Thursday, 20 April 2017

RIP - Allan Holdsworth

It's been ages since I've posted on here.  Apologies.  Life seems to be just flying by so fast.

It is therefore with great sadness that I have to post first on here for ages about the passing of one of the finest guitarists of the last 40 years or so.  Allan Holdsworth passed away recently aged 70.

Now for many Allan will not be a name that is known but some years back if asked that question as a guitarist myself of "Who is the best guitarist?"  well... Allan would be one of the first names off my tongue in a very short list... with Jeff Beck in there too.

Allan was simply a genius.  I first heard of him through various guitar magazines and then in the briefly lived but incredible supergroup U.K. which was himself, Bill Bruford (Yes, King Crimson etc.) John Wetton (Uriah Heep, Wishbone Ash, Roxy Music and after U.K. of course massively successful in Asia) and Eddie Jobson (Yes, Curved Air, Roxy Music etc.).   They produced one incredible album with that line up and then Bruford and Holdsworth were off.  However that really got my interest.  In 1982ish I built a Strat with two humbuckers in it - inspired by what Holdsworth was using at the time.

Note some similaries...   When I built mine I had cream Dimarzio PAFs in it too... !

The first solo album of his I bought was Sand.  Here he was the focus the jazz genius his flowing lines and complex chords to the fore.  Simply you couldn't follow what the hell he did - to me he is the Miles Davis of the guitar frankly just going - Oh yeah and it'll do this too if you're good enough.

Other solo albums of note are Secrets and Heavy Metal Fatigue which if you want to find out about him I'd recommend.  But note to the jazzaphobes esp Secrets is very jazz.

Briefly he almost came to the publics greater attention.  At the end of Level 42's great success he joined the British Jazz/Pop/Funk group replacing the sadly too early departed Alan Murphy who'd succumed to complications from AIDS.  He recorded much of the album Guaranteed with the band before moving on, even before the cover photos were done and he was replaced by Jakko Jakszyk (laterly of King Crimson).

Whilst not as commercial as thier other albums Gary Husband and Allan joining gave the album some of, in my view, Level 42's best tracks.

So to remember Allan by here are three tracks.

First from Level42 - just listen to the solo - brilliant!

Secondly from Secrets possibly my favourite ever track by him - Joshua. Just the intro of the guitar takes my breath away.

Finally for a laugh - just watch this! the finger gymnastics on the chords!  And the solo - yes well let's not go there!

 RIP Allan - you'll be sadly missed.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Book Reviews - Coffin Road Peter May and The Muse Jessie Burton

Coffin Road - Peter May

I've read some of Peter's previous novels.  In particular his Lewis Chessman trilogy.  This is again set in the Western Isles Peter's preferred setting.  We are presented with a classic amnesia story.  Man comes too on a shore in the middle of a storm, he has been shipwrecked it seems but he has no idea how, or who he is, or what is going on.

A terrific page turning thriller as you want to know who our hero really is?   This is made more difficult for him and us since he can find nothing in his croft as to who he really is.  Just some odd clues.  His neighbours don't help much they tell him he is a writer researching a book.  But... he finds no notes, no writing on the laptop.  Actually... nothing at all again... Only that he is a beekeeper with some hives that are secreted somewhere he clearly didn't want them to be found in.

The second thread is a teenager who is convinced her missing father isn't dead and then when his best friend is killed just after giving her a clue that she may be right she suspects foul play.

Brilliant story as I say - especially the science at the bottom of the plot.

Two thumbs up on the FITUBRS*

The Muse - Jessie Burton 

I loved her first novel the Miniaturist.  This one is set in two locations and times.  1967 in London and the beginning of the Spanish Civil war in Spain.  What is the link?  Other than a undiscovered masterpiece painting that is uncovered in 1967.  Who was the artist?  What happened to them?  Who is the mysterious Quick who gives our heroine a job in an art dealership in 1967?

