Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Vox Lil Looper

I got a Vox Lil Looper for Christmas - thank to Mrs F as ever. I've only had one session with it but great fun so far. I like that it has effects on the unit and that you can therefore get a bass sound from a guitar as it has an octaver type effect. I've built up some chords and bass with which I can then solo over the top of. Great fun.

Not sure I'll incorporate it ever into live performances but will be using it at home definitely.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Joe Cocker - RIP

Sad news indeed.  A legend - such an incredible voice...

What else could I pick but one of the greatest covers ever ...

Friday, 19 December 2014

Review of the year...

It's been a bit traditional on the blog here to post a review of the year over the years I've been talking to myself you good folks on here.

So 2014?

Gig of the year.  Not done that many these days as I'm more cash strapped than I used to be and with my son living away from home I don't go with him to gigs like I used to.  Anyway from those I did see it would have to be Show Of Hands at Tunbridge Wells.  Super stuff, great playing and singing and the sound was excellent throughout.  Close second were Bellowhead.

CD of the year.  Now here was a year with a few big names releasing... but sadly I thought Elbow, Coldplay and esp U2 all missed the mark a degree (Elbow) or several (Coldplay) or totally (U2).  But there were so many great things out.  Blair Dunlop, Bellowhead, Uriah Heep... etc.

Hmm... So I'm going to award three this year.

1. Rock - Uriah Heep The Outsider.  Just a thunderously brilliant album as though losing Trevor Bolder seemed to inspire them to greater things as a tribute to him.

2. Mainstream - David Gray - The Mutineers.  David Gray's best album since White Ladder quiet simply brilliant.

3. Folk - Hmm... still torn with this category.  I'll cheat the CD release by False Lights is Feb and I think that'll win them next years award.   So... Bellowhead for Revival - probably their best to date.

Read of the year... The Farm by Tom Rob Smith - not a pleasant read in some respects the subject matter throughout is challenging but well written and with great twists.  Thoroughly recommended

Thursday, 11 December 2014

False Lights Salvor

Anyone who has a long memory will know that I've waxed lyrically about the great Sam Carter on this here blog from time to time in the past.

Now ... he has teamed up with Jim Moray to form a new folk rock band called False Lights.   Their first release is Salvor which is just flipping brilliant.  And you can listen to it all now (plugin compatibility allowing etc.) on Soundcloud...  just click and love it!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Book Reviews - The Empty Throne Bernard Cornwell and On Wings of Eagles Ken Follett

Bernard Cornwell - The Empty Throne.

The next instalment in the Lord Uhtred saga.  I've always really enjoyed Bernard's books, great historical research and then placing great fictional characters with great stories into real life historical events.  This saga now on the eight instalment.  We've followed Uhtred from his forcible exit from his family home of Bamburgh Castle as a child, through his time as a slave to his unusual alliance as a pagan with the most pious King Alfred helping Wessex to eject marauding Danes from it's borders and helping Alfred in his quest for a united England.  In this one Alfred is dead, Uhtred himself is recovering from the near fatal wound he received at the end of the last book The Pagan Lord.  He is grievously ill and with his failing strength others manoeuvre around him to try to ensure the crown of Mercia is grabbed by enemies.  Of course Uhtred whilst ill is not to be ignored and he soon is politically dealing to reinstate his mistress Alfred's daughter on the throne and also challenging those in battle who have been fighting for another outcome including him engaging in a major fight with a new Viking foe who'll return again in further episodes in this story.  Great historical novel gets a thumbs up on the FTUBRS*

On Wings of Eagles - Ken Follett

I like Ken's writing.  This is however different from him to me, rather than a fictional story woven into a history setting this one is the recounting of a true story.  In 1978 during the Iranian revolution two executives from the American computer company EDS were arrested and imprisoned in Tehran.  Simply put Iran was broke and corrupt to crazy.  EDS had not been paid for some months for the work done but also had been paid some millions of US dollars already.  Some people in the Ministry for Health seemed to think they could extort the payments back out of EDS by setting the bail for the executives at $12million.  EDS felt extremely let down by the USA Embassy that did nothing to help them and the dithering in the Carter administration didn't help.  In the end Ross Perot the owner of EDS set up a rescue team who went to Tehran with the plan to break the executives out of jail.  However once there on the ground the prisoners were moved to a prison where a jailbreak was impracticable until they were able to whip up an anti-regime protest to enable a complete jailbreak of all prisoners and then the team had to drive through a fractured and dangerous Iran to get over the border into Turkey.  I have to say I very touched by some of the story - esp the ending.  However throughout I was also worried about how Ken portrays the story - he seems a little bit hero worshipping some involved, particularly Ross Perot.  So a two thumbs horizontal - a great story to read but I'm concerned how some of the events and characters are portrayed and not Ken's best writing I feel.


* 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

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Gig Review - Bellowhead Margate Winter Gardens 25th November 2014

Bellowwho?  Is what many people seem to say to me when I mention them - well go find them out.  They are a large multi instrumental folk group.  However before all you rock fans turn away and ignore them - they are very rock sounding to me in their arrangements even if they don't have a traditional rock rhythm session - in fact the bass instrument of choice is brass - Helicon, Tuba or Sousaphone...  Most of the band are multi-instrumentalists too adding incredible range to the bands sounds.  The venue I thought would suit them well, the Winter Gardens is an old seaside dance hall/ theatre- very ornate big rectangle with the stage on one of the long sides, which was more suitable with a dance but not maybe a modern gig.  But what made it worse was the decision by someone for it to be all seated.  I've been to gigs there before when the "dance floor" is standing only.  Sadly this lack of dancing/jumping about meant the atmosphere was a little flatter than I'd expected from them until into the second half.

However they did hit the ground running with Roll Alabama as the kick off song- one of my personal favs of theirs and a highlight off the lastest album Revival.   The mix then onwards was a mix of a lot of the new stuff off Revival (Let Her Run, Let Union Be, Fine Sally, Gosport Nancy ... etc.)  and old hits - a lot from Hedonism album which is my favourite album after Revival from them.

Sound I thought was good for me although one friend thought it not so clear but I thought it good, to cope with so many acoustic instruments without a muddy mix and only one or two little feedback squeals I was suitably impressed with.

Top gig!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Christmas Gift Guide for Guitarists

Inspired by my friend Judy over at So Very Slightly Mad here are some ideas for Christmas Gifts for the guitarist in your life.

NOTE - the recommendations here are made purely on my experience I'm not being paid or otherwise reimbursed by any shop or manufacturer neither does my endorsement imply an exhaustive set of tests alongside competitor products... it is just my recommendation based on my experience, unless otherwise stated.


Seriously any guitarist with any kind of collection goes through so many sets of strings.  Find out what they use - or what they'd like to try.  We're a conservative bunch.  I had never tried coated strings but kept reading players raving about them that I respected.  I went to a guitar show in London and got a free set as part of a goody bag.  I'm sold!  Once I get through the box of old ones I'm moving to them on all my acoustics.  Not convinced yet on electrics but on acoustics I am sold big style.  In the UK I use Strings Direct - fast good service never had an issue with them.


Or Plectrums if you aren't bother by the grammar police commenting on your blog... ;-)  Again you can never have too many plectra.  There is some fundamental rule of Physics which states that any plectrum dropped will suddenly accelerated beyond the speed of light, become instantly so massive it creates a mini black hole about your knee area on the descent and before hitting the floor it disappears beyond the event horizon into another universe and the black hole disintegrates leaving you looking all about you for the little sod which is never ever seen again.  Somewhere in another universe is a planet where they build lavish multicoloured temples out of these plastic triangle things that materialise out of nowhere almost continually. Inside they house weird mechanical contraptions trying to recreate an off Cadd9 kind of chord sound which they hear a mere snippet of as each little triangle appears.

