Saturday, 31 May 2008

Missing ABBA Star Guitar is a Malmberg!

Abba WaterlooI'd like to thank Goram Malmberg for all the extra information about this guitar. Please see the now updated article below.

Friday, 30 May 2008

The Biscuit Tin Les Paul

Biscuit Tin Les PaulBlimey, just look at that finish on this Les Paul replica. I'm sure my old grandmother used to have a biscuit tin with a design just like that on it.

The seller had this made for him with his own name on the headstock, but is selling because he wasn't happy with another brand name appearing on the back of the headstock. Check the pics on the link - it says "Gibson" which this guitar almost certainly isn't. The case also features the Gibson logo. Now, call me cynical if you like, but why do I suspect this was made in China?

Now, there's nothing wrong with replicas, but with that logo - even positioned where it is - I'd say that this was borderline counterfeit. Except, when did you ever see a Gibson with this lovely biscuit tin finish?

[Note for US readers: biscuits in the UK = cookies.]

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Objects of Desire. #2: Björn Ulvaeus' Star Guitar

Abba - Waterloo TV appearances
Speaking of the Eurovision Song Contest, as we were the other day, has caused me to think: Whatever happened to the silver star guitar as played by Abba's Björn Ulvaeus for their 1974 contest-winning entry "Waterloo"?

It would appear that I'm not the only one who'd like to know. Stockholm's Abba Museum dearly wanted the guitar as an exhibit, but it has mysteriously "gone missing" - under what circumstances we are not told - along with its twin, an identical guitar finished in gold.

Both guitars were created by the now legendary Swedish guitar manufacturer Hagström [NOTE: not true, see UPDATE #2 below], the gold one reportedly having been given as a prize for a competition held by German magazine Bravo. Björn only seemed to use the silver star guitar during the "Waterloo" period, at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest itself in Brighton, and on subsequent TV appearances when performing "Waterloo". As far as I am aware, he didn't play it publicly after this or for promoting any of their other songs.

Not one of the news reports I found made any mention of the last known whereabouts of the guitar (or its twin), although there were one of two references of one (or both?) of the guitars possibly being in the collection of a German fan.

Unfortunately, I cannot find any decent photographs of either guitar, other than the blurry TV screenshots showing Björn playing the silver star guitar that I've reproduced above. [As an aside, I always thought it was more "explosion"-shaped, rather than star-shaped, but that's what everyone else calls it. "Star guitar" makes me think of the 5-pointed star guitar used by the Glitter Band.]

So, do you know what happened to this important artefact of pop music history? I, for one, would love to know.

UPDATE: The plot thickens! This is getting more confusing. Was the star guitar actually built by Hagström as reported elsewhere? I found another link last night (and can I find that page again?) linking to the guy who supposedly built the star guitar for Abba. Goran Malmberg's website, which mainly focusses on sports cars, mentions that he used to be a guitar builder and still builds guitars now and then for special customers, and also shows some pictures of Abba and the star guitar (in one close-up we can clearly see the Malmberg logo on the scratchplate) plus pictures of Malmberg building a new star guitar for the Abba museum.

UPDATE #2: The Star Guitar is NOT a Hagström! It's a Malmberg!

Through the wonder of email I've been in touch with Goran Malmberg who tells me that (in his own words):
I did build the star ABBA guitar. I heard rumors myself about that Hagstrom should have built the guitar, but that's not so. It might be becouse Hagstrom is one of the few known guitar fabricators in Sweden, people draws the conclusion that they must have been the builder then. I am in no way connected with Hagstrom.

I have been in contact with the ABBA museum (under build up in Stockholm) about the guitar, and the guitar is really missing. From what I understand ABBA liked to alter their performance including new instruments, and the got other things to do than storing old stage gear. So, these things were left to roadies to handle. Time is passing by, and when the old star guitar is asked for around the world these days, no one knows who took care of it and where the guitar are.

