Wednesday, 1 February 2012


Alright our Kid?

Last year I got a Fender Squier 'Classic Vibe' Telecaster in my Christmas stocking which has become a favoured 'spare' guitar and not wanting to buck the trend, this year I got a new Fender Amplifier, so I thought I would share my impressions with you.


I don't like guitar effects because I play mainly 'in the rough' and though I'm not a purist as such, I do believe that the art of guitaristry died somewhat with the advent of effects pedals that simply enhance mediocre playing.  So why have I bought a 'modelling' amp, well the answer is simple,
firstly it's a Fender and I have never had any trouble with any of the Fender amps I have owned (I still use a red knob Fender for small gigs)
secondly, I play in many styles that benefit from differing sounds and thirdly,
the price of this amplifier is amazing value for it's level of quality, and it's quality is what it's all about. 

I am a bit of a design freak and this amp really satisfies my requirements. It is a real good looker, beautifully constructed with some throwbacks to previous Fender design, with it's silver grille material covering the speaker.  The body of the amp itself is a kind of graphite grey, "carbon tweed" finish and I really like the nifty Fender logo in the centre of the amplifier body too, very classy.

Fender have taken this opportunity to make the Mustang a bit more player friendly by placing the controls on top of the amp which I like.   One guitar input, and the normal Volume, Bass, Middle,Treble, Gain, Reverb and Master controls  which appear to be more responsive tonally, than those on the Frontman series of amps.   To the right sits the illuminated modelling controls which are easily readable, an Aux Input, headphone output and a USB connection.

The amp is solid state, rated at a 'true' 100 watts through one Celestion 12" speaker, weighs in at 38lbs, has a two button foot switch and packs a serious punch.  For me the two button footswitch is all I need, it takes off all the effects to leave me with the amplifier sound. 
So, the obvious second question is, why not just buy another amp that doesn't have effects built in? - answer, I wanted an amplifier that is an all rounder.  I choose to play on stage without effects but when recording, it is a distinct advantage to have all the buttons and bells at my disposal.  

I have to say at this juncture that I was intending to buy the Mustang IV which comes with 2 Celestion 12" speakers, delivers 150 watts (75watts each stereo channel) and comes with a 4-way foot switch.  I don't know if I need to spend another 70 pounds for more power than I actually need though and you can buy the 4-way foot switch as an optional extra for the Mustang III if button manipulation is your thing.  I do think that the Mustang IV has a much more pleasingly aesthetic look to it but that aside, it is essentially the same amplifier as the MkIII with an additional speaker and an extra 15 lbs of weight to cart about.

In it's 'modelling' mode it gives you the opportunity, via the selection wheel,
to emulate the sounds of all the best Fender amps of the past and a few others too.  The 'clean' sound of some of these is gorgeous and is the main thing that attracted me to this particular amplifier.  The sound effects patches applied to the 100 pre-sets of these examples can be altered to suit your own requirements, or bypassed completely, so you are not held captive by the sound that someone else thought you might want.  It does take a bit of tinkering with these settings to get the sounds you want but once achieved you can "Save" them to the amp itself and there are some settings that will probably not need any tinkering with at all. 

It is in the recording studio that this thing lights up for me, effect wise.  The Mustang has a USB output which will link direct to your laptop or other digital recording device AND also Fender have included Fender 'FUSE' software for studio recording which also gives you the opportunity to alter and save the on-board sounds of the patches.  Simply fantastic value for money here.

Would I have preferred to buy an 'all valve' amp?  Well I may be a little controversial here by saying that so much of this "You must have an all valve amp to sound better" is hyped up, probably by amplifier companies and of course, the many nerdy equipment freaks that one finds lurking in the dark recesses of music stores, just waiting to pounce on you with the familiar "Ooo I wouldn't buy that mate" opening line.   It's at this point that I pretend to be a foreigner "No speakee English", its the only way to get rid of them. 

Simply for the sake of it, I would love to buy a vintage, hard-wired amplifier, but only for nostalgic reasons.  I've owned most of these sought after amplifiers in the past and have enjoyed playing them.    These days, most gigs are put through an in-house PA system whose overall sound is dictated by the engineer and spending all that extra dough to get a purist sound is soon dealt with by some over eager knob twiddler whose only concern is to make you sound homogenous.   My bass player happens to be a good lead guitarist too and he has an old all-valve amp manufactured by a very well respected company which he sets up and then uses three foot pedals to get the 'natural' sound he wants.....which kind of proves my point.

At the moment, I love this amplifier because it does what I need an amp to do for my particular likes in music.  It sounds great, it's not a heavy thing to lump about, it's very loud and I have yet to hear someone from the audience say "You would have been much better if you had a valve sound" - the majority of the public don't even know what a valve is for goodness sake and a 'name' valve amp is 3 times the price of this amplifier.  I believe that we musicians pay enough already in blood, sweat, time and commitment and with disappointment lurking at every corner it is all too easy to be swept along on the "I must have this" equipment addiction.

