Shawn Lane

Picture of Shawn Lane

Powers Of Ten

Shawn Lane - Powers Of Ten ©1992 Warner Bros.
1. Get You Back
2. West Side Boogie
3. Not Again
4. Esperanto
5. Illusions
6. Piano Concertino: Transformation Of Themes
7. Powers Of Ten: Suite
8. Paris
9. Rules Of The Game
10. Gray Pianos Flying
11. Epilogue (for Lisa)

Shawn Lane died in 2003 at age 40, and it is difficult to decide which is more tragic about his short career: his untimely death, or the fact that, to this day, practically nobody has heard his extraordinary music and experienced his preternatural musicianship.

In a nutshell, Shawn Lane was the most technically advanced guitar player in the known universe, as well as a world-class pianist, composer and arranger. Powers of Ten, his first album, was truly a solo affair: he engineered and produced the record, composed and arranged the music, and performed every single instrument (guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums, which he performed live on a keyboard with drum sounds, with no quantization or sequencing). The compositions are relatively mellow instrumental rock, with some neo-classical thrown in ("Piano Concertino") and a couple of harder-edged fusion tracks, notably the magnificent Paris.

It is difficult to give this truly one-of-a-kind album the praise it deserves. Each and every track is a melodic gem, with rich arrangements, a superb sound, and immense compositional and instrumental prowess. Lane's guitar playing is usually restrained and melodic, with wide intervallic leaps, unusual and complex pentatonic phrases similar to Eric Johnson, and the occasional mind-blowing high-speed run that never detracts from the song's intent. His guitar tone is warm and rich in midrange, with lush effects sweetening the distortion's attack while highlighting the supernatural clarity and accuracy of his playing.

One track in particular stands out for its truly stunning richness: "Paris", a dark, fast and complex composition with a dark film noir soundtrack feel to it. Lane plays angular yet melodic lines on various instruments (guitar, bass, keyboard-sax, organ and piano), sounding like a classic post-bop jazz combo all by himself, and manages the impossible task of conjuring up the sounds and bustling activity of a large city at night, as its title suggests. The song's main theme is one of the most brilliant and beautiful melodies I have ever heard, and the final variation on it never fails to knock me off my chair.

This album is an absolute masterpiece from start to finish. It was a revelation for me when I first heard it ten years ago, and still makes my head spin every time I listen to it. A one-of-a-kind genius, savant and musician's musician par excellence, Shawn Lane was the culmination of centuries of musicianship, the apex predator of guitar, the next rung on the evolutionary ladder from which John McLaughlin, Allan Holdsworth, Chris Poland and Eric Johnson had sprung, and he is sorely missed by all his fans and contemporaries.

Powers of Ten is unfortunately long out of print and almost impossible to find (especially the remixed version reviewed here, with two tracks re-recorded with a live band and a different track order). But you owe it to yourself to track this record down and enjoy its magnificence. Lane also recorded extensively with bassist Jonas Hellborg; all of these albums are fairly easy to obtain and should be in every fusion fan's collection.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 11/2004

Back to top