The Paisley Drive was designed for Brad Paisley to give him that great tube saturation like he would get from his Trainwreck amps, but at manageable volumes. Trainwrecks are known for being extremely touch responsive with loads of smooth, liquid sustain. These amps are very rare, so it took a bit of time and several prototypes before we landed on a design. However, despite it being created as a signature for him, it’s capable of a lot more. It works really well for most any type of country, rock, and blues for a bit of breakup to full on fat saturation..
One of my absolute favorite parts about this pedal is the response it has to pick attack and volume control. Set the gain and volume for a slight boost, then just roll back the guitars volume knob and it cleans up, and then roll the volume back up for boosts for solos. It works great with single-coil guitars, giving them an extra depth and punch that single-coils can often lack. It also works really well with humbucker-equipped guitars. On the humbucker guitars, the drive is a bit fatter, and the saturation has more *chunk* to it, for lack of a better word.
- Level: There’s a good amount of volume on tap. This control interacts directly with the gain knob. As the gain goes down, the volume has to come up. For instance, if the gain is up around 2pm, the volume is near unity at 11am, if the gain is at 9am, the volume will reach unity around 1pm. (approximate settings).
- Tone: The tone knob helps dictate how much high end you’re introducing to the signal. When it’s lower, say 9-10am, it will be around unity and the drive is really fat and warm. As you increase it, the highs and the higher-mids begin to pop out and it gets punchy and cuts through the mix.
- Gain: This pedal was designed more for using with gain more so than as a clean boost. As mentioned above, when the gain is down, the volume has to be up to achieve unity. 9am will add a touch of grit and fatness to the note, like a tube amp just starting to breakup…great for country chickin’ pickin’ and some cool blues lead work. Above 2pm gets into a heavily saturated overdrive, bordering on distortion. This is great for some modern rock and pop songs, and it covers 90’s alt-rock like you wouldn’t believe. 3pm and above and playing on the neck pickup will make you think you’re using a fuzz. As the gain increases, the fuzziness and thickness also increases because it’s like blasting a tube amp to the max.
- Up: This position is the middle ground between the other two switch positions. It’s very open and clear, but with some mids to accentuate cutting through the mix. This is switch doesn't jump the volume up or down at all...it stays very neutral.
- Middle: This is the position with the least amount of mids. It’s a bit more neutral and reserved sounding compared to the other two options. This is great for a basic rhythm tone no matter where the gain knob is set. Switching to this position will drop the volume a little bit compared to the others, so it's good to boost the volume back up to unity.
- Down: This position is for the mid lovers. Think of it as a highly modified popular mid-range boosting OD, but on major steroids. This is honestly not for the faint of heart. The mids in this position cut through the mix like a knife. This also happens to be Brad Paisley’s favorite switch position. This position will give a slight volume boost compared to the other selections.
- Down: This disengages the presence switch. The tone is a bit fatter and warmer like this. Great for smokey blues and rock tones. Amps that are inherently brighter will likely sound a bit better on this setting due to already having that frequency on the output. The pedal is extremely fat and beefy in this setting.
- Up: This helps add some clarity and accentuates the higher frequencies more. We suggest setting the tone know where it’s sounds good to the player, then cut this on to brighten the frequency to cut more in the mix. Another good thing that helps is if you have an extremely bass-y and dark amp (think Peavey Classic 30 or Fender Bassman), this will help accommodate and not get muddy when the gain goes up. The effect of this switch is varies depending on your tone setting, along with how much gain you're using.
The technical stuff:
- 5” x 4.5” x 1.5″ inches (63.5mm x 114.3mm x 38.1mm) (Height excludes knobs and switches)
- The Paisley Drive can run from 9v-18v and anywhere in between. That being said, it has to be a Negative Center Tip plug, and not over 18v. If a different plug is run into it, the pedal will smoke out and cease to work. So don’t do that! :-)
- The only difference between the earlier version and the current version is aesthetics. The new graphics feature Brad’s signature on the bottom left corner. Nothing related to the internal circuitry was changed at all.
