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April Book & DVD Reviews

This month: Dave Sanborn: Live at Montreux 1984, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Iggy Pop: Lust For Life, Soul Rebel: An Intimate Portrait of Bob Marley, Gibson Amplifiers 1933-2008: 75 Years of the Gold Tone


Dave Sanborn: Live at Montreux 1984
If this DVD is your first exposure to the late, great Hiram Bullock, try not to be distracted by his mugging, high-fiving, and happy feet dancing. Instead, keep in mind that though these days guitarists who are simultaneously conversant in funk, blues, rock, and jazz are a dime a dozen, in 1984 they were a rare breed.

Bullock wastes no time demonstrating what he brought to the party (and whenever he played it was truly a party). In his solo on the first tune, he imitates rockets and dive bombers (without a whammy bar or pedal), serves up some raw blues, and cuts loose with the odd bebop lick. Throughout, he proves a perfect foil for Sanborn, who purveys his brand of lively jazz-funk—before lame imitators turned it into flaccid smooth jazz.

Bullock definitely put the “show” in show business: sitting on the edge of the stage, rolling around on the floor, and posing like one of Madonna’s back-up singers, he added a sorely needed visual element to Sanborn’s staid presence. The tonguewaving may have taken it over the top, but there is no doubt that he had the chops to back it up. Bullock’s solo guitar turn begins with an exercise in harmonics; moving into a jazz medley, incorporating volume swells and bending behind the nut; followed by a John Lee Hooker boogie that morphs into a funk groove as the band joins in. Finally, a ring-modulated solo abruptly switches into the scratched rhythm of the next tune.

In the days before too much partying laid him low, Hiram Bullock took his battered, modified, 60s Strat to places where few guitarists had hitherto ventured. He will be missed.

Even if Bullock is not your cup of tea, this DVD is worth the investment just for Robben Ford’s solo on “Hideaway,” (not the Freddy King tune) included in the bonus tracks from Montreux 1981. Also on a modified Strat, Ford turns in a typically brilliant blues/jazz masterpiece—MR

Street $11.97–$21.89

Creedence Clearwater Revival (Guitar Play- Along DVD, vol. 20)
Creedence Clearwater Revival was one of the most popular American bands of the late 60s and early 70s. This instructional DVD teaches you to jam like Fogerty himself.

The DVD menu is basically the track listing, where the viewer can choose their favorite Creedence song. Once a track is selected, the viewer can choose either the “demo track” option or the “play along track” option. The “demo track” allows you to hear with guitar, while the “play along track” allows you to play guitar with bass and drum accompaniment.

There are four parts to each song lesson. The “intro/lesson” selection introduces some background and history of the selected song, and shows you how to tune your guitar to the necessary key. The “player’s view with tab” selection shows the frets and fingers of the teacher as he sees them, upside down, while the tab scrolls underneath as the song plays. The “wide view with tab” shows the guitar as if you sat across from the teacher while the tab again scrolls underneath. The “player’s view with pick hand close-up” again allows the viewer to see the guitar from the teacher’s perspective as well as his pick hand as he plays.

The DVD is almost like buying interactive sheet music to some of CCR’s greatest hits. The tab moves along the bottom of the screen as the lesson carries on, almost like karaoke or a sing-along video. Something to be aware of is that the tab moves somewhat quickly, and there is no option to slow it down. If you’re just beginning to learn one of these songs, this may prove difficult. S

ongs included in the video lesson are “Bad Moon Rising,” “Born on the Bayou,” “Down on the Corner,” “Fortunate Son,” “Green River,” “Lodi,” “Proud Mary” and “Up Around the Bend.”—BC

MSRP $14.99 

Iggy Pop: Lust For Life
This DVD offers a rare glimpse at the “Godfather of Punk.” The documentary/ concert film features interviews with Iggy and the late Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton in separate, but revealing segments. Much of the DVD is concert footage and interviews from 1986, a time where Iggy was enjoying the successful Blah Blah Blah album and a hit single, “Wild Child.”

Early in the DVD, Iggy reveals his pure love for sound in general, including his fascination with the sounds of machine presses and electric razors during his childhood. He reflects on his early days with “The Iguanas,” his dropping out of college, his love of the blues in Chicago and how all this influenced his stage persona.

