Saturday, 13 May 2017

CD Review. Big Big Train Grimspound

Seems hardly anytime when I waxing lyrical about thier last offering Folklore.

This is a highly credible effort, the growing membership bringing new talents notably the string work and arrangements via Rachel Hall have added greatly for me.

If you've heard Folklore this is very much part 2 and that very British prog rock with folk overtones runs through much.

Experimental Gentlemen is a favourite of mine but each of the 8 tracks is well written, constructed and performed. Meadowland has be lying in a field by a brook with swallows swooping overhead.... beautiful.  Dave Longton's vocals are brilliant throughout with that slight Genesis feel but then possibly that's the hole I think Big Big Train fill in the space a truly British old style prog rock band.

Highly recommended.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Ashbury Octave Mandolin

A frankly ludicrous and frivolous purchase!   Mrs F and I went to Canterbury for some shopping and I headed over to Hobgoblin Music, which is one of my favourite places to wonder about.  It covers from all rock guitars to banjos, keyboards, violins, recorders, then into more and more esoteric instruments you've never even heard off let alone expect to see in essentially a high street music store.

The manager said twice "Please try anything you like".   I bought some mandolin strings, my excuse for heading there in the first place.  Then lured towards the more obscure stringed instrument section I spotted an octave mandolin, which I've wondered about as an addition to the collection.  I picked up one in particular - walnut back and sides, spruce top, simple but reasonably well put together in what looks like a more hand then factory assembly hit and A chord and was like - "oh that sounds really nice"....   A little picking later Mrs F said the fatal thing "Go on ... treat yourself".  I did say "You shouldn't say that!"   A few mins later we're striking a deal that involved essentially a free set of strings for it and I'm lugging it out the shop!

Here's me trying it out as soon as I got it home - I've not taken the price tag off!


Impressions - It has a really nice open clean sound.  Being an octave down from a standard mandolin it probably better suits ears trained for decades on guitars.  As I say it's a simple instrument but well put together and particularly the tuners are really nice and smooth and reliable, i.e. no slip.

Just need to improve my mandolin playing now... of course now I'm looking at my original mandolin a budget Stagg model and thinking - I should upgrade from that now!  Never stops does it!


Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Gig Review - The Shires Folkestone 28th April 2017

Mrs F really like The Shires.  We saw them on tour a year or so back ... anyway I saw them back at Folkestone and only two weeks after Mrs F's birthday - so ... Birthday Treat!

First up a quick mention of Catherine McGarth who was support act and suddenly has invaded my world.  I heard a track on Bob Harris' show on Thursday, she was there live on Friday and then my Guitarist magazine falls through the door on Saturday and there's a full page intro and interview with her in that.  She'd only 19!!!  One to watch.

The Shires - just brilliant.  One of those acts that can simply deliver.  They can sing so well live, if anything better than in the studio.  A good collection of songs from both albums, varying of tempo etc. and a simply stunning cover of Robbie Williams' Angels.  That should be a single - it was just fantastic!!!

My ear was a bit problematic at times, tinnitus was bad that day, but good old noise reducing earplugs helped and I enjoyed it all.  Thoroughly recommended

CD Review - Bear's Den - Red Earth and Pouring Rain

Every now and then you get an album and you find it spends so long in the car before you replace it.  Bear's Den Red Earth and Pouring Rain is just such an example.

Take Snow Patrol, City and Colour and mix together.  That's Bear's Den but also the quality and quantity of terrific tracks on this album mean I struggle to pick any stand out tracks.  Red Earth and Pouring Rain itself, Greenwoods Bethlehem, My Jerusalem, Dew on the Vine, Broken Parable.... best stop there I'll list the whole album!

By the smallest of margins my suggestion to listen to is Auld Wives... love the bass on this.


Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Long over due album reviews...

Gordon Giltrap and Paul Ward - The Last of England

The really good news about this release is that Gordon is well enough to be talking about it.  He's been through the ringer over the last 18 months or so with a cancer issue needing some big surgery.  That he is back at all is a real pleasure to say.   And this is a great Gordon Giltrap release.  He's teamed up with Paul Ward and with Paul's orchestral knowledge on the keyboards this takes Gordon's guitar skills to a new dimension.  There are parts where you try to just turn off the slightly obvious synthy strings and imagine this in an Albert Hall like setting with a large orchestra.  There are others too that are a real hark back to Gordon's band albums with some really terrific proggy like stuff.   Really terrific album which my wife also says is incredibly soothing when on a long drive around South London the other day.  Search out A Promise Fulfilled - terrific progressive folk rock track.

