Thursday, 30 April 2009

Is music the voice of God?

I was reading Chapter 4 We Agnostics of the book Alcoholics Anonymous. This was prompted by part of that chapter being used as a speakers reading at one of my regular meetings this week.

Truth be told the "God" part of the programme of AA has been one of my biggest issues but the spiritual issues are central to the core of the programme and recovery. I was drawn back to this chapter as part of a "is all well with my conception of a power greater than myself" checkover. It is good - I won't go into I remember going on about it on my previous blog once before about my concept of a God or whatever shorthand you want to call it, I don't have a traditional religious view lets just say that.

There is one bit at the back end of the chapter that I like a lot. "Who are you to say there is no God?" That was a revelation to me some time back, see I had until then had the answer to everything - or so I thought but the acceptance that just quiet possibly I know jack s**t made me stop and reassess. It still does today if I doubt at all, what really do I know about it at all. They announced the other day that someone had found a star 13billion light years away, like the sun is 8 light mins away. So 13 billion light years, how can anyone comprehend that in a brain the size of mine? To quote Douglas Adams... "Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."

I also subsequently mused on the struggle I had in rehab trying to "find my higher power". I went all nature and connectedness of stuff like... very hippy. However one counsellor pointed to my guitar playing and talked about that. I didn't get it then at all but re-reading this chapter and Appendix 2 about Spiritual Experience made me re-evaluate this week.

Music moves me dramatically. It evokes emotions, memories, thoughts, passions, desire, euphoria when I hear certain things, it can also make me melancholy, reflective, sad. Where does music come from? Logically it's just a set of sound waves in the air, the instruments or voices etc. creating it just happen to fit to some conventions we as humans have imposed on the waves to create what we call tone, tune, dynamics, rhythm etc. It's all Maths and Physics at the end of it really. All well and good, so anyone can create and make great music as you just follow a bunch of rules then? Err... no it's not like that is it? Because what I think is great others won't and vice versa despite the imposition of the rules imposed by us on it.

Maybe music is the voice of my God... or at least the echo of it that is tangible in our universe.

(pass another joss stick...) :-)

Classic Album Review – Strangers in the Night – UFO


If that means anything to you then you are probably in your mid 40s and were a renegade from the punk explosion of the mid – late 70s. That is me!!!

I recently bought this album (the remastered version) on CD having for years gone on to my son and others about how great this album was… no IS!

It’s a live album – recorded on a USA tour by UFO in the late 70s. At that point they were a “bubbling under” heavy rock band. Punk in the UK ruled the roost and therefore they got little coverage except in the pages of Sounds the one weekly music paper that cater for the rockheads among us in the UK – I think Kerrang’s lineage would lead straight to Sounds.

I’d been into punk as it start – esp The Clash and White Riot, The Damned had impressed and of course the Pistols when playing not preening were icons. But then it all went popular and Vivian Westwood. I left stage left and discovered Judas Priest etc. In that discovery was UFO and this album.

Ok the remastered version gives you 15 tracks – more than the original, some more of the banter with the crowd but what it still has is the total rawness, energy and sheer brilliance of UFO at their height. They’d been around a while with line up changes, Bernie Marsden had been and gone later being part of the classic Whitesnake line up before they went USA. To replace Bernie UFO poached Michael Schenker from The Scorpions. This album is all about Hr Schenker with a white flying vee, a 50W marshall stack (this is before workable master vol amps remember) and a cocked Vox wah-wah for that signature tone. Natural Thing, Doctor Doctor, Too Hot to Handle, Let it Roll… classic after classic.

The band was not all about one person though the drums are brilliant piledrivers that launch the next stomper or maintain the beat throughout. The bass whilst understated and more bassy that a lot of players go for in sound terms is a solid foundation that couples to that tight and purposeful drumming. Paul Raymond’s keyboard playing is alongside JP Jones in Led Zep some of my personal fav in this genre. He lays down great swirling intros and doubles on various lead lines with Schenker. He plays second guitar as well giving the band a versatile sound base. Then at the top is Phil Mogg with his very English lyrics and vocal style.

So why should you buy this album? Cos it’s the best damn heavy rock live album ever! It is a band at the top of their game and it really shows a link from 70s to 80s rock, bands like Iron Maiden and GnRs regularly quote this album as extremely significant to their development – Iron Maiden still use Doctor Doctor off this album as the track always played just before they hit the stage. Also Michael Schenker is so great on this as well. His tone is brilliant, and his solos are a definition of taste and melody in a hard rock context, it’s not all about how fast it is or flashy technique.

Sadly this was the end of the road for this line up as Schenker was soon departed his alcoholism an issue for the band and his temperament also causing too much friction. What a shame. They never found a suitable replacement in terms of style and ability in playing or the writing stakes. The various reformations over the years have sadly lacked the magic that was there in 1978 etc. This album made the top 10 in 1979 in the UK – a live album by a band that had only really had minor chart success before that is remarkable.

Oh and the other reason… well maybe just for me but as we had this belting out in the car down the M4 the other day I was 15 again, long hair, bum fluff for a moustache, decked out in my denims covered in band patches standing in a hall somewhere whilst the Radio Caroline roadshow blasted these tracks at an obscene volume as my brother, my mates and I headbanged our hearts out and I dreamed I could be Mr Schenker… Happy days!

Swine Fever...

