Thursday, December 31, 2009
Sometimes, peace can only be achieved through superior firepower.
To all my police friends out there working tonight to try to keep the people safe on the highways, Be careful out there!
Sunday, December 27, 2009
THE ABOVE IMAGE IS OF THE EXCELLENT SAN FRANCISCO DRUM COMPANY WEBSITE.
I don't own one of these kits, but I have played on one in LA in the recent past, and it does sound GREAT! I love a big bass drum and these drums sound classic and have great tone.
The above kit illustrates what is meant when someone says a 4 piece drum set (or kit). Four drums. Certainly, as I woefully found out after choosing to play drums and learning to play them, a four piece kit consists of MANY MORE than four pieces, most of which are heavy and must be lugged from place to place, along with the cymbals. All in all, a minimal 4 piece kit would usually include what is shown above plus one more cymbal and stand for a total of five cymbals (two hi-hat, two crash and one ride). So you can see that when you start talking 4 drums AND 5 cymbals, you start talking a 9 piece kit, and we have not yet counted other stands, seats and accessories.
But as I often do, I digress.
The point is, a four piece kit is the essence of drumming boiled down to it's essentials. In my youth, it was fashionable to have very large drumsets. I had several large kits in my youth and into my 20's, when it got to the point of ridiculousness.
I was playing a five piece drum kit, augmented by three small roto tom drums, accompanied by various toms of a simmons electronic drum set, and all of the attendant cymbals and stands and electronics weighing over a hundred pounds. The Peavey electronic drum monitor amp I used weighed at least 75 pounds and was HUGE and UNWIELDY.
I had an epiphony in the late eighties, and basically began using a four piece kit more and more, until I pretty much exclusively went to a four drum and five cymbal set up. I'll usually have a large cowbell, which I frequently use to augment a rhythm, and have occasionally added electronics to my kit for fun.
But when I'm gigging, I'm taking the minimum. The lightweight stands I have weigh less than a third what the huge bohemoth double braced heavy duty withstand a hurricane stands I used in the 70's and 80's. Over the years, in my quest for lightweight hardware and drums, I've found solutions to my problems with lightweight steel or aluminum cymbal, hi hat and snare stands.
Having played a five piece kit off and on as the basic core of my drum kit for more than 20 years, it took some time to adjust to having one less tom on top of the bass drum or on the floor. But I've found that creative sticking techniques (learned as a child from instructor the late Joe Raynor) can get multiple sounds out of toms.
I was playing a four piece kit for my first drum set, a used set of Ludwigs. It was in the early 70's, and my dad had picked them up cheap from a fellow needing to repair his motorcycle, a Ducati as I recall. They were old 50's drums, with a 22" bass, 12" and 16" floor tom and they sounded great.
But some of the bands I followed back then had drumsets with double bass drums and 8 toms and many cymbals and I had played on a few such sets at friend's homes and at music stores. You could certainly be very busy on a big kit like that. As I pleaded one Christmas to Santa as to how I needed a huge drum kit from Santa "to be a really great drummer", my Father ruefully remarked that "Gene Krupa didn't need 20 drums to be great. All he needed was four drums. And that Buddy Rich. I noticed he has five drums but really only plays four. He keeps his ashtray and towel on the fifth drum in the back.
These things were all true. I should have listened to his wise words back then more carefully, but of course at 14 or 15 I KNEW I was much smarter than my folks in oh so many ways. Of course, inevitably, I was wrong. And not just about not needed 20 drums in a drum set.
As these things often turn out, 15 years later after my large drumkit early teen Christmas wish, I had been playing a four piece kit for a while. I was doing a new gig with a fairly established Houston blues band, and after the second smoking set, which really did groove, the lead guitarist of the band told me that I was "just like Al Jackson, Man! Right there in the pocket". Man, that's the biggest drumming compliment I've ever had before or since, notwithstanding the drumming compliments given my by my homeboys Billy Ray and Ricky Ray.
That lead guitarist remains a good friend to this day, over twenty years later. But then at the time, I had only known him a months when he paid me that compliment.
I had finally learned that LESS IS MORE, both in the size of my drum kit and in the style and content of my drumming.
As time went on, I ended up working with an awful lot of bands from the late 80's to the 2000's. I'm still playing with two bands, but those are both of an semi-regular nature. People compliment me constantly on my drumming, to the point of making me laugh. Because I'm doing simple stuff. Grooving, but simple.
I think in this materialistic world that it's a mantra we should all think about. We don't have to go extreme in adopting it as a motto, but as an adage it's got some useful applications.
