March 1, 2004

Jam bands, the Complete Guide to the Players, Music & Scene

By Dean Budnick
Dean Budnick is often credited with originating the term jam band—though, despite his spirited attempt at definition, the designation remains largely ambiguous. That inconvenient factoid notwithstanding, as a co-founder of and senior editor of Relix magazine, Budnick is uniquely qualified to shed light on the elusive jamband scene, which is really what the whole thing is all about anyway. Organized alphabetically by band name, this exhaustive reference will provide cover-to-cover enjoyment for hardcore Jammy freaks seeking behind-the-scenes anecdotal insights along with their facts and stats, while also providing a handy tool for those who wish to consume their information piecemeal. Budnick’s style is informal and conversational—albeit peppered with potentially controversial opinions—which suits the material, and makes for an interesting read. A companion CD containing tracks by six artists is also included. Backbeat Books.

—Barry Cleveland

The Tube Amp Book

By Aspen Pittman
The latest edition of the skinny little book that sparked a revolution in appreciating all things tube has grown to become an immense hardcover edition that is really two books in one. The first fat, 192-page section covers classic, boutique, and just plain wacky tube amps from here and abroad, as well as tube amp maintenance and modification—a huge chapter that includes sonic descriptions of Groove Tubes’ preamp and output tubes, and gets into such things as how to bias your amp, basic troubleshooting, class A versus class AB, and replacing output transformers. Also included are useful mods for Ampeg, Fender, and Marshall amps, a handy reference section that lists the tube complements for dozens of popular amplifiers, technical specs for all of the popular guitar-amp tubes, and a handy glossary of tube-related terms.

Tech heads will especially appreciate the next 187-page section, which features schematics for tons of different tube amps—there are more than 100 Fender entries alone! All the majors are included here—Ampeg, Gibson, Hiwatt, Magnatone, Marshall, Matchless, Mesa/Boogie, Orange, Peavey, and Vox—along with weirdoes such as Garnet, Gretsch, Harmony, Selmer, Supro, Watkins, and Western Electric. There’s even a schematic for a 1929 RCA Theremin. The large page format makes it easy to identify components, and the book’s spiral binding allows the pages to lie nice and flat on your workbench without having to lay bricks on them. And if you still can’t find the circuit diagram you need for that old Tokyo Sound tube reverb unit, chances are it’s on the included CD, which contains a staggering 800 schematics. It goes without saying that the Tube Amp Book is the bomb for anyone who builds, plays, or repairs tube guitar amps. Kudos to Aspen Pittman for this monumental achievement. Backbeat Books.

—Art Thompson

The Tombstone Tourist: Musicians

By Scott Stanton
Sure, most musicians would be thrilled to see themselves pictured alongside Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman, Jimmy Bryant, Jim Morrison, Michael Bloomfield, Randy Rhoads, Frank Sinatra, and countless other greats in a book about music legends—but not in this book. If you find yourself between these covers, I’ve got bad news: You’re dead. And that’s a bummer, because, as the Bob Dylan quote so eloquently states at the beginning of the book, “Any day above ground is a good day.” At first glance, it would be easy to write off The Tombstone Tourist: Musicians as a macabre novelty text best suited for the coffee table. In actuality, though, this fat paperback is the result of ten years of devoted research and worldwide graveyard exploration by none-too-serious author/photographer Scott Stanton, and the book functions as a surprisingly engaging music history text.

Loaded with general biographical info, intriguing anecdotes, debunked myths, and detailed accounts of many musicians’ very last breaths, Stanton’s labor of love transcends mere conversation-piece status and enters the realm of serious reference. The book also features tons of cool quotes, such as Buddy Rich on his deathbed listing his allergies to a nurse: “Two things: Country and Western.” And yes, as proves the huge success of the HBO series Six Feet Under, the whole mortality angle of the human experience is fascinating—particularly when it comes to celebrities. For some reason, it’s really interesting to read about those moments when our high-flying, larger-than-life musical superheroes are finally brought back to earth. Pocket Books.

—Jude Gold  

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