JAM Magazine CD Review

August , 2011
Review by Andrew C. Schlett

Joel Gregoire

"Deranged Kids of the Electric Playground"

Label: Self-Release

Joel Gregoire, formerly of Stride, is already well known for his technical wizardry on the guitar.  Indeed, Gregoire’s masterful licks have always been Stride’s greatest strength and most identifiable trademark.  Now a more mature Gregoire has gone into the studio by himself and has emerged with "Deranged Kids of the Electric Playground", an eleven-song set (plus three remastered bonus tracks) that neatly showcases all of his wide-ranging abilities and talents.  Nothing is held back here.  All the guitar and bass guitar work is Gregoire; he programmed the drum tracks, and single-handedly composed and orchestrated each song as well.  This album is simply the Essential Joel Gregoire at its purest, which is very good news for both current fans and those who soon will be.

From the opening notes of the title track "Deranged Kids..." Gregoire takes the listener immediately onto a wild coaster ride of electrical musical exploration, running through searing scale riffs and melodic lulls with the practiced ease of a seasoned expert.  The second track on the disc, "Memorial Day Song", and the fifth one, "Sons of Liberty", both patriotically inspired tunes, could perhaps be called somewhat familiar in terms of where the songs are going as they are heard, but that is only because they sounds like something that Frances Scott Key might have composed had Key access to an electric guitar in his day.  "Speed and Style", which should have gotten some consideration for the title track of the album since that song so perfectly sums up the entire ambiance of the overall work, continues the theme of classical guitarist meets axe-shredding maniac, and the rest of the material follows suit.  There are surprises here for the listener as well; a great example of this is the thrash xylophone very unexpectedly heard in the beginning of "Brain G’rnade".  "Runaround" features a hardcore drumbeat that never lets up and perfectly supplants the insistently driving guitar work overlain on top. "Whatever Comes" and "Among Giants" both invoke colorful musical imagery in the mind of the listener as the fret board is over-and-over again bent to the will of Gregoire’s lightening-fast fingers.  "Urban Legends", the tenth track, really does play like an old-timey jazz standard that has been given a modern refit and dressed up in rock clothing.

The remaining tracks on the disc also fall into the same genre and type.  This material is all instrumental; there are neither vocal tracks nor lyrics anywhere to be found in any of these songs.  Commercial success for this album may suffer on that account, since the mainstream does so enjoy poppy little rhymes that they can sing along to, but guitar purists and lovers of technique everywhere will eat this up.  Gregoire’s efforts have resulted in nothing less than an album that evokes and lays bare the very soul of the electric guitar itself and takes the listener on a most enjoyable musical odyssey through the Electric Playground that is Joel Gregoire’s trademark sound. 

"Deranged Kids..." is without a doubt one of the finest totally instrumental releases to become available in a good many years, and it is certain to end up on CD shelves, mp3 files, and Ipod playlists alongside the greatest guitar legends in the musical pantheon.  Les Paul is smiling right now!