Posts Tagged ‘guitar’



[Black and white photo of Gary Moore with Les Paul Guitar]I AM SLOW ON THE UPTAKE SOMETIMES.

I just discovered that Gary Moore is dead. It’s nearly Christmas 2012, and he died at the beginning of 2011, and I  have just found out. Why is this stuff not in the news instead of the same old economy, politics and Islamic nonsense every day?

This stuff matters.

Did I know Gary?  No, but I have seen him live in concert, and I have met him a few times over the years in “interesting” circumstances. This does not constitute “knowing” him as such, but it’s better than nothing at all, and it’s all I have.

Gary was the generation one-up from mine. He was slightly older. I guess it started with the Thin Lizzy thing. A lad in the year above me at school joined Thin Lizzy because of Gary’s sudden departure one day. Yep. This actually happened. The Planets aligned, and Brian Robertson just out of Eastwood High was thrust into fame and (hopefully) fortune replacing Gary Moore in Thin Lizzy. Brian was on the radio and everything — he even started speaking with an American accent.

Brian was a smashing blues and rock guitarist. Typical lead guitar stuff; good at poncing about, good at poses, apparently guzzling a bottle of whisky and smoking cigarettes (which were lighted and then wedged into the guitar’s headstock between the strings and the machine heads).

But Gary Moore was exceptional.

Because of Brian, we listened to Thin Lizzy — and so heard (and appreciated) Gary’s work). It was all cool, and then one day in a record shop basement in Bournemouth in July 1977, I heard Colisseum II.

It was blasted through the shop’s loudspeakers. I hovered about until I’d heard the entire album (Electric Savage) – I bought it and was amazed to find that the guitar was Gary Moore!

This was not rock, nor blues. This was Jazzy fusion stuff – and live (more or less). This band elevated Gary Moore from the ranks of pretty-good guitar soloists, to a guitar star.

[Embedded Videoclip from Youtube of ColisseumII – Inquisition]

Gary had a great voice too, and was fast on the solos, but I have always had a soft spot for his licks, his timing, phrasing and inventiveness set him apart. His musicality lifted him to another level.

I have a few of his albums, and would certainly have made an effort to see him live again.  I am sad to hear of his death, but sadder for having the feeling that he had in him the capacity for more brilliant music. His death really does mean we’re missing out.




Rodrigo’s ‘Concierto de Aranjuez’ was the first time I heard Mr Yepes play.  I still have the vinyl LP, and it is his version that I think of as the standard or benchmark.

I always found it odd that Yepes was not rated properly.  He had a very clean technique, but that doesn’t mean he was emotionless!

I have found this sort of thing a lot with guitar-players and critics over the years — they compare and compete.  The fact is that Yepes had to be compared with Segovia or Bream, which is unfair as they are so exceptional.  Yepes died in 1997, Segovia in 1987 and Bream is still around, so they were contemporaries.  Perhaps Yepes would not be accused to being detached and emotionless in another context.  I think he suffered from the comparison — and yet they did their own distinct things.

Yepes pioneered the 10-string guitar and transcribed loads of lute stuff.  The impact is clear today with the likes of  Dominic Frasca — or even with harp guitars of the likes of Andy McKee and Antoine Dufour, or more traditional work by Pasquale Taraffo, Mario Maccaferri, Luigi Mozzani, and Gian Battista Noceti.

[embedded videoclip from YouTube of Yepes playing Recuerdos de la Alhambra]


[embedded videoclip from YouTube of Dominic Frasca playing 10-string guitar]


Vai gets a lot of stick for being more technique and less emotion, yet I think that criticism is often founded on dubious contextual comparisons or personal preference.

So if you take Narscisco at face value, and listen to his playing on ‘Concierto de Aranjuez’ (especially the Navarro one I grew up with), and you will hear a superb guitarist.  He has such a natural affinity with Spanish music.  When it comes to Spanish guitar music, not many can do it the justice that Narciso Yepes did.

Anyway, he deserves a mention on my blog for “sharing things I like” as he has always been around when I need him.