There was ONLY one guitar made. In silver flake. The paint was in fact a Hot Rod car flake on a silver base with 100 (or something) layers of varnish on top. Might look as any base colour in a spotlight.

I designed the entire guitar shape. The original question from Bjorn was that they liked a guitar in the shape of a star, and I made a few baseline drawings for him to look at. If you look at the shape it is not symmetrical. We have the Gibson guitar "Flying V" and "Explorer" from the time that has "horns" in different directions. A common thing with those guitars along with my star guitar is that it has to serve a practical purpose, therfore the horns are pointing logical directions. The strap has to be fastened in a good balance possition. There should be no horn where one has its right arm. There has to be a horn to place tone and volume knobs. So the design issue was to find a design balance that included those features. I have seen copies of the guitar. No criticism, but if the builder does not has a very good picture to make a copy from, he will surley miss the geometric figures behind the design. And the guitar will not show the same harmony as the original.

About the "player" issue, it is just about the same as a Strat with patent number pickups. The body is laminate plywood, for the reason that the edge of the horns should not break. It is all solid as a Strat. Good sustain. However, the guitar main purpose was for image, and even if Bjorn had som "asking" for it as an instrument, there was newer any time for fine tune adjustments.

I am right now making two more copies of the guitar, one that is for the ABBA museum, for Bjorn to "accept" as alike during opening. The other is probably sold to an Italian ABBA enusiast. I am putting every possible effort to make them as original as possible.
So, that's part of the mystery solved. The whereabouts of the original is still unknown, and what was all this talk of a second guitar finished in gold? Was there ever a gold star guitar? A copy perhaps by another builder? Hagström even? (Could this be where the confusion came in as to who built the original?)

I'd like to thank Goran for taking the time to answer my questions. Remember, you read it here first, folks!

UPDATE #3: Yes, there was a Gold Star Guitar!

See: This will be the one belonging to the German fan who supposedly won it in a magazine competition. This guitar would not have built by Goran Malmberg, and is a copy of the original.
Vintage Guitars: A Sound Investment, Or Slipping Out Of Tune?: in recent years vintage guitars have been commanding ever-increasing and sometimes quite astronomical prices, but is the bubble about to burst?

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Back to the Future with the Chiquita guitar

The opening scene of Back to the Future in which Marty McFly plugs his guitar into an amp with the biggest speaker you ever did see and learns how to fly has got to be one of my favourite ever guitar-related scenes from the movies. It's right up there with This Is Spinal Tap's "These go to eleven".

Anyhoo, that little guitar that Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) has in the above clip, in case you ever wondered, is a Chiquita travel guitar. There have been a few of these turning up on eBay recently (including copies by Hondo), but this one (pictured below) is a very nice example of one of the original Erlewine Chiquitas.

Chiquita travel guitarChiquita travel guitar

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Domino Californian Rebel

Domino guitarApologies for my on-line absence over the last few days. I've had a broadband connection problem and haven't been able to get on-line at all.

Getting back on track again, here's a rarity for you. I've certainly not seen one before and haven't previously heard of the brand either. It's a Domino Californian Rebel, and as you may guess from the Teisco-like accoutrements it's a Japanese-built guitar from the 1960s. (More info).

On a different topic, did anyone see the Eurovision Forget About The Song And Vote For Your Friends Instead Contest this weekend? It's an outrage, I tell you. Still it was nice to see a few more guitar bands amongst the entrants (e.g. from Afghanistan and Finland). Which didn't stop the biggest pile of crap from Russia from winning. (Since when was Russia in Europe, anyway?)

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Switch Guitars - a modern classic and a future collectable?

Switch Future VISwitch Future VI
This eBay Seller has recently had a number of Switch guitars for sale, and from his blurb implies that he has others "waiting in the wings" and not yet listed. These guitars feature one-piece body and neck molded from a plastic material called Vibracell, which apparently has a similar consistency to mahogany. The sustain is supposedly an improvement on mahogany, and of course being entirely wood-free, these guitars have very good green credentials.

