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Talking Guitar by Jas Obrecht (2017)

Talking Guitar Jas Olbrecht

Talking Guitar: Conversations with Musicians
Who Shaped Twentieth-Century American Music

by Jas Obrecht
University of North Carolina Press, 2017

Guitarists love to hear other guitarists talk about their craft. Jas Olbrecht, former editor of Guitar Player magazine, has had the honor of speaking with some of the most famous guitarists in history from diverse genres, and a number of those interviews are collected in the volume Talking Guitar: Conversations with Musicians Who Shaped Twentieth-Century American Music. From the blues guitar of Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown to the rockabilly stylings of Ricky Nelson, the philosophy of the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia to the two-handed tapping of Eddie Van Halen, Talking Guitar has a little bit for everyone.

The Van Halen interview is especially interesting as it was an unscheduled sit-down with the up-and-coming guitarist after Olbrecht was blown off by Pat Travers. After playing a game of one-on-one basketball and explaining his predicament, Van Halen said, “Why don’t you interview me? Nobody has ever wanted to interview me?” He introduced himself, Olbrecht started recording, and Eddie Van Halen’s “first major interview” was underway.

Johnny Winter went on record about open tuning and slide technique, Carlos Santana speaks to the importance of tone and emotion, while Tom Petty talks about understanding rhythm guitar and how important Mike Campbell’s lead work was so important in Petty’s success. Talking Guitar also features interviews with Nick Lucas, Ry Cooder, Barney Kessel, Roebuck “Pops” Staples, Carol Kaye, Stevie Ray Vaughan, James Gurley, Gregg Allman, Neil Young, Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani, and Ben Harper.

Also included is an audio CD that includes excerpts of the interviews, including Eddie Van Halen explaining how “Eruption” ended up on the debut Van Halen record, and James Gurley explaining how John Coltrane influenced psychedelic guitar.

Talking Guitar is a fascinating collection of interviews, highly recommended for aspiring rock stars.

Learn more about University of North Carolina Press.

Purchase Talking Guitar by Jas Obrecht.

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Random Awesomeness (part 210)

Random Awesomeness

Purchase Ace Freheley – Origins Vol. 1

Random Awesomeness (part 208)

Random Awesomeness


Purchase Quiet Riot – Live At The US Festival 1983.

What do rockers really want?

We’ve all heard the story about Van Halen and the brown M&M’s. But have you ever heard David Lee Roth sing about it? Of course not. If you want to know what is in a rocker’s heart of hearts, you have to listen to what they sing. Here’s a rundown of ten of the deepest desires of rock legends…

Van Halen Rising by Greg Renoff (2015)

Van Halen Rising

Van Halen Rising
by Greg Renoff
ECW Press, 2015
380 pages

One of the greatest American hard rock bands, Van Halen’s showmanship and musicianship is unparalleled. In Van Halen Rising, author Greg Renoff travels back to the time before Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” inspired countless young men and women to pick up guitars and start shredding, to the early days of the Van Halen brothers and David Lee Roth in California. A band that was written off as having no commercial potential, they were, as the subtitle proclaims, the “southern California backyard party band that saved heavy metal.”

A meticulously researched book, Renoff quotes childhood friends of the band members who were able to recall those early days and describe the parties, and, more importantly, the music. Renoff examines the influence of bands like Ten Years After and Cactus on Eddie and Alex, the impact of various cultures on Roth, and how they were able to merge those different styles into a popular style all their own.

Such an extensive look at a band’s pre-fame days is rare. Renoff does a phenomenal job, and Van Halen fans all over the world will savor every word of Van Halen Rising.

Learn more about ECW Press.

Purchase Van Halen Rising by Greg Renoff.

Fun Cards: 1978 Topps “Rookie Rockers” Van Halen

The Night Owl raved last night about music trading cards. And he showed off some cards he received from a reader, some from the early 1990s and some from the late 1970s. I have a few music cards in my collection as well, but I don’t believe I own any of the early 1990s “Rock Cards” that Night Owl flaunted. While the card designs (if you want to call them designs) aren’t attractive, the subjects are perfect for headbangers. From Slaughter to Poison to Skid Row…I would have loved these cards back in the day.

Forget “back in the day.” I would love these cards today. Though I would hope they could hire a better graphic designer.

But what I would love even more is for Topps to do something like this…

1978 VAN HALEN

Van Halen’s first album was released in 1978, so I put the foursome’s mugshots on a 1978 Topps rookie card. This is the kind of set I would like to see, and maybe Topps can make it happen. Maybe they can sign some of my hair metal favorites to contracts and produces an Archives-style music trading card set. Members of Mötley Crüe on 1982-style cards, KISS on a 1974-style cards (like this), Winger on 1988-style cards. That’s a set I would collect.

How about it Topps?

JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Extreme edition

Extreme

The city of Boston, Massachusetts, boasts quite an impressive list of bands originating from that area: Aerosmith, The Cars, Powerman 5000, and, of course, Boston. Another rock group originating in Massachusetts is Extreme, featuring singer Gary Cherone and guitarist Nuno Bettencourt.

