Thursday, December 27, 2007

My first MFSL (MoFi) CD's!

The Steve Hoffman Forums are a cool place. I had been "lurking" there for about a year and a half, and finally joined a couple of months ago. It's a great resource with tons of very knowledgeable people. It is a place to discuss sound quality issues. I won't go as far as saying that it is a place for audiophiles because I am not one and I'm there and haven't been kicked out or anything. I don't want to generalize, but it appears that some prevalent opinions are:

  • Mono is better than stereo
  • Vinyl is the way to go
  • Original issues of CD's are better than remasters
  • Japanese pressings sound better
  • Discs made in West Germany sound better
  • "Target" CD's sound better
  • MFSL and DCC gold discs sound better

I don't necessarily agree with all of the above (particularly the first three with which I am somewhat familiar), but I recognize I've had some of those tendencies, even as a kid, for example, I just totally loved the sound of my records (vinyl LP's) played on my old Fisher stereo through my big Koss headphones. I loved the warm, full sound and perhaps the imaginary drone of the needle going through the surface. I never really liked cassette tapes and didn't start getting CD's until the early 90's. I didn't jump on the MP3 bandwagon until fairly recently. I had been a pretty big fan of Mini Disc, and I liked the way my vinyl and cassette transfers sounded in it. I knew there was compression, but I figured the format was specifically created for music, so I was happy. Too bad Sony ruined the format's chances for success here. Anytime I mentioned MD to my friends, they would just come back with the argument that CD's were cheap, CD-R's were cheap and nothing would take the place of CD's. I never thought MD's were designed to take the place of CD's, but were a digital answer to cassette tapes, except much cooler and better. Anyway... I finally embraced MP3's and even got an iPod.

I could write extensively on my audio preferences, and perhaps I will when I don't feel so lazy! One of the results of reading the posts in the forums is that now I look for all sorts of "better sounding" versions of stuff I like. Most of the time, the stuff is super hard to find and/or super expensive. I don't have a lot of extra income to indulge in seeking this stuff out (none, as a matter of fact!), so whatever I get is by pure luck really.

Two CD's I like and had never owned on CD are Def Leppard's Pyromania and Hysteria. Because I'm cheap, I had always looked for used copies under, say $7.00, but those two, particularly Pyromania, hold up their value really well. One day I spotted a copy of Hysteria for like $3.95. I debated for a minute because I had been thinking about getting the deluxe version with a bonus disc, but hey, the price was right, so I bought it. When I got to my car, I opened the case and to my surpirse, the disc inside was a gold, Mobile Fidelity Sounds Lab one! The Steve Hoffman Forums have taught me that MFSL discs sound better, so I was happy. I played it at home and it sounds pretty good... It has to, since I have nothing to compare it too! I went to the forums to share the good fortune, and was told that the one to really have was the Pyromania one because it was significantly better sounding than any other version. I put the information in the brain for future reference, and there it stayed.

On one of my other forays into the used bins, I came across a copy of Pyromania, at the right price of $6.99. To my surprise it was one of the aforementioned made in West Germany discs! I picked it up and was very happy to finally have this favorite of mine (I like it better than Hysteria) on CD, and a good sounding one (according to some).

Then came the moment of weakness. There was a mint condition MFSL Pyromania, made in Japan up for auction, and I ended up winning it. It wasn't cheap, but I've seen others pay more for "lesser" copies. It looks great, and it comes in the original packaging (some weird CD holding arm inside the jewel case. Sometime between now and going back to work, I will do a sound comparison between the MFSL and the West Germany discs.

All in all, I think I managed to get some pretty cool items and not pay an arm and a leg for them. The Steve Hoffman Forums are a great place for information and reference, but join at your own wallet's risk! (for those devoid of a sense of humor, I do like the forums a lot).

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Old posts below!

