Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Craving Some Japanese

Things are starting to perk up ever so slightly in the Trowar family.  There's talk of gigs in Atlanta, Indianapolis/Bloomington, Seattle, and, once we're feeling good about our live set, Los Angeles.  Hell, there's even talk of a possible video shoot soon.  But none of this is confirmed at this point.

What is confirmed is that Trowar HQ - the recording studio that Fred (guitarist/singer) is building for Chris (manager) -  is back on track and moving towards finished.  We should also have a CD available for purchase/download soon.  I'll definitely update this blog once I have more info.  But I'm excited at the possibility of getting Trowar back in gear.

With travel looking more and more like it's going to happen for me, I've been searching for a "travel bass" to buy.  My bass is a 1977 Music Man Sting Ray, and it has been one of my most prized possessions since I bought it in high school.  I have flown with it multiple times, but I'm pretty sure (given the case it is in) I'm flirting with disaster, esp. now that baggage searches are so much more common and invasive these days.  I'm hoping to find in the family budget $300-$700 to get a great sounding and great playing bass that won't send me into a downward spiral of depression if it arrives on the baggage carousel in pieces.  I'm thinking Japanese.

I've kept a pretty narrow search so far, looking primarily at Japanese Fender Precision and Jazz basses.  I've been looking for a Sting Signature bass in particular.  (Despite what the Fender website says, these can be had for about $700 on the open market.)  However, a casual visit to a new guitar shop in town made me realize I've been overlooking an excellent option:  vintage Yamaha basses.

There is a late -70s/early -80s Yamaha in there that is a beauty.  (Don't recall the model number.)  It has a bolt on neck, with a single Jazz bass-type pickup near the bridge as well as a split coil (Precision bass) pickup configuration.  It had volume and tone knobs and a pickup switch.  The action was amazing and it is only $300!  Here's the thing:  there are several frets that are shot - lots of buzzing even though the neck didn't appear to be warped.  I need to go back and check it out - it might be something that can be fixed with neck adjustments, but I'm not sure.

But here's the take away lesson for me:  Yamaha basses of the 1970s/early 1980s rightfully have a cult following because they sound great, play great, and look great.  The hardware is heavy duty and these basses enjoy a workhorse reputation with a discount price.  They are, in my estimation, the poor man's G&L.  I definitely need to be looking around at Yamahas.  Here are a couple I found on eBay.

Look at this amazing Yamaha BB 1200 neck through body with EMG pickups.  I especially like the 5-piece laminate neck, the fingerboard inlays and neck through body construction - this is stuff you'd have to pay a premium for with most basses.  This bass is a steal.

. . . and here is another lovely neck through body -  Yamaha BB 1000S.  It is only a three piece laminate neck, but it has more pickup options than the bass above. Otherwise, it's as stripped down and basic as you could ask for.  But if you can't get it done on this bass, you can't get it done.

Finally we have this Ibanez Musician which, incidentally, is a bass also made popular by Sting.  This is a bass I look for on a fairly regular basis on eBay; but unlike the vintage Yamahas, folks have clued in on their greatness and the market seems to be catching up to the reputation.  They're getting harder to find for cheap.  While I don't care for the white finish on this one (the natural finish Musician basses are stunning), it's got all the stuff that makes the Musician bass amazing. 

Hopefully, I'll be able to report soon that I've obtained one of these babies.  I don't see me affording a vintage Fender Precision bass anytime soon, even the Japanese Precisions.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Planet Of Professional Bowlers Is Dead; Long Live The Planet Of The Professional Bowlers

Yesterday I killed off "History Lesson Pt. 2"'s sister blog "The Planet of Professional Bowlers".  Not a big deal except that earlier this month I linked to the PoP something like fifty times.  Since PoP is dead, gone and deleted, all those links are broken.  But you should totally Google them, dude.  It's really worth your time.  Those (now dead) links can be found here, here, and here.

Here's Your "It's Friday/I'm Outta Here Music"

I need to get into King Kahn and the Shrines a lot more.  I've been listening to them today and it's a ray of California sunshine on a dreary day.

Is that last one too mellow for you? Play this then - LOUD.

