22 September 2014

Jennifer Batten's Rock Sauce For Lead

Stop what you’re doing.  Put your mobile phone down and go get your guitar because Jennifer Batten is here and she came to play.

You may remember her as the spikey-haired blonde playing the custom Ibanez Roadstar (pictured right), on Michael Jackson’s Dangerous tour. 

Since then she’s toured with Jeff Beck and recorded a few albums.  More recently, Batten has kept herself musically fit by authoring music books and teaching those famous runs.

With Jennifer Batten’s Rock Sauce For Lead, you’ll get up to 167 minutes worth of her legendary techniques.  So, take a look at this intro clip then go check out the series because there’s a Rock Sauce for Rhythm guitar too. 


JENNIFER BATTEN’S ROCK SAUCE FOR LEAD
(intermediate, late intermediate level players)



 Jennifer Batten and Michael Jackson Dangerous Tour photo credit:  Sam Emerson
Blog background photo of Eric Singer: Chris Westbrook

20 September 2014

Rock Cellar Magazine

We stumbled on to Rock Cellar Magazine several months ago and haven’t been able to get it out of our minds since. 

Their editors say the magazine is a labor of love for those who enjoy older music and nostalgia.  For us, it goes way beyond that. 

RCM is dedicated to bringing you the heart and soul of rock music.  You get the bare bones, the brass tacks.  No frills, no nonsense.  It’s all about the music and that’s what we love. 

You can shop for t-shirts and guitars or read great interviews with Gene Simmons of KISS, Lita Ford, Nancy Wilson of Heart, Peter Frampton, Meat Loaf, Alice Cooper, Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith

When it comes to Rock Cellar Magazine, it’s all about the music.  

Enjoy.



Blog background photo of Eric Singer:  Chris Westbrook
Gene Simmons, April 2014 cover courtesy of Rock Cellar Magazine

18 August 2014

GRL Talk Book Riff

GRL Talk:  231 Memorable Quotes From ROCKRGRL Magazine
Carla DeSantis Black
Rockrgrl Publishing, 2013 

It’s not easy being a female musician in a male dominated music industry.

When the Gloria Steinem of rock, Carla DeSantis Black (pictured right), founded ROCKRGRL Magazine in 1994, she intentionally set out to “level the playing field for women” and offer a remedy for the blatant sexism she found in every music magazine on the newsstands.   

What began as a black and white photocopy shop special evolved into a full-color, bi-monthly industry bible of sorts that featured interviews with well-known artists like Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart and Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders

ROCKRGRL was also famous for its gear write-ups and for profiling unsung sheroes like Lady Bo, a Bo Diddley guitarist whom I covered for the final issue. 
 
The magazine folded in 2005, but in 2013 Black created another important resource for women in the industry.  The limited edition book, GRL Talk: 231 Memorable Quotes From ROCKRGRL Magazine, has a cool CD jewel case cover design and holds 122 pages of quotes set in six different sections.  

It qualifies as a rock and roll keepsake book, but you can also use it as the ROCKRGRL version of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations to keep you inspired.  Start with the “Sound Advice” section and read what Ann Wilson has to say about performing.  Maybe it will give you a better understanding of what it means to be a true artist.      

Or, you can go straight to the “The Last Word” the Kickstarter contributors’ section, and meditate on Nancy Wilson’s “RAWK” declaration.   From there, maybe you want to jump back to the “Inspiration” section where Joan Jett talks about the importance of connecting with the audience and Chrissie Hynde comments on the psychology of personal identity. 

Once you’ve filled your muse bag for the day, do what Black suggests in the introduction.  Keep the book in your guitar case and take it with you on road trips.  Refer to it when you need an extra boost to get you through yet another janky promoter’s miscounting of funds (our suggestion). 

Laugh with it, cry with it and don’t forget to do the most important thing:  pass it on to the teenaged girl down the block who just purchased her first Daisy Rock guitar. 

A little inspiration goes a long way.


 Rating:  4 out of 5 guitars


Book launch date: 13 February 2013
Foreword by Gillian G. Gaar author of She’s A Rebel
Book cover photo:  Brett Anderson of The Donnas and
author photo courtesy of Carla DeSantis Black 

Blog Background image provided by the National Guitar Museum, home of one of 
the most successful touring exhibits in the country. 

04 July 2014

KISS Live On The Jumbotron Strip


Sleep Train Amphitheatre
Wheatland, CA

Top to bottom:  Paul Stanley, Eric Singer, Gene Simmons
Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer

Jumbotron Photostrip by Chris Westbrook

Background: Jacket illustration of Off My Rocker by Kenny Weissberg
courtesy of Sandra Jonas Publishing House/Hans Teensma/Bill Warren

03 July 2014

A Def Leppard Lick

Now that’s rock and roll. 

Drummer Rick Allen (center) and Def Leppard perform.