Last summer I decided to finally put together a "music-stuff" blog and put it up. It was originally designed to be some sort of music stuff review thing, and I actually started it but soon realized that it wasn't a really original idea and that as a reviewer I am, frankly, not that good. I had actually envisioned "great" things for the other blog, going as far as signing up with adsense (HAHA!). Anyway, I started this blog and just kind of continued on with it, and pretty much abandoned the other one. For some reason. I saw it today, and decided to consolidate postings here, so I went ahead and moved the posts. I had actually started a post about Uli Jon Roth, so I may just finish it up and post it here.

I also decided to change the blog layout and go with the one I had in the original blog (they're all pre-set, so it's not like I'm having to do something big!). I think the text space is too narrow, so I may just switch back. Who knows? Why don't you, my gentle reader (!!??) tell me what you think? hehe.

Below are three "reviews", one of the Phil Lynnot tribute Gary Moore DVD, the other one of Paul Di'Anno's limited edition CD where he did what else? Maiden songs, and the other one is of the then-recently-released Replay X3 DVD by Rush. In retrospect, they're not that bad as far as commentaries go, so here they are!

I still don't get why Rush has to release everything in digipak! It's such a hassle. Anyway...

RUSH!! Replay X3

This is from July 25, 2006.

Rush: Replay X3

Finally... Rush released some of their long out-of-print videos on DVD in the massive Replay X-3! The videos are: Exit... Stage Left, Grace Under Pressure Tour (or whatever the name is) and A Show Of Hands! The package comes with a bonus audio CD with the soundtrack of the Grace Under Pressure DVD. It's cool to finally have the stuff officially released. I own / have owned those videos in some form or another pretty much for years though. I plunked down good money to buy Exit... Stage Left and A Show Of Hands when they were available to purchase in stores back in the 80's. Those videos were not cheap either. They cost me like $30 each, and when I bought them, the prices of music videos had gone down already! I remember a friend of mine buying the Scorpions' World Wide Live video for like $50 when it came out (somehow, I ended up with that video, and I still have it, so Ernie, wherever you are, if you want it back, I have it!). The Grace Under Pressure video I never could find. My only memories of it were from a video a friend of mine taped off the TV. They had a show in one channel where they played concerts at midnight on Saturdays.

Then came the DVD era, but of course those weren't available. Demand was there, so it didn't take long for a Brazilian company to put them out on DVD. The GuP show was not available though. The Brazilian DVD's had a lot of useless extra stuff on them, and the video transfer wasn't that good. It gave my VHS tapes a rest though. I later got a supposedly official release of ESL on DVD from Singapore. It was professionally packaged, and the video transfer, while still not up to snuff, was a vast improvement over the Brazilian version. The Singapore ESL DVD was my copy of choice. it wasn't bad really.

One day a couple of years ago, I talked to this guy via e-mail. He happened to have made some transfers from the original laserdiscs on to DVD of the GuP, and ASoH videos, so I got some copies from him. The transfers are excellent, and the ASoH DVD has the song Lock And Key, which was only released in the laserdisc version! (not even the current Replay X3 has it). So, yeah, the videos have been out there on DVD for some time if one really wanted to get a copy!

If you buy the set at Best Buy, the audio CD has four unlisted, extra tracks tagged at the end; Limelight and Closer To The Heart (again!) from ESL, and The Spirit Of Radio and Tom Sawyer from ASoH. As far as a review goes, they're all great. I can't be objective with Rush. I've read a lot of comments here and there from people complaining about the anamorphic screen, about Lock And Key, about complete shows, blah blah blah boo hoo hoo. All I can say is "Shadduup!" Be grateful it's out officially on DVD.

My personal favorite is the Grace Under Pressure concert. It's my favorite album and is very sentimental for me I guess. That was the first new tape I got of Rush, and although I didn't like it that much at the beginning, it's gotten to be one of my favorites!

Oh, the pictures are on the Amazon site by the way.

Paul Di'Anno does more Iron Maiden!

This one is from June 25, 2006.

The folks over at Paul Di'Anno official website are selling a very limited edition (150) CD titled THE CLASSICS: The Maiden Years. I ordered my copy and got it in the mail a few days later (very quick delivery!) in an envelope adressed by Lea Hart himself!

