Thursday, 14 March 2019

The workbench

I've been setting up some projects now I'm "retired".  However weather, health and other stuff keeps getting in the way.

However progress has been made.

I built a new workbench!  I think I said I was going to do this ages ago - at least a year... or two!

Ta Da!

I bought some lengths of 4x2in (well the metric equivalent) from the local store which they delivered back in January.  I then created a frame - the cross braces (front to back) are just butted against the front frames where I joined the long cross bits to the legs via half lap (I think that's what it's called) joints.  They hide the screws hold the cross braces in.  I cut some MDF to fit as a bottom storage shelf and the top is an offcut from our kitchen worktop that has been sat in the garage for 15 years waiting for me to do this!
The vice is an old one I liberated from my father-in-laws garage last year when we had to sell that house after my mother-in-law went into a care home.  It's not huge but useful and I recessed the edge to get it to fit and mounted some laminated ply (about three bits to get it right) underneath so that the top is flush/lower than the work surface - again considering for guitar use so there's nothing for them to bash and get scratched.
The carpet is a bit of offcut held in place with a wooden batten.  This allows me to have it on hand for when I need something soft to put guitars on.
Keep watching here as there is a new project about to be started on it any day now...

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Book Review - KP Lane Infinite Dream

Back with a book review post.

KP Lane Infinite Dream 

I'll start with a declaration of interest.  Kevin Lane is an old colleague and friend who I hold in very high regard.  So I read this since it is his first novel that he has self published.

Infinite Dream is a thriller novel set in the rarefied world of the mega rich and powerful.  We're introduced to our hero Jack Hallis.   Jack is a very rich man having made his fortune in spotting potential blockbuster drugs in development and buying them up.  He is autistic and to a degree reclusive, in that he doesn't mix much and his work dominates his life.  However this is turned on it's head when he meets Corrine Azzard who works for the UN and is looking to secure funding from rich folks like Jack.  Corrine attracts him like no one before and so he starts to look at courting her.

He falls in love and she persuades him to use his riches to tackle the corruption that stops UN aid reaching those that really need it.  By now she's resigned from the UN angered by the acceptance of the corruption and the pair of them set out to fix the problem.  However on the eve of Jack and her launching their new venture Corrine is killed in an accident and Jack in a fit of grief is also seriously injured.

The themes of the novel then look at life after death.  As Jack's own near death experience (NDE) makes him believe the afterlife is real and that by experiencing a NDE he can get back close to Corrine.  Corrine's late father's work on this also attracts Jack's interest.  However also in the back is a shadowy underground organisation that is plotting against Jack and others like him.  Is there where the real power in the world is held?  By unseen unknown ruthless individuals who continue to play out against anyone they see threatening their wealth etc.

It is a gripping tale as you relive the events that led to Corrine's death and Jack's injury.  And as you watch Jack regain control not only of his physical and mental capacities but his wealth as the unseen cartel plots in secret against him.

One one criticism of the book is at the start the back and forth in timelines as you learn of some of the back story of Jack and Corrine can be confusing at times until it settles down to a single time thread following the accident.

The themes are complex and thought provoking.  Is there unseen secret cartels at this very moment plotting away on conference calls that will affect the lives of millions if not billions of people and who will stop at nothing to get their will imposed on the world?   But also the investigation of NDE, the afterlife, whether there is some overriding moral code in the universe that come the time we're admitted to that afterlife, or not, we will be judged against?  Could, or even should, there be a way to systematically review people's lives and contributions to society available online to allow us to review ourselves and others against that moral code?

The novel builds on Kevin's earlier non-fictional work "The God Contention" which looks at some of these profound questions in a more systematic way.   The book is a good read if you're not interested in the more philosophical points of view or could be a gateway in to Kevin's other work.

Blogger and Google+ - annoyed

I know I'm a bad blogger and not been on here for a while.  But I was annoyed to read today that with the demise of Google+ any Google+ comments have been lost of the blog.