Tom Chapin - The Wave

Keane frontman's first solo effort.  There's no mistaking his voice, it's tricky for the singer of a band to do a solo album as their voice is the bands voice all too often.  However this does have a different vibe in some way, more laid back less driven I'd sum it up as.  There are a couple of tracks I'm not so sure about being worthy of being on the album but then some others especially Quicksand which are simply classics in creation.  Search out Quicksand - just a terrific track.

Blackberry Smoke - Like an Arrow

Now Blackberry Smoke aren't going to win any awards for the most original music however what they do do is great southern country rock.  From the kick off track of Waiting For the Thunder the ghost of great Lynyrd Skynyrd hovers over every drum beat guitar riff and drawled vocal.  But hey - they do it brilliantly.Songs like Sunrise in Texas have a more country feel but this is still southern rock at its very best.   Search out - Waiting for the Thunder or Let it Burn.





Thursday, 20 April 2017

RIP - Allan Holdsworth

It's been ages since I've posted on here.  Apologies.  Life seems to be just flying by so fast.

It is therefore with great sadness that I have to post first on here for ages about the passing of one of the finest guitarists of the last 40 years or so.  Allan Holdsworth passed away recently aged 70.

Now for many Allan will not be a name that is known but some years back if asked that question as a guitarist myself of "Who is the best guitarist?"  well... Allan would be one of the first names off my tongue in a very short list... with Jeff Beck in there too.

Allan was simply a genius.  I first heard of him through various guitar magazines and then in the briefly lived but incredible supergroup U.K. which was himself, Bill Bruford (Yes, King Crimson etc.) John Wetton (Uriah Heep, Wishbone Ash, Roxy Music and after U.K. of course massively successful in Asia) and Eddie Jobson (Yes, Curved Air, Roxy Music etc.).   They produced one incredible album with that line up and then Bruford and Holdsworth were off.  However that really got my interest.  In 1982ish I built a Strat with two humbuckers in it - inspired by what Holdsworth was using at the time.

Note some similaries...   When I built mine I had cream Dimarzio PAFs in it too... !




The first solo album of his I bought was Sand.  Here he was the focus the jazz genius his flowing lines and complex chords to the fore.  Simply you couldn't follow what the hell he did - to me he is the Miles Davis of the guitar frankly just going - Oh yeah and it'll do this too if you're good enough.

Other solo albums of note are Secrets and Heavy Metal Fatigue which if you want to find out about him I'd recommend.  But note to the jazzaphobes esp Secrets is very jazz.

Briefly he almost came to the publics greater attention.  At the end of Level 42's great success he joined the British Jazz/Pop/Funk group replacing the sadly too early departed Alan Murphy who'd succumed to complications from AIDS.  He recorded much of the album Guaranteed with the band before moving on, even before the cover photos were done and he was replaced by Jakko Jakszyk (laterly of King Crimson).

Whilst not as commercial as thier other albums Gary Husband and Allan joining gave the album some of, in my view, Level 42's best tracks.

So to remember Allan by here are three tracks.

First from Level42 - just listen to the solo - brilliant!





Secondly from Secrets possibly my favourite ever track by him - Joshua. Just the intro of the guitar takes my breath away.



Finally for a laugh - just watch this! the finger gymnastics on the chords!  And the solo - yes well let's not go there!



 RIP Allan - you'll be sadly missed.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Book Reviews - Coffin Road Peter May and The Muse Jessie Burton

Coffin Road - Peter May

I've read some of Peter's previous novels.  In particular his Lewis Chessman trilogy.  This is again set in the Western Isles Peter's preferred setting.  We are presented with a classic amnesia story.  Man comes too on a shore in the middle of a storm, he has been shipwrecked it seems but he has no idea how, or who he is, or what is going on.

A terrific page turning thriller as you want to know who our hero really is?   This is made more difficult for him and us since he can find nothing in his croft as to who he really is.  Just some odd clues.  His neighbours don't help much they tell him he is a writer researching a book.  But... he finds no notes, no writing on the laptop.  Actually... nothing at all again... Only that he is a beekeeper with some hives that are secreted somewhere he clearly didn't want them to be found in.

