Monday, 29 June 2015

Rush - Losing It (HD) :: Live in Toronto June 2015

One of my favourite Rush songs ever - finally played live.  Terrific!!!  Look at that Zemetis bass too - is that an original?

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Gear Review - Cheap Mandolin Pickup

I've had a mandolin about 18 months now - frankly I can strum a few chords on it that is about all.  But it's a fun addition to the Furtheron music family.  I had thought about if I wanted to ever use it live or easy recording, i.e. without miking up etc. and did a search on eBay for mandolin pickups.

One of these popped up.

It was madly only £6.35 ($10.00) including postage from China.  I mean - you can't lose can you.  How can they make this stuff and ship it at that price?  I know people moan about putting local firms out of business but simply that is too good a bargain to resist.  If I'd seen this in a local shop at say £15 I'd have thought twice, £20 I wouldn't have considered it.  You get my point.

Simple to install.  I placed the pickup centrally behind the bridge using the adhesive pad already on it.  You get one more spare in the pack too.  That has a cable to a small jack you plug into a passive vol and tone unit.  You can see I've clipped that easily to the instruments strap.  The clip is built in.  You need the provided small jack to large jack cable to connect to most amps, recorders etc.  However they are easily replaced via many suppliers if that goes missing or you want a different length etc.

So £6.35, a few days waiting for it to arrive, a few mins install and we're ready to go.  Now this is not an active preamp or pickup so the output level is low, but then don't write that off.  Yamaha in their latest L series use a passive system which is by all accounts stonking.

So when I did plug it in to my amp yes it needs the volume pumped up a bit.  I'm most likely to use it via a PA live and have a channel for its sole use so that really is no issue.  Into my trusty Boss BR600 and I had to crank up the input level a bit but it wasn't bad.  I mean I could get a good usable level out of it.

So demo time.  Click on this link to hear a short demo recorded via my Boss.  First passage is straight in, no effects or any fiddling at all.  Second passage I used one of the standard Boss available effects patches.  I used P81 Natural which is intended for use with acoustic guitars.  I was really pleased with the results given the cost etc. 

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Alex Lifeson R40 Les Paul

Not the first Alex Lifeson Les Paul Axcess signature model but I think the best looking in terms of colour and the look of the maple used for the top.

The Axcess main feature is the re-shaping of the neck joint, so whilst it is a traditional glued mortice joint it has the feel of a neck thru body.  Added to that the Axcess is subtly thinner and has a "belly scarf" - like the back contour on a strat body.  Whilst you can get the Axcess with a standard Les Paul stopbar they are most often seen sporting a Floyd Rose locking trem adding dive bomb whammy option to your Les Paul crunch.

The electrics are actually the biggest departure for the Alex Lifeson signature model from the standard Axcess.  It is fitted with a Piezo powered bridge allowing you to get an acoustic like sound from it too.  This can be routed via a dedicated output jack to go to a separate amp or the PA whilst the magnetic pickups feed through the standard jack to your amp, or if you insert one cable into that jack you get a mixed sound.  There are coil taps as well.  The pickup choice is interesting too with Alex choosing the 498T and 496R combination that the Axcess comes with - the same as used in the Les Paul Custom.  These are notably more focused and hotter particularly in the bridge than the Burstbuckers that many standard Les Pauls use.

Anyway - terrific looking guitar!   I wish I could afford/justify one!

Here is Alex chuntering on about it!

CD Reviews - Revolutions Saints, The Shires

I've not bought much new music recently.  But here's a round up of the last two CDs that have entered the Furtheron CD tower - which if I did stack them all up would probably be taller than the house by now.

Revolution Saints.

Their d├ębut eponymously named offering.  Revolution Saints are one of them there supergroups!  The line up is Jack Blades on bass and vocals most known for his work with Night Ranger, who I have to admit are a band I know very little about as they never really hit it off on the Eastern side of the Atlantic.  Deen Castronovo who is the main vocalist and drummer.  Deen is most known for his long stint on the drum stool in Journey.  Lastly and what really originally caught my eye Doug Aldrich ex Dio and ex Whitesnake.  I've considered the previous two Whitesnake albums almost back to their best like the early line up with Moody and Marsden and the Skykes powered version that created the mega-selling eponymously named album now generally known as 1986.  Doug had a hand in a lot of the writing of those latest original Whitesnake albums.  When I heard he'd parted company with Whitesnake I was saddened, the latest Whitesnake offering being a rehash of a bunch of songs from Coverdale's time in Deep Purple Mark III and IV seems to confirm my fears about who was driving the new material.  So seeing Doug was in them I tuned in on Spotify to have a listen...  and then bought the CD whilst browsing in a good old fashion independent record shop in Whitstable!