LESS IS MORE: THE ZEN OF DRUMMING
Al Jackson is a story unto himself, of which I have not done near enough research to be worthy to attempt to tell here. Endearing, but somewhat of a rascal, he was what I think of when I think of a bluesman in the 60's and 70's. Bluesman Version 3.0, what came after the first two generations of blues musicians that originated this fine art form in this country.
Briefly, Al Jackson was a hitmaker drummer, working for STAX records and was a member of Booker T and the MG's along with Steve Cropper and Donald Duck Dunne. He played with Albert King and a host of other artists, both live and on record, and died a tragic death in the mid-70's. All kinds of rumors, none good, surround his death. But he had a helluva run on drums drumming for some of the greats and creating a place in drumming history that won't be forgotten as long as folks are listening to the music he helped play, and often times, arrange and write.
But when he lived he played to live and lived to play. Although he played on tons of hits and with tons of "big name" and no name artists, his work with Al Green was of such influence to so many drummers as to be of legend.
His famous hitting the tom with a rimshot (or occasionally a congo next to the tom) as an occasional backbeat became such an emotive lick, as famous as the patented high hat beat of Charlie Watts (when laying down a groove, Watts does not generally hit the hi hat and the snare at the same time, contrary to what many other musicians do, and this "Watts Beat" is known to most drummers my age. Just listen to Jumping Jack Flash for an example).
So when Jordan via his playing in the early 80's brought my attention back to the fact that so much could be accomplished rhythmically, he was drawing on influences like Al Jackson, Jr. to get his LESS IS MORE vibe going on the kit. It took me about 15 years to connect the dots and make the connection and begin my travel down the LESS IS MORE road than it did Jordan. And to tell the truth, I'm not half as good as guys like Jordan and Al Jackson. Sure, I can do most of what they can do, but they have that special feel.
Billy Ray refers to that special feel as "the killer instinct". I agree with him that you're either born with it or not. Guys like Billy Ray and I love to make our music and love to write music and to play the songs of others, but we have to work very very hard to be half decent and to guys like Steve Jordan and Al Jackson, Jr., it just comes as naturally as breathing.
Here's the wiki information that covers some of the artists Al played with (but not all) and talks about the tragic last few months of his life:
"Al Jackson, Jr. (November 27, 1935 - October 1, 1975) was a drummer, producer, and songwriter. He is best known as a founding member of Booker T. & the M.G.s, a group of session musicians who worked for Stax Records and produced their own instrumentals. Jackson was called "The Human Timekeeper" for his drumming ability.
Jackson's father, Al Jackson Sr. led a jazz/swing dance band in Memphis, Tennessee. The young Jackson started drumming at an early age and began playing on stage with his father's band in 1940 at the age of 5. He later began playing in producer/trumpeter Willie Mitchell's band and at the same time was holding down the chair with the popular Ben Branch Band. Future bandmates Steve Cropper and Donald "Duck" Dunn first saw Jackson playing in Mitchell's band at the all white Manhattan Club.
Jackson became one of the most important and influential drummers in the history of recorded music at Stax, providing an instantly recognizable backbeat behind the label's artists which included Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Eddie Floyd, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, and Blues guitarist Albert King, who Jackson also produced. In the Seventies, Jackson co-wrote and played on several hits by Al Green, including "Let's Stay Together" and "I'm Still in Love with You".
After researching the history of Stax for ten years, Grammy Award winning Musicology professor Rob Bowman wrote in Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records that (paraphrasing) four years after the last Booker T. & the MGs album, 1971's Melting Pot, the group got together and decided to wrap up all of their individual productions and devote three years to a reunion of the band. On September 30, 1975, Al Jackson was scheduled to fly to Detroit, Michigan, to produce a Major Lance session when he heard the DJ on the radio reminding everyone of the Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali fight that night. Jackson called Detroit and said he was going to watch "The Thrilla in Manila" with his girlfriend on the big screen at the Mid-South Coliseum. (Though still legally married, Jackson was estranged from his wife. In July 1975 his wife had shot him in the chest. He decided not to press charges, but was in the process of a divorce and was planning to move to Atlanta, Georgia, to begin working with Stax singer/songwriter William Bell.)
After the Ali-Frazier fight, Jackson returned home and found intruders in his house. He was reportedly told to get down on his knees and then shot fatally five times in the back. Around 3:00 a.m. on October 1, Barbara Jackson ran out in the street, yelling for help. She told police that burglars had tied her up and then shot her husband when he returned home. Police found nothing in the house out of place and Al Jackson's wallet and jewelry were still on him. The man police believed to have pulled the trigger – the then-boyfriend of R&B singer Denise LaSalle – had reportedly known someone in Memphis and after robbing a bank in Florida, told them to meet him over at Al Jackson's house. Indictments against Barbara Jackson, Denise LaSalle and her boyfriend were supposed to be served, but never were. Tracked through Florida to Memphis to Seattle, Washington, the suspected triggerman was killed by a police officer on July 15, 1976 after a gun battle.