I normally avoid doing this but I can't help myself today... Right anyone remember Les Dawson... here goes then...

My mother-in-law... she is sometimes a real trial of patience. My wife's tolerance to her to be honest is very thin these days and it shows, my son isn't too helpful in that department as well and I think daughter-of-Furtheron is beginning to also let irritation show through.

On a Wednesday it's a tradition that my wife and the kids go to see her mother for dinner after school. I don't mind I normally get a chance to watch the Indy Car or whatever I've recorded through the week that they'd just interrupt and moan about whilst I stuff an un-healthy cheese sandwich ("But you aren't suppose to eat cheese Dad!")...

They arrived back last night in full rant the pair of them about the mother-in-law. Firstly she had gone into a rant about these fools not knowing what they were talking about as you can't catch swine fever, she should know her granddad had a pig farm near Boston... blah, blah, blah... My wife pointed out this is about flu not that it's completely different. Instead of acknowledging her mistake she backtracked etc. My wife just got angry with her again.

The next one annoyed my daughter and my wife. As part of a recent clear out she found a load of books from the "Animal Ark" series (younger readers note, good series about kids who live at a vets and have to help loads of animals) which she clearly has moved on from and wanted to dispose of. My mother-in-law knows a lady who has a granddaughter of the right age so we passed them on via her. The lady in question was very appreciative and gave my mother-in-law a bunch of flowers and a big bag of sweets. She intended to keep these for herself, my daughter asked to share the sweets which she was reluctant about.

Queue a Mrs F rant "MUM! They were her books that we gave away!"...

So a few laps before the end of my perfect view of the the first Indy car superspeedway race of the year (cheese sandwich with pickle in hand) they both burst in in major rant mode ... "bloody selfish, stupid"... "she does my head in everytime" etc.

One of life's little trials in my household and one I feel uncomfortable with. Part of me hugely agrees with my wife that my mother-in-law opens her mouth far too often without engaging her brain, her attitude on many issues really clashes with my principles and indeed my son's which really causes friction with his relationship with her and she is very selfish and rarely enquires about activities the kids or us have been involved with and if she does it's normally after a very one directional discussion about her stuff. The other part is however that she is my wifes Mum, she's lost a lot in life (2 kids and 1 husband etc.) and also my wife is lucky she still has her Mum about... so I think we should show a little more patience, or try to show her less confrontationally how her behaviour, views etc. upset us at times.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Being a parent... and recent events

I’ve not had much to blog this week really. Firstly I’m headlong into the new job now and trying to get my head around it. A colleague from Ireland congratulated me yesterday when he was visiting and said “So what’s the new role all about then?” I answered back with the spiel I’ve been using but then said “But to be honest I really haven’t a clue at the moment I’m trying to head my head above water”. He clapped me on the back and said I was the only honest person he’d asked that question of in his visit. The good news is however that the new role has some interesting bits to it, I’ve seemed to pick up some of our High Performance Computing bit – Grids and all that stuff. Not something I’ve done much with before but of great interest, what these Computational Chemists and Biologists do is very clever you know…

As well as work being a lot busier home life seems to be a bit at 100mph as well. Last weekend we dashed to Wales to drop my son off back at uni – 600 miles in 2 days takes it out of you. I was then ill the night of the return and really only just feeling better now I don’t know whether it was combination of stress, tiredness, some bug or what but I definitely didn’t feel right for a few days.

Also at the very back of last week my wife and I went to my daughters parents evening. I think if it was me I’d organise the things differently but the set up seems the same from school to school doesn’t it. You have a bunch of short appointments with the various subject teachers spread out. Of course the timing, queuing etc. all goes to pot early on and it always seems to be some undignified ruby scrum at times to get to the Latin mistress before dashing up two flights of stairs to find the ICT guy before you miss your slot. Anyway the overwhelming report was that our daughter is a “very capable” student. “Well you probably know that anyway”. Well yes we do but when it’s your kid it is sometimes difficult to step back and objectively review her abilities, results etc. It did make me think though. She is very keen on going into something like theatrical makeup currently but then her grades in Science and Languages makes you wonder if she might not miss out on other opportunities if she looks to leave classic academic studies at 16. I don’t know I want her to be happy and do well but sometimes guiding without being biased etc. is extremely difficult isn’t it. Anyway it’s still a year off yet making a decision on the start of her GCSEs and that’s the first point this gets serious doesn’t it. I remember at 16 I left school and was looking for work and my Dad had one of the most serious conversations I ever remember having with him where he pointed out the opportunities I might be missing if I did take that route. As a result I returned to school to start my A levels late but that led to college and the profession I’m now in, and I can’t complain about how that has gone at all on reflection. She needs to find her own route but we need to be there with the guiding advice I suppose. You know when a kid is a baby and it constantly demands food, clothing, warmth, affection, attention you think to yourself “roll on the years after this” but they are more difficult as a parent aren’t they? I read other people’s blogs who have grown up kids who’ve moved on, started families etc. and I still see the same concern, care and tension between advising, guiding, helping and interfering, bullying, cajoling… not easy being a parent is it.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Marillion live vids

Thank you whoever you are... with one of Mr S Rothery's stunning melodic and apt guitar solos.

Fantastic Place - which is one of my all time fav songs

I LOVE Marillion - their music always uplifts me and inspires me. Hence I thought I'd share these two classics for anyone who doesn't know them. I hope you are inclinded to go find out more at their website.