Nicely spun with the true link between the times and the characters kept hidden and still some surprises towards the end that weren't telegraphed in the plot make this a really enjoyable read.

One thumb up definitely possibly two - close call on the FITUBRS* 

* Furtheron International Thumbs Up Book Review Scale -
lowest is both thumbs down with a frown
two thumbs down,
one thumb horizontal,
two thumbs horizontal,
one thumb up,
two thumbs up
two thumbs up with a grin - very rarely awarded

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Shergold Guitars return.

2017 has started with a really good piece of news.  Back in the late 70s / early 80s Shergold guitars were one of the top British brands around growing in the Burns tradition of something unique and quirky not just based on USA designs.  A nascent band I was in that was a 5 piece that reformed itself a few months later as a 4 piece that had some success had a lead guitarist who had a Shergold Masquerader.  I remember it being a seriously good guitar - esp when compared to the Columbus Strat copy I possessed at the time.  This is the model I remember...

Well Barnes and Mullins, a well known distributor in the UK, has bought the company name and set up with a 21st century make over and relaunch.  They've enlisted Patrick Eggle as the consultant to design the launch model.  Patrick has taken the Masquerader body shape, updated the headstock to avoid the friction inducing string guides and used Seymour Duncan pickups offering various pickup combinations and introduced a 21st Century Shergold model.

It's a good looking thing and if the Faith acoustic guitars that Patrick helps design are anything to go by I expect these to be really good to play.  For me a little shame that some of the Masquerader's pioneering, but complicated, pickup switching has gone and that the pickups are not Shergold home wound ones but there again I chuckled at seeing a reliced Les Paul hanging in a London Store the other day - £4,000 and with DiMazio PAFs in it to create what many did in the 70s when they found their tour weary 20 year old units failing i.e. looked to the component market.   However I'm really keen to see another old UK name back in the fold and wish it success.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

2016 Review of the year

It is remiss of me but I've missed getting the annual Furtheron review of the year out before the end of the the year... oh well.

Gig of the Year
In days gone by this would have been hotly contested as I attended so many gigs but finances, commitments and my ears have meant less choice these days.  So from a very very small list the winners are Joe Bonamassa.
CD of the year

Rock -Going to give this to Wild by Joanne Shaw Taylor.  This has been a mainstay on my playlist since it's release.  Fantastic playing and singing - Joanne is as good as Joe Bonamassa and many many others in this genre on this outing.

Folk - Has to be the superb On a Winter's Night by Cara Dillon which I bought as my Christmas listening this year.  It is a stunning album worth getting to keep for next year but frankly so good I can't believe I'll be digging out still in the summer!  Holly and the Ivy is just to die for - she has frankly one of the greatest voices in folk currently.

DVD of the year - I got Joe Bonamassa's Live at the Greek Theatre for Christmas - stunning!  A tribute to the three Kings, Freddie, Albert and BB played almost exclusively on vintage instruments including Alberts own custom Flying Vee known as Lucy.  Joe might be my "rock" in  his approach than the three Kings but the show is a tremendous tribute and top draw throughout.  The list of guitars is boggling, however the notes are not totally correct, Joe uses I believe a genuine 58 Vee but it is incorrectly noted as the famous Amos one - which is can't be it isn't a black scratchplate, also there is a large additional plate on the bass side making it a huge looking symmetrical plate.  Also he forgets (!?!) a 58 Explorer that comes out for one number!

Read of the Year
I only got round to reading this this year so goes to Time after Time by Ben Elton.  I can't praise this enough, I love the writing style but the concept whilst out there (time travelling to correct mistakes in history) once things start to get revealed I just love the point it is making about humanity as it has been throughout the 20th Century and 21st Century.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Book Reviews - Follow You Home - Mark Edwards, Whiteout - Ken Follett

Follow You Home - Mark Edwards

I've read his two previous novels, both scary thrillers in the spooky sense.  Follow You Home is no different but is perhaps even darker than his previous books.  It starts a few years ago where we meet a couple on their grand backpacking tour of Europe and the fatal mistake of not paying extra for a sleeper compartment on a train travelling into Romania.