The example pictured above is the Future VI model, which appears to have been influenced by a favourite guitar design of mine, the Burns Flyte guitar.

My local music shop stocked this brand of guitar a few years ago and had examples in some quite eye-dazzling fluorescent colours - yellow, orange, green... I was always quite intrigued by them, but I think the loud colours deterred me somewhat.

The seller of these guitars on eBay has stated that Switch Guitars, the company, is no more (despite the official website still being active, but note the copyright date of 2003-2005 at the bottom of the home page). Perhaps they were too forward-thinking for their own good. I wonder, could these weird plastic guitars be the vintage guitars of the future? I have to admit that I like them.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

The Bong Guitar - Mike Edison's ChroniCaster

Here's another plexiglass-bodied guitar, but there's something else going on inside and it's definitely not a lightshow this time. I'll let this YouTube movie do the explaining.
Bell Custom Jazzblaster

Bell Custom Guitars

Bell Custom Guitars have some pretty tasty guitars on show over at their website, including several examples of a semi-plexiglass, semi-timber construction.

The Jazzblaster, for instance, is set-neck guitar with a body made of fused plexiglass and maple, and also has an on-board LED illumination system!

I'm not sure if the illumination is static or if they actually provide a "lightshow" inside the guitar, but nevertheless I am reminded of the Rickenbacker Model 331.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Your Guitars: Andy's "Les Pew"

Andy's Les Pew guitarRegular readers will realise by now that I get a lot of mileage out of EBay finds on this here blog. Another good place to find unusual and individual guitars, of course, is Myspace. Today I'm featuring a guitar built by one of my MySpace friends, Andy. I'll let him tell you all about it:
When my local church decided to remove the Victorian pews from their building I bought one for my kitchen but they only came in seven foot lengths, so I decided to shorten it to fit into my cottage but what would I do with the remaining wood? Being an amateur guitar maker after making a 12 string semi at a adult education course I had toyed with idea of building the body of a guitar from one but didn't think that pine was a suitable tone wood, but with reassurance from a luthier on the internet I went ahead.

I was keen to leave the original finish on the back and front, the top is the back rest of the pew and the back the seat.

I'm not exactly a conventional player as I love electrics but play with my fingers (no, I'm not Jeff Beck) it's just that I don't get on with electro-acoustics and prefer the longer sustain you get from an electric guitar. So I decided to build a semi but a 14th fret neck-body join to aid tone/stability. The headstock is a visual clue to it's more traditional past existence.

The tone is incredible! I guess somewhere between an acoustic and a telecaster, very full and warm yet defined and crisp. Pine is a wonderful tone wood, I can see this being my main guitar.

I'm looking forward to playing it in the building that it's already spent 150 years in!
Apparently Andy had some pine left over from the church pew he bought, and he'd now building himself a Rocket-shaped headless bass guitar of his own design. I'm going to keep watching to see how that one turns out.

Andy's Guitars MySpace Page

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Rare Eko Model 700 with Southpaw Appeal!

A funky Eko for southpawsI've noticed recently there have been quite a few interesting guitar auctions on eBay coming out of France. Here we have a particularly intriguing example; one that I've certainly not seen before.

Italy's Eko guitars from the 1960s complete with their bizarre cutaway body shapes, lashings of pearloid, quadruple pickups, and arrays of push buttons are rare and collectable beasts at the best of times. This particular Eko Model 700 on offer from a seller in France, is left-handed, and as such is almost unheard of.

The irony of the situation is that this guitar will probably end up in the hands of a collector and not a left-handed player, as such, which I think is a shame.

Unless any lefties out there fancy trying their luck...?