As an aside - I'm in the audience in both these, the first from the Somewhere Else tour and recorded at the Forum - that was the time on three successive days I went to a gig, my own make do stay at home festival, Megadeth, Marillion and Muse on successive nights. Actually I have a DVD of bothe Marillion and Muse gigs from those occasions as well.

Fantastic Place was recorded at the now sadly lamented old Astoria on the Marbles tour. I'd only come out of rehab a few days before and that gig was a revelation - I went to a gig, didn't drink and really enjoyed it... I'll be honest I nearly didn't go as I didn't think I'd do it. Mrs F came with me to "hold my hand" that night.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Alone again in a world of madness

I'm having one of those "three degrees off center from the rest of humanity" days at the moment...

Mrs F picked up a message on the voicemail at home. It was from the banks fraud department. They had "detected some uncharacteristic transactions" on my account. They had then "frozen" my access via the internet, stopped the transactions and effectively shut down the account. I called the internet helpline people but the answer was phone another number at a different time and talk to the fraud people. I did and they sorted it out pretty quickly and I have now had to repost the transactions which they had stopped. What were these "uncharacteristic transactions"? I was giving some money to both my kids... what are they trying to say about me? That I'm a bad parent who never gives the kids any money? To be fair it was pretty good for them to spot what happened and it could have been some nefarious character pilfering my hard earned savings. Oh what a high class problem, it's not like my goats are starving is it.

Secondly my daughters school has posted a health and safety warning about CD ROMs. Sorry I didn't realise these were weapons of mass destruction. But apparently they are... the bit on page two of this briefing that said "Exploding CD ROMs are a very rare event, and there is thus no need for panic." was the bit that left me laughing uncontrollably to the point where Mrs F was shouting "Oh for God's sake shut up it's not that funny". Thank God though this is true - I was in a right state, total panic about it all for a moment I thought these things were going off left right and centre. The long and the short of it is, don't put a cracked CD-Rom disk in a drive, it might shatter... no shit Sherlock!

My continuing existence in this baffling world continues... to baffle me... :-)

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

A night in by myself

... so I thought I'd play some guitar...

Anonymity vs celebrity

A couple of things today have made me think about anonymity vs celebrity.

I heard on the radio that some ridiculous number of people have now watched the lady singer from Britain’s Got Talent on YouTube. She is a good singer from whatever I know, and I’m no expert on it. But why is it that this is such a phenomenon? I just don’t get it – apparently it is more the USA that is hitting the performance than the UK, again I don’t know why. Will her success last? Who knows has she the stamina and acting talents to lead a West End production 7 or 8 times a week? Has she the market appeal for album and concert sales year on year? We’ll see.

One thing though she has lost her anonymity. Two weeks ago she could have shuffled around my local Tesco’s and no one would have given her a glance. Now she is a celebrity, probably more justified than many celebrities to be sure.

To be perfectly honest whilst I might harbour dreams of being recognised as the genius I truly am would I really like all that goes with that? I like being Mr Nobody – I can trundle around the supermarket sniffing my fruit and veg and nobody will write about it in the tabloid press. I don’t have to appear on talk shows where the interviewer is more worried about getting as many one liners in as they can to show how witty they are and make sure you and audience don’t forget that they are the star of this show and you the guest. Even better my family can carry on regardless of me, the way it should be, my son or daughter can do what teenagers do without having to deal with it being linked to some bad celebrity parenting display etc.

My life may well appear very humdrum from the outside, like many of us, I get up, go to work, try to make sense of a (at times) manic world, come home, help the family get on as much as I can, try to enjoy myself at times by doing things I’m luckily able to afford and be fit to do etc. But actually that isn’t so humdrum really is it, that’s pretty impressive. Many people in the world would give up significant body parts to have what I have just because of the virtue of the country I was fortunate enough to have been born in. I see it less now but in Kent where I live my commute home used to regular take in the sight of a bunch of newly arrived “economic migrants” braving the M2 hard shoulder as the direct route to London… normally the Police presence they attracted drew my attention.

So to all my boring humdrum friends out there – rejoice in your lives, if you took yourself out of yourself and your situation for a moment and put yourself in someone else’s shoes you’d realise how bloody brilliant every day is. And even better I’ll not be on the front page of every tabloid tomorrow if I slip arse over elbow on my way out of here later.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Deep pride

My son as you'll know if you are a regular reader of this blog is currently at university... at the back end of Wales!

A little recap...

Whilst he was at junior school we began to get a little concerned, he struggled with reading and sometimes his written work was poor, had words missing, lots of spelling mistakes etc. We kept being told he was bright and worked hard and that he would catch up. Then a new teacher did some tests and told us he was dyslexic, funny I think she was expecting some kind of hostile reaction from us. We were just glad to know and asked for help, he got some but still struggled. Thank God for Harry Potter as that at least gave us books he wanted to read and he pushed on.

We never entered him for the 11plus (sorry Medway selective secondary school selection test - or whatever nonsense name it has now). Principally then the test was very biased towards English writing creatively and comprehension - not good for him.

He went to the local high school - luckily the only one in the area that has a mix of grammar (i.e. passed the 11plus) and high school pupils. First parents evening went like this...

