Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This Weeks Best Guitar Cds - Week of 05/31/2011

Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard of Ozz / Diary of a Madman (Expanded Editions)
  Reissues in the top slot for the weeks best guitar Cds? What this? With so many of his achievements now commonplace,it's difficult for younger people to understand the impact of Randy Rhoads. Unless you were aware of European heavy metal enough to be familiar with Uli John Roth's work in The Scorpions,you hadn't heard that kind of classical inspired lead work before,most certainly not from an American guitar player. The precision of the double (and triple!) tracking was unprecedented. These albums stand as major achievements in heavy metal and are two of my personal favorites. While these are indeed "remastered",a better term might be "restored". These are the original performances,back on Cd for the first time since the rerecorded debacle meant to rob Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake of royalties.
If you can't find it in your heart to put more money in the Osbournes coffers,I understand. The catch is, when there is a brilliant artist like Randy Rhoads,whose career is so cruelly brief,every recording is a treasure. What of the new material,then? Thankfully,it's stuff you actually want to listen to more than once. Blizzard is a single Cd with the B-side "Looking at You,Looking at Me", a 2010 vocals and guitar only remix of "Goodbye to Romance" (Hey,a legitimate reason to remove bass and drum tracks! There's a new trend.) and about a minute of solo Randy that will make you wish he had recorded an "Eruption" style shred fest.I would love for the tapes released as "Live E.P.",containing the B-Side "You Said it All", to turn up some day.I have this on a bloody CASSETTE and wouldn't mind a nice Cd version. Diary is a two disc affair,offering up a live set,all songs you've heard before ,but it's always interesting to hear different versions. The most interesting thing about Randy live,is how he would take a song with multiple lead and rhythm tracks and seamlessly edit them into a one guitar performance. Greedy Osbournes or not, I think Randy's worth it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

This Weeks Best Guitar Cds - Week of 05/24/2011

Neal Morse - Testimony 2
   Man,you know you've fully embraced the grandiose nature of progressive rock when you've released a two Cd concept album and that wasn't quite enough for you. Given that a crammed full Cd is really a double album in vinyl terms,2003's Testimony was a four album set. Here comes volume two to say "...and another thing" and you know what? I love it. Prog has never been about concise pop songs and it never will be. This has all the epic grandeur and intricate riffing that made Spock's Beard a leader in current prog rock circles. His old pals from Spock's Beard even pop by to play on the track "Time Changer". Some people will be put off by Morse's now openly Christian slant,but really,anyone showing up for the music won't be disappointed. (It's not like anyone who still throws on "Tales From Topographic Oceans" now and again is listening for the lyrics.)  
  I don't hear much buzz about fantastic bassist Randy George from my bass player friends but perhaps this album will help change that. Drummer Mike Portnoy returns to the drum chair and is as skilled as ever. You drummer types can see a photo I took of Portnoy here. This is another winner in Morse's increasingly impressive post-SB catalog.

More Cd reviews below...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

How do you make a great parts "Tele" even greater? Add a TV Jones pickup!

Here's our guitar "Before" the install.
  My friend Patrick has been having a blast getting his home guitar workshop up and running. He's been putting together parts guitars and practicing his finish work. This is a Tele style guitar he did a surf green relic style finish on. I did the bone nut,a fret level and recrown and with the exception of the copper shielding,I also did the wiring. After living with the guitar for a while,he wanted to bring it up a notch. Here's how it went...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Fender MIM P-Bass Gets Upgraded

   Fender's Made in Mexico line of guitars and basses offer great value for the money. The good quality of the neck and body make them prime candidates for modifications. They make good "bones" for building your own hot rod version of a Fender classic, adding your own personal touch. This Precision Bass got hotrodded with black hardware including new tuners,bridge,string tree,and knobs,and was routed for a Jazz Bazz bridge pickup and active EMG's.

Plenty more pictures below:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Best Guitar Cds of the Week - Week of 05/17/2011

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones - Rocket Science
   If you are uncertain if a guitarless album warrants headline status in an articles entitled "Best Guitar Cds of the Week",please spend some time checking out Bela Fleck and Victor Wooten. This week features the return of one of my favorite bands. With saxophonist Jeff Cotton defecting to full time duty in the Dave Matthews Band, the opportunity for Bela to reinvent the band with a new album arose. Not only a new album,but the reunion of Bela Fleck,Victor Wooten and Futureman with original member Howard Levy. I caught up to the Flecktones in 1991 with their second album "Flight of the Cosmic Hippo",so it was this version of the band I saw live. That show still remains one of the most jaw dropping concerts I've ever seen.
   The reentry of Levy allows them to visit the past in true Flecktone style,meaning it re-examines old strengths,but in new ways. Levy doubles on keys and harmonica,allowing for another chordal instrument when appropriate. While Levy certainly didn't invent jazz harmonica,it's a much less blatantly "Jazz" instrument than Jeff Cottons saxophone,reminding me just how left field this band was in 1990. Victor Wooten remains one of the best bassists on the planet and his chops are as staggering as ever. Hearing him again in this "old" context,I was struck by how much more mature and musical his choices are. He was never merely about flash over substance but his impressive skills are more cogent than ever. Futureman.,or rather his choice of "drumitar"..remains my one minor objection,although thanks to better sampling technology,he sounds FAR better today than the terribly dated sounds of 1991. I also enjoy the loosening of "the rules",allowing him to play actual percussion instruments on occasion. Bela Fleck is not just one of the best banjo players in the world,he is one of the most daring musicians around,using his popularity to explore new challenges. He is a true musical omnivore,a perfect example of what this blog is all about. It's alright to like Charlie Christian,Shostakovitch,Danny Gatton,Iron Maiden and Bill Monroe.

