Monday, 12 December 2016

Book Reviews - Follow You Home - Mark Edwards, Whiteout - Ken Follett

Follow You Home - Mark Edwards

I've read his two previous novels, both scary thrillers in the spooky sense.  Follow You Home is no different but is perhaps even darker than his previous books.  It starts a few years ago where we meet a couple on their grand backpacking tour of Europe and the fatal mistake of not paying extra for a sleeper compartment on a train travelling into Romania.

Soon they meet an intriguing, if disturbing couple but then are kicked off the train by guards with no paperwork someone having stolen their passports.  What happens after they leave the train?  You don't know as both of them clearly have had to black out of their pasts what happened there.  Fastforward to the present day and they are struggling to get a normal life together.  Continually bad luck seems to dog them - or is it bad luck or is what happened to them after that train ride a curse that is following them around continually.

I real page turner that you can't get away from.  The reveal of what happened is hugely disturbing as it what is the reality of the "curse".  The final reveal at the end too is a brilliant surprise and one that makes you (well me at least) gasp with realisation - which somewhat troubled the lady next to me on the 5:25 home that night!

Two Thumbs Up on the FITUBRS*

Whiteout - Ken Follett

Written about 11 years ago I only bought this as it was a cheap Kindle offer from Amazon.  Anyway - a good thriller if a little unbelievable at points.  We're introduced to a secret pharmaceutical research facility in the highlands of Scotland - need else the play of the plot wouldn't work in South East M25 ringed England.  However this hits the first in consistancy - one of the heroes is the brilliant scientist in charge who is credit with a discovery of a well known drug... well yes but he wouldn't have made millions out of that as that was a corporate product and... he couldn't commute from there to the home counties facilities.  That's ok until... we're told about how his family was brought up in this house in the highlands....  er... that just don't work.  Anyway - ignore that....

Essentially we have a plot to steal from the facility - only our heroine, who is a female ex copper, can thwart it, especially as her ex in the local idiot police inspector who thinks he knows best and has a huge grudge against her.

It is a good thriller but some of the stuff is a bit too long played out and the ridiculous opportunities for ... ".. but no their phone was left in the other jacket.....  not charged up..." etc. was at times a but eyerolling.  Reasonable and interesting as the virus worked on is Ebola years before the recent outbreak.  Worth reading if it is still cheap if you can put aside some of the ... "but surely that doesn't add up" moments.

Two Thumbs Horizontal on the FITUBRS*

* Furtheron International 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

Monday, 28 November 2016

Album Review - Wild Joanne Shaw Taylor. Fear - Marillion

Time for some album reviews.

Fear - Marillion

I've been putting off writing this review since I have to say.... for me this isn't a classic brilliant album.  It is very good but for me this isn't Marillion at their best.  Odd isn't it first time in thirty years they get back into the top 5 with a release and get rave reviews and I'm left a bit like... hmmm... it's really good but... but what?

It is an epic work, there in lies some of it's problem, also reading how it was put together with the band working with long time collaborator Mike Hunter in the producers chair.  From my reading of the interviews it goes something like this.... the band jam on stuff for hours - Hunter captures is all then starts to construct the pieces with the band from that and then they add in the details etc.   For me it then means that these long pieces constructed in this way don't always for me as an entire "song" hang together.  Now Marillion have always had long tracks and compositions - Forgotten Sons in their first album through to Gaza (which is quiet simply one of the greatest bit of music ever!) on their last effort Sounds that Can't be Made.  However then you get a set of 5 - 6 mins songs that are of the more traditional intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, solo, verse, chorus, outro.... This album is all of the long songs with several bits - indeed the track listing on the CD actually runs to 17 "tracks" but three of the compositions are split into 4 or 5 tracks.  I just missed a Beautiful, Easter or Map of the World and too often the joins are simply holding some suspended chord making you think - where's the bridge to the next bit.  The next bit is invariably good but for me, I'm too demanding maybe, where's the clever link?  Seems writing that I'm being churlish in that I'm hitting an album that is terrific for the sake of the odd few seconds of a rundown or drum flourish.

So despite being a manic Marillion fan and again stumping up my cash straight away on the now familiar crowd funder for the album and having my name on the deluxe edition and despite several of the parts being brilliant - Living In Fear (one of the two shorter songs) is my highlight - it's anti gun / violence topic being so prevalent to today's world.  "We've decided to risk melting our guns".  Throughout Hogarth's lyrics are the best he has written, if you feel it is right for bands to be making statements like they started in Gaza the album before.  Of the longer tracks The New Kings is terrific, part 2 (Russia's Locked Doors) featuring one of Steve Rothery's legendary tasteful Gilmore like solos. The final part (Why is nothing ever true) is I can see a crowd pleasing barn stormer of future live sets.

Anyway - enough of my blathering - it is a great album, my fire for Marillion is never diminished, compared with most bands who've been banging out stuff for over 30 years they still are doing new stuff, relevant stuff, edgy stuff, political stuff... ignoring what the world is doing but reflecting totally what the world has become - hmmm... remember Forgotten Sons and it's highly charged political statements being so shockingly portrayed on The Old Gray Whistle Test...  meet the new Marillion... still the same, only different.

You can listen on Spotify - go be converted it you aren't yet.

Wild - Joanne Shaw Taylor

To another trailblazer.  It is a shame that I keep seeing statements like "the best female British Blues Rock guitar/vocalist".   She is simply one of the best Blues/Rock players period - ignore her gender!  This album moves her on a fair bit being recorded in Nashbville with Kevin Shirley in the producer chair.  Yes him, the guy that has produced loads of Joe Bonamassa's stuff.  Some of the backing band - notably Lee Thornbury's horn section - are from Joe's various efforts.   This is by far her best and most accomplished effort to date.  She is a stunning guitarist from the off with Dyin' to Know having a chunky Tele riff that has you into a smoky bar somewhere in a flash.  I love her throaty voice too which is so suited to her style.  I'm in Chains is another belter if you want to get a flavour from your favourite streaming service.   Two covers also show how brilliant she is.  Wild is the Wind the old song that Bowie covered on Station to Station is turned into an epic blues rocker.  Just as you think it is finished after a great solo there is a reprise with one of the best blues solos on record ever in my humble opinion.  Summertime is also given the Taylor treatment and it is a super reworking of the old jazz classic with her own style - something too many fail to do these days in covers she reworks these two into being her very own.  That shows her brilliance in my mind.

If you like Jeff Healy, aforementioned Mr Bonamassa, Gary Moore et al try this out I don't believe you'll be disappointed at all.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Bach to Beatles - concert review

Mrs F had bought us tickets to see Milos Karadaglic performing the opening night of his Back to Beatles concert with the English Chamber Orchestra a the Canterbury Festival last Friday.

Sadly at the last minute - well with a week to go - Milos pulled out of the concert since he has suffered a recurring hand injury and the advice of all the medical professionals was to stop playing and get it sorted out finally.

