Guitarist, singer, songwriter, and producer Freddie Nelson turns heads with his ground-breaking solo album Shake the Cage. He approaches his solo effort straddled with his experience from working with virtuoso guitarist Paul Gilbert’s own solo endeavor. Nelson first came to international attention in 2010 when he collaborated with Gilbert on the album, United States. Together they wrote, recorded, and performed the songs that they would later use to tour Japan and Europe shortly after.
After the success of United States, Nelson gravitated toward an interest in releasing a solo album, and began gathering material to produce the record, Shake The Cage. During that time, he was approached by Paul Gilbert to help arrange and write songs for his solo release. During the recording sessions in Los Angeles, Nelson met with world renowned drummer Thomas Lang who volunteered his skills as a drummer after hearing some of Nelson’s solo material.
Together with Thomas Lang’s expert drumming skills, Nelson’s Shake The Cage maneuvers between a soulful bluesy sound and a punk energy that pivots itself within this 11-tracked anthems.
With this in mind, Shake the Cage opens with “Turn You On,” a rock track that welds itself in-between a classic rock vibe and a hard rock sound. This energetic song contains reverb-filled guitars, a jamming guitar solo, and a loud sound that just delivers. Filled with rollicking guitar licks and snarling drums, the loud sound is a power punch of enthused music-making.
The album slows down a tee with “Hey Doll,” a rocking ballad that has Nelson really cooing and really working in the vocals, here, belting out the lyrics over interweaving guitars. The drums keep up with steady rhythms alongside the bass. With a kind of kick back sound to it, listeners will sink into the thrust and pull of the melodic track. Radio-active guitars sounds off of a platform of bluesy rhythms played with gusto and a fiery-spiritedness.
The next song, “Light,” emanates a slightly nostalgic bent. The inspirational track emboldens with more of a quirky sound, filled with rollicking guitars that seem to have a life of their own.
The gritty, bluesy sound coming off of “Keep Running” is filled with a dark and somber cadence. This haunting ballad starts off on a slower saunter, relenting to a slower backbeat than the previous track. But layers of guitar riffs and an uplifting guitar solo continues to reel listeners into the explosive sound.
On the next track, “Never Fight Alone” the beginning asks, ‘whatever happened to decent music?’ With a gigantic ‘60s garage rock feel that is also infused with a groovy Motown vibe, this song is about weeding out the bad from the good in music.
“My Girl” is a fun-loving anthem that is definitely a sonic blast with energized guitars and amped keys. The dynamic sound wafts in-between spiraling guitar riffs and a jam-worthy guitar solo undulating with a great bluesy vibe.
“Let You Go” has a great drumming beat that alternates from the wall of guitars to include some engaging sounds from the percussion, as Nelson pledges to his girl that he will never let her go – that love is enduring and theirs will last.
Nelson continues to rock out in such tracks like, “The Show,” which is filled with atmospheric energy on keys with heavy back on electric guitar and drums, the electrifying track that erupts with a gargantuan guitar sound, “All Night Long,” the intermingling of harmonic-packed vocals and intricate guitars on “Monster In My Room,” and searing sound of reverberating guitars and buoyant harmonies in “For Those Who Die.”
Imbued with an intermingling of punk, blues, and pop makes Nelson’s latest offering in Shake The Cage, a not your regular rock album. The record see-saws between ostentatious rock anthems to some ballad-driven songs.
Though with no clear-cut direction toward what course the music will take, the ambiguity within the type of music this is takes on genre-bending altitudes. Nelson has created music that is not to be over-saturated by the same sound. This is clearly not music to be pigeon-holed by today’s standards of popular music.
Nelson kept all this within his vision when he made this album. On tracks like “Never Fight Alone,” where Nelson is rallying the troops to fight for good music other than what’s on the radio, this is something to inspire your ear drums as well as address the growing problematic trend of formulaic songwriting and tone-pitched correction tools that has become a crutch to the creative process.
Regarding the story behind the album title, Nelson says, “The record is called Shake The Cage, because I feel that a lot of music has become one dimensional with tools such as pitch correction and formulated songwriting. There is no substitute for hard work and honing your craft, and it’s time to challenge mediocrity.”
Shake The Cage manages to shake conventions and rattle preconceived notions of what makes good music, making Freddie Nelson an artist who strives to create an arresting group of songs that doesn’t just reiterate what’s already out there, they readily add a much needed dimension to the pop sector of music today.