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Mark St. John - Magic Bullet Theory
Release Date: January 14, 2003
Label: Loch Ness Monster Records

Rating:
***1/2
out of
*****

 

When ex-KISS guitarist Mark St. John passed away from a brain hemorrhage on April 5, 2007, he was referred to as a mere footnote in the history of a group that's been around for almost 35 years. In truth, St. John was a very gifted guitarist who did not get many chances to display his true ability.

In 2003 -- nearly 20 years after his stint with KISS -- he released Magic Bullet Theory, a solo album that was an instrumental showcase of his fretboard skills. Unfortunately, not many people ever got a chance to hear it before he died.

Featuring Mark's brother, Michael Norton, on bass and San Diego-based Dave Goode on drums, Magic Bullet Theory is comprised of ten instrumental tracks that range from balls-to-the-wall metal ("AWOL," "Slave Driver") to Middle Eastern-tinged flamenco ("Baghdad") and light jazz ("Bourbon Street".) While some tracks can get a little noodly, overall, the wanking is at a minimum. Most of the cuts are complete songs rather than just being book-ends for guitar solos.

Although the production on Magic Bullet Theory isn't the greatest, it's still easy to hear that when St. John appeared on KISS' Animalize in 1984, he was reined in as as a guitar virtuoso. On Magic Bullet Theory, when given carte blache to do as he pleases, he stays focused on making coherent musical ideas rather than just shelling out orgasmic solos (i.e. fellow ex-KISS'er Vinnie Vincent). That's not to say St. John was afraid to let loose on a few songs. For example, "Communicator," a song with origins in St. John's immediate post-KISS project, White Tiger, surpasses anything Vincent ever unleashed in terms of aural pyrotechnics and pure wankery.

What makes Magic Bullet Theory worth hunting down and buying is the palpable feeling that it's the work of someone who's enjoying himself rather than trying to impress everyone under the sun. Hearing the enigmatic St. John have fun playing -- even when he was out of the spotlight -- is somehow much more satisfying than it'd be hearing him try to convince everyone how much he rocked. He did that without even trying.

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