Monthly Archives: September 2009

What’s Your Favorite Guitar Solo?

One of the fundamental building blocks of rock music is the Guitar Solo.  The character and soul of much of rock and roll comes out in the solo.  Even more so than a drum solo or driving rhythm guitar riff, the guitar solo evokes a visceral response that is unrivaled in popular music.

Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World found solace in their favorite guitar solos, courtesy of Jimi Hendrix and Brian May.

Waynes World

Wayne's World

People that scream for Free Bird when at a live rock show are paying homage to that venerable, overplayed classic rock staple, not because of the upward looking lyrics, but because there is an over the top, killer 3 guitar solo that goes on ad nauseum, at the close of the song.

Through September 30, 2009, Fat Tone Guitars is having a promotional giveaway with an MJM London Fuzz Pedal as the prize.  To enter the giveaway, you must visit this website and submit your five favorite guitar solos.  A winner will be randomly selected from all the entrants.

To get things going, I’ll submit my 5 faves–in no particular order–with a little commentary on each.  Thanks for playing.

  1. Sweet Jane and Intro, Lou Reed’s Rock and Roll Animal: What is so ironic is that this album, put out by the godfather of punk not only showcases some killer lead guitar work throughout by Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, but also is the blueprint for the brand of arena rock that bands like Journey and Styx milked for years.
  2. Astronomy, Blue Oyster Cult’s Some Enchanted Evening: Donald (Buck Dharma) Roeser is one of the unsung guitar heroes from the first wave of heavy metal.  I’ll never understand why guys like Michael Schenker got so many props while Buck had all the chops and much more nuance and feel for a song than Schenker ever did.  Astronomy, from this under appreciated live album was my first true guitar epic.
  3. Things You Didn’t Know, The Bottle Rocket’s 24 Hours a Day: A slow burn song that follows that classic rock tradition of ending in a flurry of guitar, Things You Didn’t Know is a poignant tune that pulls great feeling out of the lyrics and the tasty guitar solo.  Brian Henneman recalls Neil Young and Billy Gibbons while coaxing some awesome sounds from his Gretsch Tennessean.
  4. County Fair, Joe Walsh’s So What: Apparently Joe Walsh quit the James Gang because he was sick of carrying a power trio.  His next 3 albums as a solo artist incorporated lots of classically inspired dynamic arrangements and layered keyboard and guitar.  County Fair is a masterpiece of tension and release.  Feel the guitars building on both speakers until they fairly explode and then the song is over.  Best when listening through headphones.
  5. Smiling, Marc Ford’s Neptune Club: Marc Ford paid his bills for 10 or so years recording and touring with the Black Crowes but his strength has always been as a quasi-bandleader playing post Band inspired music.  Possessing immense chops, Ford constrains himself on this album (and this song) while still getting great tone and emoting with the best of them.

Well, there you go.  Have fun with this.

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Fuzz Of The Week, September 22, 2009

Blackout Effectors is a cool little pedal company out of North Carolina.  They have been making neat fuzz pedals for awhile and their flagship pedal, the Musket Fuzz has been getting a lot of press lately.  Fat Tone Guitars’ Fuzz Of The Week however is the Blackout Effectors Fix’d Fuzz.

Like all the Blackout Effectors pedals, the Fix’d Fuzz is a highly tweakable fuzz pedal that takes a standard fuzz type tone and allows the player to add additional sizzle and grit to the sound.

The Fix’d Fuzz combines straight overdrive sounds plus a boost, as well as two different fuzz controls.  The two fuzz controls will get you smooth, polite fuzz or snarling, razorsharp snap crackle and pop.  Getting the Fix’d Fuzz to do what you want takes a little practice but it’s well worth the learning curve.

Best of all, the Fix’d Fuzz is way affordable at $165.  Check it out.

