A Show of Hands, Victor Wooten’s solo debut, was originally released in 1996, and stands as one of the most critically acclaimed debut solo albums of all time. The incredible thing about the album is that it was recorded with "two hands, four strings, and no overdubs." Wooten is a mad scientist on the bass, and this album is proof of his unbelievable talent. If all the world’s greatest bass players gathered in one room, Victor Wooten would undoubtedly have a seat reserved in the front row, right between Stanley Clarke and Les Claypool, with Jaco Pastorius and Geddy Lee on either side of them.
Wooten is a legend, and his music will continue to inspire bass enthusiasts as long as it is available. Hearing him play sometimes causes confusion, because it so often sounds like he has an extra set of hands. Seeing him play is a completely different story; it’s difficult to comprehend everything that’s happening while watching his fingers move and hearing the explosive sounds that they create. His signature "open-hammer-pluck" technique is utilized throughout much of A Show of Hands, and he basically plays the bass with his left (fretting) hand to make percussive sounds, while playing harmonies with his right by tapping various notes. This gives an overall fullness otherwise unachievable with only one instrument.
This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of A Show of Hands, and the re-issued, re-mastered A Show of Hands 15 celebrates this milestone. It’s not a record that only has a few good songs on it, it is amazing all the way through. Although mentioning each track and what is great about each one would be a boring waste of time, it is difficult not to spotlight compositions like "More Love," an exceptionally beautiful piece of music. The harmonies, the mellow feel to it, everything about that song is beautiful, and the rest of the album has a very similar vibe. A few pivotal cuts from the original track list are: "The Vision", "Overjoyed" (a Stevie Wonder cover), "Live for Peace", "Justice" and "Me & My Bass Guitar."
The first bonus track, an enhanced version of "U Can’t Hold No Groove," was made specifically for this reissue. While an enhanced version of this song sounds like good idea, it isn’t what one might expect with the addition of electronic drums and many rather unnecessary sound effects to the mix. The percussion does add a nice touch to it, but with all the other additions it came off sounding far too busy, taking away from the obvious focal point – Vic and his bass. The second bonus track, "Flip Flop," is a fantastic new instrumental of constant mind-blowing bass guitar accompanied by drums. The track is an interpretation of the song "Sex in a Pan," albeit altered in a way that makes it seem like he’s playing the song backwards, hence the title. The third and final bonus track, "Live Solo # 2," is another incredible instrumental track, performed live at a 2003 Bela Fleck and the Flecktone’s concert. The track is over 12 minutes of un-edited improvisation and a perfect addition to the album.
The re-mastering of the original tracks was very well done, giving the album clarity that the original LP lacked. The sound is cleaner, the bass heavier, the mids higher, and the harmonics prettier. Overall, it’s a very noticeable improvement from the original master and a definite must-have for any Victor Wooten fan.
In short, A Show of Hands 15 is a wonderful album, re-mastered and re-released for a whole new generation to experience what one man can do with merely one bass guitar.
A Show of Hands 15 is out now on Vix Records.