Anyone who works out with their headphones knows how awesome it is when you get a big lift from your favorite song. Or hearing a cool tune you would have never picked shuffle through on your picturesque jog… With 1000s of songs on my iPod I almost always shuffle.
I’ve always thought it would be cool, interesting, perhaps even motivating to write about each playlist and the music’s effect on myself and the workout. Then I thought that might be kind of boring. Then I thought, “Yeah,” I was right…on both counts.
If you have read any of my previous “Run Playlist,” entries you know I shuffle through my workouts…almost exclusively! I rarely listen to one album straight through.
Another thing I hardly ever do any more is buy CDs. Sure songs here and there, but, not many full CDs anymore. However, I recently received in the mail Michael Schenker’s, “Bridge the Gap.”
With the new piece of ear candy in tow I turned off the shuffle feature and went to town dissecting my new sonorous treasure. My last two runs in fact were entirely devoted to the German guitarist’s newest release.
I won’t give the album a full review here cause it is just too early. I will share my first impressions, however.
Great production, great sound, heavy well composed songs, great vocals(not always a trademark of MSG music) and of course great guitar work. In fact Michael has never sounded better. Part of it is the production of the music. I also think part if it is Schenker seems to be enjoying life as much as ever. Props!!
A couple other quick hits…
-The keyboards(Wayne Findlay) are integrated really well on this disc. Perhaps even a sonic tribute to the recently passed Jon Lord of Deep Purple?
– Doogie White easily slides to the top of the class regarding Schenker vocalists over the years. Then immediately has to kind of battle it out to hold serve with Don Dokken who also sounds great on the bonus track, “Faith.” Major Kudos to Doogie on this disc and recent tours, sounds great!
-Dokken may be one of the top vocalists to work with Schenker. On the flip side Michael easily becomes the best guitarist to work with Dokken. Sorry to George Lynch fans. He’s a good dude and pretty good player just not even close to the same league as Schenker.
– The song format of this disc may lead to a better response from the average fan as some of Schenker’s recent music has been sort of through composed super-works. Most music fans are accustomed to block songs for easy digesting. Personally I liked when he stepped out of the box a bit. Even naming the songs on his MS 2000 disc the by the spelling of the CD title, “Dreams & Expressions.”
Bottom line- check out, “Bridge the Gap,” if you are a fan you won’t regret it!
This past Saturday night, legendary rock/metal guitarist once again brought his Flying V’s to San Diego. This time out in the sticks a bit to the Ramona Main Stage.
Seeing Schenker, one of my earliest and greatest musical influences, is always special and never a let down. The man can play! Plus, in the ‘stranger than fiction’ category, my old pal, San Diegan, Wayne Findlay, now tours and records with the band as keyboardist/guitarist.
BTW happy belated Birthdays to Michael and Wayne, both January 10 babies!
It’s always easy to review a Schenker show….masterful guitar work, great sound, energetic band. This show lived up to all! Only drawback…the stage was too low! Since they set up tables you can’t really get to the front and see Michael’s hands! Ramona MainStage is a cool venue and I recommend you get up there as they have some great acts coming though in an intimate venue….but, they either need to raise the stage a bit or clear out the tables and let a rock n roll show happen! I know some of the aging rockers now days like to get a table and relax and watch a show, but c’mon rock n roll is rock n roll!!!! You’re past selves would have kicked those walkers out from under your present selves and you know it!
Another oddity at Schenker shows… I am always surprised how much the crowd seems to know the UFO songs over his solo work. Maybe because I am a bit younger than the average fan…lol! Love the UFO stuff but I was raised on his first four solo albums and always want to hear more of those songs! This show did replace a few of the UFO tunes from recent tours with the aforementioned. Even played Assault Attack from the likewise titled 80s album. One of my top five albums All Time!
Since I was not able to find the current tour setlist any where beforehand thought I would do my best to represent the San Diego show here.
