Archive for the ‘Guitar Greats’ Category

Joe Bonamassa – Different Shades of Blue

September 23rd, 2014
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When Black Country Communion split the different factions went different directions. While Joe Bonamassa returned to “full time solo artist”, Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham joined forces with guitarist Andrew Watt and created California Breed. The betting at the time was California Breed would be an exciting new band, and Bonamassa would continue to make serviceable, yet sort of boring albums. The betting was wrong. California Breed’s debut album was a dreary 45 minutes of Glenn Hughes screamers, uninteresting and uninspired volume-rock.

Bonamassa, on the other hand, has returned with a fantastic blues album called Different Shades of Blue. The album features Bonamassa playing in various different blues formats and playing guitar better than he ever has. As a player he is, in fact, on fire throughout the album. Vocally, Bonamassa sounds like he learned a few lessons in his time beside Glenn Hughes, and he has a more versatile singing range than he has shown previously.

My hopes were not high for Different Shades of Blue in large part because his last album, Driving Towards the Daylight was so disappointing. Full of mediocre songs that lacked life, my personal expectations were not good that he could re-reach the form of The Ballad of John Henry a few albums back. But things changed when he released the single for the title track a month back. It is a pure guitarists blues song. And Bonamassa is brilliant on it, having a “Since I’ve Been Loving You” performance (guitarists can offer no higher praise). I keep re-listening to it, and I have been trying to figure out, when was the last time an established artist had a song this good? and I can’t come up with the answer. Possibly Springsteen somewhere on The Rising album. Maybe I have to go back as far as 1992 and Delbert McCLinton’s Everytime I Roll The Dice.

But the album doesn’t start and end with Different Shades of Blue. It is the best song, bar none, on an album full of great performances of great songs. Oh Beautiful!, Love Ain’t a Love Song, Heartache Follows Wherever I Go,So, What Would I Do are all excellent. And while some songs do suffer from Bonamassa’s tendency towards feeling soulless, those are few and by no means lousy songs. There is, in fact, not a bad song on the album, and more than a few great ones.

Different Shades of Blue will be released today and can be bought at your usual online sources, but really, run to the store and get it now. It’s simply too good to wait.


Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)
Oh Beautiful!
Love Ain’t a Love Song
Living on the Moon
Heartache Follows Wherever I Go
Never Give All Your Heart
I Gave Up Everything For You
Different Shades of Blue
Get Back my Tomorrow
Trouble Town
So, What Would I Do

Guitar Greats, Record Release , , , ,

The Freedom of Music: One Live Yardbird

October 23rd, 2011
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

“Here,” Jeff Beck handed a 50’s telecaster to Jimmy Page. Page had recommended him to the Yardbirds in 1965, and he got the job, his big break. “Thanks for getting me the gig.”sidebar-4

He would stay with the Yardbirds two years, the last six months playing dual lead player with Page before he would go on to create his own band, discovering Rod Stewart and Ron Wood in the process. He turned down the chance to play in Pink Floyd – a gig that would go to David Gilmour – and the Stones after Mick Taylor left. He has played soul, funk, jazz and rock, always based heavily in the blues.

Jimmy Page, on the other hand, would use that telecaster five years later to record his “talk to God” solo on Stairway to Heaven.

A few weeks ago a friend asked if I was interested in going to see Jeff Beck. He was appearing in Kitchener, and he had 3rd row, center stage tickets. A chance to see an living legend from 12 feet away? Yea I’m interested.

So it was I found myself close enough to the stage Wednesday night that I could hear the onstage chatter. Jeff Beck, childhood friend of Jimmy Page, one of the three legendary Yardbirds, superstar guitarist and what Rolling Stone laughably listed as #14 all time great rock guitarists (he’s top 5 on any sane list) was close enough that I could watch his technique in detail.

beckDrive for show, put for dough, is on old professional golf maxim. In the guitar world, it is left hand for show, right hand for dough. As impressive as Jeff Beck is, as interesting as his resume makes him out to be, he’s better under close scrutiny, and it’s all right hand technique.

He controls the volume pot on his white Stratocaster constantly, and has the tremolo bar riding gently under his index finger most of the time. His manipulation of the tremolo bar, using it to create a legato through the melody, is awe inspiring.

But it’s his tone you really notice. He sounds like no one else If God plays guitar, you know he sits around going, “how does Jeff Beck get that tone?” It, and he, really is that good.

Beck is a dual member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as both a Yardbird and solo artist. Jimi Hendrix, it is claimed, lifted some of his best licks from Beck’s Yardbirds playing. And to see him from 12 feet away, there can be no doubting. If your looking for great, not good, guitarist, Jeff Beck truly is one of the best ever.

But don’t believe me: ask God.

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Cool For Cats Friday

September 2nd, 2011
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In support of Gibson guitars on their battle with big government this week, it is Gibson Guitar day:

Nobody defines the Gibson Les Paul like Jimmy Page, and one was rarely played better than Page played it in 1973.

Gibson isn’t just about Les Pauls, although it may seem it sometimes. Not my favourite band, but AC/DC’s Angus Young simply rocks the Gibson SG, while brother Malcolm is rock steady on his Firebird:

As a kid I would read the album covers like they had the secret to the world in them. This was always on the back of the Kiss albums, “Kiss uses Gibson guitars and Pearl drums.”

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Only Gibson is Good Enough

September 1st, 2011
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It’s not often you see the Chairman and CEO of a major company looking like a deer in the headlights. If seeing that is your thing, the news conference that Gibson Guitar Company CEO Henry Juszkiewicz gave outside Gibson headquarters in Nashville is a must see. Juszkiewicz was responding to a raid by the Fish and Wildlife Service SWAT team on Gibson factories in Nashville and Memphis last week.

