Updated: Jun 23, 2020
Out of all the albums Shrapnel Records released in the mid-to-late 80s era, few are as memorable and as catchy as "Out of the Sun" by Joey Tafolla. Every song on this record have a flawless sense of flow and cohesion, not to mention hooks, atmosphere and a unique identity. Most importantly, they all feel like ACTUAL compositions, and not just backing tracks for guitarists to demonstrate their chops over. Joey Tafolla created a truly masterful album that stood the test of time, ranking alongside Maximum Security and many others at the top of the shred food chain, but he did not accomplish this feat alone. Indeed, he was backed by an all-star line-up to help him bring his masterpiece to life, and I do not use the word "all-star" lightly like many people who throw it around inaccurately these days. The album features Paul Gilbert (Racer X) doing session leads on 4 tracks, Reynold Carson (Jag Panzer, Driver) on drums and Wally Voss (Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force), a incredible bass prodigy laying down some of the coolest tapping licks you've heard.
But let's not forget one of the key players that made this album so special : Tony MacAlpine. From his legendary guitar work with supergroup M.A.R.S. to his solo albums and his session keyboard work with labelmate Vinnie Moore, he pretty much became the tip of the spear of the 80s wave of american shred-oriented metal. OF COURSE he would be involved on this album on some level as well, this time handling keyboard duties as well as production. Not only that, but he also involved himself in the songwriting process of the album. This makes wonder on just how much he did contribute to the record, as the album liner notes vaguely credit him as having provided "additional melodies" only. It's such a strange way to credit someone, leaving everything open to interpretation in many ways.
This brings to my next point : I want to talk about the demo recordings that preceded the Out of The Sun sessions because they are subject of controversy for many. The files I have attached below were found under a folder named "Tony MacAlpine demos 84" alongside an old Tony MacAlpine picture. The curious thing that I noticed right away upon listening to these files is that a lot of these songs are actually Joey Tafolla songs that ended up being on "Out of The Sun". As I wrote above, MacAlpine wrote melodies for Out of The Sun as it was indicated in the credits. In these files though, you can pretty much hear that the songs were pretty much fully developed, showcasing most of the arrangements found on OOTS with some structural differences. So yeah, we're not talking about a few throwaway "additional melodies" here. Not only that, but the guitar playing occasionally sounds VERY much like MacAlpine. There's a lot more sweep-picking and long arpeggio sequences in these guitar lines, which Tafolla didn't rely on as much back then.
...So wait, is Out Of The Sun actually a Tony MacAlpine record?! What the's deal here? Since there's a lot of mystery surrounding these demos and I figured I would share my point of view on them - Merely theories, not facts! (EDIT 01/24/2019 : Read SatanicAlien's comment below!). My first theory would be that Tony wrote and demoed these tracks in 1984, handling both guitars and keyboards. Instead of using these ideas for his solo albums, he gifted these melodies to Joey Tafolla whom re-arranged them for his own album 3 years later.
My 2nd theory is that those files were mislabeled by whoever originally leaked the files and these are actually the supposed "Out of the Sun" demos recorded in 1987 (that I am unable to find anywhere with that exact track-listing shown on the picture here), with Joey Tafolla handling guitars and MacAlpine doing keys only. But if that's the case, Joey's solos are sounding like what MacAlpine would do here. I always thought Tafolla had more of his own thing going, and I've always heard some Paul Gilbert in his licks during that era. Therefore, I'm gonna go with theory 1. One can immediately recognize Tony's style, tone and licks even with through the lo-fi sound quality of these recordings. His playing is absolutely mindblowing here. Some great keyboard work on there too. With that said, I prefer the Out of the Sun versions and Joey Tafolla's arrangements by far. It's still pretty interesting to hear the earlier versions as well as other unheard demos. I'm probably wrong of course, but this is the logical conclusion I reached after meticulously listening to these demos. Regardless, these demos are an amazing rarity and a very fun listen. If anyone wants to weight in and comment and disprove my theories, please be my guest!
EDIT 01/24/2019 : Well that was quick. It looks like both my theories were wrong as a gentleman was kind enough to shed light on the whole thing :
"Paul didn’t necessarily teach Joey... if anything he spent more time learning from Tony and Tony’s then girlfriend Gina Demos back in the 80’s... especially since there was actually a time when Joey was living with Tony and Gina, taking lessons and developing the ‘Out of the Sun’ Demos you hear here. Now for who’s playing what..... on the Demo you hear, Tony and Joey shared playing here, with Tony doing guest solos, playing some of the melodies, and of course keyboards... while on the actual Out Of The Sun album Tony let Paul do the guest solos, while he stuck to the keyboards. But, make no mistake, Joey was already a great player before Out Of The Sun, he was in Jag Panzer, was offered a gig with Ozzy, and even had his own record label to which he signed Yngwie before Mike Varney did... it was actually kinda Joey that helped land Yngwie on Shrapnel. Also, there are more demos like this with Tony and other Shrapnel guitarists, that no one will ever hear! Mike Varney would send some of the newly signed guitarists to ‘train’ and write with Tony to be groomed... and it was tough work according to these guys" - SatanicAlien
In the end, it doesn't matter so much who did what, and in what order. Out of the Sun is one of Tafolla's finest work, for it is an album full of mystique, feelings, and emotions that so few shred records can convey. It is an album that was a turning point for many, me included. It also marked the beginning of an amazing solo career. Joey's follow-up record "Infra-Blue" is seriously one of the most impressive and grooviest shred records in existence. I also think Tafolla's finest guitar work would likely be found on his 2nd album with Jag Panzer, titled "The Fourth Judgement" which I covered on an earlier entry on this blog. All in all, I see Joey Tafolla as a massive source of inspiration as he is a truly unstoppable musician whose immeasurable talent seemingly has never stopped growing with age. The same thing cannot be said for many. We can only hope Joey can give us a 4th solo album one day. Written by Phil Tougas // The Vault
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