"Why didn't he do the 11plus, his Maths is way above average and his Science, Art very good as well".
"He is dyslexic and the test is principally English, we couldn't see the point with the stress etc."
"Oh yes - we'll do some special work on his English."

He used a computer programme that was brillant, apparantly one of the issues is that dyslexics learn something in language and apply it then suddenly forget it some time later. The computer can recognise this and reiterate the old learning, human teachers really struggle with that, since they have moved on. His reading age went from 3 years behind to bang on the money in less than 6 months. He was moved to top sets in Maths, French, Science etc. He took Maths and French a year early... He and one other boy were the only ones entered for RE GCSE in his year... he got an A*. He got 12 GCSEs in the end all A*s, As or Bs only one of them a C - English as you'd expect!

A levels - started with a view to going to Art College then suddenly a switch to Physics but he'd not done Maths A level. So he is doing a foundation course before starting his degree proper next September. His marks in the first exams were mostly in the 90% area, he took two first year modules to keep him busy and has enough credit on them for them to assist in getting a first already.

I'm very very proud of him. He works very hard, all weekend he's been revising Maths - integration and all that Calculus stuff I cannot begin to understand.

On Saturday he got an email saying that he was getting a bursary for the duration of his degree from the Institute of Physics due to his excellent work so far. He deserves all he gets, many kids like him would have given up at 11 with his issues but he works at it constantly. He is an inspiration to me.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Guitars return

The guitars are back from the menders. The classical has a small fill on the front, it has sealed it up but there is a mark as feared where the colour was in the finish, but it's okay. New machine heads fitted on that which it needed as the others were worn out.

The PRS has puka locking tuners on it now and that is good.

Good all round.

Swimathon success

My 20th anniversary year competing in this event - I can't believe that!

Anyway I did the full 5000m i.e. 200 lengths of a 25m pool, the other three in my lane were all about the same speed we all finished in a minute of two of each other. I did a 1hour 43mins - which I was really pleased with frankly.

I feel bloody knackered now!

My daughter did 100 lengths, 2.5km in 52mins which was very good, but I think she and another girl considered it a training session. I'm sure I saw fly being swum at one point! Mad!

Friday, 17 April 2009

Gig Review – Gary Moore Folkestone 16th April, support Buddy Whittington

Yes folks that isn’t a bad line up is it? The man who has been described as the “best Bluesbreaker ever” supporting the perennial Mr Moore.

Firstly let me again explain Folkestone Leas Cliff as a venue. It is right on the top of the cliff in Folkestone, on a clear day you can see France from the top of it. If you approach on the road the only sign of it is a little glass café, but you descend down the cliff as it were into an old (Victorian I think) dance hall which is small and the layout is wrong for modern gigs really, i.e. the stage is on the long side not the short side of the floor plan. Still it is a favourite venue of mine given it’s size etc. Plus supporting gigs outside the standard metropolises can only be a good thing can’t it? Folkestone continues to host really top acts, I’ve seen Gary Moore several times there, Motörhead similarly, Sepultura, David Gray, Turin Brakes, The Hoosiers (that was for my daughter), Megadeth even have played there – now that was a gig!

Quickly about Mr Whittington. I’ve seen him in the Bluesbreakers a few times in recent years, when they used to tour with Peter Green’s Splinter Group (their demise is still sadly lamented by me). I thought him frankly much better in this simple trio format with him taking the vocal responsibility and with free reign on his solos. Very very good. Peter Stroud (ex. Peter Green’s Splinter Group) was present on fretless bass and he is a top player as well. Buddy stuck with a vintage looking Strat (’57 model I’d venture) through a Dr Z combo, excellent Texas blues tone throughout.

Mr Moore then took to the stage for the main act. Gary now plays fronting a four piece of drums, bass and keys, mostly Hammond Organ. It’s a format that suits him down to the ground. The majority of the set came off the last two releases, Bad for You Baby and Close as You Get. Now whilst Gary is very rooted in his blues traditions these days on both these CDs he has stretched in different directions a bit, i.e. a lot of use of a Telecaster not just his trademark Gibson tone, some acoustic (no “unplugged” section live though) and most recently more slide playing. His slide abilities were excellently exemplified on his rendition of Mojo Boogie from the new album. Probably half the set saw Gary ripping it up with a Telecaster – different tone, even some country style fast runs in places, but still very much Gary in style and trademark tone.

So the highlights for me were – I Love you more than you’ll ever know off the new album was utterly stunning and mesmerising. Highlight of the whole gig for me. The second and final encore which started with Gary with a quiet and clean Les Paul playing a Spanish sort of influenced jazzy/flamenco improvisation (well that’s how it sounded to me). Don’t forget Gary is a master of many styles from Jazz Rock in his early days, through metal etc. Anyway the improv was a scene setter to make you think you were wandering the streets of Paris for the stunning show closer Parisian Walkways – which was as ever brilliant.

Brilliant show – maybe a few of the older blues classics would have been good but he played Walking By Myself, All Your Love (one of my favs, and I luckily met Otis Rush in Buddy Guys club in Chicago years ago and played a frame of pool with him), Too Tired was a great version with Gary on Tele as no doubt a tribute to the late Mr Collins. Anyway I think it good an artist stands by their recent output like Gary does too, and he should be proud of the latest and if this first night was anything to go by this tour should be something to be proud of too.