1270486671_85931319_2-2010-mlb-gibson-guitar-les-paul-with-case-port-jefferson-station-1270486671He can’t be too surprised, you’d think. The same SWAT team raided his factories two years ago, so it’s not like he was unaware Fish and Wildlife had a SWAT team. And when you have a SWAT team, you will use it.

In the 1980’s Gibson took a beating in the guitar market. New, hot sounding guitars were eating into the market. Their old school rival, Fender, had began making guitars in Japan, but Gibson held firm: “Gibson USA,” was their tag line, Only Gibson is Good Enough, the slogan. The message was clear: Our USA made guitars are better. But Fender guitars where half price to Gibson, and their Squire models, made in Japan, where a quarter the price. Musicians declared their loyalty: “Fender sold out, Gibson held strong. I will never buy another Fender again,” more than one walked into the store I worked at and said. But when they needed a back-up axe, and a brand new Squire telecaster could be had for $199, but a Gibson, any Gibson, was going for $600 and more, they bought Fender again.
But Gibson stayed: they were an American company making American products, in America. Put another way, get on the floor, put your hands on your head and thanks for doing business with us.

A number of years ago I built a guitar, a classical. I got all the wood from a local place that is well known for it’s lutherie woods, including the Indian Rosewood fingerboard and bridge blank. The blanks, like the illegal Gibson blanks, where partially finished, but required planing and shaping before they got put on the guitar. At the time it occurred to me making guitars might be a nice, eventually semi-profitable hobby. I kept up with a few luther chat rooms, and quickly ran across these discussions about paperwork for your wood. The guys who were making real money doing this could source their wood often back to the tree.

Making guitars, I thought, I could do. Keeping ahead of that kind of paperwork, not so much. No big deal, it was a flight of fancy more than solid idea. But watching Henry Juszkiewicz explain that they had all the paperwork, explain the wood left India with this certification, that stamp and this signature, the wood cleared customs in the USA, and Fish and Wildlife shut down production and took the wood needed for them to build guitars anyway, I knew nobody could keep ahead of the paperwork.

rare_gibson_guitar_with_united_states_shaped_solid_wood_body_3000_shelby_11556045If your a CEO of a business, any business right now, what did you think when you watched Henry Juszkiewicz staring into the headlights? Perhaps, like me, you thought I’m glad I don’t do business with them. Or perhaps you run an American business, and you know that people like Rush Limbaugh have been saying for years that business is under attack in this country. And you see the SWAT team of the Fish and Wildlife Service running roughshod over a business known for having stayed in America when his best interests said to move on. Wouldn’t you think, maybe it’s time to move on?

If you ever wonder why your TVs are made in Korea, when they used to be made in the US, your car is from Japan, your iPod from Singapore and ask yourself, does the Korean Fish and Wildlife Service have a SWAT team, and if so, how much paperwork do you have to do to keep them on the other side of the door. Then ask yourself, where would you build a TV?

Where, in the future, will Gibson build guitars?

Guitar Greats, pimply minions of bureaucracy , , , ,

Happy 55th Birthday…

August 27th, 2008

Alex Lifeson.

My Rush fandom has suffered from diminishing returns since A Farewell to Kings back in 1977. While I still enjoy the early to late 70’s Rush, and have a lot of time for later songs like Spirit of Radio, Limelight, Tom Sawyer and Freewill, none of those is why I salute Mr. Lifeson here today.

Alex Lifeson is one of a group of guitarists who shaped Rock and Roll in the latter 70’s with their versatility. Along with the likes of Jimmy Page, Steve Howe, Rik Emmet and Steve Morse classical, jazz and country guitar playing was added to the rock guitarists repertoire. It was that influence that I sought in my own playing that made me take up classical guitar, a pursuit I would come back to 20 years later and still do daily.

So happy birthday for all the songs mentioned above, certainly. Happy birthday for the albums 2112 and A Farewell to Kings, absolutely. But most of all, happy 55th birthday Alex Lifeson for the small instrumental intro to the song A Farewell to Kings. A piece that I just had to learn and which, along with others, began me on a long, albeit crooked path, which I follow still.

Birthday Wishes, Guitar Greats, Rockin' and Rollin' and Never Forgettin'

Jeff Healey 1966- 2008

March 3rd, 2008
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I first saw Jeff Healey play on the New Music back in the early 80’s. John Roberts was J.D., and he did a story on a blind teenage phenom who played blues guitar with the guitar across his lap. He cited Jimi Hendrix as an influence and played in a very Hendrix style.

Five or six years later, in 1988, Jeff Healey was on the charts with the album See The Light. It included the hit songs Confidence Man, the title track and perhaps Healey’s biggest hit, a wonderful version of John Hiatt’s Angel Eyes. His second album two years later, Hell To Pay, featured a stunning version of George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps. It takes a man among guitar players to tackle a classic Eric Clapton solo but Healey pulled it off.

Sadly, Jeff Healey has fought cancer all his life, losing his sight to Retinoblastoma, a rare form of cancer, at age one. Last January (2007) it was announced that Healey had had been diagnosed with lung cancer surgery the previous December, and had undergone surgery to remove the cancerous tissue.

Jeff Healey passed away last evening at St. Joseph’s Hospital Toronto. He was 41 years old and leaves a wife and two children, 13-year-old daughter Rachel and three-year-old son Derek. At Home in Hespeler offers condolences to the family of Jeff Healey, a great Canadian talent gone far too young.

from Singles Scene

Guitar Greats, RIP