More Or Less In Praise Of Pete Seeger

This morning, I read this quote from Robert Crumb, who was speaking about Pete Seeger:
Seeger… he's a saint. Pete Seeger's a fucking saint, but I never found his music very interesting. You know, musically he can play the banjo, but he's so political, so deeply, vehemently political — and I agree with his politics completely — but it made his music political; the message was more important than the quality of the music to him. He's a literary musician, you know? But he dedicated himself to getting out there an playing these left-wing, rousing songs to labor unions and strikers, it's amazing they never put him in jail. Well, actually, I think he was in trouble for a while but he never went to jail. Is he still alive? I think he is. I think he's still going! I know someone who recently talked to him and I guess Seeger is very inspirational. He's still very lucid and he talked about the old days. You know, he started all that political campaigning in the '30s, and he started very young with that. He's from an upper-class family with money. I think it was the Seeger family whose maid was Elizabeth Cotton, and one day they found her playing guitar and singing and they went, "Oh my God! This woman is a talented singer/musician!" Somebody, years ago, gave me, as a gift, a huge box set of ten LPs of all of that left-wing folk music done by the folknics, not by the real folk, but the folknics of the '50s and early '60s: the Almanac Singers; Joan Baez and Pete Seeger. It's just totally uninteresting. Real country hillbilly music by deeply ignorant, racist people is much more interesting than that stuff. As I said, I agree totally with their politics, but musically it's really uninteresting. The whole folknic scene, even when it was happening in the late '50s and early '60s, I was never moved by it. I preferred rockabilly. 
 I found that this pretty much summarizes my feelings about Pete Seeger. I've always thought of him as sort of a secular humanist monk with the same passion, dedication and conviction as anyone in the religious life.  But for me, his music is not particularly good.  Crumb's right:  Seeger's message rendered the music an unobtrusive vehicle for the politics.  His politics - in my estimation - have always been spot on.  Always.  Seeger's character is unimpeachable and his  lyrics can be quite stirring. But the music unlistenable.  It sounds dated and even corny.  His banjo playing, while adequate, is uninteresting to me.  Perhaps Seeger himself would not argue the point that it's all about the message, not the medium.  To me, what I've heard of his music would back up that claim (should he ever make it).

Of course, P.S. trickles down to us through those he has influenced, starting with Bruce Springsteen, who is an open, unabashed fan of Pete Seeger's.  Pete Seeger has inspired generations of not just folk singers, but activists and lefty rock bands as well.  He has a career that has spanned decades, a drive and singular dedication that is a well that many have run to for inspiration.  His music is collective memory and consciousness, celebrating what's great about us as well as holding us to account.  It sounds stupid to call him a national treasure, but I feel like if anyone is, it's Seeger.  I won't be buying anything of his anytime soon though.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fat Friday Feature: Graham Maby On Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him?"

I love the bass run on "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" - it's interesting and creative; not overblown/busy at all.  The rest of the song seems to work around the bass; the bass part is the centerpiece of the song.  However, my favorite thing about Graham Maby's  bass line is the tone:  his picked, muted right hand on the Fender Precision bass creates a sound that is meaty and round - quite similar to the legendary Rickenbacker 4001.  And look how well he plays along with the prerecorded track below!

On a side note - what the fuck is with that dumbass that is introducing them?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Fourteenth Of February

I bought a used copy of Billy Bragg's "William Bloke" at a record store in Bloomington, IN.  I had been a Billy Bragg fan every since I bought "Don't Try This At Home" in college without knowing anything about BB.  I was hooked and began scarfing up anything he released.  Some of it I didn't care too much for, but his songs that I liked, I really liked.

At the time I bought "William Bloke", I lived on a screened in porch of a cabin at the summer camp at which I worked.  As the warm Saturday morning began heating up into a hot Saturday afternoon, I putzed around the porch listening to "William Bloke", alternating between cleaning and reading.  It was pretty good, but then "The Fourteenth of February" came on.  I instinctively stopped everything I was doing and went and sat next to the CD player.  When it was finished, I listened to it again.  I didn't move.  Then I listened to it again.  Something about that song completely engaged me; it made me long for the true love which he described in the song.  At that moment I decided when I did find true love in a woman, I really wanted this to be the first song we danced to once I was married to her.

On August 31st, 2002, Mary Beth - my true love - and I danced to this song as a married couple.  I must be honest and say that Valentine's Day has never really felt like a "real holiday" to me - I'm pretty ambivalent about it.  But I do get a great deal of peace remembering how "The Fourteenth of February" made me pause and think of love as well as the one I love.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Music From The Planet Of Professional Bowlers, Part 3

The third entry wherein we explore the music from this blog's sister site, The Planet of Professional Bowlers. Part 1 is here, part 2 is here.  In the words of Kasey Kasim, the countdown continues.

  1. The Coup "Heaven Tonite" (live)
  2. The Heavy "Colleen"
  3. The Butthole Surfers "Something"
  4. Test Dept. "Fall From Light"
  5. Sonic Youth "Hallowe'en"
  6. Beck "Debra"
  7. Jad Fair "OK"
  8. Cabaret Voltaire "Crackdown"
  9. The Birthday Party "Dim Locator"
  10. REM "A Carnival of Sorts" (live)
  11. Jackie McLean (full LP)
  12. Dinosaur Jr "Freak Scene"
  13. The Rolling Stones "Tumbling Dice" (live)
  14. LL Cool J (live)
  15. Liquid Soul "Afro Loop"
  16. Pacific Gas & Electric "Staggolee"
  17. Dylan Roahrig "National Anthem"
  18. Wire "The 15th" (live)
  19. Ryan Adams "Burning Photographs"
  20. Phantogram "Don't Move" (live)

Music From The Planet of Professional Bowlers, Part 2

A continuation of the previous post.  PoP has so many great tunes I thought it best to spread it over a couple entries.