[Picture of Eddie Van Halen playing guitar]“Eruption” started off life as a guitar solo done by Eddie Van Halen exclusively in a live context. It was recorded in 1977 and kinda changed the world (the guitar world anyway).

In the armoury of guitar techniques, tapping has always been around, but generally within classical and flamenco styles.  Some tapping did appear in rock on electric guitars, but never as comprehensively as here on “Eruption”.

Van Halen came up with the two-handed tapping technique to create a new soundscape — and in fact, most people assumed that it was played on a synthesiser or some form of electronic wizardry.  Van Halen famously played it with this back to the audience to hide the technique for a while at the beginning.

Of course, today, everyone’s familiar with this tapping sound and technique; it’s pretty standard in the curriculum, but back in the day — the mid to late 1970s — it was brand new and very exciting indeed.  That was a very creative period for the arts, and this is but one example of all the extraordinary things that came out of that very special era.

Technically, Van Halen tuned down the guitar by one fret, and begins in Ab and ends on the Eb 12th fret harmonic. The intro is based on “Let Me Swim” by “Cactus” followed by the “Etude No. 2” by Rodolphe Kreutzer. It ends with the final bars of an early baroque lute piece by John Dowland called “A Fancy”.

[embedded video clip of Eruption by Eddie Van Halen]


Now, I have to admit that tapping like this has not appealed to me personally. I have done it for a laugh now and again, but it just doesn’t sit in my personal “toolkit” for when I want to express myself on the guitar.  That’s just me; it is a fabulously effective technique for sounding fast or accomplished — what would Bill and Ted films be without Vai’s tapping?

Credit where credit is due, this single piece was so talked-about, so hyped, so “up there” back in the day, it was a real buzz, and everyone was amazed and tickled by the whole thing.  In the guitar shops, this started  to take over from “Stairway to Heaven” and “Smoke on The water”. It is always high on the charts of guitarist voted bests.

Wonderful stuff!




[Picture of legendary guitarist from LA - Larry Carlton]Back in the day when I was buying LP records all the time — I began noticing the credits, the names of the session guys.  I think it started with Steely Dan; they were just two musicians and a producer — so everyone else was a guest session musician.  If I liked some bass playing or a guitar solo, I would maybe take a punt on another album where that name came up — or get into their actual real solo albums.

That’s how I got into Larry Carlton.

But Larry meant more to me than just being a guitar player; he defined the guitar sound of the time — probably because he played on EVERYONE’S ALBUMS for years.  I’ve heard it said that Larry put out something like 500 sessions a year throughout the late 1970s to the late 1980s.

He played on the TV theme to a massive hit TV cop show called “Hill Street Blues”. For a while I would mix up Larry and Lee Ritenour, probably because they both used ES335 guitars (my favourite guitar, by the way), although Lee used a slide.

I always adored Larry on “Gaucho” and even his older stuff with Steely Dan, such as the solo on “Kid Charlemagne” from 1976 — and I am amazed that this solo was voted third best ever recorded guitar solo in Rolling Stone magazine.  Wow.  Good for you, Mr Larry Carlton.

As so often happens to my musical heroes, Larry suffered a tragic event — a random act of terrible and senseless violence.  It was back in 1988 outside his own private recording studio (Room 335) that he got shot in the neck! Seriously. The bullet got his vocal chords and ruined some important nerves.  Can you believe this?  I mean, although Larry was one of the best guitarists in the world, his solo work did feature him singing.  How tragic for him.

  • Yet, he survived.  The man lived and moved on to complete the album he was working on, and he has continued to create wonderful music to this very day — what a guy!

[embedded videoclip from, Bubble Shuffle – Larry Carlton]


[embedded videoclip from, Misty – Larry Carlton]


From my point of view, Larry influenced me greatly — his big hands and big chords suited me and what I was doing with Holdsworth.  Larry led me away from the dark side toward musicality, a lighter, free-er, way of playing. He played so easily, so confidently, so cleanly, and he winked and smiled too — yet this was tricky stuff to play, it was just somehow dissolved into a sugary, show-bizzy, rat-packy scene that was as plasticised as a Playboy cover. Fascinating and bewildering too. I mean to say, soloing with closed eyes! Ah!