For the guitar buffs… Gary used the following, a vintage style blond Tele with black scratchplate but a rosewood fingerboard so not a straight ’52 reissue. At least three Les Pauls, a custom shop ’59 with a stunning maple cap, another ’59 reissue which I think may be the one with the Bare Knuckles Peter Green pickup set in as that was the Parisian Walkways guitar. A beautiful ’57 reissue gold top for “I Love You More…” (I love gold tops!) and finally a Les Paul BFG for the slide number – not one of the recently release Gary Moore signature BFGs but an older stock red model. Amp wise, looked like an old style (might have been genuine vintage) 50w head and a JCM800 both through single 4x12 cabs, the vintage looking ones. Only issue sound wise is that Gary has his amps very close to him on stage rather than as a true “backline” the tele was inclined to really squeal due to the volume and proximity, Gary controlled it brilliantly with judicious vol control adjustments throughout the songs but it did just intrude a bit and a couple of times as he walked across the stage even the Les Pauls squealed like crazy but I think that is more to do with the on stage volume he uses to get his tone than anything else.

Top night – see here for tour dates and if you can get out and see a legend on top form.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

At the repairers

I took my acoustic to the repairers yesterday.

The decision was to leave the classical with it's "battle scar" as the colour is largely in the tint of the laquer on the front and the wood beneath is very pale, he was concerned that trying to patch it will just leave it looking worse and at best simply a noticeable fix of it. Now it's been there a week or so to be honest it is less bothering me than it did at first. Anyway he is going to replace the tuners on it as they've been playing up a bit... still the old girl is about 33 this year so to be fair she's done bloody well.

Also he is fitting the replacement tuners to my PRS so that it has puka PRS locking tuners back on it. Excellent!

I also talked to him about my Peter Cook bass, on which the active electrics don't work, and my old home built "NunoStrat". I'll take them in next week for him to look at as well - although he makes his own instruments to order so last night I was pondering giving up on poor old NunoStrat - which can trace it's genus back about 30 years nearly now as it's never sounded right. Maybe I should ask him to make me a custom strat-a-like with the following spec...

Ash body - possibly in black, maybe blue... hmm Gillingham blue with the club crest on the champher... maybe not that'll decrease it's resale value too much... :-)
Maple neck - rosewood fingerboard, 22 frets - medium jumbo (a la Gibson), a flat radius, at least 10" possibly 12"... maybe a conical graduated one.
Locking tuners
Modern 2 point fulrum trem, either the current Fender one or a suitable type from Wilkinson or similar.
Pickups.. Hmm now, either two full size humbuckers, poss Semour Duncans with a single coil in the mid pos... or maybe single coil sized humbuckers like those used by Dave Murray lately... esp if they can be coil taped for more standard Strat sounds. Standard vol and two tone layout - a la modern practice, i.e. tone on the bridge p/up not bypassed.
Schaller strap locks. All h/w chrome

Watch this space...

Photos show the guitars mentioned, the classical is on the right beside my Yamaha LL11, the Peter Cook bass sits with it's 6 string sibling and NunoStrat is shown in it's current guize with Swineshead pickups and stupid 12s when I thought I'd get into down tuned metal...

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Assorted CD reviews

I’ve bought a few over the last couple of weeks so I thought I’d bundle them up into a super review… !!!

Ballard of John Henry – Joe Bonamassa. Young Joe is the latest white guy to save the blues, like Eric, Stevie Ray, Gary Moore et. al. before him. So this is his latest platter. Very good. Joe B is however not a straight down the line blues only man with a view interesting covers thrown in like Stop! Written by the keyboard player out of Patti Smiths band by the way and also the Anthony Newley hit Feelin’ Good – and that is the best version ever I’ve heard of that track. Joe B’s playing throughout is excellent, he is much closer to Gary Moore type blues than say close to Robert Cray to help you place him if you don’t know his stuff. If you like that Blues with a rock hit this album is a must try out. The opening title track is the star of the show for me along with that stunning version of Feelin’ Good and Stoty of a Quarryman.

Songs from the Sparkle Lounge – Def Leppard. About as close as I get to “hair metal”. I nearly saw the Leps once but the gig was cancelled the day before due to band illness. I was never a huge fan but thought a couple of their albums ok and Hysteria is lying around in my collection still somewhere. I got this as it was cheap and I thought I’d give it a listen. Not bad basically. I can never figure out where Joe Elliot’s voice is attempting to come from as he doesn’t really sound American but clearly doesn’t sound like he is from Sheffield either, still that is all part of the Def Leppard thing I suppose. This is a good light rock album and worth a listen if you like that kind of thing. I still think they lost something when Steve Clark sadly passed away in 1991. I remember when that happened I thought “Jesus this guy had it all, the band, the money, the black Les Paul Custom etc and still he killed himself drinking.” I was confused, I thought then that I drank because I didn’t have those things, that I’d been cheated in the roulette of life, but here was a guy with it all and he drank worse than I did to the point of killing himself with it. I remember being very troubled by those thoughts, all the way to the next beer or 12, it’s still a thought I recall easily – shame it took me another 13 years to make all the connections about that one… still I’m sober now and bizarrely once I got sober I had the money to buy the Les Paul… :-)