So in steps Craig Ogden. Remarkably he altered only two pieces from the original programme, one being that he inserted Asturias which as a core repertoire piece was simply replacing something with something he knew backwards. He dropped Whilst My Guitar Gently Weeps from the second half where most of the pieces were from Milos' latest album Blackbird. However this still meant him learning in a week 9 pieces and their unique arrangements and given three were with jazz bass accompaniment and others with the ECO as well. To say I was impressed is an understatement. I'd obviously have loved to see Milos but he was there to introduce both halves and talk with Craig about the "nightmare" arrangements. Craig though as I say was a revelation as a stand in - he captured the feel of the pieces as well as executing them to my ears flawlessly. My favourite was the rendition of Come Together where he really clicked with the jazz bass accompaniment.

Really enjoyable concert in the very posh surroundings of the Shirley Hall which is part of the King's School in Canterbury. You feel very small and insignificant though when sitting in an institution that claims to have been founded in 597. That isn't a typo - yes 597 - i.e. 1,419 years ago!

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Recording some covers

I got a new Boss BR-600 (Digital recorder) to replace my one that's stopped working.  I got it second hand on eBay.  Under £80 which was a bargain.

To try it out I recorded a couple of covers.

Firstly this is my interpretation of Show of Hands song I Will Haunt You.

This next one is one of the tunes that inspired me to be the guitarist I am now.  My first one to one guitar teacher was teaching me classically but knew my interests lay more broadly so introduced me to steel string fingestyle via this song.  This is my version of the Davy Graham classic Anji

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Birthday Booty

Another year has passed and yesterday was my birthday.

So what booty did I receive?

Both my kids bought me a couple of Blu-Ray films.  Spotlight, Jurassic World, Our Kind of Traitor and Eye In the Sky.  All films I never went to see at the cinema, frankly it is so expensive these days to go I partly would rather wait for the Blu-Ray to come out.

Mrs F got me a Miloš Karadaglić CD - Aranjuez which has the Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez on it - my (and many others I suspect) favourite guitar concerto.  Also a ticket to see him live this month at the Canterbury festival in an intimate venue with an orchestra.  Really looking forward to that!

Oh and the most guitar related gift?  Big Bends Nut sauce.  Yes you read that right.  It is a lubricant for your nuts sir.  Guitar nuts.  Often considered for only vibrato guitars I suspect I'll actually like it more for some acoustic guitars where dropping in and out of altered tunings and then bends often lead to strings sticking in the nut.  I've tried pencil lead, chapstick, vasoline etc. over the years but many rave about this product which isn't cheap frankly but I'm hoping will help my nuts glide freely.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Fan Fret Acoustics - Reach the masses!

Last year I commented on Fan Fret acoustic guitars approaching the masses with some in the £1,200 range available in the UK.

Well Ibanez have gone and smashed that with a new model retailing at under £500!

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

New track - Good Man

It has been ages since I posted anything new.  I've just not been avidly writing and not recording much.  My tinnitus/Ménière’s disease hasn't been helping, for long periods even contemplating playing the guitar isn't on my mind as it is likely to be too painful.  But in the last week my ear has been a lot better.

I have few songs in development - this one was actually started a long while ago.  It was inspired when I got my mandolin.  After some noodling learning chords etc. this pattern emerged which I liked.  As ever it sat about without lyrics for a while then some inspiration struck.  Largely since this is dedicated from me to a dear friend who passed away last year.  One of the last times I remember being with him out somewhere we were watching a band play with a great mandolin player and he joking asked how my mandolin playing was coming along.  So it was fitting my first song inspired by mandolin playing should have lyrics inspired by him.

Sadly however having recorded this something fatal appears to have befallen my Boss BR-600 and it won't work now.  It is stuck in a loop at start up.  Grrr!  Frustrating I just get back into recording and then the gremlins appear.  So anyway, I've bid on eBay for a cheap replacement.  I won't bid too high but if I can get a working model cheap at least no new learning curve or big outlay.  If that fails I'll see if I can save up for new BR-800 which replaced the 600 some while back.  It has some nicer features, in that if can easily take a balanced phantom powered mic, which will solve some of my cabling nightmares when trying to use my condenser mic now.  (Briefly - cable into a preamp to power it, cable from there to mic input of BR-600 but that has to go via a bulky adapter to get into the 1/4" jack input - messy!  One xlr to xlr would be so much easier!).

Monday, 26 September 2016

Book Review - Death of Robin Hood Angus Donald

With this instalment we reach the end of Angus Donald's clever retelling of the Robin Hood story.  I've really enjoyed this series over the years I've been reading them.  It all started out with Alan Dale a young lad in Nottingham just to learn how to survive.  He was taken under the wing of a bunch of notorious outlaws around the Sherwood Forest and he has forever been one of Robin Hood's men.  We long ago learnt that Robin Hood is in fact a noble man and a Lord himself but he roguish nature always looking to profit for himself make him the outlaw we know.  The books have always been written from Alan's point of view as an old man recounting his youthful, and now not so youthful, adventures with his Lord.

Obviously the main plot feature is given away in the title but the suspense of exactly how Robin dies if left to the very end of the book and is an emotionally engaging story in itself.  We join the action soon after the signing of the Magna Carta.  I was personally instantly engaged in the action as it starts with the start of the siege of Rochester Castle in 1215 when the rebel barons of England are at war with King John.  I live close to Rochester and have frankly am often in the shadow of the castle without remember this darkest of its days.  You can still see on the south east corner where the tower of the outer walls were replaced and the tower of the keep also after the siege ended with mining of the walls and tower and bombardment.  After finishing the book last week

The rebels want the king to honour the now infamous document and stop bleeding them dry with taxes and not listening to their counsel.  King John continues to be portrayed as a cruel coward but to be fair that is how most of history views him.  Robin and Alan make alliances of convenience as Prince Louis of France uses the rebellion to assert his claim on the throne of England.  You do wonder what would have happened if they had won?  What would British history now look like I wonder?  I'm glad that Angus points out the often incorrectly attested view that England has never been invaded since 1066.  A stones throw from Rochester Castle is Upnor Castle - It is on the opposite bank of the Medway a mile or so further downstream.  That castle played an important part in repelling Dutch invasion forces some 452 years later after they had already set foot ashore on the Isle Of Sheppey.

Anyway back to the story.  This book is an excellent ending to the series book 8 of the merry men's adventures and with only Alan and Robin left from the original band Robin bowing out soon after King John has gone and the famous William the Marshal (Possibly Britain's greatest ever soldier) finally quells the rebellion and ousts the French upstart from England leave the boy king Henry III to rule in peace - well for a while.  

Cracking good read as have all the series been with much historical accuracy and research and where Angus has bent truth for the purposes of story telling he is generous to tell us post the Epilogue.  If you like good historical fiction this is some of the very best.  I look forward to where Angus will next take us.

Two thumbs up on the FITUBRS*

* Furtheron International 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

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Album Reviews - Jeff Beck - Loud Hailer, Biffy Clyro - Ellipsis, Big Big Train - Folklore, Milos - Blackbird

Time for another summer catch up.

