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