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November 2007
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January 2008

Paul Stanley's Preacher from Washburn

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There's a good interview in the latest issue of GuitarWorld magazine featuring Paul Stanley of KISS talking about his latest guitar, the Preacher series from Washburn.  Stanley helped provide input into the design of the Preacher and he comments on the classic elements that make a good rock guitar. 

"Too many guitars are either poorly deisgned or just goofy looking.  They're different for the sake of being different, but they don't stand up in terms of design...

"For me, a great pickup means you can hear each string when you strum a chord.  I never liked pickups that just put out this blaring, white noise distortion.  All the guitar players I love, when they hit a chord, you heard each string.  So I prefer either a real vintage pickup or one that's just a little souped-up.  But when you get into superdistortion, super-duper-distortion and super-unbelievable distorion pickups, I'm not interested.  They're not musical pickups.  They serve a certain kind of music well, but they don't suit what I do..."

The high-end PS9200 model guitar features a mahogany body, Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates pickups, set neck with ebony fretboard, Grover tuners and gold hardware.  Coming in at just under 4 grand, it's an expensive guitar, but it looks absolutely stunning and is available in black or white. Other models in the series, including the PS7000 and PS7200 are a bit more modest in their specs, but still feature the mahogany body, Grover tuners, but use Egnator pickups and come in at a more affordable $1249.  Still not cheap compared to the average Strat or Les Paul.

Stanley used the PS9200 guitar on his latest solo album "Live to Win" and on tour in 2006 and 2007.  It's a good album and if you like late stage KISS with an updated sound, you'll feel right at home with it.

Unfortunately, the GuitarWorld article is not yet available online and Mr Stanley keeps blowing me off every time I try to get a confirmed interview schedule.  Ok, so I admit, I'm jealous that GuitarWorld has more pull than I do.  You can't fault me for tryin!


Guitar Lesson Scams?

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If you've ever done a search online for guitar lessons, you've no doubt come across so-called "review sites" that provide glowing reviews of two or three guitar lesson systems, praising them to the skies.  But what you'll notice is that the reviews are a mile wide and an inch deep.  The only thing they review is the particular products they're promoting.  There's no follow up, no how-to articles, no reviews of other products, no contact information, no names, etc. 

And the funny thing is you can find site after site with the same products reviewed with different names and headlines like "Smart Guy reviews," "Musicians Info," "Review nest," or with headlines like "Suck at guitar?"   But you'll never see any news about these products anywhere else.  (And unfortunately, sometimes these bogus reviews end up on this site since the ads are served up by Google.)

Doug Marks, who has been providing classic rock guitar lessons for more than 25 years under the Metal Method name believes these other companies are scamming guitar players and has written a brief article to exposes their techniques.   In effect, the review sites are just bogus advertisements linking back to the same old products over and over again.

I don't know if these competing products are any good or not, but I'm certainly wary of trying out a product that resorts to this sort of tactic.  Meanwhile, you can view samples of Doug Marks' courses on YouTube and read the online forum  to see what people say.  And he's recently updated his courses with all new content. 

Caveat emptor!

Update:

I was tired of some of the scam sites showing up on my google ads, so I'm now filtering many of them. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I have bought Doug's courses and joined their affiliate program.  It's a great course and I highly recommend it.  I have not tried some of the other courses, so I cannot recommend them.

As a result, you can get free shipping on orders in the USA by clicking on the banner below and entering the code FreeShip at checkout.  Normal shipping costs apply for International orders.  I don't make much money from the program, but it pays for the hosting of this site and an occasional trip to GuitarCenter. 



Holiday Blues?

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We're getting into the holiday season pretty fast, but there are still good blues gigs coming up in the Bay Area.  Kenny Neal, American Bluesman, is playing his annual Christmas Blues show at the Little Fox Theater in Redwood City (Dec 20). Elvin Bishop, guitar legend and really good guy, is playing at Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco on (Dec 21) and also at Moe's Alley in Santa Cruz (Dec 22).  And JJ's Blues in Cupertino is featuring Daniel Castro (Dec 21), Corby Yates (Dec 22) and and Sammy Varela (Dec 23) this weekend.

Also Andy Walo Trio is playing gigs in Redondo Beach this week and in Las Vegas at House of Blues next week.  I posted a review with photos and video from the last time he played there and it is a show not to be missed. 

So if you've got the holiday blues, there's no reason not to go out and listen to some holiday blues.  The only question is figuring out how to fit it all in.


Evolution at KFox Can-Jam

Evolution, the award-winning bay area Journey tribute band, played at KFox's Can-Jam at the King's Head pub in Campbell last week along with other KFox "last band standing" winners Joe, The Megatones and Midlife Vices.  Morning DJ Chris Jackson was on hand as well as other members of the KFox staff.  They also auctioned off a nice Ibanez guitar donated by Guitar Showcase in Campbell and autographed by all of the musicians.  Money for the event was used for the Brianna fund.