Jeff Beck - Loud Hailer.

Jeff Beck is one of a very very rare breed of artist.  One who is pioneering not just when they come to prominence but throughout their lifetime and one who has remained relevant throughout.  Since his reinvention of how he played the guitar pioneered on the track Where were you off his guitar workshop album in the late 80s he has produced albums fused with Electronica aspects, with jazz and on his last work Emotion and Commotion with orchestra placing his playing in a concerto setting almost.

However Loud Hailer is more rock n roll, more indy rock, more street, more punk frankly.  He has teamed up with Rosie Bones (Bill Oddy's daughter btw for those who do pub quizes) on vocals and Carmen Vandenburg on guitars from the band Bones produces a vocal based album for the first time in many many years from Mr Beck and gives the whole production a more rootsy, punky rocky vibe.  Jeff's playing is as stunning as ever and more brutal to coin a phrase on some tracks like Thugs Club.

Scared for the children is the highlight for me - more restrained than many, closer to much of the lyrical beauty on Emotion and the lyrics are heartbreaking.

Another incredible album from Jeff Beck who rather than resting on his laurels shows many a fraction of his age how to really push yourself creatively and as a musician.

Biffy Clyro - Ellipsis

Biffy scaled the hights to become an established festival headlining act with the last three albums which culminated in Opposites the mammoth double disk offering that hit the number one spot in the UK for the first time for the band.  They themselves felt they'd reached the end of that massive stadium rock type recording when that was put to bed and so Simon Neil went away to work on some side projects before even contemplating writing again for Biffy.  However he was soon back writing and the new album is a blend of really raucous rock hinting at their earlier offerings, more raw and less produced sound to my ears but mixed with many stripped down more reflective mellow moments.

My daughter proclaims this their best yet.  I don't agree favouring Puzzle myself but it is a great album and a step forward not a status quo or retrospective record at all.

Big Big Train - Folklore.

I really like Big Big Train and think they are producing some of the best prog rock around currently.  It is a shame that much of the prog audience only seem to focus on the releases from the big big names of future past and bemoan where bands do not continue/reform or the key lack of "classic" line ups.  If they were to open their ears and listen to this album then they'd be welcoming Big Big Train into the hallowed status awarded to Yes, Genesis and the like.  You get the best quality of those bands with a whole bunch of other stuff too.  They swing seamlessly from Crimsonesque counterpoint to thunderous pop rock of Genesis to keyboard laden excursions of Yes and hints of Marillion and much much more.  There is often a folk-rock undertone too through out this recording.

For me this has some better tracks than the last two volumes released under the English Electric title but overall the album isn't as cohesive a work as that behemoth was able to be.  Stunning musicianship throughout, thoughtful lyrics and story weaving coupled with really excellent production.

Miloš Karadaglić - Blackbird.

Back when I was a mere strap of a lad going to classical guitar lessons I had this vision of doing what John Williams was then doing with Sky in taking classical guitar into a rock setting.  Sky worked on a level but never inspired any follow on.  Miloš Karadaglić has earnt his stripes as a concert classical guitar virtuoso.  However he was inspired by the Beatles as a youngster and learnt some Beatles classics arranged for classical guitar.  I remember having a book and trying but in those days it was all in the dots - there was no accompanying recording or video etc. so I never really nailed any of them and the book long ago disapeared from my collection.  This album is most new arrangements and really is stunning.  Coupled with some excellent jazz bass playing and some inspired guest vocals - Gregory Porter in particular this is a fantastic collection of tunes.  Probably will give Miloš some additional exposure and might get some others to listen to a more traditional repertoire for the instrument.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Book review catch up

Hello anyone still following.  I've been doing nothing frankly over the summer.  I had an operation in July and then took a time off to recover.  I realised I write a lot of my posts on my commute on my phone - or at least that's where they start to be finished off on one of my numerous occasional coffee breaks.  Anyhows- book review catch up time...

Solomon Creed - Simon Toyne

First here's a rant... what is it with the new trend in book publishing to have to add a tag line to the title of the book.  This book on Amazon is title "Solomon Creed: The only thriller you need to read this year".  It's tacky, I feel exploited ... so ... stop it.  I'll return to this theme later.

Actually this is a pretty good story.  It is the first in a series to feature Solomon Creed - that is evident from all the blurb and I don't believe I'm laying any major spoilers out there.  We're introduced to Mr Creed as he come to consciousness running hell for leather in the baking heat of a mid USA desert.  He is running because there is some huge flipping explosion happening around him due to a plane crash.  How did he survive, how does he know so much?  We don't know, and neither does Solomon as he doesn't appear to have any memory of who he is, his past, his background etc.  But he does know his stuff.  He arrives at the local small town to save a man, that he can remember.  However he is too late that man died in a road crash just before the plane crash (remind me NOT to move to this neighbourhood).  Solomon then through his persistence in digging into the past and the present of the town uncovers corrupt officials, drug deals etc. and it all plays out.

Frankly a lot of the whole thing is totally unbelievable so if reality in your book plots is important to you ignore this.  If though you like a bit of suspension of reality this is a good read.  However I'm not totally sure I'm itching for the next book.

So a single thumbs up on the FITUBRS*

The Beauty of The End - Debbie Howells.

My daughter lent me this one.  Now here is a totally believable tale.  Set in Southern England in the modern day our hero is not what you'd expect.  Noah is a washed up lawyer scratching a living writing some moderately successful detective novels.  He frankly is a bit of a loser.  He's called by his old best friend from school, Will,  to say that the woman who has been his only love since the age of 15, April, has attempted suicide and also is suspected of a murder.  He can't accept she is guilty and heads off to help.  The evidence does seem compelling.

However through a series of flash backs in to his life and how it all now begins to become plain to him some of the things he'd chosen to ignore, blank out.  Alongside this we meet Ella a teenager who is troubled by her family and her relationships in it.  How is she part of this?  That becomes clear and the exposé is gripping.  Some of the reveals were a bit  signposted for me but one or two toward the end were not.  Well worth reading but it is a bit grim at times but has a bitter sweet ending I suppose.

Two thumbs up on the FITUBRS*

The Woman in Cabin 10 - Ruth Ware

Another of my daughter's hand ons.  This is a classic style whodunnit thriller.  Set on a small luxury cruise liner (to reduce to a manageable size the suspects) there's a touch of the Christie about it.  Our heroin is convinced a murder has been carried out and a body dumped over board.  She heard it happen, heard the splash, saw the blood, saw the victim earlier.  However everyone says the victim wasn't there at all.  No one is missing and there's simply no evidence.  Drink, depression, anxiety are all used as weapons against out intrepid amateur sleuth as she battles to be believed.

This is a bit slow to get going, Honestly after about 30 - 40% of the way in I did nearly not bother but my daughter said it was worth it.  It was in the end as the reveal of what had gone on when it came was a complete surprise which does make a change.  Another clever technique by the author is to have chopped the book up into a few parts.  Before each one you see some exchange by family/friends not on the boat about their concerns which really created some tension.  Just a shame it took a while to get going.

