Simon Yong [Singapore]
Alien Stole My Whiskey
Very rarely do I talk about instrumental rock albums, for the lack of theoretical or technical knowledge. But the very first instrument that got me interested in rock or metal music was the guitar, with masters such as Joe Satriani and Paul Gilbert quickly becoming some of my favourite guitarists. My fist encounter with Simon Yong was in his performances with Shirlyn & the UnXpected, with the technical flair and stage presence that he managed to display at the same time. So when it was announced this year that he was finally gonna release a solo instrumental effort, I was certainly excited about it and here we are with the debut solo release of Simon Yong.
The album artwork of an alien surfing on a guitar, and the title of the album, Alien Stole My Whiskey all somehow point towards a Joe Satriani influence (with his debut Surfing with the Alien), and as one would quickly come to notice this comparison will not be purely visual. That said, on Alien Stole My Whiskey, Simon Yong presents a whole range of different playing styles drawn from various influences to create a style that can truly be called his own. Kicking off with the very soothing and calming intro Blood of Raven, he quickly heats things up with a heavy intro on An Ancient March with the King’s Pipers, though there is much more going on as Simon quickly goes into a nice jazzy segment quickly enough, with Kerong including a nice keyboard solo on the track. The keyboards on the track and the playing of Simon towards the end of the track even brings in some slight Dream Theater comparison, a nice touch for fans of progressive rock or metal. The Joe Satriani comparisons come about with the usage of quirky effects on the album, such as the pitch shifter and delay effects on Listen to the Sun.
Despite Alien Stole My Whiskey being released as a solo effort by Simon, obviously what goes into the album is more than just the guitars, with the record boasting an impressive lineup. Each of the musician featured on the lineup are certainly more than capable on their instruments, and Simon also allows for the musicians on the album to have their time to shine, like the bass solo by Yazeid on Listen to the Sun. For instance, Brandon’s drumming adds to much of the energy of the album, and Joanna’s wizardry on the keyboards adds some nice quirky moments to the album as well. The chemistry between the musicians on the album and Simon is obvious throughout, with the songs sounding extremely tight despite the obviously challenging rhythms that Simon includes at times on the album.
What I really like about Simon‘s debut effort is how he has managed to really capture the essence of my favourite solo guitarists into one release, ranging from the quirkiness of Joe Satriani to the melodic tendencies of guitarists like Andy Timmons and Kiko Loureiro and the technicality of the likes of Paul Gilbert and John Petrucci. Furthermore, the tracklisting has obviously been well-thought out, with each track transiting nicely to the next track, resulting in a seamless 40-odd minute listen.
Leonard Soosay’s work in producing Alien Stole My Whiskey is also superb, allowing for each of the instruments to shine and preventing Simon‘s guitars from stealing all the limelight.
Alien Stole My Whiskey, despite the tongue-in-cheek tone that Simon has chosen to adopt, is a true masterpiece displaying his versatility and musical knowledge. The nice balance between heaviness and more melodic moments on the album would ensure that all fans of music ranging from heavy rock to jazz fusion would remain captivated for the entirety of the album.