Soon they meet an intriguing, if disturbing couple but then are kicked off the train by guards with no paperwork someone having stolen their passports.  What happens after they leave the train?  You don't know as both of them clearly have had to black out of their pasts what happened there.  Fastforward to the present day and they are struggling to get a normal life together.  Continually bad luck seems to dog them - or is it bad luck or is what happened to them after that train ride a curse that is following them around continually.

I real page turner that you can't get away from.  The reveal of what happened is hugely disturbing as it what is the reality of the "curse".  The final reveal at the end too is a brilliant surprise and one that makes you (well me at least) gasp with realisation - which somewhat troubled the lady next to me on the 5:25 home that night!

Two Thumbs Up on the FITUBRS*

Whiteout - Ken Follett

Written about 11 years ago I only bought this as it was a cheap Kindle offer from Amazon.  Anyway - a good thriller if a little unbelievable at points.  We're introduced to a secret pharmaceutical research facility in the highlands of Scotland - need else the play of the plot wouldn't work in South East M25 ringed England.  However this hits the first in consistancy - one of the heroes is the brilliant scientist in charge who is credit with a discovery of a well known drug... well yes but he wouldn't have made millions out of that as that was a corporate product and... he couldn't commute from there to the home counties facilities.  That's ok until... we're told about how his family was brought up in this house in the highlands....  er... that just don't work.  Anyway - ignore that....

Essentially we have a plot to steal from the facility - only our heroine, who is a female ex copper, can thwart it, especially as her ex in the local idiot police inspector who thinks he knows best and has a huge grudge against her.

It is a good thriller but some of the stuff is a bit too long played out and the ridiculous opportunities for ... ".. but no their phone was left in the other jacket.....  not charged up..." etc. was at times a but eyerolling.  Reasonable and interesting as the virus worked on is Ebola years before the recent outbreak.  Worth reading if it is still cheap if you can put aside some of the ... "but surely that doesn't add up" moments.

Two Thumbs Horizontal on the FITUBRS*

* Furtheron International Thumbs Up Book Review Scale -
lowest is both thumbs down with a frown
two thumbs down,
one thumb horizontal,
two thumbs horizontal,
one thumb up,
two thumbs up
two thumbs up with a grin - very rarely awarded

Monday, 28 November 2016

Album Review - Wild Joanne Shaw Taylor. Fear - Marillion

Time for some album reviews.

Fear - Marillion

I've been putting off writing this review since I have to say.... for me this isn't a classic brilliant album.  It is very good but for me this isn't Marillion at their best.  Odd isn't it first time in thirty years they get back into the top 5 with a release and get rave reviews and I'm left a bit like... hmmm... it's really good but... but what?

It is an epic work, there in lies some of it's problem, also reading how it was put together with the band working with long time collaborator Mike Hunter in the producers chair.  From my reading of the interviews it goes something like this.... the band jam on stuff for hours - Hunter captures is all then starts to construct the pieces with the band from that and then they add in the details etc.   For me it then means that these long pieces constructed in this way don't always for me as an entire "song" hang together.  Now Marillion have always had long tracks and compositions - Forgotten Sons in their first album through to Gaza (which is quiet simply one of the greatest bit of music ever!) on their last effort Sounds that Can't be Made.  However then you get a set of 5 - 6 mins songs that are of the more traditional intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, solo, verse, chorus, outro.... This album is all of the long songs with several bits - indeed the track listing on the CD actually runs to 17 "tracks" but three of the compositions are split into 4 or 5 tracks.  I just missed a Beautiful, Easter or Map of the World and too often the joins are simply holding some suspended chord making you think - where's the bridge to the next bit.  The next bit is invariably good but for me, I'm too demanding maybe, where's the clever link?  Seems writing that I'm being churlish in that I'm hitting an album that is terrific for the sake of the odd few seconds of a rundown or drum flourish.