Extreme achieved massive success in 1990 with the ballad “More Than Words,” but that song was not representative of the band’s sound. A mixture of hard rock, glam metal, and funk, the band has a strong fan base despite a small discography. After a hiatus during the mid-90s through the mid-00s, Extreme returned with a new studio album in 2008 and live album in 2010.

Cherone and Bettencourt still tour today, and are scheduled to perform at Bogart’s in Cincinnati next Tuesday. I’ve been listening to a lot of Extreme lately, and decided to resurrect an occasional series and take a stab at “JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Extreme edition.”

The “Ultimate Mixtape” rules are pretty simple:

  • Every studio album must be represented by one and only one song.
  • That song does not have to be an official “single” released by the band to promote said album.
  • Compilation albums can be included, but only songs that are new, previously unreleased, or remixed of songs from prior albums are eligible for the list.
  • Live albums…I’ve softened my stance over time. Live albums are a great way to sneak additional songs into the mix.

Let’s get into it…here is “JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Extreme edition”…

JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Exteme edition

The second half of the disc (the “bonus tracks”) is devoted to Extreme members’ other projects.

Bonus Tracks:

Check out all of the “JT’s Ultimate Mixtape” posts here.

Learn more about Extreme.

Purchase Extreme music.

Offbeat cover songs

Cover songs are a dime a dozen, and most of them can be thrown away pretty easily. Either they are so poorly performed, pale in comparison to the original, or are so faithful to the original to make them unnecessary. But when done well, cover songs can be thrilling. Think about Jimi Hendrix covering Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower.” Completely different arrangement and delivery, making it almost unrecognizable but still unforgettable.

A good recent example is this Krokus song from the new album, Dirty Dynamite. Listen to it carefully…do you recognize it at all?

So who did Krokus cover? Who was the original artist for this song?

That’s the Beatles, folks. They took that classic pop song and turned it into a sticky sweet 1980s ballad, complete with a crying guitar solo. I absolutely love Krokus’ version of this song.

How about Reggie Watts’ version of “Panama”…which is really nothing like the Van Halen song at all, but still pretty interesting.

Have you ever thought, “I wonder what ‘Stairway To Heaven’ would sound like if it had been performed by the Doors instead of Led Zeppelin?” Wonder no more, my friends…

Alex Skolnick, guitarist for metal band Testament, also has a jazz band that covers heavy metal songs. Check out “War Pigs” below:

If jazz isn’t your thing, how about flamenco guitar? Benjamin Woods did an album called Flametal of cover songs, like Ozzy Osbourne’s “Bark At The Moon”…

One more for this post, and then we’ll turn it over to the comments section…The Byrds singing “Friday,” a song originally written and recorded but never released by Bob Dylan. The song was made popular a few years ago by Rebecca Black.

So now it’s up to you…tell me some of your favorite offbeat cover songs in the comments, with a YouTube link if you can find one!

The best music of 2012

This has been a pretty good year for music fans, whether you’re into rock, pop, or country. Below are ten of my personal favorites (in alphabetical order) that have hit the store shelves in the past twelve months…

Best albums, best song on the album
Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls, “Hold On”
Flo Rida – Wild Ones, “Good Feeling”
Jim Avett – Second Chance, “Pictures in the Attic”
KISS – Monster, “Back to the Stone Age”
Lynch Mob – Sound Mountan Sessions, “Slow Drag”
Old Crow Medicine Show – Carry Me Back, “Ain’t It Enough”
Shooter Jennings – Family Man, “The Deed & The Dollar”
The Steel Wheels – Lay Down, Lay Low, “Rain in the Valley”
Two Gallants – The Bloom and the Blight, “My Love Won’t Wait”
Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth, “Blood and Fire”

I didn’t have time to check out the full releases of every artist from this past year, and there were other records that didn’t measure up to that “hit play and forget the skip button” status. Here are a few songs from those categories. Download the MP3s for these tracks…

Best songs on other albums
Allen Stone – “Sleep”
Alberta Cross – “Money for the Weekend (Pocket Full of Shame)”
Bang Tango – “Our Way”
Hank Williams Jr. – “We Don’t Apologize For America”
Psy – “Gangnam Style”

I also caught up on a few 2011 releases during the past year. Here are five titles I missed when they were first released; check them out, if you are so inclined…

2011 albums, songs
JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound – Want More, “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”
Primus – Green Naugahyde, “Lee Van Cleef”
Umphrey’s McGee – Death By Stereo, “Booth Love”
Various Artists – This One’s For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark, “All He Wants is You” by Shawn Colvin
Wood Brothers – Smoke Ring Halo, “When I Was Young”

Finally, Awolnation‘s “Kill Your Heroes” has been in heavy rotation on a new Cincinnati radio station for a while, and it’s a very catchy tune…

Fun Cards: 1985 Topps “Father-Son” Eddie & Wolfgang Van Halen

Breaking away from baseball for a minute, here is one of my favorite “father-son” duos: Eddie and Wolfgang Van Halen. Wolfie plays bass in his dad’s (and uncle’s) band, and while it stinks that Michael Anthony was forced out the way he was, the truth is there probably wouldn’t be a Van Halen group today if it weren’t for Wolfgang.

Van Halen

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