One thumb up on the FITUBRS*

Meastra - L.S. Hilton

Or as correctly titled completely.  Meastra - the most shocking thriller you'll read this year.  Really?  I'll return to this...

An thriller set in the art dealing world.  That could have worked potentially, the dodgy dealing of fakes or at least paintings of dubious authenticity or the use of art work as a means for organised crime to wash or transfer money etc.  That could be good but somewhere clearly the decision was taken to say to the author "It needs to be more 50 shades".  So sadly there is introduced a sub plot involving debauched sex activity most of which is graphically detailed and frankly isn't necessary.  Also the main character, Judith, is frankly bloody unlikeable.  Well she was likeable as the ambitious art interested kid from the council estate in Liverpool who'd got her break and was in the inner circle in the art world.  Her battling the sexism and the corruption would have been an acceptable story.  But instead we have this character who uses sex to get what she wants who feels obliged to tell us every designer label she wears or carries at every opportunity and then turns to even lower forms of depravity to further her life.   At the end of it rather than cheering her success on I wanted her exposed and punished for it all.

So the most shocking thriller you'll read this year?  No.  Well the most shocking thing is that it was printed in the version it was - cut the sex out for a start but I fear I possibly wasn't the target audience for this - any women who liked 50 shades but wanted a better plot line - well that is what this is.   The second most shocking thing.  LS Hilton was paid a seven figure advance for this and the following two in the trilogy and the film rights.... that is shocking and frankly sad.

One thumb down on the FITUBRS* - saved from two down by some of the art shenanigans being worth a thriller.

* Furtheron International 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

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

12 String Pickup upgrade

Do you remember the 12string I made a while back?

And here it is now.  What's the difference?  The pickups - my wife bought me some Wilkinson Hot Strat pickups.  I went for the hot more since they have flat pole pieces, not staggered as the vintage models do.  I just thought on a 12 string with the different gauges etc. that would be better for string balance.

I'm really chuffed with the result.  A quick desolder and disassembly of the pickups that came on the kit supplied sratchplate and then re-solder in the new replacements.  They are a big big improvement over the originals.  The bridge in particular in quiet hot and very punchy, ok for emphasising arpeggio lines whilst the middle and neck are really excellent for strumming chords.  I retained the 7 way wiring, the bridge pickup is connected to the small switch, when that is on then the bridge pickup is always on whatever you set the 5 way selector to.  That allows you to have 2 extra sounds, Bridge and Neck together and all three on.  For under £30 for the set these Wilkinsons really impress.  I'd recommend them to anyone wanting to upgrade a cheap strat in a cost effective way

Friday, 15 July 2016

About time - Pete Townshend Strat

Apologies for the sparsity of posting on here recently.  The EU Referendum took too much of my energies away in social media land, that and end of year college work, health issues... blah blah...

So back with some good news.  Pete Townshend has had a lot of custom signature guitars out before, Rickenbacker,  Gibson - twice electric with an SG and Les Paul and one acoustic .  In the Schecter line up there is still a PT model based on another signature model.  The bizzarre thing being is whilst many of these have been introduced in recent years since the late 80s Pete has himself pretty much exclusively used a Fender Strat.  So finally we actually get a release from Fender that is the closest to the guitar Pete has used for the last 25 plus years.

Based on the mark1 Eric Clapton strat it has Gold Lace Sensors that model featured but not seen on many Fenders for a number of years with Eric and others moving on to the Fender noiseless pickups.  It has the same soft v neck and the same control layout with a master TBX control and the mid boost introduced on the Eric Clapton strat.

However there are some major differences.  Where as the EC signature has a vintage vibrato that has been "blocked off" as Clapton never uses it but prefers the sound of a vibrato fitted strat, so a wooden block prevents it working as a vibrato.  Pete's however features a Fishman Power bridge giving him a Piezo acoustic type sound to use as well.  The additional control behind the bridge is the volume control for this addition.  Also with a functioning vibrato unit locking tuners are used as well. 

Really pleased for ages I've thought this should be the true current Pete Townshend signature model and I'm really pleased to see it in the range.

More info at Fender guitars.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

CD Review - Gilded - Blair Dunlop and Live the Farewell Tour - Bellowhead

Gilded - Blair Dunlop

I've enjoyed Blair's work since his first release Blight and Blossom.  Now I sit to write this I should actually play that back to back with House of Jacks (his sophomore effort) and Gilded, it'd be interesting to compare them as he has developed. Who is Blair?  Well his dad is Ashley Hutchings which if you know anything about British Folk Rock is something of a legend in that genre having been a key member of Fairport Convention, Steeley Span and the leader of The Albion Band for years.  Having his Dad's connections helps with people like Martin Simpson and Richard Thompson being amongst those who've tutored/mentored Blair.  Oh yes, if you are a film buff Blair played the young Willy Wonker in the Tim Burton remake of the Roald Dahl classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

What about this one then?  Well it is a move into more rockier less folk territory with more electric guitar, similar to the last Albion Band offering when Blair took over leadership of that band from his dad.  However the fundamental song structure and format, namely songs with a story, maintains that British Folk feel. There is more bite to some of the lyrics, I read an interview in Acoustic magazine where Blair joked that he was 24 now and was supposed to be angry.

Castello kicks off with a strummed acoustic (btw Blair uses Tanglewood Masterdesign models).  The song builds with drums, bass and some stonking organ with some terrific lyrics - the Manchester and Joy Division mentions are terrific.  By the end of that track you already know this is going to be a top album.

Other highlights for me are First World Problem which has the best electric playing from Blair on the album and can see this being a firm live favourite for a long time to come with a sing a long hook line and it's buck the system sentiment.  Up on Craigside is another one that kicks off just Blair and his acoustic which then builds under I'll kick against the rat race lyrics which I really like how he pictured the story.Eternal Optimist and The Egoist are other good tracks.  In fact there isn't any filler anywhere covering any cracks.  I thoroughly recommend you give it a listen - it is up on Spotify for those who use that.

Live the Farewell Tour - Bellowhead.

The world is a duller less good place since on 1st May 2016 Bellowhead played their last ever gig at the site of their first one 12 years before in Oxford.  Sadly the Bellowhead story is over as Jon Boden the lead singer, main arranger and focal point of live performances decided that he wanted to move in other directions and wouldn't continue in the 11 piece group.  The group understandably decided that without Jon there could be no Bellowhead and thus sadly they are no no more.  This double CD and DVD combo (bargain at only £15!) is therefore their final hurrah.

It captures what made Bellowhead such an exciting and loved act.  Let's just think about it.  Say I wrote on here that I planned to form an 11 piece folk band with a bunch of multi-instrumentalists, all who are great vocalists, the line up to include woodwind in the form of oboe, bass clarinet, sax and brass like trombone, trumpet and the bass handled by brass low instruments mostly a Helicon.  For good measure most of the groups repetitive would be old folk songs and sea shanties.  I think many of you would smile and think me deluded.  But given any tour of Bellowhead is normally sold out in minutes in venues most top folk acts would never dream of filling the bizarre notion was incredibly successful.