By the way if you're not a guitarist one plectrum is not as good as another - we all like this shape, not that shape, this material not that material and this thickness not that thickness... ;-)  Jim Dunlop though is where to start - they must have something that'll suit pretty much anyone.


Like plectra there is another rule of physics that says the hour before your big gig one of the cables in your rig will start to splutter and squawk.  Again you can never have too many cables!  I recommend Cleartone cables - built really really well and much better than more expensive leads I've bought in shops.  All made to order too so you can really get a series of sensible lengths that work for your exact situation.


If your pet guitarist doesn't have a capo - they should!  If they have one they'll be needing more.  For a laugh one thing I've yet to try but would like to are some great partial capos by Shubb which offer ultimate total confusion after the Christmas festivities.


Clip on ones, foot pedal ones, bog standard ones... the range and cost is almost limitless but a cheapy clip on one will always find a potential use on an acoustic instrument in the hubbub of the pub open mic night trust me!  Korg are well respected (I don't use their products to be honest) and have a great range to consider.

Books about guitars!

If we're not playing them, stringing them, tuning them, upgrading them or sniffing them... err... sorry TMI ... we love to read about them.  If you have the total guitar geek in mind then the latest book on Brian May's Red Special is just superb!  My son bought it for me for my birthday - pouring over the photos of that legendary 6 string being completely disassembled and then all the stories of how he and his Dad built it etc.  Just wonderful.


Finally I still use an old little wind up one that I bought as a teenager and I'm surprised how many people don't even seem to own one.  I find it indispensable for practising keeping my stuff to time and even figuring out the best tempo to play stuff I've written and getting rigorous at playing it repeatedly at that tempo.  I've been thinking about a newer flashy electronic one but glad to see essentially the same model of the one I own is still available even if it is frighteningly costly compared to other options out there now including really great electronic ones.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

CD Reviews - Uriah Heep - The Outsider and Blair Dunlop - House of Jacks

Uriah Heep - The Outsider. 

 I've passed by Uriah Heep over the years. I remember really liking Conquest back about 1980 and there last album had some good stuff on it but... The Outsider the first one they've done since long standing bass player Trevor Bolder. I gave it a listen on Spotify - I found myself repeatedly playing it so when my sister gave me an Amazon voucher for my birthday I bought the CD... I'm an old Luddite and still love to have the CD in my grubby mits!

 Just brilliant - great searing vocals, stomping drums and bass, super riffing guitar work and above it all a throbbing Hammond Organ! Yes part of the "Heep sound" since Ken Hensley was in the band and still brilliantly there front and centre. You can do what you like with synth patches and what have you but in great rock a Hammond just has such a great warm sound. The Opener Speed of Sound is a punchy jump to your feet rocker and that mode continues throughout. Is Anybody Gonna Help Me, Jessie and Kiss the Rainbow are other favourites of mine but there is no dud track on this album at all... buy it and ROCK!

 Blair Dunlop - House of Jacks. 

 Blair is Ashley Hutchings son. Who? Well if you are into English Folk Rock Ashley has been a legend for years with stints in The Albion Band, Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span. I love his last album and this is better! Great songs, well written. His guitar playing and singing are top notch throughout. Some of the songs deal with difficult issues like the albums first track and initial single release - Somethings Gonna Give Way - which is about a young lad persecuted at school, a traveller who ends up resorting to violence to make his mark. Dark stuff but well exectued. You can listen to the album on Soundcloud via Blair's site.  I urge you to.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Cover tunes.

Now if you're going to do a cover, make it your own.  I was thinking this when I remember this stunning song I first heard on Unleashed in the East and bought my leather wrist band and headbanged along with the faithful at Hammersmith.

Somewhat different from the original...

That's how to do a cover... :-)

Friday, 7 November 2014

What it sounds like

Here is the first appearance of the 12 string anywhere!

Really I was just trying it out after a bit of fiddling with the nut etc.

So - you'll hear all 7 sounds on a little motif from one of my songs (On Christmas Day) starting from bridge, then bridge and middle, middle, middle and neck, neck, neck and Bridge and all three on together.   Then a little noodle with me just playing about - middle position I think which I really like.  Direct into my little Boss BR-600 with a Roland JC clean amp patch.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Final Assembly

I've completed the final assembly on the 12 string.

First the string ferrules at the back.

Then the Tuners... so many tuners!

One minor mod, like all my electric guitars I've fitted this with Schaller strap locks - I've used these on everything for so many years now it is just a default for me.

Final wiring up.

Waiting for stringing.

Fitting the string tree and getting it strung up was one of the most challenging and stressful bits of the build!

Finally all strung up.  It plays!  The wiring mods all work.  It needs a lot of set up work, the g pair in particular are way out in intonation initially.  I need to look at the intonation, action, nut depths and adjust the pickups.   I'll let is settle for a day or so then have a slow look, might take one or two stabs I think.  Also I will finally restring with some better strings - those on it now came with the kit but I've bought some Ernie Balls which I'll use in the final set up.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Book Review - Ken Follett - Edge of Eternity

The last installment in Ken Follett's "Century Trilogy".  This whole series has been about showing the history of the 20th Century through the lives of intertwined families in the UK, USA, Germany and Russia.  The story shows the rising of the Berlin Wall and the descent of the Iron Curtain and how that broke up families in Berlin.  A Kremlin insider who manages to maintain his career from Khrushchev to Gorbachev provides great insight into the workings of the Kremlin.

This is a well researched and written book that covers the later part of the 20th century history expertly.  There is less emphasis on the UK this time around but no doubt due to the bigger story being the oppressive Soviet administration continuing to maintain its grip on power and the civil rights movement in the USA, the separation of Germany etc.  However that does miss a trick in telling the building of modern Britain with the NHS, university education opened for all in short the building of the welfare state which is to me a great triumph of post-war Britain.

The use of people's lives and how they interlace is a great technique to embroil you in the story so that when the Berlin Wall was finally let down you join in the excitement of the reunification of a country through a family.  That is where the book ends in Nov 1989 with the opening of the crossings in Berlin allowing free flow from East to West Germany.  However there is one epilogue into the 21st Century which reflects on the USA struggle with civil rights.

Frankly a good book if you like reading about people's lives and a great way to teach modern history - I recommend all three in the series for that from the class struggles of the early 20th Century in the UK through the slaughter of the first world war the inter-war years and and the rise of fascism the atrocities of the second world war, particularly the final days in Berlin and then on through the brink of nuclear war in the month I was born (Oct 62) to the dismantling of the Soviet Bloc.   Great read

The whole series is a two thumbs up on the  FTUBRS*

* 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

Gigs are like buses...

... they come along in packs.

I was asked back to play at the Coach & Horses in Strood at the last minute this weekend.  Really nice to be asked even if it was because a scheduled act pulled out a the last minute.  But I got a longer set time on this occasion.  I must have had a premonition as only a couple of days earlier I'd restrung the 12 string acoustic so was ready to use that and the Yamaha for a full set.  It was quieter this time around, no doubt due to it being the predominant "fireworks night" of the year so I expect a lot of people were at events as we would have been if I hadn't had the call Friday night asking me to play. 

I've also got a gig lined up early in December in Faversham supporting Wax Collector.  Looking forward to that one too.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Body finished

I've finished the body.  A quick rub down with 0000 wire wool and then a polish with my old beeswax finishing wax.

I've just test fitted the neck in these photos.  I'm going to leave it a few days for the finish to harden before starting to add hardware etc.

Really pleased with how it is looking.

One thing this kit (for the 12 string) was only available with a basswood body.  In retrospect I should have sanded it more with 250 grade paper prior to starting finishing maybe, or it maybe basswood is less "grainy".  Personally I'd prefer Ash which has a better grain pattern for me.  Pleased with the colour though

Friday, 31 October 2014

Neck finish

I've completed finishing the neck.  I've done another top coat on the body - I might do another yet, will wait and see once it has cured off.