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Neil Diamond - Home Before Dark

CD Review: Neil Diamond - Home Before Dark

"Home Before Dark" sees Neil Diamond get back to basics and start sounding like the classic Neil Diamond of yesteryear once again. Included are extensive sleeve notes from Diamond describing the writing and recording of the album. He makes it sound such an ordeal, and surprisingly expresses his concerns that others wouldn't think he songs were up to scratch. He also reveals that his fellow musicians on the album nicknamed him "Basher" because of his guitar-playing technique.

Diamond and his producer Rick Rubin have assembled a very competent band to back him up on this album, which they do quite admirably, never taking the limelight. This is not a band album, it's a solo album; Diamond's voice and guitar take centre stage, and this is especially apparent on the opening cut "If I Don't See You Again".

Despite repeated listenings of the album as a whole, I have to admit that the single, "Pretty Amazing Grace" (click to watch the video), is for me the standout track. I wondered if I'd been conditioned into this way of thinking having heard it numerous times on Ken Bruce's BBC Radio 2 show which featured the song as "Single of the Week" about a month ago. But no, I think now I've given the rest of the album a good auditioning, and this song is my favourite. It's essentially classic Neil Diamond.

"Don't Go There" gives another nod to the past with a very familiar sounding chord change that again screams classic Neil Diamond. There's also quite an interesting solo that I can't decide whether or not it is a Coral Sitar or similar.

"Another Day (That Time Forgot)", a duet with Dixie Chick Natalie Maines, is surely candidate for a follow-up single. It's a great arrangement, the two voices, piano, softly-strummed guitar and some other subtle keyboard textures. As with the rest of this album it's a far cry from the overblown production of mid-career Neil Diamond and is all the better for it.

"One More Bite Of The Apple", again, sounds like it could be an old Neil Diamond song from way back, although the subject matter (starting a new relationship with someone when not exactly in the first flush of one's youth) implies that this is a song written by someone of more mature years.

"Forgotten" is a song I like a lot. I really enjoy the shuffle-feel of the guitars, and is that a little percussion I can hear? (There are no drums on the album). The song starts softly and builds quite nicely. Some nice Hammond too.

"Act Like A Man" is another one that gives that déjà vu feeling. That sense of "I've heard this before, surely?" There's nice interplay between the piano and guitar on "Whose Hands Are These" - it's all the orchestration that is needed - and again there are some familiar sounding chord changes.

"No Words" is a more up-tempo number and has more of an upbeat feel to it and Neil Diamond-isms a-plenty. Isn't it great that he can write songs that make him sound just like him!

The band are much more evident on "The Power Of Two". The bass is much more prominent and the chiming guitars are positively exquisite. This tracks showcasses the talents of his backing musicians quite nicely.

"Slow It Down" starts with piano intro and the closest Diamond will ever get to doing a rap! Which isn't as bad as it sounds. Then, as the title suggests the song slows right down and adopts a lazy, almost bluesy feel which feels quite effortless, almost soporific.

The album's title track closes the album. "Home Before Dark" feels like it's an intensely personal song for Diamond. In his sleeve notes he mentions that it was inspired by a note he'd left himself to make sure his daughter was home before dark. He's tried using some different chord changes here from what you might expect, and it works quite well when the song doesn't take the predicted route. It's a soft and
personal song and sets the right tone for closing the set.

Unless, that is, you have the deluxe edition (which I didn't) then you'd have two cover versions following this song: Harry Nilsson's "Without Her" and Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love". Whether or not this is a good thing, I cannot say as I have heard neither, but it seems strange to put bonus tracks after a song which definitely feels like it signals the end of the album. The deluxe edition also includes a DVD, but again I can't comment on this.

All in all, I think this is an excellent album. I have to confess that it did require repeated listenings for me to get into it (which is why it's taken me about two weeks since receiving it before I could write this review). It's not an album that I instantly liked, and wouldn't normally be my choice of music if I were CD shopping. But, having grown up hearing my Dad play Neil Diamond's records over and over (his favourite was the overture on the "Hot August Night" album - it was pretty dramatic to be fair) I do feel qualified to review this CD. It won't appeal to the more rabid fans of the electric guitar, but if you want to hear what a master songwriter can come up with on his acoustic guitar, then give it a listen.

