Jason Becker's story is one of great tragedy and remarkable determination. As a child prodigy he became one half of guitar virtuoso duo Cacophony in his teens before travelling the world and joining David Lee Roth's band at the age of 19. Becker was heading for the big time when a cruel twist of fate meant he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease – the same condition as Stephen Hawking - and given a life expectancy of five years. Astonishingly 29 years later, Jason is still making music. The illness may have robbed him of the ability to play the guitar, walk, talk or even breath on his own, but it has not destroyed his mind and his extraordinary gift for crafting a melody. Through the wonders of modern technology and a system developed by his father, Jason can communicate through a series of eye movements to spell out words and musical notes and chords. Jason's vision is then put into a computer that can generate charts for session musicians to bring his music into fruition.
The 14 track album is a masterclass in musical diversity as Jason jumps from detailed orchestral works to gospel and from rock to funk. The album is mostly instrumental and features a host of guitar heroes such as Joe Satriani, Steve Morse, Joe Bonamassa and Uli John Roth; it even has some of Jason's adroit guitar playing throughout the album. As a piece of work, it shows Jason Becker as the talented guitarist of his youth, but also a composer of exceptionally high standards. The album opens with the beautiful and uplifting title track features Jason's old bandmate Marty Friedman and his wife Hiyori Okuda on cello. Violinist Glauco Bertagnin also appears on the track with a shredding style lightning solo that even Jason was surprised he pulled off due to its speed. The rousing track paves the way for the heartbreaking Hold on to Love. The first vocal song on the album is guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings of even the hardest metal fan. Codany Holiday's fervent vocals bring out Jason's story through song. There's no self-pity here, just a glorious message of second chances, love, transformation and a note to hold on and never give up. The album is a symphonious wave of emotion from the mystical wonder of Once Upon a Melody and the romanticism of Magic Woman. Valley of Fire features thirteen of the world's greatest guitarists in a nine-minute riff off. The track is essentially a guitar opus alternating between the haunting, undulating warble of the Whammy bar to the sharp rock licks and smooth sophistication of the acoustic guitar. Taking Me Back throws in a heavier tone and shows off Jason's abilities to play with speed, precision and passion. Things turn towards dirty blues in Tell Me No Lies again showing another facet of Jason's skill. But this album is about so much more than technique; it's about the emoting through music, and that's something that oozes through every chord on the record. After taking us on a voyage of self-discovery and ardent soul searching the album ends with a reprise of Hold on to Love as a gentle reminder of Jason's story and strength. A picture may paint a thousand words, but music says things that words never can and Triumphant Hearts manages to say it all. It's humbling, emotional, inspirational and filled with the brilliance of Jason Becker.
Groupie rating 5/5