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The Police: Certifiable


I can't believe it's taken me this long to getting around to reviewing The Police - Certifiable , their Live in Buenos Aires.  First of all, lets get the facts up front.  This is a live 2 DVD / 2 CD combo package that documents the final stages of The Police's 2007-2008 reunion world tour.  The CD packaging is the cheapest plastic I've seen, but you also get a 16 page photo booklet.  And in addition to the live concert, the DVD also includes a 50 minute documentary "Better than Therapy" by Jordan Copeland as well as two photo galleries.

The first few reunion shows were a little rough though.  Drummer Stewart Copeland famously called the band lame for some flubbed performances.  I managed to see the band twice on that tour and things definitely improved over the months they were on the road.  It's not quite the energy of 1985, but they do a good job on the songs.  While there's some amount of messing with the melodies and some extended jams, it works quite well on the live DVD, though not as good on the CDs.  Some songs like "Invisible Sun" and "Walking in Your Footsteps" have become sluggish --or maybe they were always that way.  On the other hand, they pull out all the stops for "So Lonely" and "Next to You."  I miss that they didn't play "The Bed's Too Big Without You" in this show, but you can't have it all.   That said, it's got all of their hits: "Message in a Bottle," "Walking on the Moon," "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic," "Roxanne," "King of Pain," "Every Breath You Take" etc.

Bottom line, there's enough good songs with energy to make the package worthwhile.  The sound and video quality are superb and you get a real up-front view of the concert. The camera work is excellent and unlike many live DVDs it doesn't suffer from too many short distracting cuts.  The DVD focuses a lot on Sting as the vocalist, but there are a couple of tasty Andy Summers guitar solos and it's clear that Stewart Copeland is having the time of his life playing drums on the big stage.

Some have criticized the sound on the CDs as being washed out due to dynamic range compression. I have to agree that it is a bit too uniform for my taste and doesn't quite capture the full energy of a live show. 

In the US, this package only available at Best Buy for the very reasonable price of around $25.  However, you can find the Blu-Rayversion (slightly more expensive) as well as used copies on Amazon and eBay.  You can also get it on The Police's official online store.

For anyone who saw The Police on tour, or maybe even more for those who missed out, this is a great documentary of their final tour.  Whether you think of it as a live DVD package with bonus audio CDs or a live CD package with bonus DVDs, either way it's a good deal. 

  • Police: Official Site, News, Tour
  • Amazon: The Police - Certifiable, Blu-Ray, Police Anthology, Everyone Stares (DVD)
  • GuitarVibe: The Police at Shoreline, The Police at Oakland, Police Live Footage

  • LickLibrary Instructional DVDs


    My buddy Richard from England has always been raving about the LickLibrary DVDs.  He's show me something he was working on and then tell me how he'd learned it from LickLibrary, with it's collection of 100% accurately transcribed DVD guitar lessons.  

    They've been around for 10 years and now offer more than 300 different instructional DVDs for guitar players in a range of styles and artists from Chicago blues to the latest in Metal.  Wanna play note perfect Hendrix solos?  Got it.  Wanna learn a bunch of "Quick Licks" you can add to your repertoire?  Check. Backing tracks?  Included.  Online sample lessons?  Loads of 'em.

    They also offer Arlen Roth's pionneering HotLicks line of DVDs featuring lessons by some of the greatest blues and rock guitarists like Mick Taylor, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Lonnie Mack, Eric Johnson and others.

    While LickLibrary is amazingly popular in the UK and Europe, their DVDs are a bit hard to find in the US; I've seen them in a few specialized guitar stores and on their web site.  Nonetheless, in the coming months, I'll take a look in more detail at their recently released 2DVD "Learn to Play Pink Floyd" tuition.

    And here's a quick sample from YouTube with an excerpt from the "Quick Licks" series that shows 30 licks in the style of famous guitar players, in this case Jimmy Page.  Also check out their community Lickspace area.

    Rock Guitar Camp - Part 2


    Following on my earlier posting on the Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp and National Guitar Workshop, here are a couple of other options for wannabe guitarists who want to develop their musical skills.

