It's no surprise Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is a music lover who just released a new album of original rock and roll. But what is a surprise is that it's actually really good.
Allen, who put his love of Jimi Hendrix and rock music on display for all to see when he built the EMP Museum, is out Tuesday with a 13-song collection with his band, the Underthinkers, called "Everywhere at Once."
The album features contributions from some pretty heavy hitters, including Nancy Wilson of Heart, Chrissy Hynde of Pretenders fame, Ian Neville from the Neville Brothers, Joe Walsh, David Trucks and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos.
But longtime Seattle music journalist Gene Stout says he wasn't expecting the quality of Allen's songwriting and guitar playing.
"It came as a total surprise. It totally rocks," Stout says. "I was really impressed."
The album reflects Allen's life-long love of Hendrix and blues rock. But Stout says while its influences shine through, it stands on its own.
"It's clear he's been practicing a lot over these many years. It does show, even though he may not look like a rock star."
We got a preview of what Allen was up to when he contributed the track "Divine" to last year's soundtrack on the Channing Tatum male-stripper movie "Magic Mike." And he followed it up with 12 other songs that showcase both Allen's skills, as well as the distinct vocal stylings of his superstar contributors.
The track getting the most buzz is "Six Strings From Hell", a searing blues rocker featuring Allen trading guitar licks with Joe Walsh.
"I really like the Joe Walsh contribution with his guitar and vocals. And the Wilson sisters kick it off with a really smoldering tune. There's a lot of good stuff here," Stout says.
"I've rarely gone a week without picking up a guitar," Allen wrote in his best selling memoir "Idea Man." "It's more than a hobby; it gives me balance and keeps me in the moment, which can be a challenge with all the projects I'm pursuing at any one time ... I take music with me wherever I go."
It'll be interesting to see if the album, his second, sells many copies. Obviously, Allen doesn't need the money. But all the proceeds do go to fund education programs at EMP, so it goes to a good cause. "Everywhere at Once" is now available on Sony's Legacy Recordings, which also distributes most of Jimi Hendrix's catalog.
Check out Allen's guitar handiwork at an EMP benefit:
You might also want to read: