What’s the Rockbrat Listening To Today – ELECTRIC SUN : Earthquake (1979)

Uli Jon Roth was a pioneer of the ‘neo-classical metal’ genre, yet many would be aware of him through his work with the Scorpions in the early 70’s. He released four albums with the Scorps before leaving in 1978 to pursue a solo career and a different style. He formed his own band named Electric Sun and they released three album, Earthquake (1979), Fire Wind (1981), and 1985’s Beyond the Astral Skies (which feature’s  Samson’s Nikki Moore). After Electric Sun, Roth entered a new phase of creative work, composing four symphonies and two concertos, and sometimes performing with symphony orchestras throughout Europe. Yet today, I want to revisit his classic debut album from 1979 – Earthquake. Roth’s virtuoso playing has influenced many notable guitar players, including Marty Friedman and Yngwie Malmsteen, and if you dig those guys, and have not heard Roth’s playing – the Earthquake album is a good starting point.  The album was recorded in November 1978 and January 1979 at Olympic Studios, London and was originally released in 1979 on Metronome Records.  8 tracks in all – clocking in at 40 minutes. Roth plays all the guitar parts and produced the album, Clive Edwards is on the drums and Ule Ritgen on bass.  The album opens with the self titled tune, ‘Electric Sun’ and straight out of the blocks you can hear the sparks fly on this Hendrix styled rocker. Whilst Roth’s vocals aren’t that strong – they are adequate on this fiery album opener. On ‘Lilac’, the sound rises and falls, and is awash with self indulgence, but that’s OK, this is Uli Von Roth. He’s good – and he knows it. He’s on another planet, with trippy lyrics and original fretwork  that melds the music of Mozart with the lyrics of late 60’s psychedelia. ‘Burning Wheels Turning’ has some splintering fretwork, yet is still melodic and likeable, the soloing memorable and distinct. ‘Japanese Dream’ has, as expected, a meditative quality that evokes images of ancient Japan and self reflection, layered with some effective playing, the song is almost spoiled by Roth’s unnecessary spoken vocal delivery. ‘Sundown’ is one of my two favourite cuts on the album. Mainly ‘cos Roth’s playing is on fire and the song is awash in decadent Hendrixisms. A great tune. ‘Winter Days’ is a dreamy instrumental that is written in a sad , minor key and conjured up images of cold winter days. Simple, effective, imaginative and my other personal fave on the album. ‘Still So Many Miles Away’ is another upbeat tune covered in Roth’s unique lead work – though again, his voice does the tune no justice. The album closes with a sizzling instrumental version of ‘Earthquake’ that leaves the listener in no doubt, that in 1979 – Roth had left any memories of the Scorps behind and had arrived with a style and sound of guitar playing that was truly innovative. Of interest, the artwork for this album (and all the three Electric Sun albums) was painted by former Hendrix girlfriend Monika Dannemann (who was also Roth’s girlfriend) Dannermann was previously Jimi Hendrix’s girlfriend when he died. n 1996 Monika Dannemann was convicted of breaking a British High Court order not to repeat allegations that Kathy Etchingham was an “inveterate liar” for accusing her of playing a role in Jimi Hendrix’s death. Etchingham asked the judge to jail Dannemann but she was released. Two days later Monika Dannemann was found dead in a fume-filled Mercedes-Benz near her cottage in Seaford, East Sussex, aged 50. Her death was ruled a suicide, but Roth publicly stated his opinion that her passing had been the result of foul play. Roth dedicated later works to the memory of Dannemann.

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