Chinese Democracy – Guns N Roses. I bought this for a fiver off a sale rack. Hmm – is it a Guns N Roses album? Well in name yes but not in style I don’t think. It’s not a bad album at all and Axl does have one of the most distinctive and great rock voices out there. Was it worth the wait and the reputed $14million that is has cost to make it? Again borderline I’d say, not that it’s not bad but after a decade and that wedge you’d expect an album to change your life. It doesn’t. The guitar playing of Ron Thrall is very technical but frankly there is more than one solo I’d have given anything for less of the virtuosity, less machine gun staccato trademark etc. and wish for something a little more melodic, more restrained… a little more “Slash like” dare I say it. Worth a fiver but no great album status. Actually at times I thought it sounded very like old Queensrÿche you know, which brings us neatly to…

Broken Soldier - Queensrÿche. Now poor old Queensrÿche have a tough time with me simply because Empire was such a great album that I never think they got close to repeating. However this one isn’t bad at all and the best since Promised Land and DeGarmo departed to fly planes about for a living. This has heavy overtones as this is a concept album and uses the experiences of recent USA troops in the conflicts in the middle east as it’s backdrop. The sticker on the sleeve states this is an “epic”, well maybe not in the way that Empire was but this is a very good album and has some considerable thought to the content of the lyrics and the structure of the music that many bands miss these days… dare I say progressive? I know that gets a bad press but if people can think of quality music like this what the hell. I heartily recommend this one for anyone who liked old Queensrÿche or Dream Theatre, Rush or similar.

I just might need one of these...

Makes you go all wobbly... the new marshall Haze 15W mini stack

The wife's birthday

Yesterday (Tues 14th April) was the wife's birthday. We didn't do much although I had the day off work, just headed to Bluewater, well it is my daughters favourite place. I bought my wife a new phone for her birthday... guess what? She can't hear that one either!!! My daughter is the same - you ring and ring and it's buried in it's "sock" in the handbag and they are gassing to each other etc. If she ever phones me and it goes to voicemail she is straight on my case as to "Where were you?" etc. Still I suppose some of that is a lifetime of distrust of an alcohlic.

My wife is popular, several friends called around later in the day with gifts and cards for her. She is lucky... I'm lucky too.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Bank Holiday Monday

We went to the Dockyard. Cheaper than Brands Hatch... Not sure my daughter enjoyed it as much but hey ho...

Friday, 10 April 2009

Good Friday walk

We went for a long walk around some woods near Canterbury, lovely day. Then had tea and a hot cross bun in a cafe. :-) Millions of ants

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The collection grows.

So you know that Mrs F has for sometime been concerned with my guitar avarice well she is now rolling her eyes as she sees Son-of-Furtheron clearly carries the same gene...

He was very impressed with my bargain PRS CE22 that I got a little while back. He has been looking for something with a bit more versatility than his ESP LTD EC-1000 VB - that is a very good guitar, I think the VB should stand for very black, but it is very METAL!! :-)

So he saw a similar PRS CE22 and when it's price tumbled to £799 his agreement with his Mum to spend some long term bond interest he'd accured was secured.

So now we have two PRS's in the family and Son-of-Furtheron has taken the first step into multiple guitar ownership... they'll be no hope for him now. It is in really top nick for a 7 year old guitar, no dents or dings on the front, sides, neck or headstock and only the mildest form of "buckle rash" on the back, honestly you have to move it in the light to notice really. Case in very good condition as well, I doubt it has done much if any real gigging. All original h/w including spare locking inserts for the tuners, all the original shipping tags and paperwork. Hmm - I thought mine was a bargain but given the price and condition of this one I think he stolen first base from me on that one.

It arrive yesterday evening after a bit of a nightmare with the shipping company, one we've had issues with in the past frankly. I don't know if it is just our local depot but frankly - bloody useless. It should have been with us on Tuesday morning!

Now I said the other day - no ads on this blog - I stand by that but I will recommend where I see appropriate. So I do throughly recommend Mark at Guitars4You, he was a pleasure to deal with really helpful on the shipping issue and also when I told him that my CE22 had inexplicabily had it's PRS locking tuners removed at some point in it's life he offered to get some puka replacements direct from PRS's distributors for me at only cost price as we were buying the guitar as well... which was hugely discounted. They arrived quicker than the guitar! He is also sending a free set of strings as apology for the delivery delay - which wasn't his fault... Quality! Top service and throughly recommended.

Final note about guitars for today - a local repairer is going to look at my acoustic next week to see what kind of repair is possible, I'll be happy with some form of patch up if he can, even if noticeable as the guitar has more sentimental value than monetary. Also one of the tuners has played up recently so I might get him to do that too if he can refinish it and lastly I'll probably get him to do a pro job on fitting the PRS tuners on my blue one. I'll try and post some photos before and after for interest.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Book Review – Firefight by Chris Ryan

Everyone must know the Chris Ryan story by now, don’t they? Chris was a member of the SAS and during the first Gulf War was part of a team dropped behind enemy lines who were to pass intelligence back and disrupt the Iraq supply lines. The mission went wrong pretty much from the start. Chris was separated from the rest of the survivors and then managed to escape himself in one of the most incredible stories of survival every reported. Since writing that factual (although Andy McNab and others in the troop have disputed some of Mr Ryan’s claims) account Chris has written numerous thrillers, all of which have an SAS basis (well all the ones I’ve read do).

Firefight is no different and if you know the standard Chris Ryan format this one doesn’t flex outside that model very much, er in fact you could have read it before. The hero is ex-SAS who is now lost in a spiral of decline following personal tragedy and a shadow of his former self. He is asked to help out on a final mission and finds himself again whilst being the moral arbiter against “the system” that has turned for the worst in his view.