What an unsung hero (in so many ways), I salute you, Larry Carlton.




[Picture fo Japanese Rock Guitarist, Miyavi]Some amazing things are happening in music around the world. As a family, we have enjoyed South Korean girl rap-pop from the Wonder Girls, and (at the other end of the spectrum), I am a huge fan of Cornelius.

From the bluesy origins of Ali Farka Touré and Ba Cissoko to the Russian whizzkid, Temur Kvitelashvili, I love that the focus is shifting from the UK and USA elsewhere for a change.

My latest find is Miyavi — he’s an amazing Japanese force of nature.

[Embedded video from You Tube  – Selfish Love]

Yes, he is a man (in fact “Mayavi” means “Male”), although he’s pretty feminine looking — and he’s also straight; his real name is Ishihara Takamasa and he’s married to pop singer “Melody“. Together they have a daughter called Lovelie Miyavi Ishihara.

Here’s a picture of Melody his lovely wife:

[Picture of Melody Japanese Singer]

There must be many quarrels in their house over hair products and lipstick!

Anyway, Miyavi has loads of CD albums, singles, DVDs and is apparently never off magazines over in Japan.  Both he and Melody are big stars. Miyavi certainly has the talent. The style, acoustically, is slappy, clappy, percussive and funky and if you like Andy McKee, Don Ross, Erik Mongrain, or even Tommy Emmanuel, he could be worth checking out.  I guess what sets Miyavi apart, is his fashion and his age (he was born late in 1981) when compared with these guys. Anyway, I like him; he’s not really taking himself very seriously, he is entertaining, he is fun, but behind that, he’s got a serious talent.

[Embedded clip from youtube:]





[Picture of Temur Kvitelashvili on an album cover]I have been listening to Temur tonight, courtesy of YouTube. Anyone that Allan Holdsworth says is amazing is worthy of note, believe me.

[Embedded video from YouTube: Temur Kvitelashvili – 21 Guitars]

He’s about my age, and he is clearly influenced by Allan Holdsworth, John McLaughlin, George Benson, and possibly Al di Meola (as well as a few other maybes — who knows, say  Larry Carlton, or Lee Ritenour — anyway, you get the picture; that’s the genre).

Temur Kvitelashvili is an excellent Jazz Fusion guitarist — but we have loads of them already. He’s not big on effects or trickery, and I have not seen him tap like Malmsteen or Van Halen, but he’s not entirely old school. He can shred a bit — but these days who doesn’t do that?

What makes him different? well, he does a bit of singing  — that’s pretty unusual (although he’s no George Benson), but I think the main thing he does that is defining is traditional Georgian folk music for the electric guitar — now that’s different, isn’t it?

The technique is fast — gypsy-like, Django evoked, it can remind you, at times, of di Meola or McLaughlin, but it is not Indian or Mexican/ Spanish/ Moorish; it is more Russian, and possibly more (if I can say this), “Jewish”.

Tbiliso” is a song about the city, and it is superb as an example of Temur’s work. I like his Hava Nagila

[Embedded video from]

If you want more, search YouTube or check out his website here:





I just got a call from Chic Henderson from Auchtermuchty.  It was good to catch up with the auld rascal.  He’s 66 now, so he is not motorcycling as much any more — but he still seems pretty active in the Scottish and Irish folk music scene; his bands (The Randan Ceilidh Band) have several CDs, and he’s working on a new one right now.

He tells me that he toured Germany and the Baltic states again this year as a duo called Ardbeg — and that this will be his tenth year going out to South Korea for Saint Andrews at the Caledonia Society!

