Thursday, 13 August 2009

Top 10 Les Paul Players

Only within the last couple of hours has news filtered through that Les Paul, the creator of one of the most iconic guitars in music, has died at the age of 94 in New York.

Along with the Fender Stratocaster, the Les Paul is instantly recognisable as a design classic, yet it is the Les Paul which is favoured more among rock musicians.
So, here is a hastily compiled list of ten Les Paul players in the Rock idiom:

1. Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin, pictured) – With his Les Paul slung down by his knees, Page is the template by which all Les Paul users go by.
2. Slash (Guns ‘n Roses) – Remarkable is the fact that he could actually put the thing on.
3. Mick RonsonThe Les Paul player in the glam era.
4. James Dean Bradfield (Manic Street Preachers) – Used a Les Paul thrillingly on the Manic’s snarling early records.
5. Jeff Beck – Now a Fender Stratocaster player, Beck was, in the 60s, synonymous with the Les Paul.
6. Eric Clapton – Like Beck, Clapton is seldom seen nowadays without a Fender Stratocaster, yet his early career saw him use a Les Paul replete with a Marshall amp and more tone and sustain to wave a stick at. Perfect for bludgeoning Blues.
7. James Hetfield (Metallica) – With a pneumatic right hand, Hetfield’s Les Paul takes one hell of a beating.
8. Marc Bolan (T Rex) – With that pout, perm and Paul (Les), who could possibly resist?
9. Neil Young – When rocking out, Young usually goes for a well-worn black number.
10. Nigel Tufnel (Spinal Tap) – “The sustain, listen to it...”

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Peter Andre - Behind Closed Doors

As Peter Andre continues his charm/nausea offensive following his split from Katie Price, this week sees him release the first single from his ever-impending album.

Behind Closed Doors is stodge-pop by numbers. It starts, it finishes. The bit in the middle has crunchy guitars, a beat which is an abhorrent attempt at creating Timbaland-style balladry, and a new approach to vocals from Andre. Gone is the over-sexed saccharine squeal, swapped here for a gruff, pseudo-mature husk which is as transparent as Andre is expendable.

Expect the lyrics to be interpreted as a looking glass into the Andre-Price’s pea-brained world. Expect everyone to like it in an ironic way too.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Coffee and Cake - 8th August 2009

Addison Road in Kings Heath is quiet as the sun sits high above in an immaculately clear sky. Strolling down this street with a bag of cold beers, I was wondering where I was being taken for I was in the Midlands for the weekend paying a visit to a certain young lady and one of the things we had planned as entertainment was to go to something called Coffee and Cake. My host had been before and described the situation to me: Local freelance journalist Cassie-Philomena Smyth hosts a free, monthly event which showcases local musical talent in the serene setting of the back garden of her terraced house. Whilst some invites are sent out it also relies upon word of mouth promotion; ultimately you are encouraged to just come along and enjoy the music, all very relaxed y’know.

I am real nervous.

We finally reach the house and, tentatively shifting down a darkened side-alley, we make our way into the garden. It is a long yet narrow space with moderately tall fencing either side and a scattering of people are sitting on the grass, looking dreamily up at Tom Peel who is sat with just an acoustic guitar, the first act of the day.

There is a heady cocktail of utopian contentment, beaming sunshine and great music which grabs you by both hands, leading you towards the music, as soon as you enter (I was half-expecting someone to put flowers in my hair); everyone seems to be getting on well, plenty of smiling and woozy grinning, and the quality of the music is astonishing.

Despite many of the acts being restricted to the minimalism of acoustic instruments, the differing styles provide enough contrasts to keep the audience interested; from the loose rhythms of Tom Peel to the youthful exuberance of Tantrums, no act could be charged with sounding like the one before.

Goodnight Lenin! perform for the first time in front of an audience and deliver a highly confident set, binded by luscious vocal harmonies; Greg Smith’s self-deprecating humour wins the crowd over, his music a scuzzy, scratchy indie fare. We are then treated to some performance poetry from Jodi Ann Bickley whose sharp, funny and painfully honest observations (on the rockiness of love in particular) have the audience both captivated and howling with laughter.

Other highlights include Ali Forbes whose delicately measured vocals and guitar, receive rapturous applause from the ever-increasing crowd. By now the garden is a blossoming, bustling place as more and more people slip in. Anna Palmer (aka Little Palm) wows the crowd as she is accompanied by her electric keyboard and drummer (don’t worry, he is only using a snare drum with his bare hands – it hasn’t descended into MTV –style pseudo-acoustic wooliness). Her jaunty pop-jazz, coupled with her acrobatic vocals, provide yet more variety to the proceedings.

It’d be far too easy to compare it with something like Woodstock and its naive hippy idealism (and besides, the haircuts were far too edgy) but one certainly had a sense of being part of something whilst sitting there with what essentially was a small amount of people but enough to make the day feel like an event. Is this the future? Is this how all gigs will be in five, ten, years’ time? I can’t provide such answers, I’m only a humble farm-boy, but by the time it was dark and everyone was all fuzzy from drink, I found myself blabbering away to whoever was sat around, telling them how great I thought it was. No doubt I’ll see them there next time. A wonderful day.