Instruments & Equipment
In addition to being as good an excuse as any for the consumption of large amounts of neat alcohol (ice and lemon sir?), the recent British Musical Instrument Trade Fair meandered deceptively through a seemingly ever-increasing number of London hotels to bring new products to the attention of anyone who happened to be interested - dealers, manufacturers, musicians and, mais naturellement, Sound International.
And interested we were - there being a fair share of time-consuming oddities to keep us in one place long enough to avoid the necessary ambulant ambience. Fans will be pleased to hear that next year sees the whole shebang shifting to the vast Olympia exhibition complex in west London - no doubt that will throw up its own set of problems, but at least it puts all in one place, a great advantage over 78 and previous years' trekking.
And so to the goodies. Elsewhere on this fact-packed page you can see Dave Blake's comments — so I'll try to avoid doubling up on those things he's chosen to mention. But I cannot fail to draw your attention to the Redmere Soloist combo — it really does seem to have absolutely everything, and will naturally enough be receiving the ole SI review treatment pronto. Another good new range of combos came from Roland, exhibited at BMITF by UK distributors Brodr Jorgensen. A built-in graphic eq was central to the design of these GA amps, and more information will be given in a forthcoming in-depth (what else?) combo survey. Maine's new combos will also merit a good position therein judging from what we saw.
Other things that whetted the collective SI appetite for knowledge, increased efficiency, world domination etc in the amp side of things included a couple of new instrument amps called Frunt - proof that names to call amps are steadily decreasing. Their 200L is a 110W into 8 ohm general instrument amp, similarly the 200B for bass instruments with just a single channel. Side-handles double as heatsinks, and the whole package looks interesting enough for us to check out properly soon.
Predictably enough loads of guitars queued up for a quick caress - Ashley Pangborn was kind enough to bring along a pretty breathtaking example of his work - a fretless bass with aluminium fingerboard! It only remains to ask the question: Why? The answer should be appearing sooner ('Or later!' shouts an editor from beneath a pile of paper, old socks, empty Rizla packets...) in SI's hallowed Bass pages - you can also expect to see guitarmaker fabuloso Geoff Gale in the recently promised series on... guitar makers! Geoff was in fact busy zooming around the show drumming up support (drumming?) for his attractive axes. Also well up in the handmade stakes was Wal with his Electric Wood basses, which you can read all about (or, alternatively, have read all about) in this month's Bass article — Wal was hanging out in Barratts of Manchester's room, who are currently distributing the guitars in the UK.
As for production line guitars the Peavey guitar and bass re-appeared on the Peavey UK stand, accompanied by polite requests not to publicise them too much. So I won't ('They can't get them in the UK, you see', he continued in hushed tones). More available production electrics included new offerings from Kramer, Shergold, Ibanez, Aria, Yamaha and Hamer; the Hagstrom Superswede, Gibson Paul and Music Man Sabre (see SI June 78 p13).
One of the most enjoyable moments at BMITF was supplied by a rapid three-piece set from Landscape at the Norlin Hotel (well, the Imperial Hotel, at which Norlin were showing off their wares). Apart from bassist Andy Pask's obvious disenchantment at the Ripper (or Grabber?) twixt hands and amp, the gigette proved a very successful method of promoting Norlin stuff — the new Pearl Vari Pitch drums sounding particularly interesting. Again, more on these in an upcoming SI. The new Polymoog Keyboard was also lurking locally; elsewhere there was little to stun in the keyboard scheme of things, though Roland's new Jupiter 4 polyphonic synth (everybody's doin' it) and the Korg Vocoder extracted suitable oohs and aahs from appropriate keyboardists.
And so another trade show slips under the table - they do have a bar at Olympia, don't they?
Lots of trade shows and exhibitions have themes (you know - Freak Out with a New Fridge, The Romantic World of Hydraulic Forklifts, etc), but the Musical Instrument show had no such formal keystone. So here is my list of offerings:
— Blimey! Where do we start?
— Excuse me, I'm looking for a guitar...
— Anyone fancy a wet?
Sincerely, though, folks, we did wanna see it and there was a lot to see. Virtually every major name in electronics, guitars, brass, woodwinds, keyboards, and ancillary stuff was represented. Some of the exhibits were modest roomsful, others — like Norlin's - were whole circuses including lunchtime concerts and a roving staff of 60, each and every one equipped with a lapel button. Apart from seeing a few thousand guitars, we met a lot of old buddies and made a lot of new friends.
Here are my personal nominations for the Sound International Keep Music Confusing Prizes: First, to Ovation and their ever-helpful UK distributors Rose-Morris, for their top-of-the-line carbon graphite soundboard guitar, the SI Ugliest Most Expensive Award for Brass Neck. Still, I guess £2000 isn't that much to pay for a really gross guitar.
The SI Dream Machine Award has to go to MM Electronics for the Redmere Soloist combo amp (which I'll be reviewing shortly). This £470 combo features Fender/Marshall/Vox-type sounds, touch controls, graphic EQ, reverb, sustain, flanger, Chorus, and noise gate, all built into a flight case.
The SI World Domination Made in Japan Memorial Award goes to Ibanez and their UK distributors Summerfields. Maurice Summerfield tells me that Howard Roberts has just signed up for a new Ibanez Roberts guitar which should be exhibited at Frankfurt. This means that the Ibanez stable of musicians now includes Roberts, George Benson (the new Benson model was on show - lovely device), Bob Weir, Steve Miller, and Steve Marriott. Now if they could just get Les Paul and Leo Fender... And watch out for the influx of new colour Ibanez catalogues, which are beautifully produced and very informative on specs and features.
The SI Sheer Fanatical Craftsmanship Trophy must go to John Birch, who seems at last to be emerging from his workshop to blink shyly at the bigtime world of commerce and offer up his superb guitars to us mortals. Roll on John and all men like him.
The SI Hey Far Out Axe Award is a joint win by Kimbara for their Lessy copy which features onboard auto-wah, flange, and sustain, and Paul Hamer for his quad 12-string bass (four courses with one bass and two treble strings on each). Kimbara is distributed in the UK by Fletcher Coppock & Newman, Hamer by John Hornby Skewes.
HH Electronics pick up two awards: the SI Misnomenclature Ribbon for their Digital Effects Unit (an optional delay and flange module for their mixers) which is in fact analogue, and the SI Oh God Not Again Tin Cup for their repeated (and repeated) high-level demo-ing of the last twelve bars of Ms K Dee's I've Got the Music in Me through the rather spiff but very loud HH Concert PA system. A bijou painette in the bum. Still, the gear was good.
All in all it was a great show and my only niggle would be the amount of trogging we had to do to see everything, because the show was held in a total of seven different hotels. Next year, we are led to understand, the show will be at Olympia. I expect to see you there. All of you.
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