I met Chic in the late 1990s at the same place where I met my wife!  He was a draughtsman for one of our sub-contractors on site.  When I returned from my Swedish sojourn, Chic and I used to play Scottish folk music in Glasgow and Fife pubs.  It wasn’t what I was used to — it wasn’t my usual scene, but it was great fun!  We used to mess about with Toni Wood back then as well.  Chic had a project to photograph every Scottish castle when he wasn’t moonlighting as a weekend wedding photographer! Chic got up to 2000 Scottish castles — check out his site at

Chic has posted some videos on YouTube under the name ChicChanter — check them out at Check out The Randan Ceilidh Band too — Muchty Music is still selling the CDs by the way —




I just heard Les Paul died :-(

My first guitar was a very good Les Paul copy.  I put on DiMarzio twin humbuckers myself — adding an extra toggle switch.  The action was incredibly low, the frets were minimal, and it had great sustain as it weighed a metric tonne. I used 8 gauge strings back then, Jeez.

I went on from there, and it was always Les Paul.  I tried the SG, but came back to LP.  For years I tried Fender guitars and just couldn’t connect — especially with maple necks.  A rosewood Les Paul was my choice.

The downside was not having a Twang bar (whammy or tremolo arm), slide was out unless you could afford two and raise the action on one of them! And they weighed. Much. After a gig you needed an osteopath.

I eventually made the switch to a Strat — but I still miss the playability and ease of the Les Paul. I suppose I would really love an ES335… maybe one day… the 335 seems to be able to do everything, a good compromise instrument.

You have to take your hat off to old Les — what an influence on the world of music and engineering.  He was very technically minded, mechanically, electrically, electronically and acoustically. He developed instruments, parts and techniques that are everywhere today.  The layered overdub, the delay — loads of effects.

If there was a genius in modern music, it was Les Paul.  He made good business too — from selling records to selling guitars. The man was a brand, a signature — a safe, dependable and quality name… and that speaks volumes nowadays.

RIP Les – you made it to 94, but you will live forever really!




I can vividly remember the big buzz surrounding Frank Zappa’s “Baby Snakes” plasticine video on “The Old Grey Whistle Test”. I have always been a bit “funny” about Zappa — in that he was clearly a genius, but that (for me) he sometimes went too far, that he overstepped the mark sometimes.  But hey.

Frank Zappa is to Rock what Miles Davis is to Jazz or John Mayall is to Blues in that he discovered and nurtured so many that have gone on to become legends themselves.  Among the people Zappa discovered are guitarists Steve Vai and Adrian Belew.

Belew was poached from Zappa by David Bowie for the “Heroes” tour in 1978 to which I took Barbara Thomson (sister of John Martyn’s bassist), and as the two of us perched ourselves high on the stack of plastic chairs way up in the gods at the Apollo Theatre in Glasgow, we were struck by the weird sounds contributed by Belew’s guitar.

Belew played guitar on Bowie’s Live “Stage” album and on the “Lodger” studio album. But there is something wacky about Belew — he’s a bit “Bill Murray” if you know what I mean.

embedded video: AB on Japanese TV Ad – You Tube:

He also kinda reminded me of The Monkees’ Nesmith a bit. He was perfect for Dave Byrne’s “Talking Heads” — two wackos, and getting back to Zappa-type stuff.

Personally I think Adrian’s singing sounds a lot like Byrne’s, it’s the phrasing mainly.  Anyway — he then joined the new King Crimson in about 1981!

Discipline” is utter genius — what a revolution, what a fantastic blend!  Robert Fripp put together a helluva band here — the legendary Bill Bruford on drums for heaven’s sakes — the hottest drummer at the time, getting back with Fripp and KC — and then the bald Tony Leven on stick bass straight from Peter Gabriel’s band — and then Belew on vocals and guitar.

embedded video:King Crimson “Elephant Talk” live You Tube:

For me, it’s the guitars and vocals made this album — and that is mostly Adrian Belew! Man, he makes it look so simple — and FUN!

