It should officially be a sin for someone to water down blues music to a “look how long I can wail on my guitar” ego trip, especially from experienced players, which is exactly what Generator can be defined as. Mike Onesko is an American blues guitarist who has been around since 1972, he’s been in many bands over the years and currently plays in two projects, one of which is Blindside Blues Band or what they should really be called, the ‘Mike Onesko Experience.’ There is no doubt that Onesko is a talented guitarist, but he lacks restraint, leaving an album in which the bulk of it is Onesko hammering out blues scales with very little substance.
The style which Oneska uses stems from the old ‘Cream’ school of blues playing in which you have one to two minute songs followed by lengthy (often fifteen to twenty minutes for Cream) instrumental parts. Many guitarists have tried this style of blues playing but there is always a stark difference that separates Cream from everyone else and allowed them to get away with it; Eric Clapton was a genius at spiking solos that kept the song growing, whilst keeping a steady flow; he also led off the brilliance of Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker who played an inspired rhythm section. On Generator, the rest of the band are just there to keep Onesko spewing out riffs and the biggest flaw (as with anyone who tries to imitate Clapton) is that you begin to think just because you can knock out five minute guitar solos, doesn’t mean you should. Nearly every song is structured the same: Verse, Chorus x2, then what becomes the inevitable, extended instrumental bridge, Verse, Chorus, extended instrumental outro. All of this is fine if you’re a new band light on material, it’s a good platform to build off of, but Onesko is a seasoned player and through 11 songs of long winded guitar work they seem to get more grotesquely bloated.
Fortunately there are a few saving graces from this record. ”Gravy Train” has a solid rhythm and sounds a lot like Led Zeppelin’s ”In My Time Of Dying.” ”Loving You” is a waltzy, mid tempo rock track in which Onesko’s playing is just right and doesn’t become overbearing. ”Genevieve” follows, which is a delightfully murky track with a psychedelic twist in the middle and ”Gonna Leave This Town” is an excellent country blues track with a delicious steel guitar lick that made me wish the rest of the album had been more like it.
Overall, I couldn’t dislike the album completely, despite it committing the crime of a guitarist stroking his own ego for its entirety. It is still a strong enough work, but nothing that’ll hold your attention. It’s an album I found to be endurable to listen to whilst it’s on, but forgettable once it’s off. But hey, if you like your blues that’s short on lyrics and big on fast, brash guitar riffs assaulting you for minutes on end, then this album is perfect.
The Review: 7/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Loving You
– Leaving Town Blues
The Big Hit
– Leaving Town Blues
Review by Josh May