    • Fur Peace Ranch
      If you're looking for an acoustic venue with top notch musicians and a camp experience, Jorma Kaukonen's Fur Peace Ranch in southeast Ohio is the place to go.  Kaukonen hails from the great folkie tradition and was founding member of the psychadelic 60's band Jefferson Airplane and the acoustic band Hot Tuna. Workshops are conducted by guest artists like GE Smith, Jack Casady,  Happy Traum among others. They also have a concert series  showcasing a wide range of acoustic and electirc guitar talents.  The only problem is sessions typically sold out months in advance.  Still it sounds pretty cool.  Weekend workshops (Friday - Monday) cost around $1,200 per person including cabin lodging and meals.
    • Guitar Workshop Plus
      For over twenty years, Guitar Workshop Plus has been running summer sessions in Canada.  This year Guitar Workshop Plus has two sessions in Toronto the week of July 19 and 26 in Vancouver the week of August 9.  Guest artists include Paul Gilbert and Andy Timmons in Vancouver, Greg Howe and Stu Hamm in Toronto.  Workshops cover a range of skills and musical instruments.  Cost is around $1100 (CDN) including dorm room lodging and meals.   

    Maybe this is the year I'll attend one of these sessions.  If you've participated in these or similar workshops, add your comments below. 

    Beatles Bootleg Mystery Tour -- Explained


    For many who came of age in the 60's and 70's The Beatles music was groundbreaking.  From the use of multi-track recording and innovative studio effects to the almost endless supply of #1 hit singles, The Beatles broke records at every turn.  But the disintegration of The Beatles in 1970 also meant the end of new material and a back catalog that would be foraged over for years with compilation packages, anthologies of  rare cuts and a stripped down version of Let It Be.  And once that's exhausted, what's left for the truly addicted?  Beatle bootlegs, naturally.

    The New York Times had a great article on the subject a few months back describing how the record companies seeming unwillingness to reissue new masters or digital tracks has created a market for bootlegs.

    EMI, which owns the group’s recordings, remastered them at least two years ago. According to a 1989 agreement that ended 20 years of lawsuits between the Beatles and EMI, the label can do nothing without an O.K. from Apple. But Apple is supposedly keen: early in 2007 it hired Jeff Jones, a record executive whose last job was overseeing historical reissues for the superb Sony Legacy series...

    So what’s the holdup? No one is willing to say, but Mr. McCartney recently asserted that EMI was demanding an unspecified concession that the Beatles were unwilling to make.

    Frankly, the reasons hardly matter at this point: to collectors awaiting these releases, either on physical CDs (improved sound being the main point of remastering) or as digital downloads (where convenience trumps audiophile considerations), the inability of Apple and EMI to get this music onto the market is a symbol of how pathetic the record business has become, and how dysfunctional Apple continues to be...

    While EMI and Apple have been squabbling, collectors have taken matters into their own hands, pooling unreleased tracks and compiling anthologies that are far more ambitious than anything EMI is likely to release. Usually, these unauthorized desktop bootleg projects (which are of course illegal) have attractive cover art and copious annotations, and these days money rarely changes hands for them: the people who compile them distribute them freely (and encourage others to do so) either on home-burned CDs and DVDs or, increasingly, on the Internet.

    And now reports indicate that additional material has finally leaked out of some long lost vault revealing how the song Revolution 1 came into being and how it was supposed to evolve into the rather chaotic musique concrète of Revolution 9.  Apparantly take 20, was quite something.  (Note this could get removed at any time, so if necessary, google search Revolution 1, Take 20.)

    Matt Rosoff at CNET explains the significance:

    John's recording a slowed-down version of their recent hit single "Revolution," the B-side to the umpteen-million selling "Hey Jude." Being in a particular state of mind, he stretches it out for 10 minutes, then adds some scary horror music plus Yoko spoken-word weirdness at the end. Later, John or the rest of the band or George Martin or other mysterious powers decide that they'll add some overdubs to John's take and cut it off after about four minutes and record a new ending. (I believe the weird triple hit after the last chorus--every other time, it's a double hit--signals the beginning of the new end.) That's "Revolution 1." Then, John will add his own nine-minute musique concrete freakout to the end of the album. He uses some of the bits from the end of the old "Revolution 1." That becomes "Revolution 9," perhaps the most-skipped song of the CD era.

    A month ago, somebody leaked the original track, which to "White Album" fans, comprises a sort of holy grail connecting the two Revolutions, which otherwise bear no similarity except their names.

       Ok, maybe it's not the holy grail, but for Beatle fans, it's pretty cool.   And then there's 'Carnival of Light...'