The collection of songs spans the bands recorded output.  The top ones for me are Roll Alabama, Haul Away, Let Union Be, Roll the Woodpile Down, Let Her Run, London Town and New York Girls... but I struggled to get the list that short!  The DVD is well shot and captures the energy and fun the band clearly have in every performance.  It is a great shame that they are no more but this is a really fitting finale and tribute to them.  As I pointed out the cost of a double CD and DVD combo is a phenomenal bargain.  Again it's on Spotify to listen to... esp my USA readers if you never heard them go see what good UK folk can sound like - trust me you'll be dancing in you huge USA kitchen whilst cooking waffles wishing you were English and had like me been privileged to see this lot live before they were gone.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Book Reviews - Time after Time Ben Elton and The End Game Raymond Khoury

Time After Time - Ben Elton

This is a really terrific book.  Here's the simple question you are posed with "If you could go back in time and change one thing what would it be?"

Seems simple doesn't it.  However as ever total conjecture since time travel isn't available to us.  But... what if it were.  What if there was a place and point in time where you could go back?  This is the situation for our hero Hugh Stanton who is an ex-soldier and YouTube star of survival videos who is given the opportunity to do just that.

The point of incredulity, scientifically and historically is that Sir Issac Newton figured out all of relativity before he died and way ahead of Einstein.  He determined that some time loops overlap in a small fragment of space and time.  Name in Istanbul in 2025 and 1914.  So you can go back to 1914.  And do what?  Stop the first world war?  Seems logical.  So that is what Hugh is tasked to do by a group of boffins who know of Newton's secret.

It is a terrific book.  Not only is there all the historical element but the interesting juxtaposition of a 21st century guy going back 111 years into an Edwardian Europe.  How Ben plays some of that out is excellent and also the moral aspects of what he has to do as his mission, also remember that he shouldn't affect anything other than his mission.

The start of the book flips back and forth from 2025 to 1914 until you are firmly in 1914 with Hugh on his mission.  However the best bit comes towards the end when some terrible realisations come to dawn on Hugh and the whole book and your comprehension of it is brilliantly turned on its head right up to the climax.  Excellently written, esp the reveal which I can't tell you but becomes obvious once you get there and the penny drops in one sentence that Hugh says.  The final outcome is that you look on the 20th century history with a really different view and now if someone asked me if I could go back and change one thing what would I say or do?

So very nearly a two thumbs up with a grin ... maybe it is... go read it!

The End Game by Raymond Khoury.

I've liked some of Raymound's books - The Sign is brilliant.  The last in the Sean Reilly saga I felt went off the boil a bit.  This one more so sadly.  It is a ripping fast thriller which has our hero FBI agent Reilly being set up as a murderer by the shadowy spies who are of course doing what they do for the greater good.  There is some personal links into Sean's history and the last book in the series (Devil's Elixir) but it is all a bit too unbelievable.  Not only that there is some ludicrous double standards exposed in the hero.  He is angry at these agents for how they treated his family and others without due process of law etc. but in his revenge he acts just the same as they do.  That just couldn't be squared off in my thinking and to me the hero was as bad, if not worse than those he challenged.  Maybe that was Mr Khoury wanted the reader to feel/think but if so there was no response to your feelings in the narrative to allow you in some way interact with the character either to sense he knew that was so or that he was wrestling with his conscience in any way.

Sadly only a single thumbs up I'm afraid.

* Furtheron International 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

Monday, 4 April 2016

CD Review - Joe Bonamassa Blues of Desperation and Jeff Healey - Heal my Soul

Joe Bonamassa - Blues of Desperation

I ordered this a day or so before the gig previously reviewed.  It arrived a few days after.  So I'd heard some of the tunes at the gig before hearing them on the recorded version.  Overall a terrific album, possibly his best yet, in terms of performance, song writing, sound and energy.  The album kicks off with uptempo blues rocker This Train and then into one of the albums highlights the Zep like riff laden Mountain Climbing.  These set the scene for the early part of the album - tight superbly executed blues rock.  The tone of all instruments is to die for frankly Kevin Shirley is undoubtedly one of the best producers around in terms of getting a band to all individually sound superb.

Drive the pre-release single is a slower more Chris Rea/Mark Knopfler sounding gentle sound with some great percussion playing.  No place for the lonely is another highlight tipping it's hat strongly in the direction of Gary Moore for me.   What I've Known for a Very Long Time is the closer and is a superb tribute to the late great BB King, I'm presuming that it was with the lyrical guitar intro the slow swing blues beat and super brass section stabs it sounds just like the BB of the 70s to me.  I'd also say this album has the best studio recorded singing from JB I've ever heard frankly.

Overall a really great album that hardened fans like me will lap up.  Will it find new fans?  It might do as some of the songs whilst in the Bonamassa style do push into new areas of the genre that he's not been renowned for playing before.  I believe it has hit new sales records for a JB release already so maybe some new fans out there are picking up on it.

My only downpoint was somewhere about 75% in there seem to be one or two tracks notable The Valley Runs Low which whilst a good song doesn't seem to sit perfectly in this collection.

Jeff Healey - Heal My Soul

First album in 15 years from Jeff, I've seen it billed like that believe it or not.  Given sadly Jeff passed away in 2008 that's hardly a surprise then!  His estate have managed to find a collection of unfinished and unreleased tracks that they have been able to polish up.  This all sounds like one of those "Oh boy, maybe they shouldn't have released all of that?" type scenario... remember some of those posthumous releases featuring Jimi Hendrix in the 70s?  Anyway this selection of songs doesn't fit into that mould at all.  This is frankly a stonking set of songs and I really pleased they've seen the light of day.

We kick off with Daze of the Night - this is Jeff at his incendiary best, heavy blues rock in the tradition of Cream et al.  His Strat is being played within an inch of it's life it seems throughout!  Overall the collection here is more heavy blues rock like this with some more AOR radio friendly stuff like Kiss The Ground You Walk On.

If you ever liked Jeff check this out - if you've never heard of him but any mention of Rory Gallagher makes you go gooey eyed then... check this out for the rockers!

Monday, 21 March 2016

Gig Review - Joe Bonamassa Birmingham 19 Mar 2016

I had a great weekend on a flying visit to my son in Birmingham.  The reason for this was to get to a gig by Joe Bonamassa who was playing a short tour of the UK, basically he needed to come back to fulfil a commitment on a gig cancelled on the last tour so added in a couple of other dates including Birmingham.  Firstly I've never been to the Barclaycard Arena - which was the old NIA but in the world of corporate sponsorship had a makeover a couple of years back and a name change.  Joe was quiet funny making reference to this during the gig ;-)  The venue was good though, efficient staff, clean, etc.  My son had been there for a Slipknot gig and was saying he was worried it would be too big for JB but said "The seating plan when I bough the tickets though indicated a completely different layout."  It was cleverly done.  They moved the stage to end so that essentially it was turned into a semi-circular amphitheatre of about 4,000 capacity.  It worked well for JB.