Jackson used Rogers Drums with a 20" bass drum, 12" tom, 16" floor tom, and occasionally a 13" tom. He used a 14"x5" Ludwig aluminum shell snare drum with 8 lugs. Zildjian 16" Crash, 18" Ride, and 14" Hi-Hats."
The only part I'll disagree with about the equipment is that I've read several interviews with folks like Steve Cropper. Here's an excerpt from a Cropper interview where he tells what it was that Jackson played, which is from this great website by drumming legend Jim Payne:
Jackson may have used Rogers kits on tour, but that sound that was pounded into your head from the drums on all the songs he played on recordings on was likely the one Cropper recalls. I mean, who would know better than the guitarist?
"The other thing is that Al Jackson never changed his heads, unless he broke one. The same thing with the bass and guitar. If we broke a string we changed it, if we didn't, it never got changed.
Al never changed those drums. I think he had a Ludwig and Rogers combination, kind of a mix 'n' match. He had a medium size kick drum, 20-inch I believe, and he had a Rogers floor tom, grey pearl, and then a little 12-inch tom over head. It was a little black drum.
The other thing that Al used to do that was different - he wasn't the only drummer that ever did it - but when he came down to do a session, the first thing he did was reach in his back pocket, and pull out this big fat billfold and plop it on the snare. Other guys used tape or a muffler. Al just plopped a billfold down there. The old records didn't have a lot of decay time, the snares didn't ring too much and there's not a lot of cymbals, because we didn't mike the cymbals."
Here's the intro to the wiki page about Booker T. and the MGs:
"Booker T. & the M.G.'s
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Booker T. & the M.G.'s live in Tunica, Mississippi, 2002
Memphis, Tenn.., U.S.
R&B, Instrumental rock, Electric blues
Booker T. JonesDonald "Duck" DunnSteve CropperSteve Potts
Lewie SteinbergAl Jackson, Jr.
Booker T. & the M.G.'s are an instrumental R&B band that was influential in shaping the sound of Southern Soul and Memphis Soul. In the 1960s, as members of the house band of Stax Records, they played on hundreds of recordings by artists such as Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Carla and Rufus Thomas and Johnnie Taylor. They also released instrumental records under their own name, such as the 1962 hit single "Green Onions". As originators of the unique Stax sound, the group was one of the most prolific, respected, and imitated of their era. By the mid-1960s, bands on both sides of the Atlantic were trying to sound like Booker T. & the M.G.'s.
Original members of the group were Booker T. Jones (organ, piano), Steve Cropper (guitar), Lewie Steinberg (bass), and Al Jackson Jr. (drums). In 1965 Steinberg was replaced by Donald "Duck" Dunn, who has played with the group ever since. Al Jackson Jr. was murdered in 1975, since then the trio of Dunn, Cropper and Jones have reunited on numerous occasions using various drummers, including Willie Hall, Anton Fig, Steve Jordan and Steve Potts.
Having two white members (Cropper and Dunn), Booker T. & the M.G.'s were unusual in being racially integrated, at a time when Soul music, and the Memphis music scene in particular, were generally considered the preserve of black culture."
To truly understand the influence of Al Jackson Jr. and his bandmates, I'll close with this excerpt from the Booker T and the MG's page about their studio work for others at STAX:
"As members of the Stax "house band"
Instrumental singles and albums would continue to be issued by Booker T. & The M.G.'s throughout the 1960s. However, although a successful recording combo in their own right, the bulk of the work done by the musicians in the band during this era was as the core of the de facto house band at Stax Records. Members of Booker T. & The M.G.'s (often, but not always, performing as a unit) performed as the studio backing band for Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Albert King, Johnnie Taylor, Eddie Floyd, The Staple Singers, Wilson Pickett, Delaney & Bonnie and many others in the 1960s. They played on and produced hundreds of records, including classics like Walking the Dog, Hold On, I'm Comin' (on which the multi-instrumentalist Jones played tuba over Donald "Duck" Dunn's bass line), Soul Man, Who's Making Love, I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now), and Try a Little Tenderness, among others. They are thought to have defined Soul music — especially "Southern Soul" — where "the groove" was most important.