Anyway here are some photos of the neck.   I used Wudtone Original Yellow which has given the colour I was hoping for.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The 12 string build - electrics mods

The body and neck finishing is going really well.  I think I've just done the 3rd top coat on both.  I'm going to do at least one more on the body, possibly two and maybe one more on the neck.  I'll decide when I look at them after this latest one has cured off.

In preparation for them being ready for assembly I've turned my attention to the electrics.  I commented at the start of the build a plan for some mods to the electrical circuit - nothing too major but a couple of little tweaks.

Seven sound wiring.  One mod often seen on Strats is to add the two sounds you can't get on a standard 5 way switch with the three pickups.  Namely all three on together and bridge and neck on together.  The way I'm doing this is by just having a simple switch to switch on the bridge pickup no matter what position the 5 position switch is in. Many of the mods show this mod using the neck pickup.  I've favoured the bridge since I'd prefer the bridge only "lead" sound as being available in either combination where as with the normal mod you lose that.

So normal 5 way gives.
  • Neck
  • Neck + Middle
  • Middle 
  • Middle + Bridge
  • Bridge
When activated the switch will give.
  • Neck + Bridge
  • Neck + Middle + Bridge
  • Middle + Bridge
  • Middle + Bridge
  • Bridge
Bridge Tone Control.  Secondly I wanted to have a tone on the bridge pickup so have linked it to the middle tone on the switch.

Some photos!

This shows the switch just fitted.  I measured the diameter of the switch post with a digital calliper - 6mm.  Found the right size drill and a very easy neat job added the switch to the scratchplate.  I had some of these switches lying around from an old model railway I helped my son built some years ago.  Never throw good stuff like this away!

Switch installed before the wiring changes.

Wiring changes completed - In red I've circled the jumper that allows the bridge pickup to "share" the middle tone control.  The two green circles show taking the bridge pickup feed off the 5 way switch via the new one SPDT onto the volume control to put it permanently in circuit.  You may need to click on the photo to enlarge it to see better.

Soon it'll be assembly and set up fun!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Gig Review - Show of Hands Tunbridge Wells

I don't get to many gigs these days.  The change of work situation, i.e. working only 2 days a week now means financially I cannot justify going to that many especially with the cost of many tickets these days.  I heard an interview with Mark King (Level 42) the other day and he was commenting "I remember when albums were £15 in the shops and a gig ticket was £3.  Now people give albums away for free and charge you £50 to see them live".  Very true - the shift in where you can make a living from music I suppose.

Anyhoo... Mrs F and I went with a few other friends to see Show of Hands at Tonbridge Well.  Show of Hands may not be a household name, which is a shame for them as frankly one of the best folk bands about and maybe there in lies the issue, the narrow characterisation of them into a particular genre... however they have been known to play Peter Gabriel covers so what does that say about breaking down the preconceptions?

Just brilliant is my overall summary.  Three stunning musicians, Steve Knightley is a stunning song writer tacking tough issues in his lyrics, singing with authority and passion and a great guitarist and mandolin player too.  He plays guitar, tenor guitar, octave mandolin and ukulele throughout the set.  Impressive you say... well it would be if he wasn't in a band with Phil Beer who is just is simply a virtuoso on anything he picks up!  Guitar, violin, mandolin, ukulele you name it he plays it, and brilliantly too.  The final member is Miranda Sykes who has one of the finest female voices around and is a stonking double bass player too.  Just the three of them produce an amazing wall of sound.  They started with I'll Haunt You - one of my favourites of theirs and I believe everyone was just captivated from the start.  They played a short first set as "our own support act" then returned after a short break for a varied and well executed full set ending up on the crowd pleasing and interactive Cousin Jack.

Here is I'll Haunt You live (not the show I saw) - honestly this was the first number on Thursday and they were bang on the harmonies just like this.  A band of true genius.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

RIP - Jack Bruce

Sadly - another RIP post.  I read today that Jack Bruce has sadly passed away.

One word... Legend...

Makes sense now why they did this get together...

At least now he can reunite with Gary
This was a terrific line up - shame they didn't do more together

Thursday, 23 October 2014

RIP Alvin Stardust

RIP Alvin Stardust when I was 10 I was buying his singles but the landmark in my life was attending my first gig at the Central Hall (now Theatre) to see him with a slightly older female friend of the family who my mother trusted.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

12 String Build Update

Just a quick update.  Being a bit busy at the moment with stuff - work, course, volunteer training etc.  The build is on the go-slow.   On Monday I put the last base coat on the body.  You need to give it 2 days to dry out fully anyhow but I'll be unlikely to get to do anything until the weekend now.  The neck I've finished the base coats on.  So weekend I'll start the top coats on both.  I'm expecting 3 or 4 of them we'll see as it develops so probably at least another week or two then the advice is to leave it a full week before assembly. 

Patience... it's a bugger at times isn't it!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Music reviews - Bellowhead, Yes, Joe Bonamassa

Some overdue reviews of latest CD additions to my collection.

Bellowhead - Revival.

Bellowhead on top form.  Frankly their best yet I think.  Sea shanties a plenty kicking off with Let Her Run and straight into Roll Alabama my favourite off the whole album.  There isn't anything new here if you know Bellowhead, excellent arrangements using the huge variety of instruments their large and versatile line up gives them.  The vocals are spot on and much of this album is up tempo foot tapping sing-a-long chorus type stuff that simply they do so well.  Off to see them live in the flesh in November and on this basis can't wait.

One highlight is I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight a stonking reworking of the old Richard Thompson song.  I heard an interview with them on BBC Radio 2 where they said they included this song as they wanted something "contemporary" in the track list.  I roared with laughter at this, for most groups who trouble the top 40 with any album I doubt U2's release before last (2009's NO Line on the Horizon) would count as contemporary let alone a song that saw the light of day something like 40 years ago but given nearly all the others are probably 200 years old on here then theirs is a unique perspective in the modern music world and we're all the better for them saying things like that in my opinion.  Oh yes and the good councillors of Gosport moaning about them besmirching the name of ladies from that fair port need to remember when that song was originally written...

Joe Bonamassa - Different Shades of Blue.  

There was a time when you seemed to see a new album from JB every month!  But with him out of Black Country Communion now seemingly forever (sadly) and some crazy touring it's been a while since he turned out an album.  So this is I think only the second CD he's done with all original stuff - only the first short track is a Hendrix cover, I think that is JB being ironic in case you didn't get it.  Good album overall and I think one that will grow on me.  It isn't as immediate a hit to me as Driving towards the Daylight was but the quality of playing and variety of tone is superb far outstripping his sound on Ballard of John Henry - you can certainly still see his progression and growth as a player and that is to be highly commended given he could so easily just turn out an album by numbers and it would sell well - at least he is still working at his art.  My highlight is Heartbreak Follows Whereever I Go.

Yes - Heaven and Earth

Two Yes records in three years!  Given there'd been a decade between the two previous releases that makes you raise your eyebrows.  This one has another new line up - Jon Davison is now the singer Yes seemingly able to wear out old ones, both Jon Anderson and Benoit David having been pushed out with recurring throat issues.  Jon D sounds very very like Jon A more so than Benoit did on the last outing Fly From Here where he sounded more like Trevor Horn from Drama era - which given the major track on that was indeed one of the Buggles penned songs that got them into the crumbling early 80s Yes lineup then.

This is an odd balance, not a big conceptual album like the old ones or indeed Fly From Here but a collection of songs more akin to 90125 line up albums.  It is sadly a bit "Yes by numbers" the vocals are ok, the playing good but not great and there isn't anything that makes you go "wow".  I personally think that they should have retained Trevor Horn as producer not Roy Thomas Baker as I think that would have given the overall sound a bit more oompf.  If you're a Yes fan it is ok but I can't see this winning new ones and some old ones may go "Not as good as

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The start of the finish

There's a confusing post title and probably the title of my forthcoming 90 min epic single track progressive rock album... ;-)

No seriously folks.  I've started on the finish.