When most guitar players make lists like this, it's because they are listing things that made them play guitar differently or want to play guitar better or something like that. When I list things, it's because certain pieces made me hear something different and challenged the way that I viewed the sound of guitar. Most often they shaped me as a person which lead me to where I am today as President and Head of Design at Wampler Pedals.
I really can't narrow it down to five points, so my list may be a little bit longer than the others, but I think by showing you a few more things than five you will see a trend in how I got to where I am now. The truth is that there were several different moments that define points in my life that would eventually point to where I am now. Most guitar players think about guitar solos, riffs or maybe even song structure or something along those lines. To me, the things that really struck me were more related to guitar tone and also effects. Not even necessarily guitar effects but effects in general, such as the case with Pink Floyd mentioned below.
Van Halen – Beautiful Girls
When I was growing up as a kid, Van Halen was definitely the guitar sound that defined rock 'n' roll to me. It wasn't necessarily the group itself, or a song, or a particular EVH solo that made me want to pick up the guitar. The guitar tone that I heard from the early Van Halen albums (up until around 5150 I believe) was something that was such a massive influence on me personally, and was something that I was always striving to achieve with my modest rig I had setup as a young guitar player. I loved the ‘brown sound’ (as it’s came to be called) on songs like “Beautiful Girls”, “DOA”, “Feel Your Love Tonight”, “Everybody Wants Some”, and all that stuff from that era. Even when 1984 showed Eddie using more chorus, I liked the effect. Once 5150 and OU812 came out though, I wasn’t as big of a fan of the tones… the effects were too ‘wet’ in my opinion in many cases. Additionally, it seemed like they were turning into a pop band with songs like “Love Comes Walking In” and “Finish What Ya Started”. “Black and Blue” had a cool groove to it though. I do feel there were a few decent, but very new tones with the “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” album. For example, “Runaround” and “Top of The World” definitely aren’t Eddie’s brown sound, but it was fairly unique in that era.
Dokken – Mr. Scary
A big influence for me during my younger teen years was Dokken. Not so much the love songs, but George Lynch’s tone at that time was huge! He had a ton of catchy licks and melodic yet tricky solos as well. Songs such as “Night By Night”, “Mr. Scary”, and “Sleepless Night” off of the “Back for the Attack” album had great tone for the era. Both that album and “Under Lock and Key” were my two favorite Dokken albums, due to the guitar tone. As far as the songs themselves…. eeehhh… the lyrics got in the way of the guitar playing. ;)
As I got a little older in the 80s, I loved what George Lynch was doing in the Lynch Mob years. The “Wicked Sensation” album had tons of great tones and more catchy Lynch riffs. I have a lot of great memories as a 14 or 15 year old playing in a garage band with some friends, and playing songs like “Wicked Sensation” and “All I Want”.
The second Lynch Mob album was entirely different than their first, but tonally I loved its departure. Some of those guitar tones are something that really influenced me at that time, and showed me how guitar effects can actually create a mood. Whether it's a very moody but spacey, warm chorus sound like “Tangled in the Web”, or whether it's just a very warm midrangey-yet-crunchy distortion tone like on “No Good”, it was a driving force for me at that time. I hate to admit this, but it wasn’t until I heard Lynch’s version of “Tie Your Mother Down” that I paid much attention to the Queen version of that song… so thank you George Lynch for introducing me to Brian May J
It should be noted that this is the time that I met Steve Townsend, who plays on many of our 80’s rock dominated YouTube videos. Even as a teenager he could play all that stuff note for note… such a great player even to this day.
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
When I was around 16 or so, a bandmate of mine let me borrow a Pink Floyd tape (yes, I’m old), called “Delicate Sound of Thunder”. It was a live album, and believe it or not, it wasn’t the guitar playing that bent my ear... it was the reverb on the vocals on “Wish You Were Here”. From that point on, I’ve always had a secret crush on various reverb sounds.