Fun is pretty much overlooked in the guitar world and serious music business. Thank Goodness for Adrian Belew, that’s all I can say.  He’s Keith Moon mad and manic, but he doesn’t cross the line the way that Zappa sometimes did — it’s not about perverted sex or swearing with Adrian, just silly.

embedded video:Adrian Belew:  “I’m Down”, 1983 You Tube:

“I’m Down” and “I See You” reveal a love of the Beatles and messing about in their style. How enigmatic — he is a funster, he likes pop, yet he’s in King Crimson and is considered one of the world’s most revered guitarists!

Through the rest of the 80s, Adrian continued his pretty varied side projects — some solo work and sessions — such as Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors”, Paul Simon’s “Graceland” and “Earth Moving” with Mike Oldfield.

I like that he didn’t forget his old pals, forming “The Bears” and starting to put out fun, lightweight albums.  Then he was back with David Bowie in 1990 as Musical Director for “Sound and Vision”.

That’s quite a CV! But I love this next bit…

In 1998, a musician and lover of Rock music, Paul Green needed to finance his Philosophy degree at the University of Pennsylvania, so he started teaching from his tiny home. Soon Green had 17 students — including a 12 year old bass player called Julie Slick. Julie’s Dad owned a Café and once played the drums — he even had a kit and his 11 year old brother son Eric was a drummer too.

Green needed somewhere bigger to teach, so they started using this a friend’s Café.., and Julie got to play bass with her father on drums!

These sessions were a big hit, and Julie’s brother became the permanent drummer and also signed up for lessons with the newly founded Paul Green’s School of Rock.  The school became a big success and was turned into a national franchise, attracting professional players to do master classes.

Adrian Belew gave a master class for the school in February 2006 — where he met Eric and Julie — and just 3 months later they were touring and recording with him!

Eric is a drum teacher at The Paul Green School of Rock, and Julie works in a restaurant (Rembrandt’s) when not playing with Adrian.  Julie always wears a loose dress and is barefoot when she plays the bass.

Isn’t that brilliant?

It’s like he’s doing what Zappa did for him — he’s helping others.  Not just Eric and Julie and The Bears, but he has also found the time to produce and play guitar on Mexican Rock bands — Caifanes album: “El silencio” and Santa Sabina’s “Símbolos“.

Lead-wise there really is no-one like AB. He loves effects (whereas I don’t use them very much) and writes for particular amps and pedals! His twangy rhythm playing can be heard as influences in bands like Lloyd Cole and The Commotions.

He has not really influenced my lead guitar playing, but he nevertheless makes me want to pick up a guitar.  He has also influenced my outlook — while he is very creative and pushes himself, he somehow manages to remain simple, tuneful and melodic.  He seems to be helpful and altruistic to the underdogs — Mexicans and young kids, and that is the true way — not meeting with world leaders to save the planet.

Check him out, he’s seriously good but anything but serious!




[Picture of Jeff Beck playing his guitar]What a brilliant gig tonight.  Last time I saw Jeff Beck it was at the Glasgow Apollo a zillion years ago.  That gig stayed with me; it was just astounding!

Back then I used to go to a lot of gigs, particularly at the Apollo.  I had got used to the whole thing, y’know, and then I was in my seat waiting for the Jeff Beck gig to start when I noticed that there was not all the usual massive columns of loudspeakers at each side of the stage.  It was very sparse looking.  I came away utterly amazed at the clarity of Beck’s sound that night; it was true High Fidelity.  Top notch quality, and that gig has always remained for me the benchmark ever since.  Quite simply the best sounding gig I have ever been too. It was even in stereo — the engineers would pan the guitar notes right round the place, especially on “The Final Peace”.

The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall is mince in comparison.  Beck still sounded really good, but it wasn’t quite as mind-blowing as the old Apollo that night back in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

The Concert Hall has no atmosphere at all.  Honestly, anywhere else and everyone would have been up boogying and dancing in the aisles, and surrounding the front of the stage. But, not tonight; everyone sat nice and clapped at the right bits. Gawd!