I'm using the excellent Wudtone products.  I like these since they are so easy for a DIY build like mine.  You "rag" them on, I use old cut up pyjamas as they seem best to me in terms of not soaking too much of the liquid up etc.  No sprays or complicated stuff like that.  You don't get the mirror finish a pro would get with proper spray booths etc. but the finish on the Tele Build was really good just right between colour, semi gloss shine and the feel of the real wood.  They have some sort of sealant in them so help with making the wood resistant to water etc. so all good.

The body is being finished in Carmine Gypsy red and the neck in Original Vintage Yellow.

Here they are after the application of the first coats.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Birthday weekend - Coach and Horses gig

The birthday weekend was a bit of a whirlwind.  On my birthday we went out for nice meal once Mrs F finished work.  My daughters boyfriend had got away from his job early so the four of us headed out for a three course slap up at the local Harvester which is in walking distance.  Good time by all even managing to squeeze in an ice desert with toffee sauce!

My son and his girlfriend then made the trek home arriving late in the evening, for my son he'd spent too long on a train after a days work having gone back from Leicester to Birmingham and then to Kent but lovely to see him and the house was suddenly over full with people again.

Saturday I had a workshop I had to be at in the afternoon and then the gig in the evening.  Meaning I had to squeeze in cooking a huge curry for everyone too.  Must have been good, totally empty plates all round.

We dashed off the to the gig.  Roadworks!  The route I'd plan had a road closure on it, luckily I knew a back roads route and we parked just a little way from the venue with 10 mins to spare.  Arriving and just whipping the guitar out the case and straight on stage wasn't a smart move!  Still never mind.  I was first up in a long list of 6 acts, all the others were bands, largely LOUD bands mostly playing rock, punk and rock n roll covers.  So I stood out as only solo acoustic act and only all original stuff.  I rattled off a 30 min set of 6 numbers to good applause so I was overall pleased.  The family support, inc my sister and brother in law all said several people were commenting that I was good etc. and I got some good feedback from others too.  All in all good.  Now... just need the next one!

I used my Yamaha LL11 which last year I fitted with a Fishman pickup.  I decided for a loud noisy pub that would be better than the Vintage Gordon Giltrap which has similar pickup but with a microphone as well which sounds nicer but is much more temperamental regarding feedback.  The Yamaha is a fav guitar anyway and performed admirably with the help of my Zoom Acoustic processor which helps live sound a lot if only to add some "body" back in, some delay/reverb etc. and has a really handy three notch feedback reducing feature.  Laughably given I was the "acoustic" act my sons girlfriend awarded me "Best avoidance of feedback on the night" award as many of the heavy rock bands on later struggled to tame Les Pauls and 100w stacks in a small pub venue!

All back home for a good nights sleep... only... at some un-Godly hour the loft hatch feel out, snapping off it's hinges.  So Sunday was spent fixing all that back!  Monday I felt awful having a vertigo attack, which I get sometimes when I've been rushing about as long term readers will know.  Feeling better now and back to work...

Friday, 3 October 2014

Start of the 12 String Kit Build

Today is my birthday so Mrs F finally let me loose on my present.

Here it is as it arrived.  For some reason they actually fit the scratchplate and electrics, probably for safety in transit to stop them getting damaged but obviously if you want to finish the body you need to remove them... so first thing was to whip them out...

And then to try a test fit of the neck, can't resist it!

All good, all parts (body, neck and scratchplate) are marked with 35 on them somewhere showing they've been mated together before putting into the kit.  On the body and neck  this has proved valuable the neck is a very good snug fit into the pocket, so much so with friction alone holding it together you can lift the guitar by the neck and body doesn't fall off.  This is a good sign.  Incidentally the body is basswood and very light.  The neck is maple with a nicely grained rosewood fingerboard - being a 12 string the neck is quite wide measuring about 48 mm at the nut compared with say my 6 string Strat which is about 42 mm.

The headstock is supplied as a "blank" which is ok not as bad as the paddle heads you get on many 6 a side kits but still a bit boring and bland.  So my first job was to get a better headstock shape on there.

So I traced out the headstock on some paper, scketched a new look shape and then cut that to make a template to mark the new shape.  There isn't acres of room, I was hoping to do something like the old Squier Venus XII shape but not enough wood really, in the end I went for something just a little wavy and tried to reflect the bass side shape bias of a Strat body.  I'm please with it any way.  With the template I marked the new shape onto the wood and then was ready to cut it.

Here is the neck clamped down before I went at it with the jigsaw.

A few mins later after final sanding with grades down to 320 I'm pretty happy with the result.

More soon.  I'll let you know how the finishing goes with which is the next set of actions before we can think of assembly.  This might take a couple of weeks or so as the finish providers recommend several coats and some days between each coat.  A lesson in patience about to be needed I think.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Book Review - Shout, Sister, Shout! Gayle F Wald

This book is a billed as "The Untold Story or Rock N Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe".

Some of you may recall my waxing lyrically about Sister Rosetta when celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Chorltonville blues gigs that ITV recorded in April 1964.  By then Sister Rosetta had over 20 years been at the head of her game.  Over the years principally known as a gospel artist she crossed into Swing in the early 40s to much controversy and then was accepted particularly on the European side of the Atlantic into the secular blues boom of the late 50s and 60s.

This book charts her entire life and career and is a fascinating read.  It is more a scholarly biographic work than a story and reads as such so whilst extremely well researched and very thorough it sadly isn't a whirlwind story.  Which is a shame since her life was like that, even to signing a deal to hold a wedding in 7 months as part of a huge gospel service/gig without a husband available!  She delivered the husband and the service/gig drew a crowd of over 20,000!  Just one of the great stories of her life.

Now my interest comes in her incredible guitar playing, I never realised how important she is in the development of blues/rock guitar.  She was a great acoustic player before electric guitars came along but along with T-Bone Walker she realised you could play an electric guitar differently, the increased sustain and note clarity on a solid body meaning she rewrote how to solo.  Also she was at one with the instrument.

So I'll give this book a single thumbs up on my scale - but that is a bit unfair given the quality of the story and the terrific research that has gone into it, just I'd have loved a more passionate involved personal narrative but that is me...

Go search her out on YouTube and other places - esp on the YouTube stuff and watch her strutting around and playing great solos infront of gospel choirs on USA tv shows, the brief but brilliant Chorltonville appearance is just terrific too.

Here are a two Youtube clips that sum her up in the 60s Didn't It Rain from Chorltonville and Up Above My Head from a US TV Gospel show - but do search out more and read the book which catalogues her life superbly. 

Sadly Sister Rosetta died in October 1973 just days after I got my first guitar for my 11 birthday from a blood clot on the brain brought on by diabetes over a number of years when she never sought treatment, she'd had to have a leg amputated after a stroke in 1970.

Now ... watch this woman... then remember she is this rocking black woman guitar toting genius in a time when she could barely get served in many hotels and restaurants in her home states.  Such an amazing lady and story.
I recommend the book highly 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

New project....

So my birthday is fast approaching... 52 before you ask...

Mrs F graciously offered to buy me a guitar kit again!  So following on from my Tele Build a while back I've ordered a Strat shaped 12 string ... yes you did just read that right.  I don't have an electric 12 string and this is a cheap and fun way to get one into the collection.

So the kit has everything you need - including a set of strings and a cable, both of iffy quality frankly!  I've ordered some finishing kits from Wudtone who's product I used on the Tele.  I've decided to used their neck finishing kit too this time since because the Danish Oil on the Tele neck was ok but I was so impressed with the body finish from Wudtone I thought I'd go for the neck kit too.