Michael Schenker, Bridge the Gap Setlist, Jan. 11, 2014 San Diego
Rock My Nights Away
Cry for the Nations
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Another Piece of Meat
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Attack of the Mad Axeman
Where the Wild Winds Blow*
Let it Roll
Into the Arena
Armed and Ready
*Since I hadn’t had a chance to hear the brand new album, “Bridge the Gap,” I estimated these titles as best I could.
I have seen a lot of musical acts in my day. My first concert was Ozzy with guitarist Randy Rhoads just two months before his fatal plane crash. I’ve seen Eddie Van Halen, Michael Schenker, Jimmy Page legendary rock/metal axe-men. I’ve seen classical greats John Williams and the Romeros. I’ve been to the Chicago and Los Angeles Symphonies. I’ve seen local and less-known musicians come through town and absolutely blow everyone away. I’ve seen some of the biggest acts in the world; Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Aerosmith…, as well as, some of the most incredible street musicians in America’s big cities…the people you miss your train simply to hear a few more songs. I’ve been to shows in rock, metal, Jazz, classical, world music, pop,…on and on! But, I never saw/heard anything like I did Tuesday night at San Diego’s House of Blues.
Yngwie J. Malmsteen put on a clinic!
Since his debut album, “Rising Force,” in 1984, I have been a fan. His blistering fast runs and arpeggios combining Heavy Metal with musical phrasing of the Baroque and Romantic periods are absolutely stunning. ‘The man obviously took his guitar lessons seriously,’ as one of my friends put it!
The knocks against Yngwie for the past thirty years are as earned as his virtuosity.
He is known for being a bit of a Diva and arrogant. ‘Bit’ might be an understatement. His music, although it has stood the test of time for thirty years, is thought to be lacking in general appeal to those outside of the music/guitar aficionado. There are not a lot of hits, hooks and catchy tunes in Yngwie’s output. His sound and style have not changed much over the years.
The Diva tag comes from a somewhat pompous persona. The J. in his name, as if he is going to be confused with another Yngwie Malmsteen. The use of words in his titles like opus. Oh yeah and he is 50 years old and still years leather pants, no shirt and gaudy jewelry…so the argument is made.
Yngwie hasn’t changed much over the years…which can be viewed as both a lacking and admirable trait. Vivaldi the Italian composer wrote over 500 concertos. Since they were all similar in style it is often jokingly asked , ‘Did Vivaldi compose 500 concertos or one concerto 500 times?’ This question might be applied to Yngwie’s output over his career, as well….but no denying the man’s sheer capability to play the guitar like no other.
Heading to last Tuesdays concert I was stoked to see Yngwie, but, more as seeing a relic. He could be crossed off my list of musicians I want to see but haven’t. I thought it would be a little boring. Watching Yngwie shred all over the place while his band sheepishly backs him up.
I could not have been more wrong! Yngwie was incredible. His showmanship was incredible, his skills were incredible and his band was incredible!
The ability to play a concert is hard enough for anyone…but to put on a show of that caliber and not lose your musical chops is awe-inspiring.
We’ve all seen musicians use gimmicks live. Playing with their teeth, spinning and throwing their instruments, creatively creating feedback while putting on a ‘rock show.’ Yngwie does all of these, but, it doesn’t seem gimmicky. He legitimately has put time into incorporating all these theatrics into his ‘musical’ performance.
His speed and precision have not declined at all in the years since his 1984 debut. Equally astounding is his use of effects. All guitarists use them, like the whammy bar, they often become a crutch to make any level musician sound rocking cool. Yngwie obviously has invested time working out his electronics as part of his guitar acumen.
Most impressive during the show, was his ability, while playing a blistering arpeggio riff to accompany himself with bass pedals using his feet. Not just one note to give a boost underneath but a full contrapuntal bass line with his feet while seamlessly arpeggiating over the top.
The band, in typical Yngwie fashion, are not easy to find out much info about. However, these guys played great. Of course to play with Yngwie…who the band referred to as ‘the Maestro,’ throughout the night, you’ve got to have chops. You have to play fast, but, they put on a rock show, as well. They laid down a rock groove that Yngwie could soar over with his guitar acrobatics while keeping the crowd rocking, not letting it feel like a man and…. oh yeah a band(even though Yngwie does take about 3/4 of the stage for himself)…kudos to those guys!!