Paul's voice has really held up well throughout the years and I enjoyed listening to the CD for the most part. As his voice has matured, it gives a new depth to some songs when he adds a very deep growl, so that sounds cool. Wasn't he like 20 when they recorded the first album? I liked all of the songs, except the new version of Strange World. The guitar work is annoying on that one.

These new versions by Paul are really good, but not necessarily better than the original ones. Out of all the Maiden singers, I think he's the one whose voice whose range has remained very much the same as always, and even has added depth to it by virtue of the passage of time. Bruce Dickinson is great, but his range is (of course!) not the same as 1982, and Blaze, although in my opinion has found his voice on is solo work and sounds awesome, does not sound the same as he did during his Wolfsbane days.

According to the site, only 150 copies were pressed. I doubt that very much. Supposedly, one can only get one copy. If you're a fan, it would make for a great collectible, but I doubt it will set the Iron Maiden collectors' market on fire.

I know he gets ripped on because he still does Iron Maiden songs, and even participates in Iron Maiden tributes. I say let him do all the Maiden he wants and cash in if he can. He's Paul freakin' Di'Anno! As far as I'm concerned he could tour every year and do Iron Maiden and Killers! He's entitled to it. With the exception of the song Transylvania (an instrumental), all the songs from the first album are here, plus Wrathchild, Murders In The Rue Morgue, Killers and Women In Uniform. I wonder what the economic incentive is though. My understanding is that Maiden bought him out for a lump sum andthe result is that he does not get any royalties when he releases Maiden tunes. He still does release them though because that is his legacy I suppose.

Too bad he doesn't tour the United States! I think the immigration department won't give him a visa or something. That's too bad. I bet he would have pretty successful tours here.

So, this is a good one to have. It's nice to have a disc of new recordings of Maiden tunes sung by Di'Anno instead of having to get one of those tribute CD's with a whole bunch of different singers only to hear one or two tunes sung by Paul. I'd get one of those tribute CD's if they had Paul do a Bruce or Blaze era song!

I read in the Maiden newsgroup that someone read an interview where Steve says Iron Maiden will do 15 studio albums and call it quits. After the new one comes out, there will be one left. I say it's time to start making memorable shows and bringing in Paul and/or Blaze to sing a couple of songs with the band, and maybe Dennis Stratton to play too. That would be something!

Gary Moore still rules! (the video, not quite)

This one is from May 29, 2006.

Last week I watched the Gary Moore and Friends: One Night in Dublin - Tribute to Phil Lynott DVD. Basically, a Phil Lynott statue was unveiled in Dublin on the 20th anniversary of his death, and Gary Moore played a concert where he paid tribute to Phil. There were some special guests who had played in Thin Lizzy and they played some Lizzy songs. This is what I thought of the musicians:

Gary Moore: Well, he's Gary Moore and he rules. He's one of the last two or three musicians I'd like to see in concert. I'm not a big fan of his blues trip though, but I'm sure that's what's paid the bills for him, so keep bluesin' Gary. Me? I'm stuck in his Hard Rock era, particularly from Corridors of Power through After The War. I'd really love to have some video from this era, but none is really available anymore. I e-mailed this guy one who has this huge list of videos to see if he wanted to trade or something, but he never replied. He played a local show in '87 I think, but I couldn't go because it was an over 21 place and I wasn't 21. Anyway, the show! His band consists of Brian Downey (who also rules) on drums, and some guy on bass. His guitar playing is awesome, but a big complain I have is that during Black Rose, when he was playing his awesome kick-ass solo, the cameras were everywhere but the fretboard! I mean, I love the guy, but I don't really want to see Scott Gorham hitting a power chord while Gary is turning over the world on its axis with his solo!

Brian Downey: Believe it or not, this is the first footage I've seen of Downey (I have the Lizzy show from Sydney, but that one has another drummer). Maybe he displayed more energy when he was younger, but now he looks very, veeerry relaxed when he plays. It sounds great though. He's bald too.

The bass player: He was good and stayed in the background (plays for Jethro Tull or something?). Looks like me a little. They should have just called me and I would have gladly played bass and looked better on this!