Pearl Jam – Alive
Around my senior year of high school or so was when Nirvana and Pearl Jam really hit it big, and Pearl Jam was a huge influence on me at that time. It was revolutionary for me as an impressionable 17 year old… the guitar parts were so simple, there weren’t tons of effects, there were no huge refrigerator sized racks… it was just a guy with simpler gear and maybe a pedal or two creating great songs. He was doing it without showing off finger acrobatics and he was achieving more melodic solos. The moods and feelings they evoked with the simpler equipment were amazing to me. It was the way that they made songs come alive and made me feel emotions and spoke to me in different ways; it was something I could identify with compared to the corny love songs of the 80’s. This was a big inspiration on me personally... I realized just how much those types of things affect a person as a listener, not necessarily as a guitar player. For a consumer of music, I realized that the guitar tones and effects used could often help affect the listener just as much as a good lyric. Hearing the song “Alive” made me re-realize the power of a cranked JCM800. It just had BALLS. Such great stuff; I’m a huge fan of the first 3 albums from Pearl Jam in particular.
Alice in Chains – Would?
Through those years, I was a huge fan of the movie “Singles”, and especially the soundtrack. Some of my favorites were from Alice In Chains (with “Would?” being my introduction to them) and “Breath and a Scream”. I got into Alice In Chains, Sound Garden, and various other bands (including Weezer). During this time, I was in a band playing clubs around our local college, having way too much fun and loving life. Keep in mind that I did not have a ton of great gear at all. I was borrowing a solid state amplifier (Peavey Supreme 160 and a GHS 4x12 cabinet) from a friend, and I had a little RP 50 (and later upgraded to a RP-5) Digitech processor that sounds terrible by today’s standards, that I would use for different effects. This was during a phase of my life where one starts trying to “find themselves”, and I hopped from cover band to cover band, moving from Indiana during the warm months to Tampa, Florida during the winter and playing with different bands there. It was in during one of my stints in Tampa that I upgraded to an RP-10. All of this gear ended up getting pawned so I could eat one day. Such is life I guess.
Brent Mason – Hot Wired
Eventually, at some point while I was playing for that band I just got tired of playing the same songs. Soon I got offered a position in a country band. I did not know much about country guitar or country music at that time at all, but it paid good and I needed money so that was the route I took. The other guitar player in that band actually introduced me to the fact that it was Brent Mason on those recordings that was making my life miserable trying to learn all the solos he was playing! That started off an obsession with him, and I really started digging into his solo stuff and everything that he was putting out with different artists. It amazed me how he used effects in the same way, to evoke emotion and to create a mood within a song simply by his choice of notes and his choice of effects within those notes. By this time I had ‘upgraded’ to a Peavey Bandit (yes… it’s true….) and then my first tube amp, a Peavey Delta Blues. I also purchased my first Telecaster, the MIJ ‘52 Reissue that you might see in our older videos on YouTube. I also went and bought the brand new, super amazing Digitech RP-7 and spent a ton of time creating “Brent Mason” patches. If you were a user and member of the RP forums back then, you may have seen me interact on there during the time. It was around this time that I decided to ditch the RP-7 and I bought a Peavey Classic 50 amp, along with different pedals. I found the Harmony Central gear forum (which actually was pretty cool in 2001 or so) and The Gear Page effects forum. Being a tinkerer, I found DIYstompboxes.com and decided to start pulling my pedals apart. The rest was history as far as pedals went… I read a ton and experimented a lot. Eventually the electronics side became more of an obsession than trying to learn how to play all the fancy licks like Brent and the next guy were putting out…
Brad Paisley – Me Neither
I'll never forget where I was when I first heard Brad Paisley song “Me Neither”. It’s one of those things that made me pull over to the side of the road and do nothing but simply listen to the song. I was floored by the way Brad was using a special choice of notes that was unlike anyone else at that time; he was playing licks that others were playing that you would not think would fit within the song, but they did somehow. I immediately bought the album and heard “The Nervous Breakdown”. This was my introduction to Vox tones. Up until that point I simply wasn’t a fan of them. Brad completely changed that. Every album to date, they’re just full of great tone and creative licks and solos. Not to mention, the guy can write too. PLUS, he’s as big of a fan of gear as anyone else I know. He LOVES pedals, and routinely walks into stores in various towns looking for new gear… even to this day.