That's mostly mine then!  Since I moved to Google+ some time ago when Google pushed it as the way to get more traffic to your blog.... that never worked either.

Oh well - so back to the blogger I remember of old then... without all my replies to people's comments!

Thursday, 3 January 2019

New Epiphone Release

This looks good...

The new Epiphone DC PRO - basically looks like it is based on the Les Paul Double Cut that has been released a few times by Gibson but obviously at the Epiphone price point.  Also most Gibson ones I've seen had only master vol and tone where this has separate controls for each pickup and the toggle mounted on the upper horn as per a typical Les Paul.   I'll be looking around for some reviews of this on YouTube etc. soon.

Furtheron Review of the year 2018

Well let me just sum up 2018 in one word - CRAP!

If you follow my other blog you'll know I've been ill all this year with my meniere's disease.  This has led to me taking "early retirement" - well I was made redundant whilst off on long term sick leave.  I'm trying to sort out a pension income in the next few months before the  redundancy payout disappears.  If that's not enough to keep the wolf from the door well... we'll have to cross that rickety bridge if it appears in our path.

I've always done a quick annual review on here so in keeping with that tradition here we go...

1. Gig of the year
Easy to pick as due to the problems with Meniere's going to gigs is now a thing of the past.  The one exception was seeing Black Country Communion last January (almost a year to the day actually) at Hamersmith Apollo.  They were exceptional anyway and may well have won even if I'd been going to a lot of gigs.

2. Album of the year.
Mr Joe Bonamassa's (of the above awarded BCC) latest solo effort Redemption.  Again album purchases down considerably this year but of those I did this is the stand out.  Terrific blues rock at it's best.

3. Book of the year.
Hmm... trickier category.  A tie I think between Peter May's I'll Keep You Safe which was a brilliant twiny - who dunnit - although I did figure out who did it sadly too early.  But still good.  And Robert Galbraith's (JKK Rowling!) Lethal White.  An excellent extension to the saga of Cormoran and Robin and their intertwined lives as they track down another killer.  (Sorry I never wrote a review of that one).  Oh quick mention for Liz Hind's latest one - The Dog Walking Club - I got it for Mrs F as a last minute little Christmas gift.  Her last day of holiday she wouldn't put it down and was annoyed at having to go back to work with it unfinished she states it is "One of those books you just don't want to stop reading".

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Album reviews - Joe Bonamassa Redemption. Jeff Beck Live at the Hollywood Bowl

It's been an age since I've done an album review on here - largely as I've not been buying music much recently.  Anyway....

Joe Bonamassa Redemption

Now Joe Bonamassa with this album really nails it.  He has written 12 excellent songs.  His band has to be quiet simply one of the best on the planet too.  He is the king of blues rock currently.  From the start of Evil Mama with the hooky riff, stabby horn fills and great vocals you know this is going to be great.  I do simply believe it is his best yet.

The solos of course are his tour de force.   The headliner stand outs for me are Redemption (the title track) and The Ghost of Macon Jones.

If you like Bluesy Rock or Rocky Blues or just great rock music go listen.  It really is top album.

Jeff Back Live at the Hollywood Bowl

What more can you say about Jeff Beck?  One of the, if not the, most original and inventive rock guitarists of the moment.  Where many many others might still bang out album after album the passion with which he continues to be a student of the instrument and continue to push it's creative boundaries makes him stand alone.

This live take is a double CD release.  Covering much of his latest output from the Loud Hailer album with the band that put that release together but then also a complete trawl through his legendary back catalogue.  So you get from the Yardbirds Heart Full of Soul, For Your Love and Shape of Things, Beck's Bolero, 'Cause We've Ended as Lover and Big Block to cover the massive contribution he's made continually through his career.   At the end a bunch of collaborations lead through covers from ZZ Tops Rough Boy (with Billy Gibbons) through to a stunning tribute to Prince in his reworking of Purple Rain.