Buy it here.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Wollerman Monster Guitar

Wollerman Monster
Really, I ought to be reviewing a couple of CDs here, but that's too much like hard work right now. It's so much easier to find a hideous guitar on eBay and make derisive comments about it. (Hey, it's all in the name of fun. I love this stuff really!)

Thank goodness this "one-of-a-kind, highly unique custom electric guitar", a.k.a the Wollerman Monster, is just that - a one-off. That way you're less likely to cross paths with this horribly ugly thing.

I can't begin to imagine what was going through the minds of those designing pieces such as this. I mean, What? and Why?

CD reviews this weekend, I promise...
Never Enough Guitars: Nice article about how and why certain bands are taking such a huge number of guitars out on tour with them. In the case of The Eagles, Joe Walsh and Glenn Frey alone have 50 guitars between them. Add guitars for drummer Don Henley who plays occasional acoustic, bassist Timothy B. Schmit and the new guy, guitarist Steuart Smith, and between them the Eagles are taking something like a total of 80 guitars out on the road.

Blimey! I saw Bill Nelson play 10 guitars during one show a few years back and I thought that was excessive.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Yamaha East-West Guitar

Yamaha East-West GuitarHere's a one-off guitar from Yamaha. Dating from 1985, this unusual shaped guitar was the grand prize in Yamaha's then-annual East-West competition. (Can anyone remember what that was actually all about?)

I want to call it the "Flying W" but you'll notice that the headstock is shaped like a letter E and the body, more obviously, is a W, so, E-W = East-West.

It's not the most attractive guitar design in the world, is it? And what's the deal with that extra long tremolo arm? You could do yourself a mischief with that.

I wonder if they actually got many entries, and what were the second and third prizes? (Hopefully nothing quite as outlandish).

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

It's that red Strat again... or is it?

DiMarzio Strat from the 1984 NAMM showJust to show that I put my money where my mouth is, after enthusing about this American-made Strat type guitar allegedly made from DiMarzio parts for the 1984 NAMM show, I did actually go ahead and buy it.

However, the colour was a surprise. In my previous post about this guitar back in March, I dubbed it the "red beauty", and indeed in the photos it did look very red.

I feel the picture I have included here to the left here gives a better representation of the colour, although I still can't decide what colour it actually is as it seems to change in different lighting conditions. Sometimes it looks orange, sometimes salmon pink, other times - usually in dim or artificial light - it does look red. Actually, it looks almost fluorescent. I wonder if this was the only brightly coloured guitar on the DiMarzio stand at the 1984 NAMM show? Perhaps there were fluorescent green and fluorescent yellow sisters to this guitar. I'd love to know.

Despite the all-pervading colour on this guitar - not just the body but the whole of the neck and the fingerboard - the finish is actually see-through and you can see the wood grain beneath quite nicely. The body appears to be a 3-piece affair.

The seller had mentioned "Charvel San Dimas era", so I'd like to do a little research and find out if Charvel ever built guitar bodies and necks for the DiMarzio brand.

Given its age, the guitar is in very good nick. With only a quick glance, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was built recently, although a closer inspection reveals one or two minor knocks and dints. This guitar doesn't appear to have been played very much at all, which is unusual seeing that it's 24 years old. You may be able to make out in the photo an area where the finish has worn away on the headstock, and also the pink has worn away on the pink-coloured machine heads.

What is the sound like? Well, very authentic Fender Strat, I'd say, although I've not yet been able to test her at volume.

Did I really need another Strat? (This is my 5th). Well, no I didn't, but something about this guitar really appealed to me and I just had to add it to the collection.