Brian Robertson: This guy has always been sort of an enigma for me. I've always read praises for the guy; the fiery young guitar player and stuff like that, but my reaction to his playing for Lizzy has always been kind of "meh". Maybe because he was 17 when he joined Lizzy and he was playing concerts, and THAT'S remarkable. At 17 I was trying to play in my bedroom like Chris Squire or something. Also he was a druggie, I believe, and some people praise that as being a characteristic of musical geniuses or something. I've never seen a shot of the guy's face either! He's always had his hair over his face, and here he was wearing sunglasses as well. His playing was the worst of the show. While they were playing Emerald, it seemed as if Gary was trying to motivate him to play better during their duel. I still don't see what the big deal is about this guy. He sucks.

Scott Gorham: Pretty cool California guy. His playing was always pretty competent, and his posing skills have gotten better with age. He's a Rock Star and you can't help it but crack up seeing him when he's up on stage. The camera shows him posing instead of Gary paying his heart out during Black Rose as I mentioned before! His interview is the one I enjoyed the most on the DVD extras. During the show, he never stops posing for the camera!

Eric Bell: His claim to fame, as far as I'm concerned, is that he payed guitar with Lizzy, and the two well-known songs from his time with the band are Whiskey in the Jar and The Rocker, and his playing rules in both songs. Beyond that, I don't know much about him. He handles some of the vocals during Whiskey in the Jar, and he sounds worse than Gary!

The Show: I'll have to go with the assumption that this was not the complete show. The DVD show is very short. I was thinking that Robertson and Gorham should have gotten to play together, all the guitar players should have taken solos at the end, etc. but the truth of the matter is that it was a Gary Moore show, and he's a better guitar player than all of those guys anyway. It starts with a blues song (boo!) and it ends with Parisienne Walkways (yay!). After the blues song, Gary plays Jailbreak and Don't Believe a Word before bringing in Robertson. He sticks around for a couple of songs and then Gorham comes in. To me, the tunes Gary did with Gorham were the most enjoyable part of the DVD. They played Black Rose, Cowboy Song and The Boys Are Back in Town. Eric Bell played on and sang part of Whiskey in the Jar. Then Gary closes. Gary handled vocal duties and did a really good job considering that, in my opinion, Phil songs are pretty hard to sing.

Extras: There was like a 25-minute long interview segment where all the guys get air time. Scott Gorham was the highlight of the interview segments because he seems to be a pretty laid back and open person.

I was able to extract the sound and make me an audio CD of the show (fits in one CD), and that's been getting a lot of airplay in my stereo/computer. As a matter of fact I'm listening to it right now. It's a good one to have.

I like Thin Lizzy a lot, but prefer Live and Dangerous and subsequent releases (Black Rose, Chinatown, Renegade, Thunder and Lightning, Life/Live), and that makes me an unusual fan I guess because everyone seems to prefer the "classic" line-up with Gorham/Robertson. In addition to those, I have Dedication and Jailbreak. I admire Phil Lynott a lot. He was a great songwriter, bass player and singer with a lot of soul in his singing and songwriting. I think that even though he doesn't admit it, someone like Bruce Springsteen was heavily influenced by Phil.

So, my gripes:

  • DVD concert too short.
  • Where was John Sykes (doesn't he front Lizzy now?)?
  • Needed more jamming by all musicians at the same time.
  • No close-ups of Moore's fretboard during Black Rose.
  • Brian Robertson.
Other than that, it's a good one to have.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Senior Citizens Who ROCK!

It's been a while since my last post and I don't even know what I'll write. My years-long writing block continues. Why were there no blogs when I was in college?! I was so prolific back then! Oh well. Work has been sucking as of late, and I just seem to not be able to get anything done in general.

So, let's see... what's new in my music world since I last left you, my loyal reader (namely ME!)? 3 Inches Of Blood released their new album Fire Up The Blades, so let's start with that. I'll spare you a song-by-song review and give you my general impression. It's a really good album with what we've come to expect from Pipes, Hopper and company (which happens to be a brand-new band). I assume they had a bigger budget since they brought in some nu-metal producer who's apparently well known... Gordy somethingorother. In some spots we can hear an old-fashioned keyboard, and also cowbell, but it's still a great album to listen to and get all pumped up. For me, it is a good driving album. I managed to get an autographed copy!

