Tuesday, 9 February 2016

I spent an evening or two looking over the various videos on Youtube from NAMM 2016 to see what new stuff had been launched.  Sadly to say that it was a lot of "same old, same old".  Fender have new Elite versions - which are a revamped deluxe... yes nice but... still a Strat still a Tele...  Gibson seem keen to go on about their heritage and all that... hmm whilst the new nut and tuners are about you'll see most models have two versions one with the new gizmos and one without and traditional nut and tuners etc.  Also the huge discounts I've seen on 2015 models online recently makes you think good old Orville and Co realised that they'd pushed the envelope a bit too far for many of their buyers.

Yamaha - some new acoustics that are based on the old... etc. etc.  You get the picture.

However here was the shining light frankly.  Vox have come and go in the guitar market since their pioneering 60s models.  I remember some in the 70s/80s with Dimarzio pickups.  About 5 years ago a really innovative range of semi acoustics looked like they may get somewhere, they had some really innovative pickups.  However that range quietly disappeared  - see my comments above we guitarists are a terribly conservative bunch.  Look at my collection... Les Paul, Les Paul a like from Gordon Smith, Strat, Strat, Strat with humbuckers, Tele... etc.

What Vox have done is launched the biggest competition to the Line6 guitar range ever.  A modelling guitar with various models available.  Styling maybe too radical for many but the sounds are impressive.  Here's a demo video from Vox.  I've seen street (online) prices at under £600....  The synth sounds add another dimension too...

Sunday, 24 January 2016

And another one...

I can't believe I'm back here posting about another loss but Jimmy Bain bass player with Rainbow, Wild Horses and Dio has sadly passed away aged 68.  Whilst never a household name Bain was in the original Rainbow line up, then formed Wild Horses with Brian Robertson following Robbos's dismissal from Thin Lizzy.  However when he reunited with Ronnie James Dio in his post Sabbath project his writing ability shone through with him credited with several co-writing credits on Dio's biggest hits whilst he also worked with Phil Lynott on his solo material even appearing on keyboards on some live gigs before Lynott's sad dimise.

Here is one his best co-writing efforts with Dio ... Holy Diver...

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The Crème de la crème

Flipping heck.  St Peter must have some big shindig to organise clearly given the list of music stars who've recently been taken from us.  A set of people who've been there throughout most of my life providing music I listened to and was interested and inspired by.

Of the three Lemmy from Motorhead was the biggest personal loss to me.  I've seen Motorhead live possibly more than any other band/artist I can think of... maybe Gary Moore (another one in St Pete's line up now) just shades it but it'll be close.  My funniest memory of them is at Hyde Park when they supported The Foo Fighters.  We were about half way back in the huge crowd that afternoon.  You'd see the roadies changing over the amps etc.  You'd see them trying stuff out but the piped interval music from the PA drowned out the stage volume where we were clearly... I mean we were further away than you'd be in any but the largest arenas... until the Motorhead crew began to soundcheck... yep they drowned out the PA!  Oh I saw them with Sepultura backing up at a tiny old seaside dance hall in Folkestone once.   Loudest gig I've ever been to!  Mental - quiet simply the bass introduce bowel movements!

David Bowie - I can't say I've been an avid Bowie fan, in fact there is a paucity of Bowie recordings in my collection but I remember buying Laughing Gnome as a kid.  Then Ziggy - of course all but one of the Spiders from Mars is in this St Pete Big Band now.  I loved how he continually reinvented himself and could move around styles with such impressive ease.  Station to Station was a favourite album I had on cassette for a long time.

Glen Fry - I mean The Eagles were just one of those bands in the 70s that redefined how big a band could be.  I was always in awe of their vocal abilities and of course what guitarist can't admit to wishing he'd been one of the duelling players in the duet in Hotel California which still will come high up in any "best solo" poll you care to mention.

Add to that Natalie Cole, Dale Griffin (Mott the Hoople drummer) and then for me also Pete Huttlinger (John Denver and stunning fingerstyle guitarist) as I say - whatever is the occasion no high they seem to need the crème de la crème.

Here is Pete Huttlinger just being a bloody genius...  The lady in the shot in the crowd about 25 seconds in sums it up as she simply mouths "Wow!".   BTW this was after his recovery from stroke and heart failure - even more unfair then that he is taken at only 54

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

My must have albums

I was thinking the other day about what are for me "must have albums".  By that I mean ones that I have always had close to any regular playlist.  I then thought about it and some shine out as I've bought them on multiple formats over the years.  Some were cassettes that got trashed so an LP was bought, or bought as vinyl to be replaced with a CD or even some direct as MP3 downloads.  This shows to me that they are my "must haves" due to my needing to maintain them in my listening format of choice.