What I plan to do is not as complicated as the Tele build which is you remember I updated the pickups and ultimately the bridge as well, with this one I was going to build it as is... However I've spent an hour or so exploring some electrical options.  So I do plan a couple of electrical mods.

Firstly the wiring has no tone on the bridge pickup, standard strat, now my Squier is fitted with USA Standard electrics from the mid 90s with a TBX control on the middle and bridge.  Honestly the TBX added treble I don't get, it isn't needed so rarely use it but the ability to adjust (tame) the bridge pickup I've found indispensible.  So I plan to get the tone control into the circuit in a similar way... again I'll probably go for middle and bridge combined.  I've looked into the "magic seven" wiring too.  This is what Fender themselves offer on Strats with all single coils and fitted with the S1 switching system, which is a clever little button in the tip of the vol control, very discrete.  Now I don't think I'll splash out on new pots etc so I'm likely to just add a small switch somewhere on the scratchplate.  Essentially the "magic seven" adds just two sounds impossible to get on a standard strat namely; all three pickups on together and the bridge and neck on together.  I'll explain my choice of how I do this when I work on it all.

So... await some updates in the coming weeks.  I think the set up of a 12 string might test my patience just a little! 

Friday, 19 September 2014

Theatre review - To Kill a Mockingbird

Mrs F, Daughter-of-Furtheron and I went to the theatre last night to see a touring production of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Really enjoyed it.  I was half wondering how they'd stage it, the book is long with a complex set of intertwining plots written from a young girls point of view.  Through her innocence and naivety she exposes the prejudice and bigotry she sees in adults around her.  That is one of the things that makes Harper Lee's astonishing novel one of the most studied texts in the world of the English Language.  Also there is a lot of different settings, the Finch family yard, the Radley House, the street they live in and the courthouse where the trial of the negro Tom Robinson is the climax of the whole story.

The actors play characters but also take it in turns to be narrators reading as though Scout directly from the book.  This was clever, reminding you it was Scout's point of view throughout.  At the beginning of the play the stage which had been constructed on a slope toward the audience was a plain stage with little props other than the tree in the Finch's yard that is key in points of the story.  The actors with big lumps of chalk, like kids do near me where you can pick chalk up out the ground (we live on the chalk upland known as the Downs in England) drew out the street the houses etc.  This gave it a playground look and feel - making you feel again like seeing it through a child's eye as the book intended.

For the main courtroom drama the full stage was used but cleverly all the actors were position so that you the audience were made to feel like the jury.  Whenever an actor addressed the jury they looked straight out into the audience.  Of course this drew you in you felt sure you couldn't have returned any other verdict except... (I'll not spoil it if you are one of the dozen who don't know the story)... but of course this was in 1935 in Alabama and a Negro was on trial for raping a white woman.  What would I have done?  Again a theme in the book is repeated where Atticus Finch tried to get his children to see the world from other peoples points of view, so by making you feel part of the jury you are drawn into this conundrum of believing you would act in a certain way, but as someone 70 years on in a completely different multicultural society.

Brilliant all round, great writing to move it to the stage but not lose some important aspects of the text, clever production again to help with that setting of the point of view of the audience aligning with key characters of themes within the story.  Go see it if you get the chance!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

London Acoustic Guitar Show

I made what now seems to be becoming an annual pilgrimage to the Olympia Conference Centre last weekend to the LAGS.

The show was similar to last year with many of the main players even on exactly the same stands.  Taylor, Yamaha, Martin, Lowden all there along with big distributors like JHS showing off the latest and greatest models.

Highlights - Yamaha, the new LL/LS range is stunning.  I played a couple but the LS16 I tried was totally gorgeous, a good show offer on price made me struggle to hand it back and walk away frankly but I can't justify another guitar expense like that really.  Faith impressed me again this year if not more so than last, work with Patrick Eggle as designer they have a great range.  I tried several models and all impressed, from the naked parlour, mahogany topped auditorium sized cutaway model, all sounded and felt good.  I was most impressed with their High Gloss Parlour model though that was really nice.

Auden were another company that impressed.  I tried a couple of models out which impressed a mahogany topped parlour and a model with a thinner body designed for use in a rock band setting - that did seem to gut through the hubbub of a guitar show well so I think it would work well in that setting.

The biggest highlight of the day was attending the Jon Gomm masterclass.  Jon is just an unbelievable player.  He took some time out to explain some of the techniques he uses particularly around his two handed technique and talking about doing something with melody, rhythm and bass.  He joked his pet hate being youtube videos he sees with people playing an "irritating" motif with the left hand over a boring right hand bass line.  He graciously answered questions about how he amplifies and how it trains his hands - hours of endless scale and chromatic patterns which he wondered why others didn't do... because Jon it is bloody hard work that's why most of us just give and and play a tune!  Also seeing Darren Hodge play at the cafe whilst waiting for the masterclass was great - really impressive player.

Accompanying the show was "Electric Live" on the floor beneath, which whilst a bigger floor was less densely populated with stands.  And sadly people, the LAGS floor was crammed whilst the electric one was more empty when I walked around.  Got to try a Fret King John Etheridge model, not plugged in sadly but felt nice, I'd love a nice semi and this ticks the boxes, although I wasn't too impressed with the nut on the model I tried, it was ok but the slots way too deep.  Also played an Ibanez Artist which was a stonking guitar.  That was via a Laney Ironheart amp which was super impressive too.

Things that didn't impress so much...   The level of noise as ever at one of these events makes it so difficult to judge anything really.  The vol of some of the demos in the electric hall in particular given it was quiet empty meant they carried way too far... yes Music Man I'm talking about your Devil Duel thing - fun but it did drown out the Yamaha stand where I was trying to hear a Pacifia I was trying out!  Having to pay extra for the masterclasses this year meant I limited myself to only one.  Before they were first come first served on the day and free.  I'd prefer that again so I could see more of them.  A couple of guitars were a little let down ... in particular I tried a Tanglewood parlour, they get good press Tanglewood but I wasn't impressed it was flat and bland in comparison to the Faith's I tried.  Probably just one persons sugar and all that but I picked it up expecting to be impressed and I sadly wasn't.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014


We interrupt the normal programming on this blog for a party political statement from our sponsor....

I've been watching with interest the Scottish Independence debate as the date for the poll gets closer.  The YES campaign slowly catching up the NO vote to the point where now in some polls the YES vote is predicted to win (btw how can a poll of approx 1,000 reflect the outcome from an electorate about 4 million?).

OK - cards on the table here, whilst not a Scot and living about as far away from Scotland as it is possible to in the UK I want them to stay in the Union.  Why?  Well I just feel we are better together (as the slogan goes).  I feel that it is better to work together on the issues of inequity in society etc.  I also like that the Scots are very pro the EU and I'd like to stay in that, losing them before that referendum may be a blow to the rest of the UK.

However I do feel now strongly that the Scots are getting their vote next week that the rest of the UK should have the right of reply on some of the issues raised.  Let us say they vote YES. The timetable then says that they will negotiate a separation with the rest of the UK.  This is a huge deal for everyone in the UK questions like
  • How much of the UK debt will Scotland take on?
  • Defence strategy?
  • Use of the pound in Scotland...

Do the rest of the electorate in England, Wales and Northern Ireland get any say?  We've seen the disaster of the Eurozone in recent years where currency integration without political integration has been a major problem, the slow recovery in the Eurozone is a direct result of this problem.  I'll admit some years back I thought we should rush into the Euro to help the UK in its trade with the rest of the EU.  Now our decision not to is completely vindicated and I'm a born again pound supporter.  So would I like a "Poundzone"?  No.  Simple Eurozone didn't work I fail to see any argument to convince me otherwise.  Also if Scotland is a new sovereign state then they can't get entry to the EU without taking the Euro by my reading of the rules.