OK, let's see... Oh! Beatallica finally released a CD!! The original songs are no longer available on their site (although I'm sure they are widely available if one looks for them). I love this band and was an active participant in their message board a while back. I ordered a t-shirt from their site when they became first available (the design is no longer available... is it a collectors' item I wonder?) and corresponded for a short while with founder member KRK. There was a whole legal thing going on with Sony (Beatles) and Lars Ulrich coming to their aid too. Anyway, now they have their own CD although writing is credited to McCartney, Harrison and Lennon. I URGE you to buy it. Do it through the link in their website, or look for it in your record store (I've seen it in the bins). KRK left the band (he played everything in the original recordings), and the songs in the CD were recorded by the current touring band. Guys, do a West Coast jaunt. You've been to Europe for crying out loud! For the unitiated, Beatallica play mostly Beatles tunes in the classic (Cliff era) style of Metallica. It's really awesome, especially if you like Cliff era Metallica and The Beatles (like me). I ordered the "fan-pack", although I don't know if it's still available.

What else? Oh yeah, Rush came out with a new studio album called Snakes & Arrows. The music is really good, after all, it's Rush. I like it better than Vapor Trails. The sound is a lot better than Vapor Trails. I really don't like jumping in the "remasters-are-too-loud" bandwagon, and although Vapor Trails is not a remaster, I agree with those who say it was mixed loud! Snakes & Arrows sounds really good. The album also had a MVI (Music Video Interactive) release, which is some kind if DVD, super-douper audio with multimedia thing. I got it, put it in the DVD player and it sounds even better! So, yeah, get that too. I don't know of any other MVI releases, but I could definitely get into them. Apparently the MVI disc of Snakes & Arrows is a limited edition of 25,000, so get yours. Here's the sad story. Rush came into town and for the first time since the Presto Tour, I didn't go see them. :( I did manage to get some great recordings from the current tour though, and hopefully there will be a DVD release. I wonder if they'll do a second leg.

Speaking of DVD releases! The Appice-Butler-Dio-Iommi (yeah! Vinny should go first sometimes!) line-up of Black Sabbath is touring as Heaven & Hell. They came into town and again, did not go. I usually wait to get tickets on the day of the show since many times they release unused comp tickets on that day, but opted not to go because I was simply not in the mood. I had a job interview that did not go to well in my opinion, so I just went home. pretty dumb, huh? Anyway, they've been kicking major bouteƩ, which is remarkable because Dio is 65 years old! There have been many good quality recordings floating around, but the Radio City Music Hall performance was officially released on CD and DVD. So far, this is hands down one of the best live videos ever. Maiden should take notice in case they release another DVD and realize that several camera cuts per second does not necessarily make an exciting video. The CD and DVD are out now, but Rhino Handmade is going to release a limited edition deluxe set sometime in October. I've pre-ordered mine, but have seen the DVD and it is awesome.

Well, quick and dirty, that's what comes to mind right now. Iced Earth comes out with their new album today. Somehow, I've had the songs from the new album for a few days now, and although I'll wait to make my comments until after I buy it, I'll say now that it's really, really good. Ripper has an amazing voice, but I've been hearing a lot of overdubbed choruses like Blind Guardian and that's not necessarily a good thing for my ears.

Anyway, check back because I'll publish this bare bones, but my intent is to come back and add some pictures and links. Oh! The last post was silly and it's a shame that it was at the top for so long. I just thought the picture of Fernando Von Arb is priceless, and the reason I left the entry there is because someone who was kind enough to respond to my BX3 post, putn the comment in the Von Arb post by mistake. I do not get the whole smashing-your-instrument thing though.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I never got the whole smashing your instrument thing

I couldn't cheer for it or anything, but oh, what a crowd pleaser it has been over the years! Even mild-mannered Fernando Von Arb has done it! And he did it with an AX!!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Best $30 I ever spent (or My New Best Concert Experience!)