Steve Earle - Copperhead Road
Weather Report - Heavy Weather
Rush -   Moving Pictures
Supertramp...  Crime of the century and Crisis? What Crisis!
John Martyn. Solid air  and Grace and Danger
Marillion. Season's End, Misplaced Childhood and Script for a Jester's Tear
Thunder - Laughing on judgement day
Joe Satriani -  Surfing with the alien
Ufo - Strangers in the night

So all of the above have been bought by me at least once on a replacement format, some more than once - the Supertramp ones hit that target!

So for me this is my must have list.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Book Review - The Gibson 335 - Its History and Its Players by Adrian Ingram

I've had this on my Amazon wishlist for a while now.  It's not a cheap book and in the end Mrs F perusing said list for inspiration for a Christmas present bought it for me.

I have to say my knowledge of Gibson's ES-300 series isn't that good.  I can easily spot Les Paul's, SGs, Strats and Teles readily knowing the age (or increasingly the reissue basis) etc. quickly but other than telling an ES-335 from an ES-345 or ES-355 my knowledge lacked.  To that end this has been a really useful read.  I knew that through the 60s and 70s the ES-335 moved from dot finger board with a stop tail-piece to block inlays and a trapeze one but the other changes around particularly the internal construction and the move from "mickey mouse" ears etc. made this a good read.

Also Adrian covers a lot of other models, notably the obvious sister Epiphone line with Sheratons, Casinos etc. which in the UK are possibly more sought after with their associations with Lennon, Weller, Oasis etc.  It is interesting to read about the various changes and why they were brought in - some were considered "upgrades" that now you wonder how they thought that but others sadly were clearly dictated by the bean counters in the Norlin controlled days.  It is interesting particularly to here about changes under the skin for example in the make up of the laminates used on the body, the switch to three piece maple necks - originally for stability on high end jazz guitars but by the time on the 300 series really all about using smaller cuts of wood more cheaply and with an easier, quicker finishing process - maple isn't as porous as mahogany so you don't need to grain fill and allow less time for drying.

There is quite a bit about descendants and copies including things like the Howard Roberts Fusion model for example but also the ES-336 which got soon renamed the CS-336 reflecting that it was actually a hollowed out solid guitar (like a Telecaster thinline) rather than a back, sides and front constructed semi-acoustic.  The thing the 336 did lead to was however the ES-339 (and ES-359) which are the smaller bodied models constructed in the ES-335 manner now available.  Sadly the copy I have was published in 2006 and therefore that and other developments in the last decade are missing which is a real shame... so no Dave Ghrol Trini Lopez reissue mentions etc.  Also the other unfortunate thing is whilst there is a set of good colour photos in a dedicated chapter most photos that accompany the text are black and white making the book feel actually more like one published 20 or more years ago.  Many aren't reproduced with the greatest of care either sadly.

Overall if like me you need a bit more history on the ES-335 and it's cousins this is a good read, esp if you can find a second hand copy in good condition at reasonable price.  However there is a hole in the market for an update and one with better photography especially... where's Tony Bacon?

I'd give it a two thumbs horizontal on the FTUBRS due to the less than ace photos and being a bit too out of date too

* Furtheron Thumbs Up Book Review Scale - 
lowest is both thumbs down with a frown
two thumbs down, 
one thumb horizontal,
two thumbs horizontal, 
one thumb up, 
two thumbs up 
two thumbs up with a grin - very rarely awarded

Ashes to Ashes - David Bowie

A true legend RIP David Bowie. Writing this in my way to work as the news breaks.

I'll simply share my favourite ever Bowie track, today some ironic with it's title ... and also one of the weirdest videos ever.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Book Review - The Vig by Amy Brook

This is a debut novel by Amy however it doesn't read like it at all. It is a crime drama set in Long Island in the 1980s. Our heroine, Angela,  is approaching her graduation from business school when through her boyfriend she meets a mob boss. He sees something in her and offers her a job helping with the books of his business. The business in question is loan sharking but it is the kind of job she wanted in terms of maintaining accounts etc and no body ever says no to her boss Dominic.

Slowly she is drawn more into the grimey side of the business witnessing the violence that ensures compliance in the customers. However her life changes completely when she breaks off with her boyfriend and she becomes the centre of unwanted attention. Will she survive in the mob world?

The portrayal of the gang members at work and not draws you in to feeling they're not all bad and there are twists and turns throughout which meant I was unable to predict the final climactic conclusion.

Really brilliant first novel.

Definitely a two thumbs up in the FITUBRS

* Furtheron International Thumbs Up Book Review Scale - 
lowest is both thumbs down with a frown
two thumbs down, 
one thumb horizontal,
two thumbs horizontal, 
one thumb up, 
two thumbs up 
two thumbs up with a grin - very rarely awarded