I digress. Here are some more great songs that you’ll love from Brad:
- “Munster Rag”
- The entire Mud on the Tires album is FULL of great tone. I can’t narrow this down to one song. “Make a Mistake with Me” and “Spaghetti Western Swing” (with Redd Volkaert) are two of my favorites if I HAD to choose. Of course, check out the solo in * “Little Moments”… perfect note choice, perfect tone in that solo.
- “Time Warp” … every player in the band is just amazing. Seriously, flat out amazing. This is Brad’s road band on the album too – not “studio musicians” like what is commonly the case in most of country music.
I could go on and on here. I’d have about 80 songs to point you to just from Brad. So suffice to say, just check out his stuff – even if you don’t like “country music”, you’ll love Brad’s stuff. In particular, check out his instrumental album “Play”.
And that’s where I personally am today. I love A LOT of great bands that aren’t necessarily country, but the stuff mentioned above is what has shaped me both as a guitar player, as a effect pedal creator/designer, and as a person.
I was one of the very very lucky people to see Guns'n'Roses when they were at their most raucous and most, dare I say it, dangerous. I was 15, it was August 1988, and the location was Donnington Monsters of Rock Festival. G'n'R were arguably the biggest and most current band in the world at that time which was an opinion hidden by their place of 2nd on the bill behind the more established artists. It was a breathtaking set and one I'll never forget for many reasons, but I'll concentrate on the positive here (those of you who remember the news of that day or have read any of the books either written about or by any of the original band you will know). They were loud. They were in control. They were out of control. They were amazing.
Appetite For Destruction is for many, including myself, the best debut album ever. It was so good the band was doomed the minute it was released. There was no way they could even get close to it let alone build on it, it was, as they say, the most perfect 'moment in time' recording you could possibly imagine.
So, what is this all about? Well, it's about the constant need for perfection in music. Let's take a look at the single that drove the album sales in those early days, "Sweet Child O'Mine". That riff. That solo. The kind of wah pedal use that would make Kirk Hammett sit up and take notice. Now listen to Slash's parts isolated (taken from the Guitar Hero game, a 'perfect' reproduction. The riff is noisy and scratchy. In the solo the bends are off... Notes are dropped and misplaced all over the place... But, having said that, it's just perfect. In the context of this song it can't be bettered in any way, imagine how awful it would sound if it was pro-tool'd to perfection, or the drop ins were perfect and the notes were made right. The word sterile springs to mind.
Perfection has it's place. But I don't think that place is in rock and roll.
I fell in love with music at an early age. My music tastes varied because of having to ride long distances because we lived waaay back in the woods. It varied by each parent too. Often riding with my mom to doctors’ appointments, we’d be listening to great oldies music from The Temptations, 4 Tops, The Supremes, all of that great stuff. When I rode to work with my Dad, it was the Doobie Brothers, Creedance Clearwater Revival, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. My guitar addiction came when my brother started playing guitar when I was 6 years old.
Layla (Unplugged) - Eric Clapton
My brother (5 years my senior) would sit in his room for hours with his acoustic and the Unplugged album playing, attempting to listen to it and play along. He was a fan of all of the songs, but my obsession grew with this track. When he’d go to school or to a friends house, I’d steal this CD and listen to Layla more times than I could count. The way someone could evoke such emotion with HOW they played blew me away. Looking back, technically speaking it wasn’t perfect, but it hit me right in a spot that made me say “I’ve got to know more about guitar.”
Three O'clock Blues - BB King & Eric Clapton
At 15 I got serious with guitar. I had been playing guitar for about 6 months (acoustic only) before this album released. From the first time I heard Eric Clapton play that intro lick, I was completely hooked on blues guitar. I listened to it every day for weeks on repeat, trying to piece together the lead lines. Every note he and BB played must have gone straight into my heart, because from that point on guitar HAD to be part of my life in some way. Needless to say my first bout of GAS had struck. I begged and pleaded for months, worked my butt off, and Santa ended up bringing me a Wine Red MIM Strat. I was in absolute heaven.