UPDATE: I think I'm on the right track. According to the USA Charvels website, " 1978 Grover Jackson put a deal together with DiMarzio which allowed Charvel Manufacturing to make guitar and bass bodies for DiMarzio."

Futhermore, tells us that Charvel's "Strat necks are most commonly oiled...", but goes on to add that "Some are 100% lacquered or painted to match the body."

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Hutchins "The Beast" now on eBay

Hutchins The Beast
The six-necked behemoth which we featured on this here blog only yesterday is now available in the UK on eBay with a Buy It Now price of £549.

What a bargain, eh?

Check out the gig bag that it's lying on in the picture. You could use that as a tent and live in it.

So, if you want to outdo Cheap Trick's Rick Neilsen (Huh! Five necks? That's nothing!) and are looking for an OTT stage prop, then why not go for it? You might also want to enrol at your local gym and prepare yourself with a little weight training, because I'd wager that that thar Beast is darned heavy.

Present Arms by Yoshihiko SatohOf course, you could always go for the ultimate in multinecked guitars, and have a word with Japanese artist Yoshihiko Satoh and ask for a loan of his 12-necked Stratocaster.

A stepladder might come in handy too!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Neil Young, yesterday

Just call me Spiderman

Oh, what a lucky fellow he is!

Canadian singer-songwriter, guitarist and "Father of Grunge" Neil Young has had a spider named after him.

East Carolina University biologist and Neil Young fan, Jason Bond, discovered a new species of trapdoor spider and named it Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi. This follows news that earlier this year Roy Orbison had a beetle named after him.

Neither Neil Young nor the spider were available for comment.

What a Beastly Guitar!

Beast six necked guitarThis six-necked monstrosity from the Hutchins brand is named "The Beast" and was recently sold in a Weymouth music shop thanks to a news item in the Metro newspaper. (See the comments at the bottom of the Metro item).

From top to bottom the necks are 12-string, 6-string (with tremolo), 5-string bass, 4-string bass, 7-string guitar, and another 6-string.

Allegedly, "there are only of 12 of the US-made instruments in this country".


Surely one is too many!

Sunday, 11 May 2008

It's Hug Your Guitar Week...

Yours Truly with Sanox Sound Creator Strat...over at IG Blog, but if you want to take part you'll have to be quick for the festivities come to an end this Sunday evening!

Now, I'm not usually too good at taking part in these weblog memes (I usually spend far too long thinking about what I can contribute and then when I've eventually got a good idea the whole thing is over and done with), but I decided I'd make a special effort this time, and so dug out the camera, grabbed my Sanox Sound Creator plexiglass guitar and found a mirror for a self-portrait, and reproduced here is the result.

Now that's two pictures of me on this blog this month. I reckon that'll do for another year or so.

[Before someone says it, because it's a mirror photo, technically the image should be the other way around, but I flipped it about so that I don't appear to be a Southpaw. Not that there's anything wrong with Southpaws. I just thought it was a more accurate portrait this way.]

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Curious Homemade guitar from France

French homemade thingThis guitar being sold by a French seller on eBay does look rather... shall we say... rustic. It's obviously a homemade effort, and despite being acoustic the maker has tried to make it look modern with an offset double-cutaway shape, a la the Fender Strat and others.

I really am undecided whether to point and laugh at this guitar or whether to admire the guitar building spirit on display here. Yes, it's crude but it appears to me that someone has done their utmost to create this guitar with the limited resources available to them.

The body shape is adventurous - I'm amazed it was attempted (if it were me I think I'd have choosen the rectangular "cigar box" option as an easier shape to manage) whilst the neck is a very rough affair which appears to have been whittled with a knife, and reminds me of the fretless bass neck that my friend Dog made out of a plank of wood for his Precision copy one night after having had a few beers (see here).

As we can see, there is no separate fingerboard; the eleven frets (yes, eleven) are set straight into the top of the neck which appears to be flush with the top of the guitar body. Another touch I like is the use of a steel rule complete with metric measurements as the bridge saddle. Hey, that's one way of making sure you have the correct string spacing.