This is brilliant if you like Journey/Whitesnake AOR type rock.  I'd best describe it as the best, and most Journey like album never recorded by Journey!  Also it has some great Whitesnake songs on it - which will never be Whitesnake songs now.  It kicks off with a rocker Back on My Trail and as the guitar riff and drums clash together you are waiting for Dave ... sorry Deen to come in on the vocal.  And yes we're cruising across the States on an interstate, top down, girl beside us, beer or coke in hand... you get the picture.  It is a great rocker... I wonder how different it would be with Mr Coverdale singing... ;-)   Stop it!

Next is another rocker - so you get the picture here, and my favourite off the album Turn Back Time and blimely - this is Journey but a little tighter and rockier and less over production.  Deen and Jack share vocal ping pong on this.  There's a little video taster lower down in this post.   You'll soon be pumping you fist and singing with the chorus... oh just me then.

Loads more rock and some great ballads like Don't Walk Away - piano intro... phones on torch in the air... go on... the drums and guitar crash in just before the sing along bit.  It may be a little formula but it is supremely executed. The final song is another great ballad "in the name of the father"... oh yes and two other members of Journey pop in to add spice to a couple of tracks.   Good album all round.

The Shires - Brave

A new duo from the UK take on USA country and do a reasonable stab at it.  Nowhere near the heart breaking quality as the sadly now defunct The Civil Wars but if you like them try this out.  We kick off with Tonight an uptempo country rock toe tapper.  I have to say the thing you have to keep saying is... hang on these guys are English?  They just got to play the Grand Old Oprey which is testament to the fact finally we can show we can do country.  A couple of the songs tell that tale in the lyrics like Nashville Grey Skies and Made In England.  Statelines is doing good airplay on Radio 2 at the moment so if you've not heard them start here...

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Outstanding book reviews.

That is book reviews I haven't done for a while.  Not brilliant reviews... or necessarily brilliant books... I should have just thought of a better post title than have to explain all this!  LOL

The Iron Castle (Outlaw Chronicles Book 6)... Angus Donald...

How long can Angus keep plugging away at this retelling of the Robin Hood tale?  Well a good deal longer as the next episode is already out in Hardback!  Actually joking aside I'm loving this series and it hasn't lost my interest yet - although I will wait for the Kindle price of Book 7 to come down once the paperback is released as £10 for an electronic copy feels awfully steep.

Enough of this; what's the story?  Well the story is that Richard that Lionheart is no more and King John is having a bit of a problem in France his ancestral homelands in Brittany and France.  That upstart Philip II of France is bashing him about a bit.  He is also somewhat strapped for cash and the Barrons are giving him a bit of a hard time about it all.  This time in history does fascinate me being a resident of North Kent a few miles from the scene of one of the biggest stand offs between John and his disaffected Barrons at Rochester Castle in 1215.  So sieges and mining etc. is something I've been interested in the past.  This telling of just those kind of sieges with the English trying to keep castles from Philip's grasp has some local correlation for me.  Anyway into the historical fact Angus deposits Alan Dale who is Lord Locksley's sworn man.  Yes - Locksley - Robin Hood in other words.  Robin is desperate to settle down with his wife and family and no more be an outlaw so swears allegiance to John and Alan is bound to that oath too through his to Robin.  Hence they off to France to defend the King's dominion there.  This episode has less about Robin than the previous ones as he often is a more remote character from Alan's own story.  Great fun read though which I rattled through at a pace.  

Two thumbs up on the FTUBRS*

16-June-15 update.  I got an email from Angus himself plugging the release of The King’s Assassin the next instalment and he answers the question about how many more will fill this series...
"There will be at one more novel after The King’s Assassin, out next summer and called The Death of Robin Hood, which will conclude this series. "

Saving Faith - David Baldacci
Now I've seen Mr Baldacci's books regularly towards the top of the best seller lists and they've been recommended by the Amazon targeted marketing to me. This is an old one of his and was cheap so I decided to give it a try.  Hmmm...  Well I can't say I would be too bothered again in the future.  The premis is that a lobbyist in Washington has for some years, having had a Damascan Road type conversion, been bribing senators to support overseas aid projects.  Yes.... I know already we're into incredulity... sorry too cynical?  Anyway he's been found out by a CIA guy who... here's a surprise... is operating his own secret cadre within the CIA and running loads of covert black ops.  He applies pressure to our good guy to expose the bribed guys so he can in turn get them to turn against his nemsis... the FBI!!   I should have binned this load of old pony at this point but... enter the heroine, Faith... get the title?  She has gone over to the FBI to expose what is going on... blah blah.  Along comes a PI who gets in the way of the CIA hit on her ... yes they run off... chases, double agents galore...   yawn.  I did read it but so bloody predicatable and whilst I like fantasy the leap of faith (gettit... sorry) needed here was too much for me.