Though it's often assumed that Booker T. Jones played on all the above session work, in the mid-1960s Jones was often studying music full-time at Indiana University. Stax writer/producer Isaac Hayes usually stepped in on the occasions when Jones was unavailable for session work, and on several sessions Jones and Hayes played together with one on organ, the other on piano. However, Hayes was never an official member of the M.G.'s, and Jones played on all the records credited to "Booker T. & The M.G.'s" -- with one exception. That exception was the 1965 hit "Boot-Leg", a studio jam recorded with Hayes on keyboards in Jones' place. According to Steve Cropper, the song was recorded with the intention of being released as by The Mar-Keys (another name used to release singles by the Stax house band.) However, as recordings credited to Booker T. & The M.G.'s were meeting with greater commercial success than those credited to The Mar-Keys, the decision was made to credit "Boot-Leg" to Booker T. & The M.G.'s, even though Booker T. himself does not appear on the recording.
Individual session credits notwithstanding, what's indisputable is that the Stax house band (Cropper, Jackson, Jones, and Steinberg, along with Cropper's Mar-Keys bandmate, bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn; keyboardist Isaac Hayes; and various horn players, most frequently Floyd Newman, Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love) would set a standard for soul music. Whereas the sign outside Detroit's pop-oriented Motown Records aptly read "Hitsville U.S.A.", the marquee outside of the converted movie theatre where Stax was based proclaimed "Soulsville U.S.A."."
Saturday, December 26, 2009
But it's a good magazine, it's just that I had little interest in reading about drummers born in the 80's who are stars now. The other stalwart longtime drum magazine, MODERN DRUMMER, has sort of gone the same way, just not as much. It features some stories, as does DRUM!, about drummers I'm interested in, who are primarily drummers born BEFORE 1980.
CLASSIC DRUMMER is the magazine I read now, but it only comes out either bi-monthly or quarterly. I used to read a special drum magazine called TRAPS that was started by DRUM! and is just the kind of magazine I was looking for, but it bit the dust last year with the economy. TRAPS was probably the best drum and drumming magazine that ever existed.
But I bought DRUM! anyway, just to read the interview with Steve Jordan, which although it was very brief, was somewhat informative on what he was currently up to.
How this all ties in is this: In drumming, and in other endeavors both musical and non-musical, I and many others have found that less is more. By that, I mean that playing less can be far more meaningful than trying to show off every rudiment and drum lick you know when you play.
Drummers mostly call this "being busy", unless you are a member of certain genres of music that actually pride themselves on "busy" hyper-technical playing. For example, in the guitar world, rock artists like Steve Vai and others who play what I call "Wheddley-Wee" music, you know, the guitarists who literally set their guitar fretboards on fire with their fast moving fingers. And not just on solo's, but all the way through the songs.
One thing about being a "busy" musician be it a drummer, bassist, keyboardist, horn player, guitarist or what have you is that YOU BETTER HAVE THE SOLID CHOPS to back up that kind of playing. I have nothing against musicians who play busy, in fact, artists like Van Halen and lots of the 70's jazz fusion artists like Billy Cobham, Mahavishnu Orchestra and others played hyper technical "genius" level music with great aplomb, and my record collection is replete with some of the finest examples of these genres. I even have Steve Vai's solo album Flex-able.
But it took me about 15 years of drumming to learn that being busy wasn't impressing anyone but myself. Once I realized this, my drumset shed drums, down to a basic 4 pc drum kit with fewer cymbals, where I've more or less remained for the last 20 years. Back in the day, in the mid-eighties, I had been drumming slightly less than 15 years and had a HUGE drum kit. I shudder to think of the time and energy I wasted all of those years loading all of my gear in and out of my house and at gigs.
One major reason I shrank the size of my drum kit was a drummer named Steve Jordan. Back then, in the early 80's, I first became aware of him as the first drummer in the David Letterman show band. He played a 4 pc. Yamaha kit, with two crash cymbals, one ride, a tamborine and cowbell and a hi-hat. That's it. And he rocked. As I've mentioned before in other posts, lots of my musician friends would watch or tape Letterman back then just to catch the songs the band was doing at the breaks and the beginning and end of the show, so talented were it's musicians.
Ultimately, Jordan left the Letterman band and was replaced by Anton Fig, who is still in Letterman's band today. During the 80's, I found out a little of Jordan's drumming history. His first big gig was with the Saturday Night Live band, a gig he scored while still in his teens. From that, he did some of the recordings (but not the movie) with the Blues Brothers band and has gone on to play with a zillion artists since then.
Most recently, in addition to producing many high profile artists, he has been doing tours and albums with stellar folks like John Maher and Eric Clapton. Steve's drumming rocks and he has achieved great fame and fortune based largely upon one secret he discovered in his drumming years before I did: LESS IS MORE.