To the music - well simply flawless!  With a 5 piece band (drums, bass, keyboards, trumpet and sax) they were as tight as ever and responsive to Joe's dynamics.  He arrived on stage pretty much on the advertised 8pm start time and we were off.  Given I didn't recognise several of the early numbers I've assuming they are off his new album which is released later this week.  We rattled along though with the odd "Thank you" from Joe between numbers but it was a long way into the set before he said a formal "Hello".  That wasn't that long and then bang into another quick fire set.  All too soon it was 10:15 and he was off stage then back on for a two song encore and we were filing out feeling completely sated.  He is simply the best blues/rock guitarist on the planet currently (in my humble opinion) and a great showman of the old style - i.e. I'll sling on a guitar and play/sing my heart out for you but no theatrics or mad showmanship just impeccable musicianship.

Soundwise the front of house sound was really good, however my Tinnitus is still bad guys but it was a couple of hours welcome distraction from that. Yes I wore earplugs throughout to anyone with any concern but frankly the damage is long done!  He played through a variety of tweed Fender amps, four in regular use throughout.  This is a completely different rig to what I've seen him play through before which was the Marshall 25th anniversary head and custom Two-Rock heads with large cabs before.  The difference was a more compressed sound, more SRV than Gary Moore and actually much closer to his studio sound in my opinion.   Guitarwise we had a procession of drop dead gorgeous Les Pauls - I presume custom shop models not his actual late 50s ones, although I saw Gary Moore regularly in the day with a house worth of guitar around his neck so maybe.  In the les Paul area the odd Bonnabird (LP body with Firebird neck) got an outing.  However he used a couple of Strats to excellent effect giving a very different sonic feel - the burgundy rosewood fingerboard one he opened the set with was a beauty!  Also a couple or ES 300s came out an ES355 for a very BB King inspired few moments and a sunburst ES335.  His Korina 50s style Vee also featured for a few numbers in the set too.  Highlights - too many to mention but see below and Ballard of John Henry was just stonking as was his signature piece Sloe Gin.

Terrific gig

Here is one of the new tracks off the new Blues Despersation album and one of the highlights from Saturday live with the line up we saw Saturday - enjoy...

Monday, 22 February 2016

Gig Review - City And Colour Brighton 18th Feb 2016

Mrs F, Daughter-of-Furtheron and your truly went to see City and Colour down at the seaside last week.  This was mostly a Daughter-of-Furtheron driven gig as she's been a big Dallas Green fan since he set out on his solo material.  I remember sticking my head into her room some years back and said "Who is this?  I like it."  She explained who Dallas was, I knew of Alexisonfire and therefore I wasn't expecting this acoustic alt country/folk singer/songwriter stuff.  Since then we've both been fans.  Interestingly my daughter prefers his earlier stuff and I've been the one buying the last three recent albums.  As he has grown the City and Colour thing has become more a band setting live and in the studio and he has grown from the roots to more alt.indy soft rock.

So the band kicked off with Woman the opener from the latest album If I Should Go Before You.  Now there is a stunning opener - it builds and roars and soars and Dallas voice holds you in both it's authority and vulnerability.  Honestly I think the guy is blessed with one of the greatest voices on the planet in that he has this stunning vulnerability without it losing it's place in the music at all and holding a certain authority that allows him to portray his own brand of melancholy that run through much of his material.

Much of the set was from the latest album but he also did delve back into his back catalogue and the further you went back through Little Hell and further there was a significant difference in the songs.  Dallas has re-imaged the songs from the earlier catalogue around the latest band structure, strengths and sounds so they sounded bigger, broader and more band orientated.  All totally in a great way - I thought it a highlight of how those songs were re-imagined.

For the encore Dallas reappeared with acoustic guitar on his own and we were back into his country/folk roots before the band returned for a stunning closing on one of my favourite tracks of his "Hope for Now" from Little Hell and if you know that track you'll know when the band crashed in soaring with distorted guitars, drums, bass etc. rising and rising a crescendo and slow let down.

Brilliant Brilliant gig.   Dallas voice is actually better live than on record - how is that possible?!

First time any of us had been to the venue, Brighton Dome, which was very good and whilst I didn't see any issues my wife said the security did efficiently and speedily deal with some issues in the stand crowd beneath us.  I'd recommend the circle seats there as we had a great view.  However driving into Brighton was a nightmare, it's been some years since I've driven there and frankly the road changes to give buses priority have made it a disaster.

The one whole downer was my tinnitus being a hassle throughout the day and the gig.  I wore earplugs throughout which helped so at least the music was rarely painful but I can't deny it did interfere as it so often does now.

I should give a shout out too to Lucy Rose who was the superb support artist.  Not someone I've ever heard before but she has a good style and sound and great songwriting.  Finally the audience should be applauded also for especially during Lucy's set being incredibly respectful.  Too often I've been at gigs where everyone seems more intent on holding conversations that could wait for the journey home or the bar at the interval.  However Lucy played Shiver which is very quiet piece in places - you could hear a pin drop as the audience respected the performance - well done Brighton I salute you.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Book Review - The King's Assassin Angus Donald

The latest instalment on the journey of Sir Alan Dale.  Angus has throughout this series clever woven the legend and myth that is Robin Hood and his merry men into the true events during the late 12th and early 13th century.

In this latest instalment we find Sir Alan returned from the siege at Château Gaillard even more despondent with King John than ever.  He has good reason given what he witnessed in the previous instalment and of course with Sir Alan having been a one-time great friend and co-composer of legendary songs with King Richard the Lionheart King John will never meet up to his expectations.  But he returns to find his lands taxed beyond what he can afford and the latest Sheriff of Nottingham determined to extract as much from the area as possible.

Against this background whilst supporting the King's latest attempts to reclaim lost territory in France which comes to eventual failure at the Battle of Bouvines Alan foolishly agrees to help some of the angry barons rid the kingdom once and for all of King John.   Needless to say history dictates that Alan fails but then Angus weaves Robin Hood into the story of the signing of one of the most important documents in the history of England, the Magna Carta.

I like this series despite the odd historical inaccuracy here and there for dramatic effect they are great readable historical thrillers with plenty of guts and gore and intrigue.  Indeed whilst I part guessed one guilty party in the intrigues the other I only realised late in the day so suspense was maintained for me through a lot of the book.  We are promised one more outing with Sir Alan and Robin Hood in the last of the series soon.  I certainly will look forward to it.

Definitely a two thumbs up in the FITUBRS*

* Furtheron International 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

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

NAMM 2016 - Vox Starstream

I spent an evening or two looking over the various videos on Youtube from NAMM 2016 to see what new stuff had been launched.  Sadly to say that it was a lot of "same old, same old".  Fender have new Elite versions - which are a revamped deluxe... yes nice but... still a Strat still a Tele...  Gibson seem keen to go on about their heritage and all that... hmm whilst the new nut and tuners are about you'll see most models have two versions one with the new gizmos and one without and traditional nut and tuners etc.  Also the huge discounts I've seen on 2015 models online recently makes you think good old Orville and Co realised that they'd pushed the envelope a bit too far for many of their buyers.

