Saturday, August 13, 2016

STE* - Steve Jones, Give It Up

Purchase Steve Jones, Give It Up

Steve Jones is best known as the guitar player for the Sex Pistols, thus, he’s kind of the godfather of punk guitar. There’s really no debate: that’s his sound.  We’ve all been imitating it since 1977. But, Jones has led an interesting career, aside from the guitar. He’s played with myriad acts that span multiple genres. He’s acted. He’s written. He’s currently a DJ on the radio in LA.  I mention this because, one: he kicks ass, always had. He’s one of the major reasons I picked up the guitar in the first place. But, two, and more importantly: I like the fact that Jones has traversed so many sounds and styles for the simple fact that his talent belies the notion that punk in general and the Sex Pistols in particular was dumb music made by a bunch of one-syllable speaking knuckleheads. I mean, it often was, but I’ve always loved the fact that Jones went on to such a varied and interesting career.

Because of the magnitude of the impact it had and the musical revolution he helped to spark, nothing will ever quite live up to Jones’ work in the Pistols, but the man is a testament to being a multi-versed renaissance player and the essential nature of reinvention.

Check out his 1987 MCA release, Mercy. It’s decidedly of the era, with some heavy, floating keys on the power ballads, but tracks like That’s Enough and Give it Up pack a serious, decidedly un-80s pop guitar drive that sets these songs apart from the standard fare of the decade of silly hair and way too many effects.  Plus, the album showcases Jones’ serious Elvis-inspired croon, which somehow works, even over the more radio, Miami Vice-ready tracks. His 1989 release, Fire and Gasoline, is even better. It mainly eschews the pop stuff and goes for full throttle guitars. It’s a little metal, I suppose, but hearing it again today, it’s pretty much just rock n roll: big beat, rip saw guitar rhythms and big courses. Again, decidedly not what was popular at the time (I’m looking at you, Hair Metal), and really, a little ahead of its time.

There are a number of good tracks from both albums, but lets go with Give It Up, from Mercy. If for no other reason than it was the first song I remember hearing off the album, and one that I could easily pick out and play along to in my bedroom on my Stratocaster. Learn from the best. For fun, also, check out his cover of Bowie’s Suffragette City. It’s fun, loud and raw, like good covers should be.


STE* - STEve Miller

purchase [ Brave New World]

Seattle almost matches the STE* requirement - at least it has all the letters. And more. It's my legal home when I'm back in the US of A, but more important to you since you are currently reading this at SMM, is the strength of the city's musical output. I was sure that Steve Miller was from Seattle, but he isn't listed in the Wikipedia link to famous musicians from Seattle. However, the Wikipedia list hasn't got it quite right (your teacher always told you that you shouldn't use Wikipedia as a reliable source). Miller has in fact been associated with/lived in the Seattle area.

The Steve Miller Band was one of my favorites - for some reason up until about the time just after the band turned more commercial (after The Joker/Fly Like an Eagle, both of which I consider decent if not quite like the earlier output)

We have here a cut from 1969's Brave New World, shortly after Boz Scaggs had left. Apparently recorded in a single session in London, the album includes a musician billed as Paul Ramon - doing backing vocals on the track, but also drums and guitar on other tracks on the album. You probably know him better by another name.

Celebration Song

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

STE* : Steve Howe/Yes

 purchase [ Yessongs ]

A Newsweek article from about a year ago noted Steve Howe's resemblance to a wizard: long white locks, an angular face, and spectacles to match. A wizard not only in looks, but at the guitar as well. 

 Classically trained and multi-instrumental, Howe brought a jazz infused guitar style, combining with Rick Wakeman's keyboard and Chris Squire's bass to create a unique sound that is easily identifiable as the sound of Yes. He was then and still is today a man who flies under the radar. In a Guitar World interview, he suggests that rather than aiming to be a guitar player, he would advise aspring players to be musicians. Quite true - at least for him and his style.

More often than not, Yes songs ran to much longer than the default AM radio 3 minute limit - FM radio was only just beginning to take  over the air waves, and Yes songs didnt fit the formula.  But, for the first half of the 1970s, Yes alums regularly sold well. Yessongs  - a live set that shows how close they could bring their style to the stage -not one of those bands that can do it in the studio but come up short in live shows.

The cover art work of many Yes albums by Roger Dean added to the band's appeal: out of this world - but plausibly realistic landscapes floating in space - which is where many listeners saw themselves at that time. Howe and drummer Alan White, both members of the 70s era lineup are still in the still-touring band: Wakeman currently plays with other Yes alumni including John Anderson, Squire passed away last year. Original member Peter Banks, who Howe replaced in 1970 also passed away a few years back.