Bottom line…if you haven’t seen Yngwie yet but have thought about it….GO!
An ABC Award has been bestowed on yours truly and this humble blog, ’12 Notes & the Truth!’ Thanks so much to my blogging colleague on the other side of the pond…Heavy Metal Overload…a true music fan if ever there was one…make sure you pay his blog a visit!!!
Without doubt the hardest part of this ABC list was deciding on a topic. I have been so busy, performing, teaching and networking that I didnt have a lot of time to devote to this spot for a while. My first and favorite idea was to write a description of each musical key, A, B, C…. Even the novice can see the flaw in that theory. The musical alphabet ends on letter G what would I do with H-Z? And what about the ‘#’ & ‘b’ keys??…scrap that idea.
Went through a host of other blah ideas before it hits me! Why I am trying to be so cute just write about what I know…the guitar!!!
So here it is the A-Zs of the worlds greatest instrument…the guitar!
A, AXE- Ever heard the term axeman? Well unless it is some crazy Jack Nicholsonesque dude it refers to a guitarist(no jokes please)….the axe being his guitar. Of course every other instrument has had to steal the idea…there’s just something uncool about hearing a saxophonist saying he “needs to grab his axe.” Here is Michael Schenker an axeman supreme on, “Attack of the Mad Axeman.” BTW the ‘axeman’ on the left of the video doubling on keyboards is San Diego’s own Wayne Findlay and one of my music buds back in our younger days. Have I ever mentioned that? Haha, well guess I am just proud to see one of us San Diego kids living the Rock n Roll dream!
B, BLUES- Sure, blues is not necessarily a guitar term, but, can you imagine the world without blues guitar? No Robert Johnsons who influenced the BB Kings who influenced the whole Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton generation who influenced the whole Eddie Van Halen generation who influenced me and my generation…I would be calling my saxophone an ‘Axe’ if it wasn’t for this lineage. Oh yeah don’t forget Stevie Ray Vaughan!
C, Capo- A capo is a small clamp that guitarists place at different frets on the neck to change the ‘key’ of the guitar which facilitates easy transitions to other keys.
D, Dreadnought- A Dreadnought guitar is a style/body shape made famous by C.F. Martin. The term ‘Dreadnought,’ was used in reference to the British Navy’s large battleships of the day, early 1900’s.
These guitars are characteristic in having large ‘squared’ bouts and a booming sound.
F, Fifth-Now some of you are really interested! No not a fifth of Jack…the musical interval of a perfect 5th. The fifth is the skeleton of all chords(Maj. & Min.) and for rock guitarists extremely important for the formation of power chords which are made up exclusively of the interval of root & 5th.
G, Golpe- Golpe is a technique stemming from the Spanish/Gypsy Flamenco tradition. The guitarist strikes the top of the guitar creating a percussive sound while strumming with other fingers. Note the use of the previously mentioned capo in the video, as well.
H, Harmonics- Harmonics are not exclusive to guitar by any means but they do play a large role in playing guitar. The technique actually cuts off part of the overtone series(lower end) which make up a musical note. The resulting sound resembles a high, thin, bell like texture. The intro of Van Halen’s “Top Jimmy,” uses this technique.
I, Inlay- Inlays are part of the artistic design of a guitar. Inlay can be placed all around the sound hole(rosette) soundboard, front, back and sides of a guitar. Some of the fanciest inlays are put into the neck of a guitar. Sometimes just dots and sometimes elaborate as seen here.
J, Jimi Hendrix Chord, The ol’ Dominant 7#9 chord! Also called a V7#9. To build this chord you would take your root chord say C7 and add the note ‘#9’ which is the 9th note above C -C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D and raise that note one half step to D#. The chord symbol will appear as: C7#9, etc., for any root note. I call it the Jimi Hendrix chord cause he used it a lot and when I was a kid learning his songs is when I was first introduced to the chord. Check out Foxy Lady or Purple Haze for examples. The sound is a bit bluesy and has some dissonance with the #9 against the Major 3rd.