So, if you’ve read a Chris Ryan book before and enjoyed it, you’ll enjoy this but don’t expect anything new at all. If you’ve read one of his and yearn for him to stretch his writing and or plots don’t bother you’ll be disappointed. Half a thumbs up from me then. I think if his next one has a similar synopsis I might not bother, I only bought this one as a present for my son initially as I know he likes Ryan’s books but he said this one felt like he’d read it all before.

Vintage guitars

I was perusing a great site you can put in a search criteria and it comes up with matches. I was looking at early 60s Strats as part of a debate with a friend of mine who can’t get the whole relicing thing. I’m in two minds about it but interestingly we found plenty of early 60s strats in terrific condition, so buying a relic doesn’t mean much necessarily in the looks dept, someone could easily buy an orginal 60s strat that looks as good as my 1980s Squire one, come to think of it my Squire is 25 years old now and that looks nowhere like many of the relics, some bumps etc. on it but nothing like the road worn type relicing that seems so popular right now. And if you did own a puka 60s strat now wouldn’t most people just assume it was a relic anyhow?

After that I moved on to considering price. After some digging about I found that a Fender Strat in the early 60s when they started appearing in the UK was about £168. Given average weekly wage was then about £10 (according to my friends research) that means that a Strat cost approx 17 weeks money of the avg wage.

Fast forward to today then. Avg wage in the UK is about £25,000pa or about £480 a week. So that would mean a Strat should cost over £8000 now! Bloody hell, the £700 - £800 street price for a brand new USA Fender Strat looks like a total bargain doesn’t it.? And that’s not thinking about cheaper but perfectly viable options in the Highway One or Mexican range.

Also £16,000 for a reasonable quality 60s strat on the vintage market also doesn’t seem too bad an investment as it’s doubled over it’s original cost based on the salary comparison.

I’m drawn to wonder what modern Fenders will fetch in the future? There again when I was a young whippersnapper pushing my snotty teenage nose against local guitar shop windows the old-timers who befriended me would go on about “Modern Fenders are rubbish, look at that big headstock, Yuk!, the three bolt neck is pants,…” etc. Also the Tele Deluxe for example I remember being derided by one of these guys when a rich school friend of mine was bought one by his Gran for his 14th birthday. Hmm – I refer you to said site again and look at what one of those originals now goes for. £3000 isn't unusual - although bargains can be found, if £1,500 for something derided in it's day as awful can be considered such.

So here’s my thought (darling:-)) “why don’t we take all the money out of the savings accounts where we are getting no interest and buy a bunch of guitars as an investment”…

Yeah I know, I rather like my nose as is it and drinking mushed up food through a straw for a few weeks not my idea of fun… maybe I’ll not introduce this as my next investment strategy.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Time to be grateful

Yesterday was an odd day… just read the previous post.

So I’m attempting a little restart of stuff here now. This morning I had to go to the dentist, “Vlad the Incisor” I call him. Nice chap – Polish I believe, so the Vlad gag fails as that is nowhere near Transylvania still never mind. He poked around as usual and told me there were no problems except Tartar build up on my bottom teeth. He cleaned them, then he was flossing them for me and exclaimed. “Difficult to floss, No?” “Yes it is sometimes”. My teeth are all a bit cramped together. So he has recommended a different brush, so I headed off to the store to buy one, then headed for work. On the longest stretch on the motorway between junctions I see the ominous red lights and hazard warning lights. We all came to a grinding halt and in a few seconds you could hear the sirens. I was stuck for about an hour – some poor lady had gone into the back of a lorry somehow and when they started to clear us through the top of the car had been removed and they were still working on releasing her.

The AA programme is a spiritual programme, twice in a week speakers have chosen to have the Appendix 2 read out – “A Spiritual Experience”. I rail against standard definitions of God, however there is some interconnectedness out there I don’t understand, call it what you like but when I’m wrapped up in my stupid selfishness I get these kind of reminders. It wasn’t me being cut out a car this morning, start there after being sober and work on it fool!

Re the God thing – here’s two things that have me puzzling at the moment. I watched a Horizon programme on Mathematics. If you look at a graph showing the distribution of prime numbers the distribution is apparently pretty random. However take a bit of quartz crystal and hit is whilst you measure the vibrations in it. Guess what, the graphs look virtually identical. Hmm. Here’s the second, take DNA (all of it including the junk) and analyse the repetition of short phrases that repeat. So this analysis on pretty much all written human languages. Guess what – a virtually identical distribution… Hmm – God, the great mathematician perhaps.

So onwards and upwards today – hopefully.

Monday, 6 April 2009

I should be happy...

Over this weekend all the frustration, anger, annoyance etc. about the job situation boiled over, no doubt as I had a lot of time in my head with all the driving about.

I realised that I'm very demotivated at the moment, not just because of the redundancy stuff, I'd been struggling before that came along. I know it is probably me, I've come to realise that really all jobs suck, you turn up do stuff and then more stuff, get shat on from time to time by the organisation or economy or both etc. etc. I keep trying to restart myself, get going again, but I'm finding it very difficult. I drop back into bad karma again too quickly. I wish I could be like others and just do a job, enjoy it and not look for some great meaning in what they do... I keep thinking what the heck is the point of anything I do really in the grand scheme of things I do very little to move the world in any direction.