While I would not consider myself a Journey fan, they had a huge number of hits over the years and routinely get a lot of airplay on classic rock stations like KFox.  Check out the photos on PicasaWeb and videos on YouTube.  I've embedded a great Journey-inspired version of Star Spangled Banner with guitar player Jerrol Reavis wailing on his goldtop Les Paul.  You can also check out renditions of "Any Way You Want It," "Lights" and several videos highlighting drummer Don Stephenson

For those interesed in tribute bands, check out www.bayareatributes.com site and myspace page. Several other tribute bands are also scheduled to appear at the King's Head Pub in the coming month including tributes to Kiss & Motley Crue (Dec 14) and Santana (Dec 31) and Led Zep (Jan 12).  Also, the Blind Pilots on December 21!


Led Zep Kills in London

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Yesterday Led Zeppelin reunited for a single evening in London to commemorate the life of Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun who passed away a year ago this week.  It was the band's first full-length concert since they broke up following drummer John Bonham's death 27 years ago.  For more than 2 hours, they rocked a celebrity-studded O2 Arena with all of the classic Led Zep songs starting with "Good Times, Bad Times" finishing with "Rock & Roll."   (Full set list available here.) Although it was a one-off event, they put in months of rehearsal to make it a night that they can be proud of.  And who knows, maybe with all this preparation there might be a bigger concert tour next year.

Our intrepid field reporter (and long time Jimmy Page fan) Hans was on the job in London and reports from the show:

Led Zep didn't just perform a show to satisfy the nostalgia of the die hard fans.  Instead they rocked better and harder than bands half their age. They simply blew me and the rest of the 20,000 lucky one's in the arena away. The set list was awesome with practically every song you wanted to hear. If this was really a one off event it seems such a waste, with the energy and commitment they showed this last Monday they have every reason to continue playing together...  I dreamed about just seeing them play together one last time but now when the dream did come true, I can't wait to see them again. That's how good they were.

Robert Plant's vocals were remarkebly strong considering how much older he is now than when these songs were originally recorded.  But as he aptly put it, "Older equipment may take a while to get going, but once the requisite valves heat up, the quality is unmistakeable."  Jimmy Page, now sporting his natural white hair, was in fine form,with his trademark big riffs, extended solos and, yes, use of a violin bow.  John Paul Jones kept the bass and Jason Bonham filled in for his father on drums, helping to update the sound.

There are a few decent videos on YouTube from the show, but most appear to be taken from shakey cell phones in the back row.  The excerpt below on YouTube is from a proper professional multi-camera setup and was aired at the end of BBC Newsnight.  Although it clocks in at just over a minute, I think it clearly gives a taste for what the concert was like and how well they played.  And the good news is, they had cameras rolling for the entire gig so it looks like there will be a live DVD available next year.

In the meantime, check out the recent release of Mothership, a 2 CD greatest hits package that includes an hour of 1970's era live concert footage on DVD.  Or pick up the the full length live 2 DVD Led Zeppelin set from which the Mothership video is taken or the newly remastered version of their 1976  film The Song Remains the Same.  Check out the Rolling Stone web site for more news coverage and photos from the show.


Blind Pilots in Los Gatos

The Blind Pilots played One Broadway in Los Gatos last week.  It was a great gig, maybe one of their best.  But it was bittersweet, since this was my buddy Travis's farewell from the band.   Travis plays guitar and also sings lead vocals on a lot of the songs, ranging from 80's dance numbers to blues songs by the Allman Brothers.  Travis has a tremendous charisma and fun style that has helped the band develop a following in the bay area. 

The band played many classic cover songs from the 70's and 80's including Midnight Hour, Pride & Joy, Stray Cat Strut, White Wedding, Roller Coaster, American Girl, Takin' Care of Business and ohters.  Sadly they did not play Louie, Louie and it's rumored that this could be the reason for Travis's departure.  (Ok, I made up the rumor, but still, it could be true...) 

I managed to get a few decent photos and also some nice video of Travis singing The Cure's song "Just Like Heaven."  Click on the links to view more video and photos on YouTube and PicasaWeb.  Unfortunately, what you can't see in the video or the photos is the energy that the Pilots bring to the audience.  From the first song onwards, the dance floor was packed.  The Blind Pilots are an awesome live band and even if they aren't note perfect on every song, the audience is grooving on the music in a way that's completely contagious.  No doubt that's why the Pilots are loved by their fans. 

The band will continue on no doubt, rocking throughout the bay area.  They've had other band members come and go over the years but the foundation is strong.  With Gary on lead guitar,  Steve on Drums, Rex on bass and Alan on sax, there's a lot of talent and no shortage of energy.  Still, I'm sure Travis will be missed. 

In the mean time, watch for gigs coming up over the holidays at #1 Broadway in Los Gatos Dec 13 and 27,  The King's Head Pub in Campbell Dec 21, and Fibbar McGee's in Sunnyvale Dec 22.  And who knows, maybe Travis will come back and sit in on the occasional number.