This is going to be a long one! Last Wednesday night, I drove to San Francisco to catch the BX3 show at a place called Cafe Du Nord. What is BX3 you may ask? well, it's like the G3 concerts, except that this is with bass players! This show features none other than Jeff Berlin, Stuart Hamm and Billy Sheehan! These guys are three of the top bass players of all time. It was an awesome concert at a great venue and it's probably knocked the 1999 Iced Earth show as My Best Concert Experience! It was a very unexpected thing which almost did not happen for me. Here's my story.

Last Monday night, I managed to get a two-CD set of a BX3 concert that had taken place the previous day in L.A. I'm kind of out of the loop nowadays with concerts, and I didn't know this tour was happening, so after a couple of clicks in Google, I was looking at the official page. I was freaking out because Jeff Berlin was actually part of this! I immediately went and got a ticket to go to the show. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, I was able to listen to the recording I had gotten, and it was awesome! Now, I really, really strongly dislike driving to San Francisco, but this was a special ocassion. I went home after work and spent a few minutes there before heading out. Now, I live near Oakland, but decided not to take the Bay Bridge (it was about 7:20 PM when I left home. The show started at 8:30), so I went south on 880 and took the San Mateo Bridge to 101 North (the toll just went up to $4.00! Yikes!). That worked out just perfectly and the venue was pretty easy to find (for a change!). I had to park really far away as there were no parking garages that I could see... well, there was this one place but they charged $8.00, so I found a spot in the street. Like I said, it was many blocks away, but it looked like a safe neighborhood. I walked what seemed to be a long distance to Market Street where the venue is. It is a very fairly small, but cozy place. I got there at around 8:20 and I noticed there were people standing in front of the stage. I went to the merchandise table and bought Jeff Berlin's Aneurythms CD (buy it!) and an autographed poster, then went to the floor. There were two guys with whom I talked for a little while; two cool dudes from Sacramento who are a couple of concert warhorses, and then the show started at around 8:40...

Before I keep going, let me share with you how I "discovered" these musicians. Also, FYI, I knew by around age 11 that I wanted to be a bass player, initially because Paul McCartney was my favorite Beatle, but bass turned out to be my favorite instrument to listen to, and there was something about keeping time that appealed to me.

Even though I was just a kid, the 80's was a great time for me from a music-exploring standpoint. I was constantly discovering and being amazed by all sorts of different styles of music and artists. For quite some time I used to go to a place called The Record Factory a few times a week after school. The Record Factory was this awesome independent store that had lots of import albums and a well-stocked magazine stand. I'd go there and read the Hit Parader and Circus Magazines mostly since, even though I listened to all sorts of stuff, Metal was what I identified with for the most part. I got to know about a lot of bands and musicians that way (good and bad!). Then I would look through the record bins, and since I didn't have money to actually buy any albums, I would instead look at them and read stuff like the credits in the back to see who played, who produced, what year, etc. (weird, huh?) I bought Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force album in '84 I believe, based on the unusual name (he obviously wasn't going for commercialism!) the back cover picture and the fact that he thanked Bach, Paganini and Hendrix in it. The record didn't disappoint of course and I became an Yngwie fan. One day I read an article in a Hit Parader about Yngwie where he raved, in part, about this bass player named Billy Sheehan. I guess they were doing some kind of tour together and jammed at the end of the shows. There was a picture of them where it truly looked like they were jamming, so I looked for his records. The Record Factory had two Talas albums (Sink Your Teeth Into That, and Live Speed On Ice), and ended up buying them. The music was OK, but Billy's playing just blew me away! I played both records a lot, and except for the solos, I tried my best to play along. Before this past Wednesday night, I had seen Billy in concert twice, once with David Lee Roth, and later with Mr. Big. As an aside, let me just mention that the Mr. Big / Winger show was truly awesome and oozed and reeked of musicianship! Billy has remained one of my favorite bass players.