Morning View Sessions - Incubus
I’ve jumped back and forth between so many Incubus songs for this spot, because they all had an impact on me as I was starting to develop my own sound. I’ll just go against the grain and post the whole concert then! Mike Einziger was the reason I fell in love with guitar pedals. Hearing “The Warmth” blew my mind as to how he could get such weird sounds out of a guitar. They could be extremely heavy, funky, jazzy, ambient, and all things in between. If I had to pick the two albums that influenced me the most, it would be Make Yourself and Morning View. Both made me more in love with guitar than any other pieces of music, ever.
That's Love - Brad Paisley
When I first started dating my wife, I despised country music. I loved it as a kid, but grew to not like it as I found more modern rock music. It was all whining and slow steel guitars and people sounding like they were holding their nose while they were singing. Realistically I was being an idiot and set in my ways. That was an issue, because country was all she would listen to for the most part. She introduced me to Brad Paisley through this song, and I was completely hooked. The guitar was cutting and powerful, the lyrics were funny, and the guy played guitar like no one I’d ever heard. That started my trip into getting Crook telecasters and Dr. Z’s and eventually hooking up with Wampler when they released the Paisley Drive. The Paisley Drive actually sparked a conversation with Jason Wilding that would inevitably lead to me working for Wampler and our great friendship.
Sweet Sweet Baby – Michelle Featherstone
This is a bit of a departure, let me preface this. This is not completely related to guitar, but more-so to music as a means of expressing that which can’t be spoken. My wife and I tried for our son for 3 years, and doctors told us that we’d have to use fertility treatments to have children (if we ever could at all). After a year of heartbreak and pain, we finally discovered my wife was pregnant. The day our son was born, the photographer for the hospital came in and took newborn pictures. She returned later that day with a slide-show, and this song was playing behind pictures of our newborn miracle. The idea of wanting something so bad, seeing it in your arms and hearing that perfect song, it was enough to make us cry. I still can’t listen to the daggone song without a tear of happiness. This song and that experience engrained in me how important music is to life itself. It’s the one thing in life that truly can help whatever emotion you are feeling. It bonds people from all corners of the globe, transcending all of those dumb things the news talks about. This song showed me that it’s all about what FITS the moment, and how it makes you feel and relate to that moment for the rest of your life. That has translated to how I play guitar. I dropped the mindset of fitting in every note I could to just trying to find what fits in the context of the song. It really helped me to LISTEN instead of just trying to fill the space with notes.
Which one should I begin with as I stand up and shyly speak as the whole group watches?? Should it be "Hello, my name is Jason and I'm addicted to chasing tone" or "Hello, my name is Jason and I'm an opinionated idiot"?
You see, the problem I have is that both of those statements are true. I expect if you think about it, you are probably both of those things as well. If you've ever said "All you need is a telecaster", "Guitar - Cable - Amp, it's good enough for Keef", "Clapton is God", "Clapton is dog" or "Jimi didn't need to have true bypass" or what ever, then you are guilty of it as well. I think if we are all honest with ourselves we can think of occasions when we've fallen into this trap many more times than once. Me more than most!
So, let's look at this a little deeper. Why am I writing this? Is it self therapy, I don't know - all I do know is that two statements I've seen on the internet in recent times have made me think about this subject more than I usually do. I think it's because it's the anniversary of Jimi's death. These statement (the first was a 'hilarious' meme) are...
1. Everyone tried hard to enjoy themselves at Woodstock... Despite the fact Jimi's pedals were not true bypass.
2. Jimi didn't need loads of effects to sound great.
Let's make another couple of statements that are no different from the ones above, but I'll use the Beatles to demonstrate my point.
1. The Beatles played Shea Stadium with 100w VOX amps and nothing else.
2. The Beatles didn't need Pro Tools to make Sgt Pepper.
When the two sets of statements are compared, it kind of makes you realise that those blanket statements about your favourite artist are kind of... well, you know, silly. I say this because when McCartney played at Shea Stadium with Billy Joel in 2008, the back line and P.A. were somewhat more powerful and I'm guessing, although I can't absolute confirm it - unlike the Peppers sessions - he used a little more than 4 tracks on his last album.
