Sunday, April 19, 2009

New Gibson prices

It's no secret I am a fan of Gibson guitars both old and new, but the retail prices of new Gibson's has finally entered the realm of the totally ridiculous. $899 for a new faded SG special? Get real... I got a sweet deal on mine in '06 from a buddy at Guitar Center and paid $450 for it new which I thought was semi-reasonable. The actual GC price at the time was $579 in a gig bag which even then I thought was pretty high for an instrument with a five piece body.

Since I don't like new Gibson cases I picked up a vintage 1970 Gibson case on Craigslist for $80 which was a steal. I prefer the slim profile of the old cases and hate cases that balloon out at the headstock, it just looks so goofy. I figured out why it was so cheap tho' when I got it home, it stunk of mildew and I had to rip out all the cloth and reupholster it. Did a great job if I do say so myself. Anyway...

I wanted an SG I could bang around at gigs and not worry about like I do with my '68. The faded is a nice guitar, it really is! But to get it to sound decent I had to swap the pickups for '57 Classics (another $100 on ebay) and I put Grovers on so I have about $600 into it. Now I wish I had sprung for the Standard as I am really missing binding & inlays. Out of curiosity I started poking around and found new SG Standards (still with shite 490/498 pups) have shot up to $1,649!!! Geez.

On the flip side of the coin, it seems used prices aren't climbing as fast... probably because nobody has any money to spend, but I fear getting a guitar off ebay sight unseen. Gibson QC is notoriously inconsistent and quite a few newer SG's I've played had necks like baseball bats. Real clunkers. Not to mention dealing with people on ebay. So I will keep an eye open for a deal. I doubt I can get more than $550 for the special - I am holding on to the case - but I see them go for $500-$550 all the time w/ the Gibson HSC.

BTW my original SG Standard cost $225 w/case back in 1968 so the dollar is worth roughly 15% of what is was back then. Even so, this inflation calculator shows the new price should be about $1,375. The funny (sad) thing is, if I want a new SG closer to my old one I'd have to go for the '61 reissue which costs $1,999... so it may be a while.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Classic Mastermind video

Uploaded some classic Mastermind clips on youtube this weekend...

Check out the Mastermind classic playlist

I needed a mental break from recording so got into some video. Watching this stuff reminded me of what I enjoyed about the earlier material and I expect Mastermind will be getting back to some new stuff in a similar vein. More to come!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Three Les Pauls

I've never been a fan of the Les Paul guitar... not that I don't love the sound, I do. Several of my all time favorite guitar recordings were made with Les Pauls!* I just never liked the feel of them... too heavy, oddly balanced, awkward to play sitting down, tough to play the upper register, pickup switch too far out of the way. It just wasn't me. Plus the image of Jimmy Page playing one down around his knees always annoyed the crap out of me... but I digress. I am not alone in shying away from the Les Paul, the line was discontinued a few years after it was introduced due to lack of sales and the SG was introduced to address all the above issues. But then in 1966 Eric Clapton played one on the Bluesbreaker's "Beano" album and their popularity exploded. That album was the defining moment of the Gibson/Marshall sound... and that Gibson was a Les Paul. Even so, I never wanted one.

Tonight a friend who is something of a guitar trader brought over three Les Pauls for me to check out, a Waren Haines signature model, a custom shop '58 reissue, and the 50th Anniversary model. He also brought over a nice little Fargen 2x12 amp. I played them all at various levels though both the Fargen & my JCM800 Marshall, carefully A-B'ing one against the other in different registers and volume settings, occasionally picking up the SG, 335 or Firebird to mix it up, switching amps etc, and I gotta say I really do like the sound of them. The Warren Haines model was my favorite, perhaps because it was loaded with WCR pickups, I'm not really sure. It sounded best when the little pre-amp inside was bypassed and I would describe the sound as being more detailed than the others, bright & clear yet full at the same time. The pre-amp seemed to kill the detail.

The 50th Anniversary was my next favorite, with Burstbuckers it was bright & clear but not quite as full sounding. The '58 reissue didn't have the clear voice of the other two and was a bit midrangy although they all had a basic similar sonic quality. It may be the pickup differences, I don't know. The WCR pickups seem to have something special going on. In conclusion I have to say I still don't like the feel of them for all the reasons I listed above (not to mention being ridiculously over-priced) but damn, they sure sound sweet. Maybe there will be a Les Paul in my future at some point. Yeah I think I could deal with that. Santa are you listening?

* Favorite Les Paul recordings:
Beano, Fresh Cream, The Inner Mounting Flame

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Assembling an album

Lots of people make recordings and present them in many ways. Sometimes they are random collections of recorded material just tossed up online somewhere. When I start writing & recording it usually evolves quickly into having an album in mind. A cohesive collection of tunes destined to be grouped together as a whole. I have had it said to me many times that Mastermind albums flow well and tend to sound best as a whole. That is no accident. My new solo work has also evolved into a collection that seems quite cohesive to me and sounds like an "album". How this whole guitar album idea came about I will get into later, but it's not what you might think and not really what I thought I'd be doing next, but do it I did.

Right now I am working out the final running order. Even though the songs were conceptualized to be together early on, the reality of running order is sometimes tough to work out. I want an emotional ebb & flow of course, but mixing up keys and tempos is also vital to creating an engaging album. Some songs end in a very resolved fashion, some feel more open ended like you are waiting for more, so what follows what can be critical to how a song hits you. I can think of many albums where running order is so embedded in my brain it feels funny hearing a song without its immediate relative. Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker - Living Loving Maid" comes to mind right off.

A conceptual idea I am applying to this album is to think of it as a good old fashioned vinyl LP with two sides. Each nearly equal length "side" has its own flow and feels quite satisfying as a group, yet all together on a single CD it also flows well as a whole. To achieve this a little juggling is required. Anyway, in light of the previous blog, here it is April 1st, 2009 and I can say I have finished a new album. I am guessing it will take a few months to get it out there, but it feels good to have completed something brand spankin' new!