies (1984)
Aquila Suite (1991)
Sky Of Avalon - Prologue To Symphonic Legends (1996)
Transcendental Sky Guitar (2000)
Legends of Rock: Live at Castle Donnington (2002)
Metamorphosis Of Vivaldi's Four Seasons (2003)
Under A Dark Sky (2008)

Genre: Melodic Metal

Origin DE

Added: February 5th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1028
Language: english


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