The Scottish YES campaign have long stated that they would ensure the removal of UK nuclear weapons from Scottish bases.  To me therefore they cannot be part of a unified defence strategy - rightly or wrongly we currently maintain a nuclear deterrent, once you have that decision made then your whole defence strategy has to be worked around that both strategically and from a cost base point of view.  I fail to see how you can have a truly integrated strategy with one party not committed to that strategy.

Interesting that 4 million (less than half the population of London) seem to be determining some major issues for the rest of the country without those people then having a right of reply I feel.  Is this truly democracy at work?

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Gigs coming up

First of all on Sunday there is the next Rochester Music Cafe night... this one is "rock night".  This'll make you laugh... see for me you say rock and I'm in the late 60s and 70s, Hendrix, Cream, Purple et al.  But that's cos I'm an old fogey I suppose.  I forget many of those involved in the Cafe project are younger than my Strat and therefore to them rock means the 80s, big hair, tight trousers and boys with eye liner.  Anyway a set comprising of Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi and Heart is on order and I've been busy learning them.  Incidentally (just realised that is the word to use rather than the increasingly seen btw) I took the plunge and accepted an offer to sign up to Tab Pro via Ultimate Guitar Tabs.  Whenever I look for tabs seems that Tab Pro gets good ratings anyway I was offered some one off life time (we'll see about that!!) membership for about $45 or £32 (ish) which seemed better than the monthly subscription it has offered me before.  Often I buy sheet music from MusicRoom and or download tabs etc. but the advantage with Tab Pro is that it is interactive, you can loop a section etc. and whilst the built in sounds are naff actually that is an advantage as you do just hear the pure notes which helps me a bit.  I might do a brief review after a bit more use.

Secondly after over a year when I haven't played any solo acoustic gigs I've landed one in early October.  Via a local "find a musician" facebook page I joined yonks ago I saw someone looking for a couple of opening acts to play 20 min sets at a new live/jam night at a local pub. Finally for once rather than pondering what set, would I fit in etc. I simply sent him a message with a link to my Soundcloud page and within an hour was on the bill.  Now the panic sets in about - what set, will I fit in... haha.  Actually I plan to play a set mostly of instrumental pieces - well we'll see that is the thought at the moment.  More on that anon.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Rhapsody for the Tamed

I hope you like this piece... 24 mins of just brilliant music...

Go to my other blog for more on the story of the collection of musicians that came together to write and perform it.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Book Review - The Silkworm Robert Galbraith

... or JK Rowling ...

I read the first of these and was impressed with Ms Rowling's move into the crime fiction genre.

The story picks up a few weeks/months after our hero, the ex soldier invalided out of the forces after losing his leg to an IED in Afghanistan, has hit notoriety by solving a murder that the police had insisted was suicide.  This high profile case has filled his books with many new clients, most of them partners trying to prove the infidelity of the other to either take them for loads of money or to prevent them from having it.

Having been persuaded to allow his assistant Robin to stay on the same two pivitoal characters continue and there is a constant theme of their professional and personal relationship throughout that will continue throughout the next book no doubt.

The plot of this one is the disappearance of a minor author who has been working on his magnum opus.  He disappears and the novel is inadvertently leaked by his agent to his publisher.  However the work clearly is a damning and slanderous work about those in his circle from other authors, his agent, key employees at his publishers and his wife and mistress.  Cormoran is engaged by the authors wife after he has been missing a few days, she has assumed he was away with his mistress or at some writers retreat but wants to locate him.  He is found but dead, killed in a grizzly and brutal manner which had already been laid out in the book he was writing.  The police are convinced it is the wife who has carried out the murder and conduct a blinkered investigation.  Of course Cormoran is certain another is guilty and conducts his own investigation to prove so.

The murder plot is ok but not as good as the first book I felt but the characters are engaging and charming which is what draws you in.  I'll be reading the next instalment if only to see whether Robin's dark secret from university hinted at a few times in the book is revealed or not.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Vinyl Revival...

My Hi-Fi is quiet old.  I say Hi-Fi as that still seems an appropriate term.  The bulk of the system is actually from a system that my brother-in-law (he never was but that is another story...) bought in the early 1980s.  He'd bought it in 1981 selling me his old music centre which replaced the huge stereogram that took up what felt like half my bedroom which my Dad had given me when he'd got a smart new Sanyo music centre a year or two before.  It was a Pioneer separates system all sold together in a glass cabinet.  The cabinet still sits in my music room with my amp, cd player and mixer that I play through to play along with stuff I'm learning.  The amp, tuner (never used these days), cassette player (also can't remember when last used) and the speakers all come from his original set up which my wife/I inherited on moving into our first house a couple of years after his untimely death - he passed away suddenly at 21 in 1982.  I replaced the record deck which wasn't very reliable with a Technics one in 1985 I believe, then it had a CD player (a NAD one) added to it somepoint in the mid 80s too.  But 1988/9 I was totally over to CDs and stopped buying vinyl.  However I always kept the deck.  I haven't used it in ages, the other day clearing out a drawer I found a record - honestly it was Pinky and Perky - one of my childhood memories for some reason I'd held on to probably when Mum passed away.  My daughter asked what it was... so I went to play it... the deck didn't work.  :-(  Now it has been some time since I used it but I still had 3 cases of old lps up in the loft and not being able to play them rather than simply not playing them upset me.

Good old internet.  Little diagnosis later googling "Repair Technics Record Deck" and the fault finding started with the belt - I removed the platter and yes the belt had perished and no doubt snapped as soon as I tried to fire it up.  Amazon search... £5 for a replacement.  Great!  Ordered.  It arrived suitably packaged so that it wasn't damaged in transit and it only took a couple of minutes to fit it.  I popped up to the loft and returned with my cases of lps.  Nils Lofgren Night After Night a great live album from 1977 long since deleted went on first.  Then Fleetwood Mac - Rumours... Rush, Peter Gabriel, Supertramp, King Crimson.. it was 1970s revival heaven for almost a complete day when I was in the house alone long forgotten lp after lp went on the deck.  Oh the 80s got a look in too... Vinnie Moore Time Odyssey anyone?  Great instrumental version of While My Guitar Gently Sleeps on that.  I'll be digging out Dave Greenslade's Pentatauch of the Cosmogony soon too... ;-)

Looking through the collection now though lots have gone, I know I did get rid of a load and I'm sad now... Now Johnny The Fox by Thin Lizzy, Bad Co, Whitesnake Live In The Heart Of The City, All my John Miles albums, Wishbone Ash, Uriah Heep etc.    I think I'll start trawling the local second hand shops to refill some of those empty slots if I can cheaply.  I doubt I'll be paying the £30+ I've seen for new vinyl releases but I can see myself restocking with some of those I've let go... or never had for some reason or other in the old days.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Guitars I've owned...

Inspired by Wil's recent post.

I don't have the prices like he did... I'll give rough guides where I can... all prices in GBP btw.