Plenty more guitar Cd reviews below,including what drummer I'd like to here with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones...Oh the anticipation!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

John Abercrombie at the Glendale Jazz and Blues Festival

   Here are my pictures of the John Abercrombie Organ Trio from this past April's Jazz and Blues Festival. This is an outdoor festival because after all, here in Arizona,it's nice and warm in April...except for that Saturday. Arizona natives were stunned to see water falling from the sky. Being a native New Yorker,I immediately recognized this phenomena as something the rest of the country calls "rain". It was a small but devout group of hardcore Abercrombie fans out in the rainy 50ish degree weather. Others may snicker at 50-something degrees being referred to as "cold",and fair enough,but we didn't have to move our hands around trying to play guitar! Thank you John and band for manning up and putting on your winter coats and playing a great show! John played his typical rig of a Brian Moore guitar through a Roland JC-120. After the show he was kind enough to sign a few things for us nut cases and mentioned he has a new Cd coming out later this year!
Plenty of pictures below...even a couple of the drummer!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Man discovers his old guitar at Musical Instrument Museum

   Here's a cool story from right here in Arizona. The man,who had the good taste to be into George Van Eps,rediscovered his old 7-string Gretsch 7580 at the Musical Instrument Museum:

Haven't checked out the Musical Instrument Museum? Definitely give it a look:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

This Weeks Best Guitar Cds - Week of 05/10/2011

Warren Haynes - Man In Motion
   I don't think Haynes meant for the title track of "Man In Motion" to be a literal telling of his tale,but it could be. Over a wah pedal groove he sings "...burn out factor is a part of the game,life should be an adventure" but he shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. With his band Govt. Mule providing an outlet for his power trio riffing jones and his gigs with The Allman Brothers Band and The Dead providing plenty of room for guitar soloing ,what could a solo album offer? Haynes delves into the funky soul side of the blues,focusing on his emotion drenched vocals. Fear not,there's still plenty of his fabulous guitar playing but this is definitely a song oriented album. To help drive home the songs,Haynes called up what must have been his dream list of backing musicians to lend a hand.  
  When you're already in a band with one of the most distinctive blues/rock organists around,who do call to fill the B3 chair? Ivan Neville is an inspired choice and his background vocals add even more soul to the mix. George Porter Jr. offers up a lesson on how to provide interesting bass lines,always moving but never too busy. Ian McLagen on piano plays electric piano much of the time adding just the right vintage vibe. I'm sure,with Warren Haynes busy schedule,it will be quite a while before we see another solo album so I'm glad we got a chance to see this side of his considerable talents.

More Guitar Cd reviews below,including Steve Khan,Chris Thiele and Anvil...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mothers (of Invention) Day!

  I'm spending this mothers day grilling up some BBQ pork ribs for my mom and dad,so in lieu of writing an actual article,here's some motherly love for Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. I miss Frank.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Best Guitar Cds of the Week - Week of 05/03/2011

Steve Hackett - Live Rails
  This album,recorded live in New York,London and Paris in 2009/2010, acts as both a sampler of his career and as an ample reminder of why he is considered a guitar hero in the progressive rock world. Here in the U.S.,guitar fans got to know Hackett first as the guitar player in Genesis during their artistic peak,and for the prog rock masterpiece "Voyage of the Acolyte". This two disc set does a nice job of acknowledging his early years,with Genesis tunes like "Firth of Fith" and Acolytes powerful album opener "Ace of Wands".  Not just a trip through the old days,there is also newer material and it compares nicely with the classics. Hackett's playing is as good as ever,always a blend of technique and texture. An early adopter of the Fernandez Sustainer pickup,you'll hear it's trademark feedback effects along with some pretty radical use of the Digitech Whammy pedal. You may also discover that Neal Schon isn't the only guitarist who has a Floyd Rose equipped Les Paul!
   The biggest surprise here,if you haven't been paying attention to Hackett in a while,is his superb backing band. Guitarist and vocalist Amanda Lehman will raise some eyebrows when people realize those great harmony vocals and intricate second guitar parts are coming from the beautiful blond woman. Nick Beggs shows of some skills,not just on the bass,but with the Chapman Stick. (I'll try and ignore the fact that Nick was a member of Kagagoogoo and try to focus on his work with guys like John Paul Jones and Hacketts pal, Steve Howe.) With apologies for diluting the guitar content,if you're a fan of big drum kits,be sure to check out drummer Gary O'Toole. It's like Nicko McBrain's and Stewart Copeland's kit had a baby! This is all a Steve Hackett fan could ask for,old favorites mixed with quality current tunes played by a great band.

More reviews of this week's best guitar Cds below including an 11-string Archguitar,some made in the USA power metal and some sweet Jim Hall reissues...