Jake Shimabukuro is a legend in the ukulele world, and being lucky enough to meet him at GNUF last year, found out that he's a lovely chap, too with time for everyone. (When we met, I said one of the possibly daftest things I've ever said, ask me when we meet...). Many of us will have first seen him when he showed just what the ukulele could do by playing the whole of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' at a TED talk. Amazing. If you haven't seen it - check it out here.
Now, to the album. It's a proper studio album with varied genres, again showing what the ukulele can do. From rock to latin rhythm, it's all there. Fast to slow, Jake masters every track. Some are clean ukulele, some through effects. If you are nervous about playing ukulele music when guests come to dinner, this is a safe album to play. The uke is never overpowering, sometimes even difficult to spot in the mix, it's put together in a way where the music takes priority, not the ukulele. Probably how it should be.
Opening with 'When The Masks Come Down', the perfect introduction. The track builds with a distorted uke until at one minute in, there's a huge electric fuzz riff. Other tracks like 'Morning Blue' are more traditional, lead ukulele.
Pink Floyd's 'Wish You Were Here' gets a makeover. It's one I've heard covered many times at open mics, but when it's played instrumentally like this, you sing the words in your head. The lead is all there. Perfect, with a lovely sweeping slide in the background. You can preview it on YouTube here. The other major cover on the album is 'Landslide'. Vocalist Rachel James shines on this, superb.
'Fireflies' gets you tapping and nodding along with a deep bass line and then 'Wailae' starts with simple ukulele to bring us back to earth.
We understand that there's more to come in 2020, with a big collection of collaboration recordings in the works. Meanwhile, listen to this, it's a fabulously rounded album.
Buy the album, a masterful mix of originals and covers at his web site, where there's lots of other things including tour dates. He's not only a must listen, but a must see.
13 tracks, 48 minutes.
1. When The Masks Come Down
5. Red Crystal
6. Morning Blue
7. Summer Rain
8. Wish You Were Here
11. On The Wing
12. Strong In Broken Places
Review - Simon Taylor, 25th February 2020
Simon. THIS is how a ukulele should be played.