I went from reading Hit Parader to reading Guitar Player and Guitar For The Practicing Musician. Guitar player had this flexi vinyl disc in their issues (that's how I discovered Steve Vai and Tony Macalpine for example!), and one time there was a song by a band named Racer X, with Paul Gilbert on guitar. Seeing as to how I was totally into the Neo-Classical style of guitar playing, hearing this was pretty cool. I read an article (maybe the one in that issue) where Paul Gilbert said he had played in an album by a guy named Jeff Berlin, and how he (Paul) was not terribly familiar with the song Crossroads, which was featured in the album. I found the Pump It! tape and bought it, not knowing who this Jeff Berlin guy was. I wanted to listen to Paul Gilbert in Crossroads, which was the second song on side B, so I fast forwarded the tape to side B and pressed play. Bach was the first song on that side, and Jeff's playing totally slayed me. By the time the tape ended, I was like in a trance. I was pretty disturbed for a while because I couldn't figure out how someone could play a Bach-bass-solo-song and pull it off so beautifully. I played this tape all the time, and bought the Champion LP as well. I also bought Bill Bruford's Master Strokes because I'd seen that he played with him. I decided at that point that Jeff Berlin was the ultimate bass player ever, and still hold that opinion. I could never afford (at that time) to buy his instruccional video tape, so for years and years I never actually saw any footage of him. I enjoyed his columns (and sense of humor) in Guitar Player, and I knew he didn't really tour, focusing instead on teaching and taking care of his sick boy (who has since recovered!), so for me, Jeff Berlin was always one of those musicians that I actually thought I'd never be able to see live. *sniff*

When the David Lee Roth band first came out and Steve Vai and Billy were the hot ticket in the country, they got interviewed by just about every music magazine. In these interviews, Steve would rant and rave about this Joe Satriani guy. Needless to say, the publicity worked wonders when Joe released his Surfing With The Alien album. I went and bought the tape, and also Not Of This Earth, and enjoyed them a lot! I loved Driving At Night off Not Of This Earth. Joe embarked on a tour and when it came to town, I couldn't go because the venue was an over 21 place and I was just a pimply teenager. The day of the show, Joe had a signing session at the Campbell Tower Records (RIP). I took both my tapes and was like tenth in line. By this time I actually had a bass. The cheapest of the cheap, and used, but a real bass nevertheless, and I was proud of being a "bass player"! (I was actually not bad at all!). As Joe signed my tape inserts I made some small conversation with him (Joe was really nice and patient - thank you Joe):

Me: "I'd love to go to your show but I'm not old enough"
Joe: "I'm sorry about that, but we'll probably be coming back in the future".
Me: "Are you going to play "Driving At Night"?"
Joe: (delighted that I liked the song) "It's not in our set list, but might play it in the future"
Me: "Hey, I play bass. If you ever need need a bassist let me know!" (I was kidding ofcourse)
Joe: "Have you heard of Stu Hamm?"
Me: "No"
Joe: "Well, he's really amazing!"

On my way back home, I remembered Stu Hamm's name from the credits in Steve Vai's Flex-Able, so I immediately played it when I got home. The playing is good, but if you've heard the album, Stu doesn't stand out, like soloing or anything, so I had no reason to believe he would be anything out of the ordinary. That night the mighty KOME broadcast the concert (which I taped - and still have the tapes!), and as I listened to Stu's spectacular playing, particularly his unaccompanied solo, couldn't help but feel like an ass for having told Joe Satriani that I played bass when he had Stu Hamm in his band! I have since seen Stu in concert a couple of times with Joe, and have always been amazed at his technique and feeling. Anyway, in a nutshell, that's how I came to know the BX3 musicians. Back to the show...