What do we think Jimi would have used if he were still making music today? I know that he has extremely fussy when choosing his wah pedals - I've had some interesting conversations with Wampler escapee Travis who I guess you might know is a massive Hendrix fan. Travis has been lucky enough to pick Roger Mayer's brain's about Hendrix and some of the things said were "he would go through 5-10 wahs every night at sound check to get the right one" and that he only used Marshall's because they were the only ones loud enough and that his own middle name was Marshall. I can't categorically state this next thing but it seems to me Hendrix was a tone chaser like the rest of us and would have absolutely loved the options available to him today had he still been here. Can you imagine Hendrix with an AxeFX or a Kemper? I can't, I don't think... but I can see him with an absolutely massive pedal collection and loving every second of exploring them.
Here's a couple of cool interviews with Eddie Kramer, I'm obliged to warn you that the language is explicit in places, definitely NSFW or for those of a nervous disposition, but he confirms again that Hendrix was a tone chaser and loved to jump in head first and find those tones...
So, thank you for attending this weeks Tone Chasers Anonymous session, my name is Jason, and I am an opinionated idiot. And remember, everything you just read must be true, because you just saw it on the internet.
5 guitar moments that changed my life
Early this week, Jason posted a Blog about the 5 guitar moments that changed his world. Piggy-backing off this idea – here are my 5. Although numbered – it’s hard to put them in any official order. It was also hard to pick only 5.
1) Who did you think I was? – John Mayer This was one of the first songs that made me want to really “Chase Tone”. I can remember exactly were I was when I first heard this song. I was sitting in my car with the top down of my Mustang (It was a cool car to me – but pretty much a piece of junk to anybody who had seen it.) Anyways – I was sitting at a stop light near my childhood home in Mooresville, Indiana listening to the local radio station 92.3FM (A modern music radio station) when it came on. BAM! Hit me like a freight train! Just the opening riff, Strat, Tube Screamer, and a Two Rock – Blown Away! I’ve been an unashamed Mayer fan-boy since.
2) Jonny Lang – Lie To Me This album came out in 1997 and I purchased it at my local Karma record store on a whim. I was 11 years old and just starting to get in to blues. His voice and riffs were just so tastey – even at an early age – I knew I wanted to sing like that. Oddly enough I didn’t start singing in public until my early 20s. But Johnny Lang’s guitar and vocal phrasing and still a super prevalent influence in my music today.
3) Texas Flood – Stevie Ray Vaughan I first got in the blues when I was 10 – nearly 20 years ago now. Texas Flood was one of the first albums I ever received. My very first copy was on tape that I received as Christmas gift. I wore that out, quite literally. I stretched the tape so bad you couldn’t understand it in anymore for being played so many times. After doing that to about 3 copies in a matter of months. My parents got me a Sony Discman CD player with a CD version of Texas Flood so they wouldn’t have to buy me any more copies of that album on tape. You can hear the emotion and power behind every note played on that album. If you haven’t listened to it for a while – you owe yourself a favor – sit down, relax, and enjoy.
4) Taxman – The Beatles So for those of you who know me – and for those of you who don’t – I am a huge Beatles fan. My office is pretty much covered in Beatles stuff. My Dad was a huge fan – and I think he passed that gene on to me. While it’s hard to pin point any one favorite Beatles song – I think the song “Tax Man” really stood out to me. The pocket of the Rhythm guitar chugging along during that song has always brought a smile to my face. It’s a fantastic example of pocket – it makes the whole song!
5) Tedeschi Trucks Band
In recent years, I’ve fallen in love with the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi are both great guitar players on their own – but since marrying one another and forming a more than incredible band together – they continue to amaze me. They both play off each other’s guitar riffs well, song structure is articulate and fun, and I’m not even mentioning that Derek Trucks can make his SG and glass slide sound like a Gospel Singer. While they are known for their up beat structures – I really like this song when I need to just unwind. There still lots of power and emotion – just directed as to relax you. Sound odd I know – but you be the judge for yourself.