    Rock Guitar Camp - Part 1


    In recent years there's been a slew of rock guitar camps springing up.  Many of these are for kids, but there are at least a few options out there for late blooming adults who want to improve their chops.  Here's a quick list of a few notable options.  Keep in mind that some of these sell out months in advance.  And depending on where you live there may be more affordable options at your local college or music store.

    • Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp
      This is definitely the most expensive option out there, presumably targeting the recently laid off CEO or investment banker who wants to find his innner guitar hero.  The most recent upcoming venue us April 29-May 3 in Hollywood, California where you'll get to rock out with Steven Tyler  from Aerosmith, Elliot Easton from The Cars, Bruce Kulick from KISS, Steve Lukather from Toto, Duff McKagen from Guns n Roses, Alan White from Yes and Todd Rundgren.  You'll also record at Capitol Studios and play a live gig at the legendary Whiskey A-Go-Go. But all this celebrity bling doesn't come cheap -- cost is $8,000 plus hotel and travel.

    • National Guitar Workshop
      For more than 20 years, National Guitar Workshop has been putting on summer sessions at college campuses in several US cities: Los Angeles, CA, Purchase, NY, Chicago, IL , Austin, TX, McLean, VA.  The emphasis is not on glitz and glamour, but rather on good solid instruction with a core curriculum as well as specialized seminars on jazz, rock, blues. Guest artists include Buddy Guy, Herman Li, Jimmy Vaughan, Robben Ford, Pat Metheny and Paul Gilbert.  Sessions start June 27 in McLean Virginia, for one week in most cities, and four weeks at the main campus in SUNY Purchase, New York.  You won't have Steven Tyler on hand, but the cost is a more reasonable $1500 per week including room & board.

    I'll post a another blog entry with two more notable camps next week.  If you know of other similar camps, feel free to add more details in the comments. 

    Tickmaster Subpoenaed in Scalping Probe


    Ticketmaster and its online reselling company TicketsNow have been subpoenaed by the US Department of Justice as well as the Canadian Competition Bureau.  The probe is part of a larger concern in a proposed merger between Ticketmaster which handles artist management and ticket sales and Live Nation, the largest concert promoter in the US. 

    Wall Street Journal reporter Ethan Smith broke a story in March showing how Ticketmaster works with artists, such as Neal Diamond, to set aside front row tickets to be sold at scalper prices with the extra profits split between Ticketmaster and the artist.   According to the article:

    Ticketmaster facilitates the secondary ticket market and profits from it. According to several managers of top artists and Ticketmaster executives, the company routinely offers to list hundreds of the best tickets per concert on one of its two resale Web sites -- and divides the extra revenue, which can amount to more than $2 million on a major tour, with artists and promoters.

    Tickets for a March 27 Britney Spears concert at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh were priced earlier this week at $39.50 to $125 apiece on But some of those same classes of seats were being offered at the same time through the "TicketExchange Marketplace" for as much as $1,188.60. The link to the Marketplace page was marked, "Browse premium seats plus tickets posted by fans."

    Critics have long accused Ticketmaster of monopolistic practices and high fees, a situation that will only worsen if it merges with Live Nation.  Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff claims "the business model is broken."  But the question remains: how does a merger fix it?

    How To Get More Time for Guitar

    At the beginning of this year, I made a commitment to play guitar every day.  It wasn't exactly a New Year's resolution, just a realization that if I wanted to improve, I would need to apply myself in a more disciplined fashion than I had previously. 

    Over the last ten years, I managed to run ten marathons, ultimately qualifying for and running Boston Marathon.  While I don't consider myself particularly athletic, it was clear that I was able to improve my marathon times over the years by putting in more miles and more regular training.   I think that anyone --of any age and any lifestyle-- who wants to run a marathon can do so.  All you have to do is like running and do it regularly.  So why not apply the same techniques to guitar?  Consistency is key, so that means playing every day if you can.  So here are a few tips for getting more time to play.

    Play at a Regular Time

    When I'm in training for a marathon, I drive 30 minutes to my office and then go running first thing in the morning.   If I need to get up at 6:00 am to do it, no problem.  I know I will get it done and my day will start out that much better.  Same for music.  Having a regular time makes it more likely you'll get it done.  Schedule it on your calendar every day if you need to.  For me, my guitar playing time is immediately after dinner.  My wife knows I'm going to disappear into our office and she won't see me for an hour.

    Start with Just 15 Minutes

    As with running, the hardest thing is just getting started.  You might think you don't have an hour available and therefore be tempted to skip it completely.  But if you aim for just 15 minutes, you can always find the time.   Even if it's 11 pm and I haven't played guitar, I will at least play scales for 15 minutes before going to bed.  And as my wife says, "don't let sleep get in the way of rock and roll."