The stage was pretty small and I immediately recognized Billy's set-up, I also figured the Hartke cabinets were Stu's and by default, the small amps to my left were Jeff's. All three of them came on at around 8:40 and kicked things off with The Star Spangled Banner (Billy on vocals), and then on to Jeff's set. I was in cloud nine not actually believing that after more than 20 years, I was finally seeing Jeff Berlin play, and he was basically in front of me! I was hoping he's play some of the older stuff that I knew, like Dixie, but it didn't matter. The tunes he played were awesome. Actually seeing his rendition of Tears In Heaven being played right in front of me is a highlight of my life! Jeff IS a funny guy and seemed to have a lot of fun playing to a crowd full of musicians (something he acknowledged). After a way-too-short set, he introduced Stu Hamm. I snapped some pictures, and here's one of Jeff. Can you believe I was this close?

The guys used the same guitar player and drummer (Jude and John), who by the way, really impressed me with their versatility and adaptability. There was no waiting between sets, and Stu started his set almost immediately. He played his trademark Moonlight Sonata with a portion of the outro of The Beatles' I Want You (She's So Heavy), which sounded wonderful. His technique is amazing and he was right there in front of me! He's cool for putting together this bill! After another way-too-short set with an awesome set list, he introduced Billy Sheehan. Here's a picture of Stu playing something impossible!

Billy Sheehan didn't mess around. he started playing with a vengeance right from the get-go and never let up! Again, he was right in front of me, and I was thrilled to be able to see up close how he played some of his trademark stuff! The bass was really funky looking, but I was so close, I could not get a picture of the whole bass! (it's not a complaint mind you!). They played the DLR-era version of Shy Boy, which had not been part of the set I had listened to previously. They also jammed to one of my favorite Jeff Beck songs from the Wired album, Led Boots. Here's a really good shot of Billy:

After his set, Jeff and Stu came out to play a few more songs. One of the songs they played was Spinal Tap's Big Bottom! They also played Crossroads with Jeff handling vocal duties and Billy doubling Jeff's bass solo! At the end they all briefly exchanged basses. Billy ended up with Stu's bass and played a funky slap riff, something he would never normally do! Here's the only picture I could get of the three of them together:

After the show, they all went to the merchandise table to greet fans. I think I was one of the first ones to greet Jeff. I was speechless and too nervous to say anything really. I tried to tell him I had waited over 20 years tofinally seeing him play, but I doubt he even heard me! I managed to ask him if he still hung out with "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. His eyes lit up and said that he's the best the WWF ever had! He then told me that Roddy has cancer, the same as his son, but that he (Piper) is doing great. He autographed my CD insert and took a picture. He was very gracious and talked to everybody. I also bought Billy's Cosmic Troubadour and Stu's Stu Live X2. Billy had quite a crowd around him, but was also really cool, signed my CD and took a picture. To think of all the things I would have liked to say, and all that came out was thank you! Stu was also very nice, signed the booklet and took a picture as well. I asked him if there was going to be a DVD release, and he said maybe! I say that if something needs to be documented, this tour is it!

This was one of the great experiences of my life. In all honesty, I was there to see Jeff Berlin, but to see the three of them was a privilege and very historic. If you doubt that, look at this picture and tell me how often something like this happens in life!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

So, now we're in 2007

I've spent some time in the past few weeks thinking about what I'm going to do this year, and that includes this blog! I think I'll make it my "all things music" place, rather than just a display of a few things I have.

That will come I'm sure, but for now, let me just share this little gem I got a few weeks ago. This is Iced Earth's Burnt Offerings, but the kicker is that this is the rough mix! I had actually seen one of this up for auction a couple of years ago, but I was too late for it (it ended up selling for like a couple of bucks), so when I saw this one, I couldn't pass it up. I ended up paying a lot more than a couple of bucks, but I'm glad to have it. I've listened to it, and quite honestly, it doesn't sound that rough to me! I still need to compare it to, say, the remastered version. I'm sure I'll find differences then. Maybe this weekend.

Oh! After posting the My Best Concert Experience entry, I read a statement from Jon Schaffer where he almost disowns the Alive In Athens DVD! I see his point, but it's still a good one to have in my opinion. The message was actually from last September, and come to think of it, I haven't really seen this DVD out there that much.

By the way, I found out what Matthew Barlow is doing nowadays. He's a great singer. One of the greatest I think, but if what he's doing is what makes him happy, then that's cool.