Yamaha - some new acoustics that are based on the old... etc. etc.  You get the picture.

However here was the shining light frankly.  Vox have come and go in the guitar market since their pioneering 60s models.  I remember some in the 70s/80s with Dimarzio pickups.  About 5 years ago a really innovative range of semi acoustics looked like they may get somewhere, they had some really innovative pickups.  However that range quietly disappeared  - see my comments above we guitarists are a terribly conservative bunch.  Look at my collection... Les Paul, Les Paul a like from Gordon Smith, Strat, Strat, Strat with humbuckers, Tele... etc.

What Vox have done is launched the biggest competition to the Line6 guitar range ever.  A modelling guitar with various models available.  Styling maybe too radical for many but the sounds are impressive.  Here's a demo video from Vox.  I've seen street (online) prices at under £600....  The synth sounds add another dimension too...

Sunday, 24 January 2016

And another one...

I can't believe I'm back here posting about another loss but Jimmy Bain bass player with Rainbow, Wild Horses and Dio has sadly passed away aged 68.  Whilst never a household name Bain was in the original Rainbow line up, then formed Wild Horses with Brian Robertson following Robbos's dismissal from Thin Lizzy.  However when he reunited with Ronnie James Dio in his post Sabbath project his writing ability shone through with him credited with several co-writing credits on Dio's biggest hits whilst he also worked with Phil Lynott on his solo material even appearing on keyboards on some live gigs before Lynott's sad dimise.

Here is one his best co-writing efforts with Dio ... Holy Diver...

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The Crème de la crème

Flipping heck.  St Peter must have some big shindig to organise clearly given the list of music stars who've recently been taken from us.  A set of people who've been there throughout most of my life providing music I listened to and was interested and inspired by.

Of the three Lemmy from Motorhead was the biggest personal loss to me.  I've seen Motorhead live possibly more than any other band/artist I can think of... maybe Gary Moore (another one in St Pete's line up now) just shades it but it'll be close.  My funniest memory of them is at Hyde Park when they supported The Foo Fighters.  We were about half way back in the huge crowd that afternoon.  You'd see the roadies changing over the amps etc.  You'd see them trying stuff out but the piped interval music from the PA drowned out the stage volume where we were clearly... I mean we were further away than you'd be in any but the largest arenas... until the Motorhead crew began to soundcheck... yep they drowned out the PA!  Oh I saw them with Sepultura backing up at a tiny old seaside dance hall in Folkestone once.   Loudest gig I've ever been to!  Mental - quiet simply the bass introduce bowel movements!

David Bowie - I can't say I've been an avid Bowie fan, in fact there is a paucity of Bowie recordings in my collection but I remember buying Laughing Gnome as a kid.  Then Ziggy - of course all but one of the Spiders from Mars is in this St Pete Big Band now.  I loved how he continually reinvented himself and could move around styles with such impressive ease.  Station to Station was a favourite album I had on cassette for a long time.

Glen Fry - I mean The Eagles were just one of those bands in the 70s that redefined how big a band could be.  I was always in awe of their vocal abilities and of course what guitarist can't admit to wishing he'd been one of the duelling players in the duet in Hotel California which still will come high up in any "best solo" poll you care to mention.

Add to that Natalie Cole, Dale Griffin (Mott the Hoople drummer) and then for me also Pete Huttlinger (John Denver and stunning fingerstyle guitarist) as I say - whatever is the occasion no high they seem to need the crème de la crème.

Here is Pete Huttlinger just being a bloody genius...  The lady in the shot in the crowd about 25 seconds in sums it up as she simply mouths "Wow!".   BTW this was after his recovery from stroke and heart failure - even more unfair then that he is taken at only 54

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

My must have albums

I was thinking the other day about what are for me "must have albums".  By that I mean ones that I have always had close to any regular playlist.  I then thought about it and some shine out as I've bought them on multiple formats over the years.  Some were cassettes that got trashed so an LP was bought, or bought as vinyl to be replaced with a CD or even some direct as MP3 downloads.  This shows to me that they are my "must haves" due to my needing to maintain them in my listening format of choice.

Steve Earle - Copperhead Road
Weather Report - Heavy Weather
Rush -   Moving Pictures
Supertramp...  Crime of the century and Crisis? What Crisis!
John Martyn. Solid air  and Grace and Danger
Marillion. Season's End, Misplaced Childhood and Script for a Jester's Tear
Thunder - Laughing on judgement day
Joe Satriani -  Surfing with the alien
Ufo - Strangers in the night

So all of the above have been bought by me at least once on a replacement format, some more than once - the Supertramp ones hit that target!

So for me this is my must have list.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Book Review - The Gibson 335 - Its History and Its Players by Adrian Ingram

I've had this on my Amazon wishlist for a while now.  It's not a cheap book and in the end Mrs F perusing said list for inspiration for a Christmas present bought it for me.

I have to say my knowledge of Gibson's ES-300 series isn't that good.  I can easily spot Les Paul's, SGs, Strats and Teles readily knowing the age (or increasingly the reissue basis) etc. quickly but other than telling an ES-335 from an ES-345 or ES-355 my knowledge lacked.  To that end this has been a really useful read.  I knew that through the 60s and 70s the ES-335 moved from dot finger board with a stop tail-piece to block inlays and a trapeze one but the other changes around particularly the internal construction and the move from "mickey mouse" ears etc. made this a good read.

Also Adrian covers a lot of other models, notably the obvious sister Epiphone line with Sheratons, Casinos etc. which in the UK are possibly more sought after with their associations with Lennon, Weller, Oasis etc.  It is interesting to read about the various changes and why they were brought in - some were considered "upgrades" that now you wonder how they thought that but others sadly were clearly dictated by the bean counters in the Norlin controlled days.  It is interesting particularly to here about changes under the skin for example in the make up of the laminates used on the body, the switch to three piece maple necks - originally for stability on high end jazz guitars but by the time on the 300 series really all about using smaller cuts of wood more cheaply and with an easier, quicker finishing process - maple isn't as porous as mahogany so you don't need to grain fill and allow less time for drying.

There is quite a bit about descendants and copies including things like the Howard Roberts Fusion model for example but also the ES-336 which got soon renamed the CS-336 reflecting that it was actually a hollowed out solid guitar (like a Telecaster thinline) rather than a back, sides and front constructed semi-acoustic.  The thing the 336 did lead to was however the ES-339 (and ES-359) which are the smaller bodied models constructed in the ES-335 manner now available.  Sadly the copy I have was published in 2006 and therefore that and other developments in the last decade are missing which is a real shame... so no Dave Ghrol Trini Lopez reissue mentions etc.  Also the other unfortunate thing is whilst there is a set of good colour photos in a dedicated chapter most photos that accompany the text are black and white making the book feel actually more like one published 20 or more years ago.  Many aren't reproduced with the greatest of care either sadly.