    Keep Your Guitar Ready to Rock

    For years, I had my guitar in its case parked out of the way where I would never see it.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Then I got smart and I bought a couple of cheap stands.  Now my acoustic guitar is in the living room, not too far out of reach and I have my Steinberger electric about 12 inches from my desk, plugged into my Line 6 GuitarPort.   I just pick up the guitar, put on headphones and I'm ready to play with the benefit of drum tracks, effects, loops, etc.

    Get a Travel Guitar

    I have a Speedster Travel Guitar which I take with me whenever I travel.  It's small enough that I can carry it on board airplanes and play guitar in airport terminals, taxis or in the evenings in my hotel room.  I also take it with me if I drive for a meeting and arrive early with time to kill.   Alternatively, if you routinely spend time in a second home (in-laws, friend's place) with time on your hands but no guitar, consider buying a cheap $100 used Strat that you can stash for emergency playing.  I have several cheap guitars stowed at relatives' places around the country.  Believe me, it takes the edge off holiday visits!  If you spend all day in an office, consider keeping a guitar there and playing for 30 minutes before you head home.  While having a second guitar is an added expense, if you amortize the cost over the number of extra hours you'll play, it's well worth it. 

    Unplug Your TV

    Kill_tv The easiest way to get more time for guitar is to simply not watch television.  I don't watch a lot of TV, but since I got married, I find myself watching one show a year religiously.  These days I'm addicted to LOST as well as the Olympic track & field coverage.  Lucky for me the Olympics are over now and LOST won't be on again until February 2009.   The average US male watches 4 and a half hours of television per day!  And since I'm watching much less than that, there sure are a lot of couch potatoes out there.  Believe me, no matter how much time you spend watching TV, you'd be better off playing guitar.  And if you must watch TV, at least play scales while you're doing it.   Or if your vice is going out and partying with the guys 5 nights a week, well, that's not going to improve your playing at all. 

    Farm Out Your Chores

    Some duties, like driving your kids places are hard to get out of.  But others, like mowing the lawn or weeding the garden aren't going to make you a better person.  Pay the kids, or your neighbor's kids or a lawn care professional to take care of these things.  Look at what chores are bogging you down and figure out a way to do them faster or find someone else you can pay to do them.  And who cares if the lawn goes to seed?  Hey, it's rock and roll!   Do you think Kirk Hammett mows his lawn?

    Add Structure and Purpose to Your Playing

    Metal_method_dvds_3 Don't just noodle around playing the same chords and same songs you've always played.  If you want to improve you need to add some structure and purpose to your playing.  For me, this was the biggest missing piece in my playing.  I would look at songs, try them for a few minutes, find them too hard, and then just revert back to what I knew.  I don't have a perfect solution, but I have found that Doug Marks' Metal Method videos give me some context and structure for improving my playing.  The DVDs helped explain to me for the first time how different scales fit together and how you can use them in songs.  I'm only part way through the course, but it's made a difference in how I approach learning.  (BTW, that's Doug at the top of the posting with an excerpt from YouTube.)

    Focus on the Positive

    I used to think that good guitar players had some innate musical talent and I just came up short in that department.  So for years  my view of my skills was "I suck at guitar."  Geez.  What was I thinking?  No wonder I didn't make progress.  Now I've got a different perspective: I'm learning guitar.   Even if I don't have innate talent, I've decided it just doesn't matter.  What matters is putting in the time.  The progress may be slow, but I know that I will continue to improve.  The more I practice, the better I will get.  It worked in running, so why not in guitar?   And don't listen to anyone who comes up with reasons why they failed or why you shouldn't try.  One of the things I like about the Metal Method course is the positive attitude of Doug Marks.  He's also got some good newsletter articles on motivation. 

    Reward Yourself

    Every once in a while, it's good to reward yourself with something that will motivate your playing.  While I think for most people buying a new expensive guitar will not improve their playing, sometimes a splurge is worth it if it means you'll spend more time at it.  The Line 6 GuitarPort and RiffTracker products have given me the incentive to find more time to practice and also made that practice time more valuable.  And they don't cost that much either.  Once in a while, I'll go see a local music gig and come out more fired up and motivated as a result. 

    Let me know if this is helpful.  And If you have other time saving tips, add them below in the comments.