On thumb down FTUBRS*.

Some People are Crazy: The John Martyn Story - John Neil Munro

Completely different.  A biography of the late great John Martyn and one that I really enjoyed reading.  It covers John's entire life from starting off as Iain David McGeachy in Surrey through his odd upbringing batting back and forth between London and Glasgow, which explains his differing accents to the creation of John Martyn and his ups and downs as a music genius.  John is one of my all time favourites with Grace and Danger and Solid Air as two of the best albums recorded in the last 50 years in my humble opinion.  I know many others listen and can't get John's growling, mumbled lyrics or the juxtaposition of folk, rock, jazz, reggae and just about every other kind of music in one.  But let me tell you - there are songs by this man that I can listen to again and again and still cry when I hear them.  He couldn't just write or perform, he took his soul and bared it in his music.  This biography quotes many of John's friends, colleagues etc. and is well researched.  John authorised the original version but this updated one brings his life full circle to his untimely death aged 60 in 2009 - really is it already that long ago!   It isn't a glowing sycophantic look at John's life either.  John was a deep, troubled alcoholic and an abuser of people and a jealous possessive man at times and this is portrayed alongside the smiling musical genius.   Probably best for fans, or at least those already acquainted with John, his life and music rather than those looking for a biography of someone new to them to read.

One thumb up on the FTUBRS*

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

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Bloody Tinnitus

I've not blogged on here for a while - apologies to any long suffering followers.  Simply though music has taken a bit of a backseat recently.  In middle of April I started to get a buzzing in my left ear.  I've had this before on and off for a long time - must be close to 20 years now.  I went to see my old doctor about it when it first happened (that's how I know it must be in the 90s some point - she retired in 2001).  She shrugged then and told me not much you can do about it.  Since then it has come and gone at irregular intervals - often with years between episodes.  Now when I started having balance and vertigo problems some while back I put 2 + 2 together and diagnosed myself with Meniere's Disease which my Grandma suffered with.  The way they treated it years ago was to drill into her ear drum leaving her profoundly deaf.  Many times we'd sit in her living room the tv on so loud the shelves were shaking and you still couldn't hear it as her hearing aid was whislting so bloody loud!  We'd have to shout at her that it was whistling - madness.

Well anyway - the vertigo was put down to Migraine associated vertigo.  The tinnitus... well I just lived with it when it happened.  Until like I say, middle of last month, the buzzing started.  I've had it before I hunkered down expecting a week or so of discomfort.  But firstly it just got worse and worse.  Not a continual slope but a stuttering one.  One Saturday night I went to bed with a really annoying bout in my ear - by now it was constant, disorientating, distracting, wearing.  I was woken on the Sunday morning to the worst sound possible - well at least I hope it is never worse than that!  A tone around a G like a synth accompanied by the loudest white noise ever over a wide frequency range - all accompanied by a really loud high pitch wail.   I just wanted to stuff a knife in my ear!  I went into the garden and worked for a few hours just to distract myself but my wife having to shout at me from a couple of yards away that she had a cup of coffee attested to the fact that to all intents and purposes I was deaf.  I still did nothing about it as it calmed later that day.  But finally that week I saw the doctor. 

Guess what... he shrugged and said there isn't much they can do!  I knew that.  However I told him about the symptoms, esp the pain I get in the ear which basically is like you're landing in a plane and you want your ears to pop but simply they won't.  He hmmed... then erred...   He suggested we try a drug "That probably won't work".  I'm to see him in a few weeks and likely be referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat clinic.  I've been taken the tablets, as directed,  3 a day.  I read the leaflet - they are a Histomine Analog - which is designed to lower the pressure in the inner ear for patients suffering with ... Meniere's disease!

The good news is after a couple of days it significantly eased.  Within a week the rush/rumble in the left ear is either not there or only there if I sit and force myself to hear it - almost to the point where I now think I'm making it up!  The high pitch white noise is still there - it has been for years and years constant that I can't deny.  I'm a bit my distracted by it now but i think I'm over sensitive given the last 6 weeks or so.

Good news though is that music is not painful - it is actually a good distraction from the high pitched noise.  Many happy faces.

BTW - I'm just listening to this great new song by my friend Nic... - go listen it is terrific!