I'm really frustrated more with myself, one of my characteristics (or character defects) is that I'm not a risk taker at all. Also I'm a very negative person, I always see the 20 things that can go wrong in anything and will err on the side of caution generally. If I was more of a get up and give it a go type person I'd have just already gone from the company I'm in, taken the money and thought it that greatest opportunity in my life.

Anyway - they've given me the job. Bugger! I'll have to accept given the reasons above but I need to really do something about the negative motivation now or they'll sack me in a few months for being sodding useless. Partly I hoped this delay meant that they were not going to offer me it and I'd be able to depart and "blame" them... whoever they are...

Oh yes another thing that has really upset me is that there was a disaster in my music room and my beloved classical guitar my Mum bought me when I was a teenager now has a huge scratch down the front of it. And add to that it's three years to the day she died and that probably isn't helping my mood much today.

Traveling in Britain

Friday was one of those driving days on the UK roads - well it was for me anyway.

I set off planning to head M2, Darford Crossing, M25, M1, M6, M54 etc. and to stop at Shrewsbury over night before completing the journey to Aberystwyth.

As soon as I set off there were signs saying that the M25 was slow just inside Essex. As I came over the hill towards the crossing you could see the Dartford queues back virtually onto the A2. So I thought, be smart I'll go Blackwall Tunnel, A406 and M11... I did and not too bad that, apart from a short queue to get into the Tunnel. Back on the M25 feeling clever... Next sign - M1 closed northbound at J16. Brilliant. So I cut across through Aylesbury to pick up M40. However everyone was now going up the M40 and that was a joke too. So I stopped had a coffee and then as I joined again heard a traffic report of a crash after J16... well I was J13 and the queues were there! So off and through Warwick (pretty) and cross country to Solihull - very posh and then pick up the M42 just before the M6 Toll. Nightmare - I spent more time on A roads avoiding the slow moving jams on the motorways.

Saturday I tried a different route, straight down the A470 and onto the M4. About the same distance, maybe a touch longer but seemed easier drive all round.

So yes Son-of-Furtheron is home for Easter. He has ordered a PRS CE22 - a bit like mine to be delivered this week, bargain at £800 as he "needs" a more versatile guitar alongside the EC1000. He is so like me! :-)

Thursday, 2 April 2009

At the risk of causing myself trouble...

I still have no idea/news on the job front.

To recap - in early Feb I was told my "role was eliminated" as part of a restructuring of the department. Fair enough. I looked over a bunch of roles that were advertised but basically I had done all of them pretty much in some manner in the last 10 years or so and couldn't see how any of them either would excite me or add new stuff to my CV. So I didn't apply.

There was another role however that is in an adjacent department, reporting into the USA directly. That did have some sense of a career move for me with additions to the CV. So I applied. I was interviewed two weeks ago. Now I'm still waiting. I know I pointed out a number of concerns about acountability and authority within the role but... I mean if I was that much of a trouble maker then just politely tell me to move on. I've a meeting on Monday to "discuss the proposal" to make me redundant. My brother said I should decline the meeting saying "I don't want to discuss it thanks".

Frankly I'm fed up waiting, it's really maddening. It's like my whole life is on hold. I've been applying for a few things I've seen at other places but without full commitment as I don't know whether I'm here or there. I can't organise simple things like when to take my son back to uni at the end of the month as I don't know if I'll have a job or not...

Infuriating, frustrating, debilitating etc.

It is a very high class problem to have I know but it is sucking all my energy up and I'm getting to the point of possibly on Monday just saying "I'm fed up being jerked about. How can it have taken so long to make a decision? I'll be off now then"

You travel half way around the world...

The AA meeting I regularly attend on a Wednesday has been generally small affair in all the years I've gone there, it is probably the closet to my house as the crow flies and I've always considered it my "home group". There are normally about 10 of us, on a good night.

Last night was football wasn't it, which normally deflates attendance somewhat and one of our stalwart members who ferries others without transport to the meeting was on holiday so I was expecting possibly no more than 6 or so. But we had getting on for 20 of us which is really good. We meet in a little room in a village hall whilst the indoor bowling club raucously conduct their games next door, God knows what they get up to in there.

Among the usual faces, I noticed a new one as I dashed about sorting out kettles and readings (the tea boy was ill as well) so I said hello and welcomed him asking "Are you a visitor?" You can normally tell a visitor from a newcomer, he was well dressed, standing up straight, no sign of swaying or shaking but most importantly the give away sign ... a sparkle of life in his eyes rather than the dark hollows of despair you normally see in a newcomer or a returnee.

Turns out this guy lives in the middle east and was visiting on holiday to revisit boyhood haunts and looked us up on the internet. He was very gracious about the meeting, thanking us for being there and the sharing he heard.

Amazing... he goes half way around a world, walks into a room of strangers but within seconds is "one of us" and within minuets feeling right at home. He's off to Scotland for the next leg of his tour then back home so we'll probably never see him again but it really showed to me again the amazing power of the fellowship of AA. I've done it myself by walking into meeting rooms in USA (some with warnings that "ALL firearms are to be handed in before the meeting" !?!?! However I've always felt welcomed, at home and always safe.

Thanks to Bill W and Dr Bob for starting this all in 1935.