I have several albums of Jordan's that were done in a somewhat busier fashion than much of his playing. The names of the bands escape me now, but they were early 80's NYC bands that Jordan played in. The dude has got some really serious chops. He can play hypertechnical drumming stuff with what seems the greatest of ease. But mostly, he chooses to do groove drumming, where the space BETWEEN the notes you play IS AS IMPORTANT as the notes YOU DO play.
This topic has been expounded on by many over the years, it's not like I discovered something, but Steve Jordan was one of the folks that helped me discover that LESS IS MORE. Through his playing on Letterman, and the re-runs I saw from old SNL episodes when he was in the band, I heard Jordan playing versions of cover songs that I was playing in bands, and his versions were much simpler. And sounded better.
Since those early days of watching Jordan on TV in the 80's, I've had a chance to watch on video/dvd, see live or listen to on CD numerous performances of his great yet restrained drumming. Groove drumming at it's finest in every instance.
After joining Stevie Wonder's band as a teen, Jordan went on to do the aforementioned gigs on Saturday Night Live and Letterman. After leaving Letterman, he's played/recorded/toured and/or produced with many superstars. Dylan. Clapton. Maher. Don Henley. Cheryl Crow. Stevie Nicks. Neil Young. John Mellencamp. Sonny Rollins. B.B. King. The list goes on and on since the late 70's.
Also recording the Rolling Stones album Dirty Work in the mid-eighties (subbing along with his sucessor from the Letterman show Anton Fig, for ill and allegedly addicted Charlie Watts), which led to a long association producing and drumming for Keith Richards. Richards used Jordan in a tribute to Chuck Berry (which included Chuck Berry) and then in Richard's late 80's and early 90's solo band X-pensive Winos. Here's a wiki blurb from Jordan's wiki page that tells a little of the tale:
Jordan, along with fellow Shaffer alumnus Anton Fig, appeared on the Rolling Stones' 1986 release Dirty Work when Charlie Watts' participation was stilled due to his substance abuse problems in the mid-80's. In the wake of this work, Keith Richards hired Jordan to play on Aretha Franklin's cover of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" for a film of the same name.
According to Richards, Jordan pressed Richards on the plane ride home from Aretha's recording session in Detroit to be included in the upcoming documentary by Taylor Hackford Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll, a tribute to Chuck Berry. Richards had been hoping to include Charlie Watts in the project, but when this proved unfeasible, Jordan was hired and he appeared in many scenes with Berry and Richards .
The success of this project led to Jordan's membership in Keith Richards and the X-pensive Winos, a band that toured and recorded with Richards in 1988 and 1992 for Talk is Cheap and Main Offender.
If I had to recommend a place to start listening to Steve Jordan, for non-drummers OR for lovers of the blues played by some of the best modern bluesmen, I'd say the Blues Brothers CD from 1978 – Briefcase Full of Blues (Atlantic) is the place to start. I think he recorded all of the original Blues Brothers albums. I know for sure he recorded the first three albums they released and toured extensively with the Blues Brothers. Unfortunately, he was not in the movie but that was due to schedule conflicts and nothing else.
If you're more into blues rock and roll and more modern sounding rock, then either of the above-mentioned Keith Richards' solo albums from 1988 and 1992 with the X-pensive Wino band (not billed as such in the title). There's also a live dvd of the band that I have that rocks and there is a live cd from the same gig as the dvd.
Jordan is married to singer Meegan Voss, and together they have a band called The Verbs. http://www.verbs.com/ Jordan says in the DRUM! interview that this band is his best ever.
The thing I've always admired about Jordan is that he's kept a low profile. He's not famous for partying, although he may very well do his share of that, or he may not at all. I do know he is famous for working. He is always working, and from everything I've read, he's been working hard since before he was 18 when he got some breaks and got to actually apparently make some money AND play music and produce full time.
I've always admired a self-made man, and in my mind, Jordan is a living example of a guy who worked hard for his own breaks and now has something very few seem to have these days: A gig he loves.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
One great movie that I discovered by accident in the grocery store check out line in 2004 was The Chonicles of Riddick, starring Vin Diesel. I had no idea what the movie was about, although I could tell it was a sci-fi movie of some sort and I'm not that all into sci-fi unless it's very well done like The Matrix Trilogy.
This became one of my favorite movies. Vin is a great actor, and even though I was only familiar at the time with his work in the action movie Triple X, it looked like "my kind of movie". It was and I've watched it many times since then.