I have only one small gripe about Fender and that is they expect me to pay an extra 50 quid for a vynil cover which is very poor marketing I think, the cost per item for that would be minimal. Lucy is hard at it on the sewing machine as we speak, making one for a couple of quid ...... as they couldn't be generous enough to give me a cover I shall probably write their main competitiors name across the home made cover.

In closing I will say what I always do, these comments are not for the technophobe and purely reflect my own opinion.  I'm sure that there are some nerdy wierdo's grinding their teeth at my 'valve' remarks but it's for you to make your own decisions. If you're in the market for a change of amplifier though, go and check one out for yourself, you just might like the sound of the Fender Mustang. I certainly do.

I just thought she would go on of the few early female blues singers that commanded worldwide respect.  "I would rather Go Blind" has never been bettered by anyone.  She was just awesome and had a voice that would convey pure sentiment through her handling of the blues, no fancy recording tricks just honest talent. 

It always seems such a pity that her reputation as a 'real great' wasn't rewarded enough by getting her a few 'real good' original songs to sing and make her own.   Although she had a massive hit with "At Last", and it was a indeed a great song to sing, it's style was a bit of a departure from her blues roots and kind of placed her in the jazz lounge.  I've been listening to her music today almost exclusively, with one exception and that is the music of someone else of staggering importance to R&B who passed away on the same day and that is...... 

His first hit was the self penned 'Willie and the Hand Jive" which he wrote after hearing a story from US girl group, the Three Tons of Joy, who had been in the UK promoting 'Ma he's making eyes at me", of how the audience of British teenagers sat and danced "The Handjive" on the TV show 6.5 Special.   
This Youtube clip shows the '3 tons' with him during a performance.

I guess this will come as shock news to some folk who always think that anything E Clapton records, he wrote.  As it is, Clapton practically plays his version of 'Handjive' note for note from the original which I actually applaud, it shows he has great respect for the original feel.

The 'Handjive" hit was only a part of Otis' contribution to music though. 
A great band leader, percussionist, pianist, vocalist, promoter, entrepeneur and record producer and it was in that last role that he was responsible for giving the world two of its most prodigious talents - Little Richard and remarkably, the late Etta James.  It would be nice to think that their souls have reunited somewhere. 
Last month I falsely gave the impression that Lee Stevens had left the country in 1962 to avoid paying out Five Pounds to someone who came up with a new name for The Satelites.............."I'm outraged" came the reply from Stevens hideaway, somewhere in the depths of Ontario "It was 1966!".

It had been rumoured that a sickly orphan had come up with a new name for
his backing group and would have used the winnings to buy a warm blanket for the winter.   Stevens said "It was a fair competition and though I liked the sickly orphans suggestion of The Lovely Lee Stevens Group",  I myself came up with the best name of all - "The Lee Stevens Group" and awarded myself the prize, I firmly believe that I deserved to win".  The Musicians Charity Organisation, Mitchells and Butlers eventually ended up as the beneficiary of those Five English Pounds, with the majority of that donation being re-cycled into a MkIII UPR (Upright Porcelain Recepticle).

"Rock n' Roll is a cut throat business and you have to be tough to be a winner" said Stevens.      

I have been contacted so much about Zella Records that I thought I had better put in this little explanation about the location of the recording studio.

Although Zella Records had been born and grown from Ladbrokes Music shop whose address was on Bristol Street, the studio itself was detached and was located in a delivery quadrangle to the rear of the shop which was accessible through a pair of large gates built into the facade of the Bristol Street shopfronts to permit lorry deliveries to the rear.  This quadrangle also backed onto Essex Street so effectively, the studio was in Essex Street and Ladbrokes Music Shop was on Bristol Street. 

I guess that most of you will have read about Tony Iommi's illness.   I just want to take this opportunity to say that we all wish for a good outcome for Tony who is undergoing treatment as we speak.  I know he is getting fantastic support from all areas.  Positivity is a great weapon. 
I'll say no more on that subject....

The hairy left-hander, along with the other members of Black Sabbath are currently recording their new album in London.  I'm gonna proffer a title suggestion here, and this won't have the Sabs being charged a huge amount by some advertising 'think-tank'.   I'm zeroed into the demographic of this great Brummie band, and this is what it should called:

"Met Al in the Elbow Room", kinda clever in a Brummie way.


"Platforms, Hair and ill Fitting Trousers" is my current favourite, an homage to Geezer Butler, almost scary.

Look out for John Woodhouse's CD review of The Move live at the Filmore, coming soon on the BRUMBEAT Reviews page. 

next month.....
Some time ago I was corresponding with someone who had sent me a DVD of their band gigging somewhere.  I noticed that the right hand PA speaker  obliterated the bass player completely throughout the video, as did the still photography that they had sent me........I suggested that the bassist must have moaned about not being on it "He doesn't know" came the reply "and anyway, they all moan, it's in their DNA!!".   Is that the truth, are all bass players whingers? .....coming to this blog next month. 


and just before I go......Robbie Kean!! UTV

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