  1. Tata Classical Guitar - my Mum and Dad bought it for me when I was about 11 after my continual whinging I wanted a guitar.  Then my Mum insisted I had "proper" lessons and soon I was off learning classical guitar Grade 1 etc. from Pam who was an old school friend of my elder sister.  Price - no idea probably about £15.   Traded in when I got my FC40 - actually saw one recently at a second hand stall in Whitstable might have been mine... you never know.
  2. Old Italian Mandolin - I inherited this from my Great Aunt.  Not in great nick, the bowl back had a crack in it the neck had been repaired and the tuners were a mismatch as a result of that repair.  I tried to learn for a few years in my teens but it ended up being thrown away - which on reflection was a travesty I should have tried to repair it better.
  3. Columbus Strat Copy - a three tone rosewood board Strat Copy.  £75 from my Mum's mail order catalogue I paid back £1.50 a week for a year!  Sold to second hand shop in Gillingham in bits about 20 years ago after having a humbucker inserted in the bridge position way before that was a cool thing to do.
  4. Fender Classical FC40 - from Unisound in Chatham.  About £70 I think.  Still own it. Mum got it when Pam (see above) said I needed to move on to a new teacher at the Kent Music School.
  5. Eko Ranger 6 - about £60 from Simpson's in Gillingham.  Used for years as my acoustic at home.  Sold for a song stupidly at a charity auction at my son's old primary school... still regret letting it go really!
  6. Nunostrat - my home assembled dual humbucker strat - started with my Dad in 1981 and over many years many mods.
  7. Squire JV 1962 Strat - about £210 from Boogie In Charing Cross Road (I think, might have been Denmark St) bought this in Aug 1983 and still own it and use it - see previous post - great guitar.  I've fitted USA Strat electric in it in the 90s (one with the TBX tone control) and locking tuners as well.
  8. Peter Cook Axis 6 String - bought in the early 1980s from Andy's in Denmark Str - about £200 I think.  Not used too much these days but I love it as a guitar - frankly would cost a big figure to replace with similar quality
  9. Gordon Smith GS1 - bought from Richies in Gillingham for about £175 I think.  Great one pickup guitar - my plan then was to just buy a collection of British guitar makers - I still would love an original Jon Birch.  Sold some years ago back to Richies.  Again a regret!
  10. Peter Cook Axis Bass - bought for about £160 from Unisound in Chatham.  Great great bass - recently featured in Guitar and Bass magazine - sold onto Flat Eric to add to his collection after I'd had it about 15 - 20 years.
  11. Yamaha LL11 - about £200 from Acoustic Guitar Centre in Wapping.  Terrific guitar - love the sound of it still to this day.  
  12. Yamaha 12 string - about £130 I think from Sharon Music in Gillingham.  Still own it but hardly ever used now.
  13. Gordon Smith Graduate 60 - terrific guitar, looks like a Les Paul sounds like a PRS and much lighter than either.  Gordon Smith's can be erratic in terms of quality I was able to try several in Music Ground in Denmark Street before buying this one. I think it was about £700 at the time I got it.
  14. Crafter bowl back acoustic - I wanted an electro for some gigs I was doing and bought this for about £150 from Socodi in Canterbury - frankly, not the best guitar I ever owned, fretting was rubbish about the tenth fret, buzzes, uneven etc. and the amplified sound level was never constant.  Sold on to someone in a pub one day!
  15. Gibson Les Paul Special - in worn faded cherry finish.  I thought I needed a P90 guitar in the collection so bought this from Peter Cook's Guitar World.  Nice guitar but never really did get on with the pickups in the end I sold it to a friend who was stepping up from a tele copy.
  16. Ibanez 5 String bass - bought from a guy who'd wanted to try a 5 string but found he couldn't cope in terrific as new condition about £160 I think.  Simply my bass I drag out to add bottom end to my recordings but it is nice enough.
  17. Gibson Les Paul Custom.  I'd always wanted a proper Les Paul since being a kid - when I bought the Columbus there was a Saxon (I think that was the brand) Les Paul Custom copy on the same page that I couldn't afford and a friend had a Columbus one etc.  I bought this via the USA - about £1750 which was a bargain frankly.
  18. PRS CE 22 - saw this up for only £650 in Mid Air Music in Chatham.  It wasn't in great nick needing a good clean up and reset up and for some reason I couldn't fathom someone had swapped off the PRS tuners for some non- locking ones, I got some PRS ones refitted.  Really versatile, to be honest my "go to" guitar for any gig really as it'll just cope with anything you chuck at it.
  19. Yamaha CPX500.  I wanted an electro (the LL11 wasn't until I fitted a permanent Fishman pickup to it only last year) to play live solo gigs.  about £170 from Mid Air Music again
  20. Vintage Gordon Giltrap 12 striing - to replace the Yamaha where I'd tried to fix the bridge raising on it with limited success and that wasn't an electro.  Terrific sounding 12 string. From Ivor Mairants about £400
  21. Home Built Tele - my home built Amber - kit was about £100 and then I spent about £60 on pickups.
  22. Vintage Gordon Giltrap deluxe 6 string - having loved the 12 string I was planning to get the 6 string to match when they announced this deluxe upgrade and I bought that too from Ivor Mairants for about £620.  Great sounding guitar esp unplugged - plugged it has the fisman unit which I liked so much I fitted a similar into the LL11.
  23. Stagg Mandolin - my second attempt to become a mandolin player - cheap A style mandolin Mrs F got me as a present
So that is 23... of which 8 have left at some point.  Leaving 15.

One other thing I've noticed... with the exception of Ivor Mairants every shop mentioned here has closed - that is a shame, many great memories of many of them.  I remember just lusting after a Gibson Les Paul Deluxe Gold Top in Unisound when a spotty teenager and them graciously letting me play a large headstock black scratchplate Strat when trying an amp out in the late 70s.... etc.

Right... to add to this... 

Amps I've owned...

  1. Audition 30w - God awful thing that I bought from Woolworths.  I had little/no money and it was the best I could get to accompany my Columbus.  The earth hum was terrible and frankly I was never sure the bloody thing was safe at all!  Sold to a friend (he may not have been afterwards!)
  2. Custom Sound Trucker - about as simple as you can get.  Input, Vol, Treble, Bass, On/off and a 12 inch speaker.  Good clean sound but no overdrive at all - I bought a Little Muff to help
  3. Carlsbro 60w 2x12 valve combo - remember very little other than given I didn't drive it was next to impossible to move about!  Bought it of my now brother-in-law and sold on via a newspaper ad to some guy.
  4. Carlsbro Cobra 60w - now we're talking.  Small portable, I could carry it on the bus! Bought from Unisound. Had a reasonable overdrive and "Suzz" sound.  Used for a long time.  part exed in when I got...
  5. Carlsbro Rebel 60w 1x12 - the upgrade really.  Sounded not bad for a solid state amp really.  Never gigged it much as I didn't whilst I owned it.  Bought from Unisound sold to a second hand shop in Gillingham when I needed some cash.
  6. Period without amp - I used a boss rack driver thing for a number of years when not gigging.
  7. Line 6 pod - ideal for home use and recording and I then used it live for some time with a Peavey 80w PA.
  8. Hughes and Kettner Dual 6l6 2x12.  Great amp I do love the sound, Fender cleans and Marshall drive.  Bought from Mid Air Music for about £700.  Only issue is that it is bloody big to cart about.  I have thought of going for a Tubemeister 36w but frankly the clean tone on the Dual keeps me stuck to it currently.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Rochester Music Cafe

A couple of videos from the Rochester Music Cafe recently...

Firstly an oldie of my own - I used to Know Her... almost my signature tune if I could ever he in a position to have one ... LOL

Then a Lady Antebellum number that I'd neither heard of the song or the band before we started to practice this a week before the gig... nice song though... Notice - first live outing of the infamous pedal board!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

A guitar geek's guide...

I got an email from Gibson as I'm on their email list.

This had a link to A Guitar Geek's Guide to Gibson ES Models - brilliant...

Now the little bit that really got me was side by side two new models...

The new ES Les Paul - which is another attempt to make a hollow bodied Les Paul...

And the 335-S - another attempt (there was one many years back) at a solid ES-335... errrr....

Odd when you think about this... but hey people out there might want them... I like the LP one better but there is a much cheaper option via Gordon Smith...

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Album Reviews - Linkin Park The Hunting Party, David Gray Mutineers

So a couple of new CDs have arrived... this is a good year for music isn't it?  Well is in my book any way...

Linkin Park - The Hunting Party.

I've liked these boys since the début album but Metorea really shone out for me followed too by Minutes to Midnight - both those are flipping brilliant.  One thing for me is that I love how they have more successfully than a lot of others been able to fuse rapping, scratching, loops etc from hip/hop and rap with great modern rock.  I saw them live at Sonisphere in 2009 and that only confirmed my love of them.  Also I can relate so much to their lyrics... Numb in particular is a lyric I could have written ... if I had the talent!!