So despite being a manic Marillion fan and again stumping up my cash straight away on the now familiar crowd funder for the album and having my name on the deluxe edition and despite several of the parts being brilliant - Living In Fear (one of the two shorter songs) is my highlight - it's anti gun / violence topic being so prevalent to today's world.  "We've decided to risk melting our guns".  Throughout Hogarth's lyrics are the best he has written, if you feel it is right for bands to be making statements like they started in Gaza the album before.  Of the longer tracks The New Kings is terrific, part 2 (Russia's Locked Doors) featuring one of Steve Rothery's legendary tasteful Gilmore like solos. The final part (Why is nothing ever true) is I can see a crowd pleasing barn stormer of future live sets.

Anyway - enough of my blathering - it is a great album, my fire for Marillion is never diminished, compared with most bands who've been banging out stuff for over 30 years they still are doing new stuff, relevant stuff, edgy stuff, political stuff... ignoring what the world is doing but reflecting totally what the world has become - hmmm... remember Forgotten Sons and it's highly charged political statements being so shockingly portrayed on The Old Gray Whistle Test...  meet the new Marillion... still the same, only different.

You can listen on Spotify - go be converted it you aren't yet.

Wild - Joanne Shaw Taylor

To another trailblazer.  It is a shame that I keep seeing statements like "the best female British Blues Rock guitar/vocalist".   She is simply one of the best Blues/Rock players period - ignore her gender!  This album moves her on a fair bit being recorded in Nashbville with Kevin Shirley in the producer chair.  Yes him, the guy that has produced loads of Joe Bonamassa's stuff.  Some of the backing band - notably Lee Thornbury's horn section - are from Joe's various efforts.   This is by far her best and most accomplished effort to date.  She is a stunning guitarist from the off with Dyin' to Know having a chunky Tele riff that has you into a smoky bar somewhere in a flash.  I love her throaty voice too which is so suited to her style.  I'm in Chains is another belter if you want to get a flavour from your favourite streaming service.   Two covers also show how brilliant she is.  Wild is the Wind the old song that Bowie covered on Station to Station is turned into an epic blues rocker.  Just as you think it is finished after a great solo there is a reprise with one of the best blues solos on record ever in my humble opinion.  Summertime is also given the Taylor treatment and it is a super reworking of the old jazz classic with her own style - something too many fail to do these days in covers she reworks these two into being her very own.  That shows her brilliance in my mind.

If you like Jeff Healy, aforementioned Mr Bonamassa, Gary Moore et al try this out I don't believe you'll be disappointed at all.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Bach to Beatles - concert review

Mrs F had bought us tickets to see Milos Karadaglic performing the opening night of his Back to Beatles concert with the English Chamber Orchestra a the Canterbury Festival last Friday.

Sadly at the last minute - well with a week to go - Milos pulled out of the concert since he has suffered a recurring hand injury and the advice of all the medical professionals was to stop playing and get it sorted out finally.

So in steps Craig Ogden. Remarkably he altered only two pieces from the original programme, one being that he inserted Asturias which as a core repertoire piece was simply replacing something with something he knew backwards. He dropped Whilst My Guitar Gently Weeps from the second half where most of the pieces were from Milos' latest album Blackbird. However this still meant him learning in a week 9 pieces and their unique arrangements and given three were with jazz bass accompaniment and others with the ECO as well. To say I was impressed is an understatement. I'd obviously have loved to see Milos but he was there to introduce both halves and talk with Craig about the "nightmare" arrangements. Craig though as I say was a revelation as a stand in - he captured the feel of the pieces as well as executing them to my ears flawlessly. My favourite was the rendition of Come Together where he really clicked with the jazz bass accompaniment.

Really enjoyable concert in the very posh surroundings of the Shirley Hall which is part of the King's School in Canterbury. You feel very small and insignificant though when sitting in an institution that claims to have been founded in 597. That isn't a typo - yes 597 - i.e. 1,419 years ago!