K, Keys- The guitar has a handful of musical keys that are conducive to the instrument and a handful that are not! Guitarists tend to like sharp(#) keys vs flat(b) keys. Flat keys take away the open strings making the guitar harder to play as noted in the letter O, Open Chords. Popular guitar keys include C, G, D, A and E (as well as, their relative minor keys). Any key with more than one flat is often avoided especially by beginners.
L, Lick- This is a great guitar word somewhat synonymous with the term ‘Riff.’ Guitarists practice hours on end trying to create new ideas and phrases which are, ‘Licks,’ and ‘Riffs.’ Licks are more of short phrases placed in improvised solos while riffs are more like a composed guitar part think of the intro to “Smoke on the Water,” or “Iron Man.”
M, Mute- The most common type of muting is done by placing the palm of the strumming hand against the strings near the bridge of the guitar. Notation is often ‘P.M.’ for palm mute.
N, Nut- The nut is simply the piece of bone or plastic, among other possible materials, at the top of the neck. It has carved slots for the strings to rest inside which keeps them inline as they lead up to and wrap around the tuning pegs.
O, Open Chords- One of the nice things about the guitar especially for beginners is the use of open chords. They are somewhat simple to play as they make use of a combination of fingered/fretted notes and open strings. Bar chords are harder to play as all strings need to be fretted.
P, Percussion- Believe it or not the guitar is classified as a percussion instrument, not a string instrument(chordophone.) By definition a percussion instrument is one that is put into vibration by being struck and consequently the pitch fades away. Piano is another such ‘percussion’ instrument. Electric guitars fall into another category, that of ‘electronic’ instruments. Electronic instruments can have their sound altered and lengthened through electronic means.
Q, Quadrant- This is a term I use to differentiate parts of the neck. I divide the neck into sections for study. For instance I will play on the bottom three strings first 6 frets. In this territory I will work on as many permutations of a particular scale, arpeggio etc. Then move to the top three strings same frets. Then down to fret 7-12 on each side of the strings.
R, Rasgueado- Spanish term meaning to strum. Usually associated with Flamenco guitar playing. Rasgueado is a rhythmic use of the fingers and thumb while strumming a guitar. It is a percussive strum by nature. In the video watch how his fingers fire in succession.
S, Solo- The beloved guitar solo! Ruined forever since the demise of rock. This demise can be traced to the weak musicality typically displayed in late 80’s hair/glam metal giving way to Grunge. Grunge was a movement that sought to distance itself from the aforementioned Hair Bands.
Maybe ruined forever is a bit harsh, but, music sure has changed since the early 90’s. I grew up on the rock guitar solo and it is not something I want to see go away. It is often the most musically adventurous part of most pop music. My music heroes were the guitar solo shredders…Eddie Van Halen, Michael Schenker, Jimi Page, Randy Rhoads, Tony Iommi, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani…. Here is the quintessential rock guitar solo Eddie Van Halen’s Eruptions.
T, the ‘Thumb’- The Thumb is the nickname given to jazz guitar legend Wes Montgomery. His unique technique employed a drastically positioned thumb. One of my all-time favorite guitarists.
U, Upstroke- An upstroke is simply a strum across the strings in an upward motion. Typically, upstrokes happen on a weak beat. A strum of down-up-down-up etc. would sound as STRONG-weak-STRONG-weak.
V, Vibrato- Vibrato is a technique employed by stringed instruments where the string is actually moved in a controlled manner either ‘side to side’ or ‘up and down’ to add articulation to a note. As mentioned before the guitar is a percussion instrument. Vibrato is one of the few ways we as guitarists can actually manipulate a note after it is struck into motion.
W, Whammy Bar- Also called a vibrato bar, tremolo arm…The whammy bar is a short piece of metal(a stick) inserted into the bridge which can either lift or depress the bridge forcing the strings into some ‘unnatrual’ sounds. The whammy bar in the hands of an amateur becomes a gimmick. In the hands of a skilled musician it becomes a devastating way to command a guitar with unique and angular articulations.
