Rants And Raves: August 2009

AUDIO CHICKENFOOT Chickenfoot Yeah, it’s a supergroup. You got your guitarslinger (Joe Satriani), your strutting vocalist (Sammy Hagar), your rocksolid bassist and angelic backup singer (Michael Anthony), and your slammin’ drummer (Chad Smith). They’ve been in a few popular bands, and one or two have launched pretty awesome solo careers. They have a weird name, and the media seems to dig pointing out that none of them are spring chickens. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Well, screw the haters and the naysayers, because the band’s bombastic debut CD pretty much proves Chickenfoot is a cohesive unit of amazing players who truly enjoy zoning into each other’s musical passions, and having one huge blast churning out rock and roll thrills. Modeled after Led Zeppelin’s riff-and-rhythm propelled onslaught, Chickenfoot evokes the raw, electric energy of ’70s bands expanding the vocabulary of blues-rock, while simultaneously keeping the tones and grooves sharp and modern. (A “hat’s off” to Smith for that, as he pushes the band right to the tip-top of the pocket to keep things from sounding too bluesy.) The guys cut the songs live in the studio—playing together without a click track—and that takes a fair bit of balls in these days of tempo maps and digital editing. You certainly don’t do that unless you dig playing with people, and have the confidence and chops to nail exhilarating performances on the fly.

There’s always a party with Sammy— whose seat-of-the-pants exuberance is more punk rock than he’ll ever get credit for— but GP readers will freak at how being in a vocal-based band again has affected Satriani. Always a brilliant technician and tone connoisseur, Satriani can, at times, seem almost too perfect. But he is absolutely raging with abandon here. You can almost feel a boyish “first band” giddiness in his playing, as he cranks down the overdrive and bashes out rhythm parts with enough attack to topple Galactus. His solos are stunning, of course—little orchestras of astounding beauty and jaw-dropping technique— but it’s his furious commitment to hammering out propulsive rhythms that tags Chickenfoot as the savior of classic riff rock. This is one ass-kicking band. Check out the September 2009 GP for the full story. earMUSIC. —Michael Molenda



Jack White’s latest band, the Dead Weather, features vocalist Alison Mosshart (the Kills), bassist Jack Lawrence (the Raconteurs), guitarist Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age), and White on drums. The quartet’s debut release, Horehound, is a balls-out affair replete with super-nasty, over-the-top guitars, fat and fuzzy bass lines, mammoth drums, and stark but soulful vocals—all pressed into the service of hooky, hard-driving, and sometimes smoldering grooves. Guitar solos are few, but killer guitar tones come fast and furiously. Recorded at White’s Third Man Studio, the production aesthetic is simultaneously rough and refined, in a sort of neo-post-retro style, with enough reverb to give Joe Meek pause. In a word: kickass! Third Man. —Barry Cleveland


Mama, I’m Swollen

It seems like only yesterday that Cursive guitarist Tim Kasher was featured in GP for his album The Ugly Organ. In reality, though, that story appeared in the May 2003 issue (penned by our then managing editor Emily Fasten—hi Emily!). Kasher and company have recently released their eighth record, Mama, I’m Swollen, and it has a host of the quirky guitar lines and cool layering that Kasher excels at. “Donkeys” is a case study in guitar stratification, with beautiful acoustic picking, sparse electric notes, fizzly distorted chords, and effected blasts. Likewise in “Let Me Up,” he juxtaposes wahwah wiggles with steely stabs and pure sludge rock fuzz. Elsewhere he employs cool slide work, skiffle strumming, and rock chugging. Fans of the Smiths and the Cure will appreciate certain nods to those bands, but Kasher is his own guy, as evidenced by the fact that he’s one of the only players in history to rock a Gibson Corvus II as his main guitar (Google it and possibly see why). Saddle Creek. —Matt Blackett