Blackout Effectors Fixd Fuzz Ants Version

Blackout Effectors Fix'd Fuzz Ants Version

Fuzz Of The Week – September 16, 2009

Our new Fuzz o’ the week for this week is the good ol’ Fulltone Ultimate Octave.  The Ultimate Octave pedal is a mult-function and multi-tone monster.

Guitarists who treasure fuzz tones will dig the ability to run straight fuzz style distortion or engage the footswitch to double up with fuzz plus octave up tones.  Because Fulltone offers up a bunch of cool distortion and fuzz boxes, it seems that the Ultimate Octave never gets the props it deserves.

In addition to the octave up switching, a player can tweak the tone via a fat/bright toggle.  Different strokes for different folks.

Fulltone Ultimate Octave

Fulltone Ultimate Octave

The Fulltone Ultimate Octave pedal is made in the USA as are all the Fulltone lineup.

What’s With Pink Floyd?

Pink Floyd is one of the top brands in rock and roll.  I say that with some cynicism and some admiration.  Like them or hate them, you’ve heard of Pink Floyd, have most likely heard some of their music.

I’m in the middle of the road when it comes to Floyd.  Sure, my friends and I listened to them a lot in high school.  I was in 7th grade when they played Soldier Field in Chicago with the huge inflatable pig on their Animals tour.  I was a sophomore in high school when The Wall came out and made them the top band in the land.  But I never became a huge Floyd fan and I never dug deep into their albums.  And admittedly, I never was tremendously impressed by David Gilmour.  I thought he and his playing was good and fit the music, but not great.

Pink Floyd Overrated

Pink Floyd Overrated

And of course the ubiquitous black t-shirt:

Dark Side shirt

Dark Side shirt

Getting back to David Gilmour and his guitar playing…

Fat Tone Guitars is running a promotion through the end of September.  There’s no purchase necessary and we are asking people to enter by submitting their favorite 5 guitar solos and then we’ll randomly select a winner for a brand new MJM Guitar FX London Fuzz Pedal.  And after 2 days of our promotion, the guitar god leader–by a LONG WAY–is David Gilmour.

I’ve been really impressed with many guitarists over the years.  I really dig the work of rock guitarists like Scott Gorham, Steve Hunter and Paul Kossoff among many others.  But it seems as if David Gilmour is one big guitar idol.  Sure, I can air guitar the lead to Another Brick In The Wall or hum the solo on Comfortably Numb.  But I never thought of Gilmour or those tunes as the hallmark of rock guitarism.  I’m going to go back and give those records another listen.

If you want to enter Fat Tone’s giveaway, just click here.

The Bottle Rockets – Lean Forward

The Bottle Rockets, a guitar oriented Rock n Roll band from St. Louis, MO recently released their latest album Lean Forward on Bloodshot Records.  Lean Forward was recorded in New York and produced by Eric Ambel.

Disclaimer:  I am a big Bottle Rockets fan but I’ll try to be as objective as possible.

The Bottle Rockets have staked their rightful place among the alt-country elite, and they have the history to back it up.  Lead singer and guitarist Brian Henneman was guitar tech for Uncle Tupelo in the latter days of that famous band and also played guitar on Wilco’s first album so naturally, he draws influence from rock and country and punk sources.   And much of the Bottle Rockets sound from their back catalog would fit in nicely in a classic rock station playlist alongside Lynyrd Skynyrd or the Rolling Stones, if only a terrestrial radio program manager would have the guts to slot them in.

Bottle Rockets Lean Forward

Bottle Rockets Lean Forward

Lean Forward is a perfect next step in the logical progression of the band.   Alt-country fans will not be disappointed in the album as there is still a lot of twang in their sound.  However, the band may be able to add some new fans based on the overall strength of the songs.

And the songs stand out on their own.  Like in the old days, the leadoff track The Long Way is the single.  Bringing a tunefulness that is both boisterous and mature, the song jumps out at you with a hook that will leave you humming for days.  The strong drumming of original member Mark Ortmann brings the song to a close and leaves you both fighting for breath and longing for more.