I have to say whilst good the latest albums haven't engrossed me as much as the early stuff.  So to their latest The Hunting Party.  Now I've seen some (brief) comments on-line from people who've dissed this album but I really don't see that I think it is close to their best and may grow on me to get right up there.  It fires off with one of the highlights Keys of the Kingdom which is just definitive Linkin Park.  Guilty is a great driving rock song with great production and a running synth riff underneath I can see this being a live masterpiece.  War is a very garage rock band type song... you can hear the Ramones and Green Day in it's simple driving guitar power chords. So if you like Linkin Park esp the early albums this is for you - if you like rock but not been convinced give it a try probably their straightest rock record yet.

David Gray - Mutineers

Another stunning return to form.  It's been four years since Foundling came out (his last studio album) and that was largely taking a lot of material left over from Draw The Line that he wanted to put out - it was an odd release in many ways seemingly after the record company abandoned a relauch of Draw the Line - even Gray admitted it could disappear without a trace and called it a "private" record.  So he's been quiet too long...

This album is for me right up there with White Ladder and A New Day at Midnight.  From the first thrummed acoustic guitar of Back in the World his vocals hit you in the brain like I say if you remember, like, love classic Mr Gray this is it in bucket fulls.  As the Crow Flies follows a more stripped out and heartfelt number - the Mutineers is a great building track.  David's vocals are top notch on here as the whole album, it is undoubtedly his best vocal performance across a whole album.  Anthemic numbers flow into slower one like Beautiful Agony (just stunning) and then to build again... just a great album.  This will stay on rotation of my play list a long time... !

John Miles - Zaragon...

Sorry?  Yes ok little late on this one, it was released in early 1978.  However one of my great lost albums.  I bought it on release and loved it thinking it better than his patchy début Rebel and much more rocky than the disco/funk influences Stranger In the City.  Sadly though punk, New Wave, a lack of promotion and singles meant it didn't hit the heights of commercial success it should have.  Somewhere along the line I stupidly lost, sold, gave away my old vinyl copy.  I looked in a few second hand shops one who said "Not seen that in 30 years pal.  Have you tried Cherry Red Records?"  I looked and there was a 2008 remastered CD available.  Bought!  It really is a stonking record and I can see why I loved it so much back then.  I was getting into rock and progressive rock more and the orchestration that Miles used which was deliberately not to use an orchestra like he had on his most famous hit Music but to allow keyboards to cover the orchestration live gives this a more Genesis feel.  The master piece on the album is Nice Man Jack a three part song about Jack the Ripper.  If you can find a copy or look some up on YouTube give it a listen.  A great lost album rediscovered. 

Also more John Miles stuff... watch this - jump to about 1m 15s in then watch. Yes Black Les Paul Custom (thinking back John influenced that choice with others but... look at the controls... yes 6 knobs!!! Like an ES5 Swtichmaster. I'd started thinking I only dreamed of this guitar but there it is - it did exist. Again about 3:52 you see it in a solo... not John's best song or solo or tone sadly but this is more about the guitar than anything else.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Book Review - Afterwards by Roasmund Lupton

Not sure why I bought this book I think it was a daily deal for the Kindle that was recommended.  Interesting book however.  Here is the premise...  the entire book is written in the first person by a woman who has been badly injured in a fire at her son's school.  She is experiencing an out of body experience whereby she is effectively walking around the hospital and elsewhere whilst her body is lying in a bed in a comma.  She can hear/see what is going on but cannot communicate directly with anyone around her... except...  her daughter who has been badly injured also in the fire and is experiencing the same out of body experience.

The book is a whodunnit as at first the fire is blamed on the woman's son who is only 8 and it is believed by the police that he played with some matches near an art supplies store and caused the fire.  However there are things that don't add up...  how did the supplies all seem to be in one place, someone had opened windows normally shut to aid the fire in taking hold and spreading, there are people who have suspicious motives, there had been until recently a hate mail campaign against the daughter... etc...   you begin to doubt the various people and accounts in the story...

The whodunnit isn't bad on it's own and there are a variety of twists in the plot to keep you entertained - however it is the written from the point of view of the out of body experience that is interesting.  Not only is it an interesting vehicle but the mother sees family members, teachers, friends, staff at the school etc. in a new light as she is able to secretly witness them in situations previously closed to her.

There is a good twist and surprise at the end along with one highly predictable outcome and overall I liked this book and thought the point of view vehicle good but was perhaps tiring of it towards the end.  Kept my interest quiet well but maybe not a "couldn't put it down " read.  Overall a one thumbs up on the  FTUBRS*

* 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

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Metallica at Glastonbury

I'm an armchair festival goer these days, all that sleeping in tents, queuing for hours for the showers and standing for hours in a muddy field waiting for the roadie to stop saying "one... two" every 10 seconds.  So luckily at least whilst BBC3 exists on-air I get to watch some festivals on tv.  So it is Glastonbury weekend.  I'm writing this on Sunday morning so premature review perhaps but with Dolly Parton and Kasabian the big acts on Sunday if I was in a tent in Somerset I'd be thinking about packing up early and beating a retreat in advance of the rest of the army anyway.

Friday was a great line up.  Elbow and Paolo Nutini were the highlights both delivering terrific sets.  Elbow are the best festival band around with their huge sing a long anthems and charismatic stage presence - a band that simply walk on in jeans and shirts and nail the music first and foremost.  Paolo I've loved since first seeing his début on Jools Holland's Later some years back and his latest album reinforces my belief he is a great great singer.  On Friday night he delivered a stunning vocal performance of great strength and emotion.

Saturday... Robert Plant played a set that really ought to define Glastonbury's position as an all inclusive festival.  A band of eclectic musicians playing new and old stuff with aplomb and his soaring voice above it all.  Even when he touched on the Led Zep catalogue both Rock n Roll and Black Dog underwent total overhauls with African instrumentation etc. so that they were hardly recognisable from their original form.  Whole Lotta Love was the only one there the iconic guitar riff thundered out but again the middle was totally re-worked and re-orchestrated.  Great set but I felt most of the audience had gone expecting a bit more Led Zep given the response to Whole Lotta Love - but that isn't what Robert is about these days - he's made that pretty clear folks... live with it.

Metallica - the controversial headliners.  Petitions from regular festival goers to get them off the bill, demands for boycotts since James Hetfield is pro-hunting.  Is this the Glastonbury love, tolerance and inclusive values that we expect? Hmm....  For a start hunting has a completely different social position in the USA compared with the UK where I would argue a lot of the previous arguments against it has been more an allegory for much of the class struggle that has blighted UK politics and social development at least since the beginning of the 20th century.  Also Metallica are up there in terms of record sales - arguably over 100million which puts them up in the upper reaches of Rock royalty - only AC/DC as a heavy band out score them (frankly musically you can't really say AC/DC are heavy metal just heavy rock... mostly they play rock n roll just loudly and in short trousers).

So I've seen Metallica live 3 times myself and every time been impressed.  They nail the performance with energy that bands half their age would give their limbs to have and without any need for looks, nods, concerns they are tight as a clamshell.  I thought they were outstanding last night.  The crowd looked large to me, not the mass boycott asked for and also seemed to be going nuts for much of the set.  Metallica are not like some metal bands with careful managed clothing images (Judas Priest) or large sets (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest) they are four guys in black jeans and shirts who let their thunderous music make its own statement.  Will Glastonbury replace Download or Sonisphere as iconic metal festivals?  Clearly not but will we see other huge metal bands now playing there?  Iron Maiden have publicly said they won't but their style of bombastic, tuneful, story telling and incredible stage production would fit Glastonbury well I feel.  The mould is broken lets see.

Not sure this'll work in all regions but ... One....