Worlds Within

Filgate was a member of Wishbone Ash during the mid and late ’90s, and more recently recorded and performed with Chubby Checker. This album features a dozen tracks of instrumental guitar-o-licious goodness, enhanced by Filgate’s impressive array of vintage axes and amps. This isn’t groundbreaking music by any means, and stylistically the album dishes up a smorgasbord rather than concentrating on a particular cuisine—but Filgate’s superb playing and seemingly limitless supply of classic tones make each song a truly tasty treat. In the liner notes, Filgate says his biggest influence was Steve Howe, which makes sense given his multifaceted approach. For example, there’s the SRV-tinged “The Bulldog Blues” that veers off into prog-like orchestral bombast midway; the genuinely prog “Flight” with its Mellotrons, 13/8 time signature, and Howe-like echoed lap-steel; the pretty solo acoustic steel-string “Wrapped in Bronze” and semi-classical nylon-string “Roraima”; the borderline smooth jazz “Cruise Control”; the Beck-ish “Dissonance”; the countrified “Telekinesis”; and the Nugent-meets-AC/DC “Dance of the Poltergeist.” Besides the exemplary guitar playing, what saves this collection from simply being an insufferable hodgepodge is the way in which Filgate constantly mixes things up and keeps you guessing. You can tell that he had more fun than a kid in a candy factory making this record, and that enthusiasm and joyousness are effectively conveyed to the listener. EraSend. —Barry Cleveland


My Tribute to Chet Atkins

The letters “c.g.p.” are an abbreviation for “certified guitar player,” which the late Chet Atkins reportedly bestowed on only four players that he felt were deserving of the title: Tommy Emmanuel, John Knowles, Jerry Reed, and Steve Wariner. Wariner’s tribute to Atkins— who was his boss, musical mentor, producer, and friend—is a beautifully recorded collection of original compositions that covers the styles Atkins made famous during his long career, as well as a few tunes that Atkins himself recorded or performed. So whether it’s a classic like “John Henry” or a tribute tune such as “Chet’s Guitar,” what comes across here is Wariner’s dazzling skill at fingerpicking in the Atkins style, which he does with soul and a deep commitment to preserving the legacy of the man he calls “the greatest and most influential guitarist on the planet.” SelecTone. —Art Thompson



By Wallace Marx Jr.

Gibson played a huge role in the development of guitar amplifiers, and this excellent book details the evolution of these products from the company’s first “Electric Amplifier” of 1933 to the Super Goldtone models of today. Packed with photos and period advertisements, this book travels though time to describe Gibson’s development of the EH series (1933-1941), the BR series (1942-1947), the iconic GA series (1948-1962), and the Crestline, Power-Plus, and solid-state models that the company produced from 1963 to 1968, which were the last to be made before CMI acquired Gibson and temporarily ended its amplifier production. Blue Book. —Art Thompson



Tricky techno beats—including 10/8 and 6/8 over 4—snazzy synths, nasty-ass distorted bass, brooding atmospherics, and dashes of screeching, echo-y, metallic, and Morricone-inspired guitars make for engaging listening on this inventive, hip, and cleverly-produced instrumental outing. Thrill Jockey. —Barry Cleveland


Breezy singer-songwriter pop that is firmly in the Jason Mraz/Colbie Caillat camp. Come for the catchy melodies, stay for the minor IV chords. ARC. —Matt Blackett


Hanson’s fine acoustic playing is brought to the fore on this album of classics from the golden age of American songwriting. His instrumental arrangements of tunes like “Body and Soul” and “Brother, Can You Spare Me A Dime” are cool and inspiring. Solid Air. —Art Thompson


Italian experimental vocalist Savoldelli and avant-jazz-noise-blues guitarist Sharp recorded this improvised album in one day without overdubbing. Savoldelli loops and electronically manipulates his versatile and compelling voice in myriad manners as Sharp slaps, taps, picks, pokes, strokes, and EBows walls of wondrous sounds from his brilliantly processed instruments. Crazy, man, crazy! Moonjune. —Barry Cleveland