Ron Asheton, who died on January 6, 2009, chronicles his discovery of the barre chord in a basement where the young Stooges practiced. He reveals his belief that volume was the spirit of The Stooges’ music, addresses his attraction to feedback, and then churns some chunky riffs out of his Les Paul. Asheton also relives the concert where The Stooges were discovered at The University of Michigan, discloses the band’s drug habits and how the band became unified through their acid use, and discusses the impact that Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? had on the band. Late in the film Asheton admits that he believed that The Stooges had the potential to become “The American Rolling Stones” had they not split up.

When a recording of “No Fun” is played during the interview with Iggy, the pure joy seen in his face is exciting. He reveals that that Stooges’ classic was inspired by Johnny Cash, and meant to reflect life in the Midwest. Live footage includes complete live renditions of “T.V. Eye,” “China Girl,” “Some Weird Sin” and “Real Wild Child.” The movie was produced for German television, so much of the narration mid-movie is in German. Whatever the language, fans of Ron and Iggy will enjoy a revealing and interesting look into some of the punk rock’s biggest pioneers.—BC

MSRP $18.95


Soul Rebel: An Intimate Portrait of Bob Marley
If a picture is worth a thousand words, an intimate picture of an artist you’ve listened to forever has to be worth much more. Songs burned into your memory resonate with the image in front of you while your knowledge of the artist’s backstory and playing style send your eyes on a hunt for nuances and details. This experience makes Soul Rebel, a collection of more than 200 never-beforeseen photos of Bob Marley and his fellow musicians, an engaging read despite the limited text. Taken by David Burnett—an acclaimed photojournalist who has shot wars, historic events and celebrity profiles for Life, Fortune, The New York Times and The New Yorker—the photos are from his 1976 Time assignment to cover the emergence of reggae in Jamaica and his 1977 Rolling Stone assignment to cover Marley’s Exodus tour.

Few artists have touched the world the way Marley has, and this profound influence gives Burnett’s intimate glimpse of the star during his rise a mystical quality that transcends your typical coffee table rock-star photo book. Burnett’s visual narrative begins with a look at the rising stars of reggae music in Ocho Rios and then picks up in Kingston where Peter Tosh and the Wailers were advancing the movement. It then progresses to a photo shoot at Marley’s home, backstage and travel photos from the Exodus tour, and then peaks with a series of performance shots as the book closes.

There is no shortage of books on reggae music’s biggest star; in fact, we would actually recommend others for those looking for an all-encompassing volume about the legend. Soul Rebel, however, is well worth the money for anyone interested in a captivating experience with this important chapter of Marley’s life.—JC

MSRP $39.95

Gibson Amplifiers 1933-2008: 75 Years of the Gold Tone
According to author Wallace Marx Jr., the motivation for the first book dedicated entirely to Gibson amplifiers arose when a chance encounter with a 1957 GA-70 Country Western amplifier that was almost tossed out with the trash convinced him that there were too many Gibson amps that “too few people knew too little about.” Beginning with a primer on the origins and early phases of instrument amplification, Marx begins to reassemble the many scattered and incomplete pieces of the story behind the Kalamazoo instrument maker’s entrance into modern sound amplification before WWII and the company’s further efforts up to 2008.

Despite a heap of obstacles—myths, rumors, missing or unreliable records— Marx did his homework. His pages are full of the kind of evidence that mark a reliable history and the kind of uncovered details that make for a rewarding read. The resulting account, though it may yet be expanded, establishes an impressive and thorough groundwork for Gibson amplifier enthusiasts. Those who are not yet Gibson amp mavens, but who might wish to be, will likely find this book takes them quite far.

In addition to the nearly 80 pages dedicated to the history of Gibson and Gibson-produced amplifiers (Epiphone, Maestro, Kalamazoo, SG Systems, and Lab Series) the book also includes 16 pages of full-color photos illustrating the major elements of the Gibson amp story and a complete guide to every standard production Gibson amplifier— in the manner that makes all Blue Book publications so very useful, with lots of information and pictures. Included with the book is a CD-ROM with the original Gibson Amplifier Master Service Book, as well as manuals and schematics for Gibson amps produced between 1936 and 1966.—CB

Street $29.95