The second thread is a teenager who is convinced her missing father isn't dead and then when his best friend is killed just after giving her a clue that she may be right she suspects foul play.

Brilliant story as I say - especially the science at the bottom of the plot.

Two thumbs up on the FITUBRS*


The Muse - Jessie Burton 

I loved her first novel the Miniaturist.  This one is set in two locations and times.  1967 in London and the beginning of the Spanish Civil war in Spain.  What is the link?  Other than a undiscovered masterpiece painting that is uncovered in 1967.  Who was the artist?  What happened to them?  Who is the mysterious Quick who gives our heroine a job in an art dealership in 1967?

Nicely spun with the true link between the times and the characters kept hidden and still some surprises towards the end that weren't telegraphed in the plot make this a really enjoyable read.

One thumb up definitely possibly two - close call 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

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Shergold Guitars return.

2017 has started with a really good piece of news.  Back in the late 70s / early 80s Shergold guitars were one of the top British brands around growing in the Burns tradition of something unique and quirky not just based on USA designs.  A nascent band I was in that was a 5 piece that reformed itself a few months later as a 4 piece that had some success had a lead guitarist who had a Shergold Masquerader.  I remember it being a seriously good guitar - esp when compared to the Columbus Strat copy I possessed at the time.  This is the model I remember...



Well Barnes and Mullins, a well known distributor in the UK, has bought the company name and set up with a 21st century make over and relaunch.  They've enlisted Patrick Eggle as the consultant to design the launch model.  Patrick has taken the Masquerader body shape, updated the headstock to avoid the friction inducing string guides and used Seymour Duncan pickups offering various pickup combinations and introduced a 21st Century Shergold model.

It's a good looking thing and if the Faith acoustic guitars that Patrick helps design are anything to go by I expect these to be really good to play.  For me a little shame that some of the Masquerader's pioneering, but complicated, pickup switching has gone and that the pickups are not Shergold home wound ones but there again I chuckled at seeing a reliced Les Paul hanging in a London Store the other day - £4,000 and with DiMazio PAFs in it to create what many did in the 70s when they found their tour weary 20 year old units failing i.e. looked to the component market.   However I'm really keen to see another old UK name back in the fold and wish it success.


Tuesday, 3 January 2017

2016 Review of the year

It is remiss of me but I've missed getting the annual Furtheron review of the year out before the end of the the year... oh well.

Gig of the Year
In days gone by this would have been hotly contested as I attended so many gigs but finances, commitments and my ears have meant less choice these days.  So from a very very small list the winners are Joe Bonamassa.
CD of the year

Rock -Going to give this to Wild by Joanne Shaw Taylor.  This has been a mainstay on my playlist since it's release.  Fantastic playing and singing - Joanne is as good as Joe Bonamassa and many many others in this genre on this outing.

Folk - Has to be the superb On a Winter's Night by Cara Dillon which I bought as my Christmas listening this year.  It is a stunning album worth getting to keep for next year but frankly so good I can't believe I'll be digging out still in the summer!  Holly and the Ivy is just to die for - she has frankly one of the greatest voices in folk currently.

DVD of the year - I got Joe Bonamassa's Live at the Greek Theatre for Christmas - stunning!  A tribute to the three Kings, Freddie, Albert and BB played almost exclusively on vintage instruments including Alberts own custom Flying Vee known as Lucy.  Joe might be my "rock" in  his approach than the three Kings but the show is a tremendous tribute and top draw throughout.  The list of guitars is boggling, however the notes are not totally correct, Joe uses I believe a genuine 58 Vee but it is incorrectly noted as the famous Amos one - which is can't be it isn't a black scratchplate, also there is a large additional plate on the bass side making it a huge looking symmetrical plate.  Also he forgets (!?!) a 58 Explorer that comes out for one number!

Read of the Year
I only got round to reading this this year so goes to Time after Time by Ben Elton.  I can't praise this enough, I love the writing style but the concept whilst out there (time travelling to correct mistakes in history) once things start to get revealed I just love the point it is making about humanity as it has been throughout the 20th Century and 21st Century.