  1. Tom Waits "What's He Building Down There?"
  2. The New Mastersounds "Hole in the Bag" (live)
  3. Ariel Pink "Only In My Dreams"
  4. Squirrel Nut Zippers "Sleigh Ride"
  5. Public Enemy "You're Gonna Get Yours"
  6. Boss Hogg "Gerard"
  7. Nouvelle Vague's cover of "Love Will Tear Us Apart"
  8. Trio "Ja Ja Ja"
  9. Pussy Galore "Spin Out"
  10. Devo's cover of "Satisfaction"
  11. The Bottle Rockets "Welfare Music", "Kerosene"
  12. Bukka White "Aberdeen Mississippi Blues"
  13. Snakefinger "Kill The Great Raven"
  14. Husker Du "Celebrated Summer"
  15. Calexico "Minas De Cobras"
  16. Tom Waits "San Diego Serenade"
  17. Jill Sobule "Karen By Night"
  18. The Bats "Treason"
  19. The Psychedelic Furs "Pretty In Pink"
  20. The Violent Femmes "American Music"
  21. The Replacements "I Bought A Headache"
  22. The Feelies covering "Sedan Deliveries" (live), "Slipping Into Something"
  23. The Flying Burrito Bros "Devil In Disguise"
  24. The Police "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"
  25. The Minutemen "Fascist"
  26. Elvis Costello and the Attractions "Love For Tender"
  27. Maci Gray "Sweet Baby"
  28. Chapterhouse "The Pearl"
  29. Trans Am "Motr"
  30. Emmy Lou Harris "Where Will I Be?"
  31. Daniel Lanois "Whole Lotta Love To Give"
  32. Barbara Mandrell "Steel Guitar Rag"
  33. The Dickies "Gigantor"
  34. The Pogues "Rake at the Gates of Hell"
  35. Tangerine Dream "Force Manjure"  Not to be confused with Rick Majerus.
  36. Ride "Twisterella"
  37. Urge Overkill "Sister Havana"
  38. The Jam "Strange Town"
  39. The Bad Plus covering "Tom Sawyer"
. . . .to be continued yet again!

Music From The Planet Of Professional Bowlers

You might know that History Lesson Pt. 2 has a sister blog full of all kinds of interesting stuff.  The Planet of Professional Bowlers is the Tumblr site where I dump whatever catches my short attention span.  It's not uncommon for me to link to some great songs there.  They are listed/linked below.  While I don't think I got every song posted at the PoP, I think I got the overwelming majority.  Click around - I can pretty much guarantee you'll find something you like.

  1. Bob Dylan  "Jokerman" (live on Letterman)
  2. Bela Fleck and Ruth Akello
  3. The Birthday Party "Hairshirt"
  4. Loretta Lynn "Don't Come Home From Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind)"
  5. Matteo covering the Talking Heads
  6. Jimmy Cliff covering "The Guns of Brixton"
  7. Jimmy Cliff "Ship is Sailing"
  8. The Replacements "Careless" (live)
  9. A massive Beastie Boys monster mix
  10. Neneh Cherry "Buffalo Stance"
  11. The Mothers of Invention  "Mystery Roach"
  12. Funkadelic "Super Stupid"
  13. MX-80 Sound "Tidal Wave"
  14. Charles Mingus "The Clown"
  15. Squirrel Bait "Tape From California"
  16. The Death Grips "Fever (Aye Aye)"
  17. Quincy Jones "Theme From Sanford and Sons"  (This one actually has a title, but I can't remember it.)
  18. The Specials "Do Nothing"
  19. The Bad Plus covering "Everybody Wants To Rule The World"  (live)
  20. The Ladies of the 80s "Ladies of the 80s"
  21. Springtime Carnivore "Collectors"  (?)
  22. Chet Baker "Tis Autumn"
  23. Chet Baker "If You Could See Me Now"
  24. Lake Street Dive covering "I Want You Back"
  25. Mike Watt "Arrow Pierced Egg Man"
  26. The Ruins "Zasca Coska"
  27. The Tar Babies "Lay of the Law"
  28. Miles Davies from "Kind of Blue"
  29. Defunkt (Not sure of song title)
  30. Ride "Sunshine/Nowhere To Run", "Dreams Burn Down"
  31. The Trashcan Sinatras "Only Tongue Can Tell"
  32. The Novas "The Crusher"
  33. Superchunk "Detroit Has A Skyline"
  34. Neko Case "People Gotta Lotta Nerve"
  35. Sufjan Stevens "The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us"
  36. Patti Smyth and Scandal "The Warrior"
  37. Stone Roses "Fool's Gold"
  38. The B52s "Private Idaho"
  39. The Who "Christmas"
. . . . to be continued!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Fat Friday Feature: The Bad Brains' Darryl Jenifer On "Soul Craft"

Occasionally, on Fridays, I like to feature a great bass player/bass part.  Today, it's Darryl Jenifer's playing on the Bad Brains' "Soul Craft".

Words to describe the bass playing on this song:

  1. Nimble
  2. Smooth
  3. Seamless
  4. Tight
  5. Bad ass
That is all.