Anyway, soon thereafter I bought the first movie in the franchise, Pitch Black, which filled in some of the back story about The Chronicles of Riddick.
You can read about the character here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riddick and about the movie here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chronicles_of_Riddick.
And yes, I'm hoping the information at the bottom of the last cite/site is correct, that Vin and producer David Twohy are working on a Riddick sequel due to begin filming soon. Here's the clip from wiki:
In a March 8, 2006, article on Comingsoon.net, it was reported that Vin Diesel claimed that a sequel to The Chronicles of Riddick was in the works. According to him, he had already written a storyline that covered a trilogy which began with the Chronicles of Riddick. Another article on Comingsoon.net, written on March 11, 2005, reports that Vin Diesel states that Chronicles 2 was to deal with The Underverse, while Chronicles 3 was to conclude the series with a return to Furya.
An article dated November 10, 2007, on countingdown.com, further indicates that a sequel may be in works - "We're talking about it". David Twohy indicates however that it "probably won't be a Universal movie and probably will be an independent movie" seeing a much smaller budget.
Two more sequels have been confirmed for production, and David Twohy is now writing the scripts. Diesel told MTV News that in spite of the poor reception, the time between the sequels is only about getting it right, not about trying to find support.
"Everyone knows I love the Riddick character and I’m always working on it,” Diesel asserted. “It just takes five years to make another one because David Twohy and I are so precise about it.”
On March 20, 2009, Vin Diesel commented on a sequel in an interview on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, stating that David Twohy has nearly finished scripts, and is planning to start production on the third film in early 2010.
On November 30, 2009 Vin Diesel left an update on his Facebook page effectively announcing that pre-production work is underway on the Chronicles of Riddick sequel.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Sample of "Give It Away", the first single from Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)
Problems listening to this file? See media help.
Sample of "Under the Bridge" from Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991). The second single from the album, the song became a breakthrough hit, reaching number two on the Billboard charts.
Problems listening to this file? See media help.
The band embarked on the grueling six-month process of recording a new album the long periods of rehearsal, songwriting, and the incubating of ideas but Rubin was dissatisfied with a regular recording studio, thinking the band would work better in a less orthodox setting. He came across an "amazing, huge, empty historically landmarked Mediterranean haunted mansion a stone's throw from where we all lived." Rubin is the current owner of The mansion. For the next month or so, Frusciante, Kiedis and Flea remained in seclusion, never once leaving the house during the entire recording process. Smith, however, decided not to live in the house, believing it to be haunted.
Here's a good read from the LA TIMES about sponsorships and Tiger http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-ct-neil22-2009dec22,0,5392207.column.
---And just when I say the above, I read in the morning news that some AIG exec is getting a 4.5 million dollar pay package. How about a pay package that says either you repay the government all the money we've bailed you out with or everyone ranked VP and above goes to Fed prison for 5 years for misapplication of fiduciary property?
I think that the Wall Street and banking and insurance crowd is aware of the growing dissatisfaction with their good deeds, as I read earlier this month in a Bloomberg article called Arming Goldman Sachs With Pistols by Alice Schroeder. You can find it here at
As far as I know, Bloomberg Financial News has not descended into TMZ territory with this article and if accurate, reflects more growing unrest in this country and a growing distaste for the robber barons still running our banking industry, hand in hand with Wall Street and insurance companies doing their best part to bilk our country out of what few dollars the narco lords to the south have not added to their collections.
---I don't know who Brittany Murphy was and I'm not familiar with any of her movies, but it's always a horror to see a young person pass away. In reading some of the hyper-news coverage (Do you think El Tigre is relieved after three weeks straight of being the cover gossip dud of the day for TMZ and Radar Online and other gossip TV, print and internet outlets that someone famous died to take some of the coverage off of him).
Obviously, she was a successful actress financially, despite my never having heard of her. I saw a picture of her estate in the hills around LA, and the word that comes to mind is opulent. I know all too well that money isn't everything if you don't have your happiness or your health. God Speed to her and condolences to her family and friends.
---We watch a lot of Nick and Disney here at the house with El Fisho Jr. I must say I'm impressed with many of the offerings of both these networks, particularly with Nick and iCarly. Although some of the storylines are recycled from previous generations of sit coms, they are well done and impart messages and morals to the kids. I like that, and there is not enough good TV for families these days.
We like Spongebob a great deal as well, the writers for that show are hilarious. I don't know why I didn't catch on to Spongebob sooner, but as with my late discovery of Beavis and Butthead so many years ago, it's a hilarious show.
---I'll end with a not so random thought. Here's wishing everyone who stops by a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season, and here's looking forward to a great next year!