Other standout tracks include the rolling Give Me Room, which could stand tall on the Stones Some Girls album: Slip Away which juxtaposes the signature dual guitar interplay that Brian Henneman and second lead guitarist John Horton seem to be perfecting on top of a funky Memphis style soul groove.

Bottle Rockets Live at Beat Kitchen

Bottle Rockets Live at Beat Kitchen

The two standout tracks are Nothin But a Driver and Hard Times.  Both timely tunes, Hard Times starts with a slow burn, reminiscent of Bill Withers.  The music kicks into gear with guitars fairly searing while the rhythm section of Mark Ortmann and Keith Voegele maintain a driving rock/funk groove.  What brings the song home is Henneman’s realistic optimism.  These are truly hard times for many of us, but those of us with a grounded head on our shoulders will emerge from these times the better for it.

Nothin’ But A Driver roughs up the Bo Diddley beat and adds some trainwreck guitar on top of it.  Producer Eric Ambel coaxes some great work out the band here.  With the vocals down in the mix, the music does most of the talking.  Frantic freakout strumming and divebombing bring the song to life while never overdoing things.  This song will have you driving fast with the windows open.

Long time Bottle Rockets fans no doubt already own this album.  If you are a fan of good heartland rock and roll–melodies that sound familiar and strong but don’t pander, mixed with in-your-face energy–than do yourself a favor and pick this one up.

Bottle Rockets at Fat Tone

Bottle Rockets at Fat Tone

The Beatles

If you’re like me, you know about the Beatles reissues this week to commemorate September 9, 2009.  You know, 09/09/09, number 9, etc.

In the course of 7 years of Beatledom, the fab four released 13 proper albums in the states.  And The Beatles were pretty much the first self contained band that wrote their own music, performed their own songs and released their own albums.  From Please Please Me up until The End, the Beatles were groundbreaking in many respects.  And much of their catalog is killer.

While no one would argue that John, Paul, George and Ringo were virtuosos at their respective instruments, they did have a signature sound.   They also utilized certain guitars, basses and amps that screamed BEATLES.  Among other instruments, George Harrison played a lot of Gretsch guitars.  For example on many of their early recordings, he played a Gretsch Duo Jet with Dynasonic single coil pickups:

Gretsch G6128TDS Duo Jet

Gretsch G6128TDS Duo Jet

John Lennon played Epiphone Casino guitars as well as Rickenbacker’s like this 360/6 in MapleGlo:

Rickenbacker 360 Six String

Rickenbacker 360 Six String

And Paul McCartney was most famous for playing a Hofner Beatle Bass.  Eastwood has reissued a similar bass called the Club Bass which looks and sounds a great deal like the Beatle Bass

Eastwood Club Bass

Eastwood Club Bass

A lot of The Beatles sound was because of their Vox Amps.  Vox AC15s and later Vox AC30 amps projected their bright, chimey melodies.

Vox AC15 Hand Wired Heritage Classic Amp

Vox AC15 Hand Wired Heritage Classic Amp

Ringo Starr played the drums and I’m sure he played some cool kits but I own a guitar shop not drum shop and I’m not certain which drums he played.

Fuzz Of The Week, September 8, 2009

Where do you draw the line between Fuzz and Distortion?  Between Fuzz and Overdrive?  Sometimes you can’t put it into words but like the judge said, you know it when you hear it.

When looking for a versatile fuzz pedal, some players like the versatility to dial down the fuzz into a usable overdrive type tone and that’s just what our fuzz of the week does.

The Keeley Fuzz Head starts with a germanium transistor–a NOS transistor similar to the old Fuzz Face pedals.  It adds a Silicon transistor and the player can switch between the two.  The end result is a pedal that delivers great rumble and drive and also delivers awesome sustain and fullness when playing lead guitar.

Keeley Fuzz Head Pedal

Keeley Fuzz Head Pedal

You can hear a nice demo of this pedal right here.