Just think of the story this guitar could tell. Who made it? Who played it? What did it sound like? We can only guess.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Another holey guitar: The Schecter Genesis

Schecter GenesisIt seems that recently I've been featuring a few guitars with holes going right through the bodies (e.g. here and here) and what do you know?... Here's another one! (I don't actively search for these, you know, I just seem to stumble upon them without even trying.)

This one is an approximately 20 year old USA-built Schecter Genesis. I've previously seen pictures of these with some decidedly over the top striped graphic finishes, but I reckon this Candy Apple Red example is quite tasteful, if indeed tasteful is the word I'm looking for considering the crazy design we're looking at here.

This example is currently on eBay with quite an attractive and affordable Buy It Now price on it.

PLEASE will someone buy it before I do, because at that price I'm finding it very hard to resist. If this was listed at the same Buy It Now price but in the UK, I would already have snapped it up. Importing a guitar from the USA involves extra shipping fees and customs charges, but despite these inevitable extras hiking up the price I'm still very very tempted (and shouldn't really...).

I mean, c'mon, how often do you see one of these?

CD Review: Nine Lives - Steve Winwood

Nine Lives - Steve WinwoodYes, yes, I know that Steve Winwood is notoriously a Hammond organ player, but he does also play the guitar (he's pictured with a Fender Tele acoustic with f-hole on the album artwork). The album also features the not inconsiderable guitar talents of Jose Pires De Almeida Neto.

The album begins modestly with "I'm Not Drowning", a simple but very effective song featuring Winwood on his lonesome. Just voice (and what a voice!), nice bluesy acoustic guitar, and basic percussion.

Following this, "Fly" recorded with the full band is pleasant enough, although a little MOR for my tastes. For me, the song's saving grace is Winwood's voice; that and the key changes in the middle eight which are very welcome. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad song at all, but there's much better to come on this album.

"Raging Sea" has a fantastic guitar riff - which starts off sounding pure and acoustic but gets dirtier and edgier as the song progresses, making for a great combination with Winwood's soaring vocals and - for the most part - understated Hammond playing.

"Dirty City" is an anthemic track with some classic Hammond playing from Winwood who also straps on a guitar for this song, as does Eric Clapton who provides the climactic guitar solo. I'm not always the biggest fan of Mr Clapton but I really enjoy his playing on this song. I'm even considering using the word "exciting" here as an abjective. (Whoah! Steady on...)

Things get a bit more funky on this "We're All Looking" which features latin percussion and yet more of Winwood's trademark Hammond sound. The song also has a gorgeous acoustic guitar solo from Mr Winwood himself. He's not just a Hammond player, y'know.

"Hungry Man" has some very African-sounding guitar and percussion underpinned by the ever-present Hammond and stabs of sax. This for me, is one of the standout tracks, and reminds me of Paul Weller. (Actually, I have to keep mentally chastising myself for thinking Steve Winwood sounds like Paul Weller when it should be the other way around!)

"Secrets" has a Latin shuffle feel and quite a hypnotic riff. Instrumentally it's more of the same forumla as on earlier tracks but it's a good formula! For variation there's a slinky-sounding flute solo.

"At Times We Do Forget" is classic Steve Winwood! The song boasts a gorgeous guitar figure from Neto and loadsa lovely Hammond from You Know Who.

The album closes on the ballad "Other Shore". At the time of writing (because these things can change!) this is not one of my favourites from this album. Whilst I wouldn't necessarily skip it if it came up on shuffle on my iPod, I'm not likely to single it out if I were playing a bunch of my current favourites to a friend (whereas "Dirty City" or "Hungry Man" would probably get played).