Honorable mentions: Sean Costello – I’m a Ram, Jimi Hendrix – Crosstown Traffic, and Government Mule – Beautifully Broken.
I started playing the guitar at about age 8, massively influenced by my older brother, my grandfather, and my uncle (who were all players) - I started the same way as everyone else my age did. Listening to the radio and going through my, and my friends, parents record collection. Here are the songs/riffs/solos that throughout my playing life have completely turned me upside down, influenced me or in one case, bought a little tear to my eye. (Note: I’ve intentionally left out Hotel California as it’s too obvious)
Sunday Bloody Sunday – Edge (U2)
Live at Red Rocks version, obviously. My first experience with Eb tuning, It wasn’t until I saw the video I saw that he was playing it “there” so it meant the guitar must have been downtuned. I remember being blown away with Edge’s right hand and his aggressive nature of playing rhythm, the riff was cool but the playing was better.
Phantom of the Opera – Dave Murray and Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden)
I first heard the song in an advert for Lucozade, just he intro and a little of the main song riff - it was of course the studio version with Dennis Stratton playing with Davey instead of Adrain. It took me months to track the song down (ahhh… the days before the internet) and when I heard the version on Live After Death (unfortunately that performance was never videoed) Iron Maiden became my life’s obsession!
Comfortably Numb - David Gilmour (Pink Floyd)
I think this one is pretty much a no brainer for most players. I first became aware of this when a band played it in a pub one time and the guitarist got pretty close to the original. Loving what I had heard I went out and bought the album, loved every second of it but when that first solo of Comfortably Numb passed I was utterly floored. Literally shaking with emotion and joy. I've spent years dissecting the phrasing - how it just seems to fall out of his fingers still blows my mind to this day.
Answers – Steve Vai
My introduction to Mr Vai was at the Monsters of Rock Festival at Donnington in 1988 with DLR. They shared the bill with G’n’R, Kiss, Iron Maiden, Megadeth and Helloween. It was really hard not to take notice of him, apart from the extremely raucious G’n’R (with the exception of their outstanding professionalism when the crowd started to go absolutely mad) he stole the show for me. Passion and Warfare was the seminal guitar instrumental album for years, and Answers shows the one thing that is NEVER talked about when discussing Steve’s playing. Phrasing. It’s sublime. This video is the first time I saw him play it live, you can even hear the loud “Yeeeaaahhh”s from me at the start! I would give almost anything I own to be stood between Dave and Steve playing the third harmony line at the end of this song!
Blowin’ Smoke – Brent Mason
I have total and complete clarity of the first time I became aware of Brent. It was 1998 and every Monday night my local pub had a jam night that was hosted by a country/blues band (Country is rare in the UK). The bass player, a great friend of mine called Rick, was always on top of music and had all the latest and greatest imports from across the pond. One Monday I was stood in the pub, having a quiet pint before the jam and Rick put the CD on over the PA. I noticed the tone and note choice instantly. Then the next tune came on and it was just beautiful… I walked over to Rick and asked who it was, he said “Some session guy from Nashville, Brent Mason – keep listening, you’ll love the next track..”. Blowin’ Smoke came on and you could say it was the riff that changed my life. I turned the dirt off, grew a couple of nails on my right hand and I was off… And no, 17 years later, I still can’t bloody play it like he does!
You can listen to Blowin' Smoke on Brent's Soundcloud, for some reason it won't embed here.
Today would have marked the 69th Birthday of Farrokh Bulsara - better know to the world as Freddie Mercury. To many, including myself, Freddie was not only a mind blowing musician, singer, and songwriter; but the greatest live showman to ever grace the stage - it's really hard to imagine him knocking on the door of 70 year old.
Today I shall be dusting off my Queen albums, live DVD's, cranking up the Thirty Something and marvelling in the majesty of Mercury.
Here's my favourite Mercury moment, 25 minutes that is now known to have saved the band from self destruction - the performance of day (from either side of the Atlantic). Fortunately, living here in England, I have enjoyed watching bands in the old and new Wembley Stadium so I can only imagine what it must have been like to be there and been one of the 72,000 people who was in the palm of Freddie's hand... actually, no I can't.