The column that throbs, the finger on the pulse
For those of you who aren't virtuoso guitarists but would like to be, the Star Licks set of video tutors may be of some help. Although they've been out for a while, this is the first we've actually seen of them. They cover almost the entire range of contemporary lead guitar styles displayed by some of their best known exponents, including Al Mckay, Brian May, Albert Lee, and Tony Iommi.
The video sent for review featured Tony Iommi demonstrating licks, riffs and lead lines from his work with Black Sabbath. The accompanying booklet shows these parts written in music and tableture form, which is very easy to follow. The video too is easy to understand and interesting to watch, which is always helpful when learning.
What I found, however, was that the techniques discussed in it related to the guitarist rather than to techniques in general, so if you don't like the artist involved then there probably won't be a lot that you'll want to pick up. Even so it does provide an insight into a few tricks you may not already know. If you can actually play the style of music on the cassette then it could serve as a song book, though a rather pricey one at that.
The Star Licks tapes cost £29.95 and are available from all good music shops. Happy twanging.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into dodgy pubs, he's back. Yes, Wild Willy Barratt, some-time musician, part-time hippy and full-time nutter has once again taken to the stage, wheeling his latest creation around some of the more seedier parts of town.
Gone is the Les Dawson (not quite a Les Paul), gone is the roadie with steel guitar on his back (reputably down the Thames), and gone is John Otway (to the more lucrative world of TV advertising). In their place he now presents spoons and bass player Stevie Two-Names and... well... a sort of large wooden thing with loads of bits of it.
An invention of Oxford's Goblin Brothers, who apparently had to beg Barratt to help them go bankrupt by making this thing, this large wooden object has a number of tricks up its laminations. First off there's 'The Box': a strange array of FX in a completely cumbersome unit. On the top is a knob for the striking, which pushes a rod that budges some foam that hits the spring of a spring reverb and makes a horrible noise. On the side is a lever connected to the delay setting of a delay unit, and jammed into the back is a knife whose vibrations rattle a concealed guitar pickup making an even more horrible noise. And seeing as how 'scratching' is so popular, a further knob when twisted drags a piece of recording tape with the sound of a Revox overloading on it over a tape head. Willy backs this up with further vocal impressions of the same noise.
But of course all of these FX would be rendered useless without the matching guitar. Sort of like an ornate Roland guitar synth but with the supporting arm in completely the wrong place, this guitar also features one or two strange percussive items. Bugs are mounted in the most unlikely of places — the headstock, the underside of the body — and a tobacco tin is mounted directly above the strings with another bug behind that for a more metallic effect. The pickup is a sort of swivel design for emphasis on bass or treble strings where required.
"Of course it doesn't actually work, but it was a nice idea," says Willy.
Long-standing Barratt fans will probably remember various versions of The Shitstick, a slide guitar usually found mounted on wheels or sometimes roadies. Well, the Shitstick 007 now finds itself supported by yet more ornate marine plywood with even more bugs for the striking.
With such a vast array of percussive effects at his disposal Barratt spends more time lashing out with his clenched fists at the 'stands' than he does strumming his guitar.
To complete the set-up there's a few drum-heads mounted on steel sheets again firmly ensconced in plywood with pickups, and a completely acoustic set that Stevie Two-Names beats furiously with wooden spoons when he's not too busy looking for the strings of his bass.
The whole shebang is mounted on its own stage with wheels and its packing up method is a piece of design excellence; the Shitstick actually becomes its own case. The Barratt set is as manic as the equipment encourages him to be, though a new pessimism has also crept into the act: "This is a dance song, but don't bother dancing cos it's rubbish."
"This song's called Only The Good Die Young and basically it's a load of old bollocks."
"I hate this one."
Still, it's nice to see in this time of high technology one lone figure, hopefully making his way through life doing what he likes to do best: making a horrible row in front of only a very few people indeed.
Mind you, he's bound to be making a living out of it...
"A living? You must be joking..."
This month we were to have featured an interview with the luscious, pouting Jesus And Mary Chain, hailed in some quarters as the prophets of the post-pop generation. Clearly, though being a prophet is a high-pressure occupation — at the eleventh hour, the Chain changed their collective mind, and 'blew out the gig', as we media types like to say.
Thus freed from any moral obligation to the little rascals, IM&RW can exclusively reveal that William and Jim Reid of the ensemble were recently spotted buying candy-stripped pyjamas in Kensington's Marks and Spencers. Rock'n' Roll rebellion, eh? Next month: where Jim Kerr buys his underpants — exclusive.
165 instruments for £7.99? Can't be bad. Though to be precise, what we have here are the sounds of 165 instruments captured on cassette, to whit Korg's grandly-titled STP-2000 Sampling Sound Collection. Korg obviously make much of their own sampling unit, the SDD-2000, in the accompanying blurb, but since everyone and their cousin these days seems to have some kind of sampling capacity, the potential market for this sound-effects tape is huge.
The idea isn't new of course — in the past IM has reviewed similar releases from small recording studios — but Korg are the first major company to invest in this new market, and the result is good, coming in at almost half the price of the majority of the competition.
Sounds on offer range through animal noises (Canary? Elephant??), 'natural' sounds like thunder (two examples on offer here), breaking glass, sirens, and so on, through to some very well thought out instrument selections. No less than 11 trumpets, played at various pitches and with various tonguings, a similar number of Saxes, acoustic, electric, and distorted guitar, basses, strings, pianos, orchestral hits... Two complete drum kits are here, a variety of real and synthetic percussion sounds, gongs, tymps — the works. A comprehensive index supplied with the tape tells you, where appropriate, at what pitch the sample was recorded, and many samples are repeated across two or three octaves to facilitate multi sampling.
The tape itself prefaces each sound with a BBC style announcement of what's coming, followed by a reference tone. And just for good measure, Korg have thrown in a couple of demo songs at the end of each side to show you just what can be accomplished.
My copy of the tape had some slight but noticeable 'print-through' of sounds, but the samples themselves were definite, well-recorded, and getting a good sample each time was no problem at all. If you have any kind of sampling capacity, then you should have this tape. At this price, what can you lose?
For over 10 years, the Musician's Union travelling Workshop Unit, with the support of major instrument and equipment manufacturers, have been taking the gospel of Live Music up and down the country. These gigs and workshops have at various times featured luminaries like Chris Spedding, Jack Bruce, and Jon Hiseman.
The current unit, sporting the name Powerhouse, and sponsored by Roland, Washburn, Trace Elliott, Sabian, and Session, is about to start a mini tour of Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester and Birmingham this month.
The full-scale roadshow and associated workshops can be caught on Monday 21 April at Manchester University, Tuesday 22nd at Newcastle's Riverside, Wednesday 23rd at Sheffield Poly, and on Thursday 24th at Birmingham's Portland club. Workshops start at 8.00 pm, admission is £2.00 (free to MU members.) Further info on: (Contact Details).