Overall if like me you need a bit more history on the ES-335 and it's cousins this is a good read, esp if you can find a second hand copy in good condition at reasonable price.  However there is a hole in the market for an update and one with better photography especially... where's Tony Bacon?

I'd give it a two thumbs horizontal on the FTUBRS due to the less than ace photos and being a bit too out of date too

* 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

Ashes to Ashes - David Bowie

A true legend RIP David Bowie. Writing this in my way to work as the news breaks.

I'll simply share my favourite ever Bowie track, today some ironic with it's title ... and also one of the weirdest videos ever.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Book Review - The Vig by Amy Brook

This is a debut novel by Amy however it doesn't read like it at all. It is a crime drama set in Long Island in the 1980s. Our heroine, Angela,  is approaching her graduation from business school when through her boyfriend she meets a mob boss. He sees something in her and offers her a job helping with the books of his business. The business in question is loan sharking but it is the kind of job she wanted in terms of maintaining accounts etc and no body ever says no to her boss Dominic.

Slowly she is drawn more into the grimey side of the business witnessing the violence that ensures compliance in the customers. However her life changes completely when she breaks off with her boyfriend and she becomes the centre of unwanted attention. Will she survive in the mob world?

The portrayal of the gang members at work and not draws you in to feeling they're not all bad and there are twists and turns throughout which meant I was unable to predict the final climactic conclusion.

Really brilliant first novel.

Definitely a two thumbs up in the FITUBRS

* Furtheron International 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

Thursday, 7 January 2016

CE24 Demo | PRS Guitars

Any of you who've been around this blog a while will know that I own a PRS CE22 - 2001 model if memory serves that I bought second hand in about 2009.  It is simply the go to guitar for a jam session etc. as it can cover just about anything.  I always thought the removal of it from the catalogue a mistake. Many seemed to think it a "poor man's custom" but for me frankly it is an alternative.  The bolt on maple neck gives it more spank - think Fender spank but with some of the girth you get in a Gibson or PRS custom Mahogany  / Maple set up.  To me actually it is better at nailing the best of both worlds sounds than the custom which given I have a Gibson and a Gordon Smith and a Peter Cook is too similar to all of them.   Think a Fender Strat with a humbuckers in it along side single coils ... but the humbucker sounds much closer to a Gibson one thing a humbucker in a strat will never do to my ears.

Well the super duper news is that PRS obviously see the error of removing it from the catalogue and a new CE24 has been announced - see below.  Top news.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016


Only when just checking my stats page on Blogger did I realise that my first post in 2016 was the 1000th post on this blog.  So this is the 1001st

Monday, 4 January 2016

New Year... Music Reviews...

Hello welcome to the first post of 2016.

Sorry it has been so quiet on here but I was ill throughout December and frankly did very little!

Quick update on some Music Reviews on the CDs, DVDs etc. I got for Christmas.

Newton Faulkner - Human Love.

Terrific album.  Newton has moved on and developed as an artist.  His first video release of a track from this album before it was released in November was Get Free.  On this Newton sits in a chair singing whilst hacking off his famous dreadlocks with a pair of scissors.  He now has a new short dreads piled on top of his head look.  However this is a definitive metaphor about his moving forward as an artist. This new album has more electric guitar tones on it and a different more band orientated vibe.  However the second half is a selection of the tracks re-recorded as pure one man solo songs, no doubt so that he can show you that if you see him live he can still play these tracks in his one-man-show format.  For those that pigeon-holed Newton as a one trick percussive acoustic pony should revisit him and give this a listen. Probably his most sophisticated effort yet if not his best album and I applaud him for moving forward in the way he has.  Likely to swell his ranks of admirers too I suspect.

City and Colour - If I Should Leave Before You.

Up beat title :-/  Dallas Green's move from solo acoustic guitar to full band continues on this latest effort.  His characteristic lyrical style is still there with some moody and atmospheric accompaniment.  Good effort but unlikely to increase his fanbase beyond those he already has as this doesn't stand out as moving anywhere different from the last album.  If you have liked his stuff before though definitely worth checking out.

Rush - R40 live

Sadly the Rush R40 tour never reached these shores and with the recent announcements about Neil Peart rejecting further big tours there no doubt is a likelihood that seeing them ever on a stage in the UK again is unlikely.  As ever the quality of playing and sound is top notch.  I love also structure of the set list.  The band kick off with material from their last release Clockwork Angels and then work backwards chronologically through their back catalogue.  One thing with a band that started in 1970 and have 19 studio albums to draw from there is some back catalogue to trawl through.  Again they pull out some obvious group pleasers, Spirit of the Radio, Tom Sawyer, YYZ etc.  but then some un-usual additons like Jacobs Ladder from Permanent Waves.  For me the highlight is Losing It - possibly my favourite of all Rush tracks off the Signals album and one that they never had before performed live as it featured heavily the violin of Ben Mink when recorded in 1982.  Well they persuaded Ben to join them on this tour and performed it to stunning effect.

Whilst we wander back through the back catalogue the stage set changes starting out with the backline from the Clockwork Angels tour - for those unfamiliar with Rush live gigs some time ago Geddy Lee stopped having his amps right behind him in a classic back line fashion and thus started a backline of different articles including pop corn machines, vending machines, washing machines etc.   As we go back Geddy's backline takes on some of these old formats in a clever stageset whilst Alex has a bank of Hughes & Kettner amps and speakers built/dismantled behind him.  In the second set Alex has a ridiculous wall of Marshalls and Geddy a line of old Ampeg amps and speakers.   Clever.  Geddy also digs out some old basses not relying on his Fender Jazz's totally unlike recent tours- the famous Rickenbacker appears in the second half along with a tasty Zametis and some Fender Precisions - no sign of the Steinberger though.   Alex doesn't do this sticking pretty much to his roster of various Les Pauls.

If you're a Rush fan just buy it if you haven't already!  A fitting note for them to leave on if it is indeed their final live departure.

Eric Clapton - At 70

Another artist drawing towards the end of his career.  This was recorded at his last residency at the Royal Albert Hall.  I really enjoyed this more than I expected to feeling it was back to the Eric of the 80s and 90s with a solid band and playing a broad range of material including some of his ones that he has to play.  Again if you are a fan go buy it.

Google Chromecast

Finally I'll sneak this in here.  An unexpected present from my son was a little Chromecast dongle you plug into an HDMI port on your telly.  Power it up via the USB cable and set it up on your wifi using an app you download on your phone.  Now once powered up it is on the wifi and any app which is Chromecast enabled can "cast" onto the TV.  YouTube is obviously one such app - if finds the Chromecast on the network and offers another button - hit that and you can play or queue to play the video you are looking at.  Brilliant - best bit is anyone on the network can join, so you can all queue videos to the tv.   I'm going to try out some other things on it too in time so I may come back here but just the YouTube facility it good if you watch a lot of things like concert or instructional videos like I do sometimes.