Friday, November 20, 2009

Gregg Wright: The Forgotten Great Guitarist of Michael Jackson?

Once famously known for almost upstaging the King of Pop, does Gregg Wright still register in the consciousness of most Michael Jackson fans and guitar enthusiasts?

By: Ringo Bones

Yes, there’s truth behind the legend that Gregg Wright almost upstaged Michael Jackson – the undisputed King of Pop – on one of the dates of the “disastrous” Don “Bride of Frankenstein” King backed Victory Tour of the 1984 Jackson 5 / The Jacksons reunion concert. But does anybody – especially Michael Jackson fans and guitar enthusiasts – still care about Gregg Wright and his former adventurous guitar sessions with the King of Pop this day and age?

More famously known for his guitar work with Michael Jackson and Mick Fleetwood / Fleetwood Mac, Gregg Wright is an artist in his own right, despite of a number of critics shelving him as a mere Jimi Hendrix clone. And sadder still – especially in my neck of the woods – Gregg Wright’s music, be it in CD or vinyl form, are few and far between. Only working musicians – all of them older than 40 - knew him in my neck of the woods, reminiscent of the popularity of Lonesome Crow era Scorpions in America.

The only “album” of Gregg Wright that I’m lucky enough to acquire is his Gregg Wright’s Left Hook album titled “Round One”. As luck would have it, I managed to find this CD being sold in our local garage sale about a month ago. Round One is Gregg Wright’s self-produced debut CD, which Wright also originally sold during his concert tours in the UK and Europe back in 1995. After being well received by his fans, the debut CD managed to sell thousands of copies – which sadly is mere peanuts in comparison to the millions sold by Britney and those Boy-Bands. Ironic being it was Michael Jackson who made the concept of Boy-Bands a very lucrative music biz proposition.

Gregg Wright’s Left Hook is the name of the band on the “Round One” album with Gregg Wright himself performing the main guitar and vocal duties; Backed by Mick Broadbent on bass guitar and backing vocal duties and Keith Line on drums and backing vocals. The “Round One” album is rather short at just about 29 minutes long – an EP would have been more apt. On first listen, the songs may sound fairly ordinary. But it does possess a habit of pointing to the future of Modern Blues / Rock Fusion. Especially when you consider Gregg Wright’s guitar playing, which sounds like what kind of music Jimi Hendrix would be doing if he is still alive.

Although Gregg Wright’s very “enjoyable” mimicry of Jimi Hendrix – especially the flamboyant stage costumes and the signature upside down Strat - will only irk further the critics who labels Wright as just another Hendrix clone. Yes, Jimi’s influence is unmistakable, but Gregg managed to add his own vibrant punch into this veritable musical slugfest and therefore can’t be accused of just being another run-of-the-mill Hendrix clone.

Given the band’s overall performance on Round One, Gregg Wright’s Left Hook – to me – is a band worthy enough to go through an 18-hour 2,000 US dollar plane ride just to experience them live. And Gregg Wright’s stint with Michael Jackson and the rest of the Jackson 5 on that ill-fated Victory Tour is probably the closest thing we’ll ever experience of the Jackson 5 playing at the 1969 Woodstock or a Jimi Hendrix collaboration. Gregg Wright could have been the “It Factor” of Michael Jackson’s This is It Tour. Sadly, the untimely passing of Michael Jackson back in June 25, 2009 put an end to that and Gregg Wright could suffer that terrible wasting disease that affects a sizable number of great artisans known as anonymity.