All in all, "Nine Lives" is a very enjoyable album. There's a nice separation of instruments throughout - guitars, Hammond, drums, percussion, and occasional sax and flute. Interestingly there is no bass guitar present anywhere on the album, and listening carefully it's hard to see where you could shoehorn it into the arrangements had a bass player turned up at the sessions demanding to be included.

Definitely recommended. Buy it here. Listen to "Dirty City" here or watch the video here.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Fernandes Um Jammer Lammy

Life imitates art imitates life imitates... etc.

Fernandes UJL-2000 - The Lammy Guitar
Blimey! Would you look at this? This guitar looks for all the world as if the designer had based it on a cartoon drawing by someone who, in turn, was basing their drawing on a Les Paul.

Actually, that's more or less exactly what has happened here. Apparently there is some computer game called Um Jammer Lammy (doesn't it just sound wretched?), and the above guitar - the Fernandes UJL-2000 to give it its correct designation - is based on the guitar played by a character within the game.

Now, you'll have to excuse my vagueness when it comes to such matters, because - I ain't ashamed to say it - I HATE ALL COMPUTER GAMES WITH A PASSION! Whilst we're on this sorry subject please bear it in mind to mention not the abomination that is Guitar Hero. I'm so sick and tired of finding crap about that load of nonsense every time I perform a search for GENUINE guitar-related news for this blog. It's part of the reason I turned to eBay for new material.

Now, let's never speak of it again.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya, Pioneer of Indian slide guitar

Debashish BhattacharyaBorn to musician parents Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya, a child prodigy, was initiated into Indian classical singing, but was drawn to the guitar because of the ability to emulate the human voice by using the slide.

He is the inventor of the Trinity of Slide Guitars:

The Chaturangui takes the guitar and gives it the tonal resonance of traditional Indian instruments, Rudra-veena, Violin, Sarode and Sitar. It has six primary sliding strings, twelve or more sympathetic strings, and two chikaris - a pair of strings located beyond the treble main strings, and tuned an octave apart from one another.

The Gandharvi is a 12-string slide guitar with an additional pair of drone strings, and which melds the tones of the Saraswathi-veena, Santoor and Sarangi with the guitar.

The Anandi is a simple 4-string instrument, and is more akin to ukulele played with a slide.

These are absolutely fascinating instruments, and I'm very curious to hear what they sound like.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

What is that guitar that Eddy Grant is playing?

The EqualsThe Equals

Over the years I have many times seen the clip of The Equals playing "Baby Come Back" on Top of the Pops in 1968. And many times I have wondered to myself, "What is that weird guitar Eddy Grant is playing?"

Last night on Later with Jools Holland, Eddy Grant was briefly interviewed and once again the Top of the Pops clip of "Baby Come Back" was trotted out. This time I realised what the guitar was, as I recognised the headstock design from another post about weird guitars that I'd made on this very blog. A quick check on Fetish Guitars (where else?) and here it is, the Wandre Rock 6! Another bonkers 1960s-era design from those wacky Italians.
Wandre Rock 6

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Who's that with the pink geetar?

G L WilsonSorry, I've no stories of any particular interest today. Nor do I have any horrendous or ultra-cool eBay finds to share with you right now.

However, I do have this, a photo of Yours Truly that I just re-discovered. (Just in case you thought the black cat sitting on a Vox Brian May amp was me).

I reckon that this photo must have been taken way back in 1989 or thereabouts.

I was playing guitar in a band called Damn It Janet who went precisely nowhere. I played a matching pair of paisley pink Fenders - a Stratocaster and a Telecaster - through a VOX AC30 piggyback amp. Sadly, all have been sold now, although I think I might still have the spotty shirt.

I've said before how I regretted selling the paisley Fenders but I needed money at the time (bills to pay) and since I wasn't playing them, they had to go. (I was favouring a Fernandes Revolver Pro at the time... very strange, I know. It even had a dreaded EMG pickup in it, for crying out loud!)

If you are interested in seeing a slightly more recent picture of me, then I refer you to this post.


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