Monday, December 21, 2009
One of the blogs I frequently read is that of Banjo Jones at Banjo's Place where you can read his latest post about Heart covers a Lez Zeppelin song. No, seriously. "Evermore" . I'm assuming he likes it, because as a band Heart has been known to rock. I'd have loved to hear the first 70's incarnation of Heart playing Led Zep covers other than the much covered "Rock and Roll". It would have been rocking. Likewise, when Jimmy Page did his short stint with The Black Crowes, there were some excellent Zep covers coming out of that band.
Which leads me to my subject, the fact that I am fascinated, and often very entertained, by cover versions of hit songs or other folks music as done by others than the original artists. I have been known to seek out and buy cd's and albums with bands doing cover versions of songs I was either doing or wanted to do with bands I played with.
For example, one band I was playing with wanted to do a cover of the song "Brandy" by the one hit wonders Looking Glass. It was an incredibly hard song to play, as all of the musicians were talented jazzers and there are just all kinds of licks and flourishes and little add on parts that are very difficult to play and add subtle and necessary parts to the song, but these parts mostly escape the conscious ear until one trys to learn to play the song on an instrument.
Quite frankly, although good musicians all, we were having a hard time hitting a groove with the song trying to do these VERY DIFFICULT PARTS (for us, anyway) that these very talented jazzers had laid down in the original version.
So anyway, in seeking other bands that had played perhaps a simpler version of the song as a cover, I discovered that the Red Hot Chili Peppers had covered that song extensively in concerts. Finding that they had laid down one performance on a live CD gave us the tools to adapt the song to a much simpler version that didn't lose the groove and feeling of the song but was much easier to play.
We didn't sound like the Red Hots when we played our version, but folks recognized what it was and it was a big hit the night we played it.
For years, I've enjoyed listening to late 60's and early 70' instrumental jazz versions of some of the hit pop and rock songs of the day. Back in those days, jazzers were getting into loud electric guitars and sort of a rock band groove, while the rockers were sort of trying to be a bit jazzy and technical in their playing. Rock bands like Steely Dan and Yes featured highly technical and complex pop hit music played by virtuoso musicians.
I particularly liked Buddy Rich's treatment of one of the songs from the hit musical Jesus Christ Superstar. The young hotshot stars of his early seventies big band are blazing in their rendition of "Heaven on their Minds". The horns carry the vocal lines of the song, while the melody is covered as well. There is a guitar and electric bass, but the guitar is way down in the mix as compared to rock bands. These were the days when Buddy Rich was like royalty, appearing on Johnny Carson every few months it seemed.
From a later era, another favorite cover of mine was the late Hiram Bullock's cover of Steely Dan's Pretzel Logic
on Bullock's 1987 "Give it what you got" album. Hiram, as you may recall, was a mega-talented guitarist who was the first guitarist for the groundbreaking David Letterman Show Band in the early 1980's. Back in those days, lots of my musician friends used to watch Letterman if for no other reason than to catch the band intro's and outro's during breaks, playing instrumental and excellently arranged versions of various pop songs past and present.
I bought my first vcr in the early 1980's with one of the primary justifications being to tape the Letterman show so I could hear the songs the band was doing. Several of my musician friends did this as well, and we didn't think it at all odd at the time. We just liked hearing some fresh ideas on old songs that we sometimes played ourselves or would like to play.
So I like really good cover tunes. Sure, I've bought the various and sundry tribute CD's to artists like Led Zep, Clapton, Rolling Stongs and others.
But in recent years I became a big fan of several cover band projects of famous guitarist Micheal Schenker and Pat Travers. Both are known as "rock star" metal rock guitarists, albeit of different "metal genres", and there are things that both artists have done in their younger days that I really like. I've always enjoyed their work over the years in various bands, but earlier this decade they had several projects I really liked.
Both Schenker and Travers assembled legendary sidemen and released two cd's each with their bands playing cover tunes in their separate projects, and being a child of the sixties and seventies, I was familiar with most of the material they covered. Both of their CD's were released by Schrapnel Records with Mike Varney producing. Mike also played some tracks, I believe. What a rocking job Mike Varney has!
Pat Travers had the Pat Travers Power Trio, which issued the self-titled first CD in 2003 with a follow up entitled "Power Trio 2" in 2006. His back was rocking, and I highly recommend these cd's even if you do not think you were a big Pat Travers fan, as I thought before I heard them. Legendary rock drummer Aynsley Dunbar plays the skins and Gunter Nezhoda rocks the bass on both projects, laying down a serious rock and blues beat throughout both cd's.