X, X Bracing- Have you ever dropped a pick inside your guitar? No problem you can just slide it out right? Nope. The top of a guitar, the soundboard, is braced underneath with a lattice of wood to help project the sound off the top of the guitar. One technique of bracing is called X Bracing.
Y, Yuquijiro Yocoh- Was a Japanese guitar composer (1925-2009.) Yocoh is most well-known for his variations on the theme of the traditional Japanese folk song, “Sakura.” I played the piece for my Senior Recital in college and still play it to this day. The video features John Williams on guitar. Listen for the previously mentioned palm mutes at :40 & 4:25 and harmonics at 2:25.
Z, The Flying Z- Most people even non guitar aficionados have heard or seen a flying V guitar. But, lesser known is the flying Z also known as a Destroyer.
This is an interesting idea that has been floating around the internet for a few weeks. The possibility of guitar great, Michael Schenker teaming up with vocalist Don Dokken on some sort of project.
Schenker a guitar legend has never really had a ‘great’ singer in his solo work. He has always had kind of wanna be rockers who were ‘good enough.’ If this did happen, Don Dokken would easily be the best vocalist to work with Schenker. He might also be the biggest diva. This is what leads me to believe it might not happen.
Schenker tours relentlessly, year round. He has turned down huge acts to do his own thing. Aerosmith, Ozzy and the Rolling Stones to name a few. His reasons for turning them down are that he needed to stay in his own skin and not join a media circus with which the aforementioned bands all are deeply intertwined. Don Dokken doesn’t seem like the best personality fit, but, he does not have the mega status of these other acts.
One thing for sure…I would want to hear the project.
Most fans of the German rockers are familiar with hits like “Rock You Like A Hurricane,” “Big City Nights,” “Still Loving You” and “No One Like You.” The late 70’s to the 80’s, 90’s, 00’s…was when the band developed their signature heavy metal sound. There were however two other incarnations of the Scorpions. First with 16 year old guitar legend to be Michael Schenker. The second, featured guitarist Uli Jon Roth. Under Schenker for just one album, “Lonesome Crow,” the band had almost a psychedelic sound. The Roth era was somewhere in between this and their ultra-stylistic almost hair metal sound of the 80’s.
I don’t consider the Scorpions hair/glam metal for two reasons. They were heavy metal pioneers that all the crappy 80’s bands tried to emulate and moreover they wrote good music. Anyway, somewhere between being very young acid rockers and trend setting perfectors of the ‘Power Ballad’ mega-stars was the Uli Jon Roth years.
Heavy? Yes!…..Rockers? Totally! But what was their style?
The Scorps were very unique during this period. They were gaining in popularity, they were still under produced and very original. Roth is a great guitarist very spiritual and Hendrix-ish both terms that don’t always apply to heavy metal guitarists. But they were definitely heavy during these years.
The only way to really understand is to listen. Posted below is one of my favorite Roth era Scorpions songs, “Your Light.”
To me this song sums up the band in the early to mid 70’s. Some heavy-ness, some party feel, some hippie-ish feel and of course incredible guitar work. The song starts out heavy then immediately leads into to a funky dance vibe. But the song truly peaks on the two guitar solos. The first comes at 2:15 in the video. A slow Roth solo mostly reserved, with feeling and anthem-ish. The song then returns to the funky playful riff before the second solo. This is where Roth shows off a little more of his guitar acrobatics. It ends on a playful note as Roth solos into a fade out.
The Roth era Scorpions may be some of the truly under rated music in metal history. They were a little more free form in their songwriting than other bands and certainly then when they became a global commodity in the 80’s. Not always a good thing for massive consumption as most listeners seem to prefer produced cookie cutter bites. Most Scorpions fans have found their way back through the bands back catalog and found these gems. I strongly recommend you check these albums out as well especially if you are looking to uncover some truly quality and cool music.