A must for anyone who loves Mr Beck's work across the decades.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Some new kit

It was my birthday earlier in the month.  So with the various vouchers and cash I got I've acquired a couple of bits of new kit.

1. Harmoniser pedal.

I thought I'd try one out and didn't want to spend a lot on something that has limited use to be honest.  I watched some reviews of the cheaper mini pedals that have been coming on the market recently.  Influenced by Mooer who came up with the format.  The idea is just genius.  They figure most people who are serious have a pedal board already and that has a 9v power supply on it.  Therefore why to all pedals continue to have to have space for the 9v battery and that dictates a lot about how small a pedal can be - a format long championed by market leaders like Boss.

So take that out, minituraise as much as possible and suddenly pedals can be really small actually.  Small enough that you could have 3 or 4 easily on a little board with a power supply and be able to put it in the pocket of your gig bag.  Genius - Mooer actually do a miniaturised power amp and preamps.  Seriously you could arrive at a gig with everything in the pocket of the gig bag and a small 1x12 speaker in the other hand.  Clever.

So I bought this off Amazon.

You can see how little is is by the size of the jack plug into it.  This is a Tomsline model - if you can't read the logo.  What's it offer?   Well the large knob clicks between 1 (unison) 2 (a second), 3rd, 4th, 5th, (no sixth), 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 1 octave and 2 octave.  So a lot to use.  The other controls are as follows.  The two little black knobs control the level of the dry (unaltered sound) and the wet (the generated note) so you can for example turn the dry to zero set it to 1 octave down and have a bass simulator for recording - or you could even just have it set like that for building a loop with a bass.  Something I might well try out.  The switch allows three settings - up, detune and down.  Up and down are self explanatory - you can set the generated note to be above or below the fundamental on he dry signal.  The detune is fun!  The big knob then varies the amount  of cents (100/th of a tone) that is generated.  Now this is great for creating 12 string type emulation sounds.  That really works well with arpeggio sound.  Given this was about £38 there's a lot to like as you get a lot of flexibility and my initial playing with it shows it tracks single note runs well - chords more difficult and you have to really think about the chord voicing anyway or you get some discordant things going on.  I like the mini pedal idea too.  Shame I've a huge pedal board with a load of Boss effects already on it - and I don't see the justification to move wholesale over to mini pedals.

2. Power Attenuator

Second purchase is a Hartley Benton power attenuator.  I actually wanted the Bugerra product which is similar but looks less utilitarian but that seems to be out of stock everywhere so I went with this option instead ordering it from Thomann in Germany.  I was impressed with that having never used them before.  They get generally good reviews from people.  Sad we're about to leave the EU and that may well no longer be a viable option if tariffs and customs stuff gets in the way.
If you don't know a power attenuator allows you to run your stupidly large valve amp like my 60w 2x12 Hughes and Kettner Statesman at volume but it then lowers the power going to the speaker so it sounds much quieter.  That's my main reason for getting it - one to allow me to drive the H&K at levels I'd never consider at home without shaking the house to bits and getting a noise abatement injunction from the council.  There's different ways to do that - some sound amazing with different options etc. but they cost more than the bloody amp is worth and simply the answer would be to buy a modern amp with a built in attenuator but for under £100 this one does the job admirably well.  You can get it really low - which was the hope as my hearing suffers with my meniere's disease and it's been difficult to play sometimes at virtually any volume.  I'm hoping this allows me to reduce that to the bottom level and then it can just allow me to play at very low volume.

However there are other useful features in the box.  Two outputs on the back - one for line out (straight signal) and one with a speaker emulation built in.  The second smaller knob on the front controls that line level independently of the output setting.  So I can now plug that into a recording device and in theory record even with the volume set to zero and listening on monitors or headphones.  To be tried out - often I just plug in to my Boss and found a sound to just have ease because micing up the amp is a pain in the backside - this might give me a better option than that.  I hope so - I'll report back when I get a chance to play with it.