Micheal Schenker had the Schenker-Pattison Summit. Their first 2004 CD, "The Endless Jam", also featured Aynsley Dunbar on drums and Gunter Nezhoda on bass and featured Davey Pattison on Vocals. Great singer, Pattison.
In 2005, they released "The Endless Jam Continues" which featured Pattison, Dunbar and Schenker from the previous effort and adding legendary bassist Tim Bogart. They cover a plethora of great tunes on this CD, such as Bad Company's "Rock Steady", Trower's "Too Rolling Stoned" and Clapton's "Layla", amongst others.
You can find the Pat Travers Power Trio cd's and the Schenker-Pattison Summit at Guitar 9 records online or at your favorite independent CD store that sells quality products. Interestingly, I bought several of these back in the day at an FYE store at the Katy Mills Mall. I have not been there for some time, but they used to stock an astonishingly diverse amount of music on CD.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
The amp pictured above is the tiny but good sounding Roland Microcube. It's got lots of features for such a small amp, including the ability to operate on batteries. My good friend and running buddy Billy Ray swears by his as a low volume practice amp.
You can find them for just under $100 on ebay or at musician's friend via price matching with the ebay seller. Normal retail is about $129.00 either at Guitar Center or via Musicians Friend or Music123. For the money, it's a great little amp.
Here's the copy from an online store about this amp, with a link to the page following the posted material:
"With the new Micro Cube, guitarists get a genuine Roland Cube amp in an ultra-compact package that even runs on batteries. Weighing in at just a few pounds, the Micro Cube packs a big punch and comes with six DSP effects, COSM Amp Modeling and a new Digital Tuning Forkgiving guitarists everything they need for killer tone on the go.
-Ultra-compact portable DSP guitar amp with 5-inch speaker
-Runs on battery or AC power (adapter supplied) and includes carry strap
-7 COSM guitar amp models including JC-120 and a special mic preamp model
-6 DSP effects: chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo and separate Delay/Reverb
-New Digital Tuning Fork with support for flat tunings up to 2 semitones
-Recording/Headphones output and stereo Auxiliary input for CD players, etc.
-Details Rock for 20 Hours on BatteriesThe Micro Cube is the first Cube amplifier -that runs on battery or AC power. Using six AA alkaline batteries, you can play for up to 20 hours thanks to the Micro Cube's high-efficiency amplifier. A carrying strap is also included, allowing you to be heard just about anywhere you want. And the sound? It's a Cube, so you know it sounds great!
7 Classic and Modern Amp ModelsLooking for the sound of Roland's JC-120 Jazz Chorus or your favorite British combo amp? You'll find those and more in the Micro Cube, thanks to seven COSM amp models. Roland's COSM technology is the only modeling method that captures every nuance of the original amps'from the preamp and circuits to the speaker. All you need is the Micro Cube for perfect tone.High-Quality EffectsThere's no need to lug around pedals when the Micro Cube comes with six DSP effects. All the essentials are included from chorus and flanging to a phaser and tremolo effect. A separate Delay/Reverb processor lets you dial in anything from slapback and long delays to reverb and more (in addition to using one of the aforementioned modulation effects).New Digital Tuning Fork and MoreTuning up is a snap using the new Digital Tuning Fork. Just press the Tuning Fork button (the harder you hit it the louder the sound) and you get an instant reference tone with support for flat tunings up to two semitones. The Micro Cube also comes with a choice of 1/4-inch and 1/8-inch stereo Auxiliary inputs great for connecting a CD player or line-level instrument plus a Recording/Headphones output. Take a Cube anywhere you go!
Billy Ray has lots of good amps, past and present, and currently favors Mesa Boogies and an old Fender Musicmaster Bass Amp. But he really likes him some Roland Microcube.
I have the upgrade from this amp for bass, the Roland MICRO CUBE BASS RX Portable Bass Amplifier, which is just slightly larger than the guitar Microcube amp pictured above. For just sitting around and jamming or even for home recording use, these are just great.
The the Guitar Microcube, I could even see doing a small Starbucks type gig with a guitar or two being amplified through these, perhaps running a line out to a small PA for some extra volume if needed. But the Guitar Microcube is surprisingly loud for it's size.
It's good for taking around on car vacations. I like to do some picking when on a vacation, often after the family has gone to bed. You can have some fun with the sounds built into this amp, and some of the sounds are pretty good considering the size of this micro amp.
Roland has an innovative history of products both electronic and amplified. The Cube line of amps are not new, but the Microcube is the latest generation of what are some very cool amps in the current and past Cube line.
I'm going to write next about a Roland Cube amp they don't make anymore, The Blues Cube.