There were a few surprises in the set list — although he did “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”, it was just a wee bit — it merged into “Brush with the Blues”. He also did a version of Billy Cobham’s “Stratus” (a bass riff which I heard knicked sampled a few years back for some Ibiza dance trance crap). They also did a version of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”, which was a crowd pleaser.

Ever since I bought Beck’sBlow by Blow” LP back in the late 1970s, I have loved Stevie Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” — that was a massive influence on my playing style at the time (I was playing a Les Paul back then).  It was simply gorgeous tonight, what a virtuoso!

I am a fan of Nitin Sawney, and have all his albums, so I know “Nadia” intimately — and, I recently happened to be searching YouTube for Sawney’s stuff when we came across Beck’s astonishing version.  Played live was fantastic.  A real worth-it moment.

Teenie-tiny-wee Tal Wilkenfeld got herself going on the cheeky bass line start to “You Never Know”.  She’s a real find — reminds me of my Ruthie when she plays — same daft facial expressions and surprising licks. She was really solid on “Stratus” and “The Pump” and “Big Block” — those tracks are murder for a rhythm section, and far from being showy, just robotic power riffs… and bespectacled Vinnie Colaiuta was pretty amazing on these tracks in particular too — a big fat full drum sound. The rhythm section was tight and very solid (much needed for Beck’s style), and that included the supporting figure in the shadows, Jason Rebello.

Tal and Vinnie did solo spots, and they were “nice”.

embedded video:

I was disappointed to be honest, because I wanted Tal to blow my socks off, but then it was Glasgow Concert Hall, and everyone was just sitting there like plums.

The night was about Jeff Beck.  He’s the man. At one point he joined Tal, and together they played her bass at the same time, he played at the nut and she played up the neck!  A 4-hander, that was the fun (and show-offy) bit.

They also did “Blue Wind” and the reggae-ish “Behind The Veil”, and I was again reminded that in the old days and places, there would have been dancing!

They did a couple of encores, and I queued at the toilet, exchanging banter with loads burstin’ middle-aged rockers before heading home to check out Tal’s website and listen to all the stuff he didn’t do.

Now, Beck played a Les Paul on “Blow by Blow” in 1975 and switched to a Stratocaster for the next album, “Wired“.  It’s the tremolo that makes the difference.  He’s played a Strat ever since — a nice white one. He gargles the tremolo, plays without a plectrum (he uses his thumbnail), fades using the pot (rather than a pedal), and really, really, takes risks.

For example, on “Blow by Blow”, years ago, he played a note, then pitched it up, bending the string — but in stages, precise intervals up and down on one pluck, note clear and pitch perfect.

Tonight, he did that, and a tremolo version of it, whereby he would strike the note, and play a melody using the lever of the whammy bar alone — again, precise intervals, small movements of the trem arm down and up – genius and virtuosity, and huge balls to take the chance.

He also did weird things with the glass slide — playing right up at the bridge (where a couple of millimetres is a big margin of error).  Honestly, from slides, pull-offs, tapping, fake harmonics, fake-harmonic-tremolo-pitched and heaven-knows what-else, Beck showed that the guitar is a part of him, that it grows out of him, that he communicates with it — it’s his voice. Angel (Footsteps) was mind-blowing, seriously:

embedded video:

There’s no shredding or lead solos, but there’s no chord work, riffs or seriously fancy effects.  And he isn’t playing like a Spanish, classical or Jazz guitarist, either.  It’s just odd — he’s just Jeff Beck — a genre of his own, I guess.

Apparently he was ranked the 14th on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. That doesn’t show what a massive influence on guitarists over the years, Jimmy Page was his bass player at one time, and when he left the Yardbirds, Eric Clapton took over — and when Eric left, that’s when Page took up the guitar!  They all had to learn Beck’s parts.

“Blow by Blow” and “Wired” created a new genre for the electric guitar, a sort of blues-jazz thing that was sort of rock — a genre for Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, Steve Khan and loads more to develop.  I really do think Beck is underrated and that he deserves Hall of Fame, knighthoods and everything else.

Oh, and a big happy birthday to ya, Mr. Beck — 65 a few days ago!