Sleep Train Amphitheatre
Wheatland, CA


Photos by Chris Westbrook

30 June 2014

Rock Doc Riffs: A Band Called Death

A Band Called Death
Drafthouse Films
2012

When you think of great punk rock documentaries American Hardcore and End Of The Century: The Story Of The Ramones may be the first to jump out at you.  The Rise And Fall Of The Clash and The ClashWestway To The World are probably at the top of the list too.  

Rock docs with the “never give up on your dream” theme may well bring to mind Anvil! The Story Of Anvil and Don’t Stop Believin’ Everyman’s Journey.

A Band Called Death chronicles the rise, fall and phoenix-style resurrection of the first black punk rock band and it definitely belongs in the great punk rock doc category.  

But the best thing about this film is that it proves, in no uncertain terms, what can happen when you commit to your dream and never, no matter what takes place in your life, you never give up on that dream.


Must See Rock Docs
Lemmy (2010)
Afro-Punk (2003)


One-sheet/Image courtesy of Drafthouse Films


Background: Jacket illustration of Off My Rocker by Kenny Weissberg
courtesy of Sandra Jonas Publishing House/Hans Teensma/Bill Warren

04 June 2014

Review Riff: FURTHER SOUTH by Nisha

Further South
Nisha
Electric Lilly (2012)
Alternative

Before I even listened to Nisha's Further South, I knew I’d hear smart and sturdy vocals.  In the early 1980s she and I shared a few of the same college theatre courses and often bumped into each other during the 1990s.  

So, I’ve had the opportunity to hear her sing many times throughout our 30-some-odd year history. 

After I listened to the 2012 Electric Lilly release, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the one name musician has fully come into her own as a singer-songwriter and written an impressive collection of musical theatre based songs.

Doo-wop soul encased in off-Broadway skin, “Never Goin' Back To Memphis” is an emotional eulogy that best illustrates her ability to weave personal, character-driven story lines into melodies that naturally generate dramatic lyrics:

She could always make a house a home/Through troubled waters sing the blues/I guess that you might say she paid her dues/And through the years she would smile and sing away the pain/for her it always poured when it would rain

Vivid imagery is a hallmark of the title track as well.  An easy breezy ode to California sunshine and cross-country road trips, it features surf-pop guitar fills joined with a touch of Nashville country twang that takes you back to the “Pulp Fiction” soundtrack and makes going somewhere you've never been a really cool ride.

Even cooler than a cross-country road trip, “Keep Me Warm”, a poetic proclamation of love and acceptance, details the sensitive afterglow of lovemaking.  Sandra Castillo of the San Diego Troubadour Newspaper said it “has flourishes of Melissa Etheridge” and she’s right. 

Nisha's vocal range is in the same vicinity as Etheridge’s and the tune shares the same crescendo-building form and open-arm longing as “Come To My Window” and “I’m The Only One” (Yes I Am, Island 1993).

By far the boldest track on the CD, “Lost One” combines the anthemic roots of U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” with the rebellious swagger of Pat Benatar’s “Love Is A Battlefield”.  3 minutes and 7 seconds into this harsh examination of contemporary homelessness, drummer Bill Ray (Ike Turner), sounds the call.  His military drummer boy hits drive the army of Have Nots out onto the battlefield of social injustice, with the color-bearer nearby wielding a tattered American flag.

At 3 minutes and 48 seconds, Peter Bolland’s guitar licks lead the charge into battle and by the 4 minute mark he declares victory in a way that is so right, you’ll want to play the entire section over and over again just to feel exactly how right it is.

Multi-instrumentalist and project producer Sven-Erik Seaholm’s bass doesn’t anchor the track the way a bass line normally does.  This one consists of two half sections where the bass blends into the lower tones of the rhythm guitar part.  One half buried bass, plus one half lower tones equals one whole bass line.  It’s an interesting way to split the rhythm section and works for this particular effort.

The bass line on “Love’s Angel” speaks loud and clear (think “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles).  There’s no call and response on this gritty blues number, but it isn't necessary.  The Ohio native's character-driven lyrics place us, like a fly on the wall, in the bordello with Daddy who, after a long search, finds his Baby there wearing a black garter and a bra.  Vivid imagery, tailor made for the theatre.

Nisha is indeed a smart singer and a sturdy vocalist.  No vocal gymnastics or scale runs here.  Just a smoky contralto’s belly-of-the-note approach to phrasing that gets her point across, the end result of which is an impressive collection of skillfully crafted songs.    

Must Hear:  “Love’s Angel”, “So He Won’t Marry You”

CD cover art courtesy of
Nisha Catron and Electric Lilly

23 May 2014

Upcoming Riff


Don't miss the review of singer-songwriter Nisha Catron's 2012 Electric Lilly release Further South.  Coming soon!


Cover art courtesy of

Nisha Catron and Electric Lilly

08 May 2014

Heavy Metal Quote Of The Day

I've always been fascinated by the spiritual aspect of music performance.  The bass player of a 1980s arena rock band once told me that playing on stage is the closest you can come to touching God.  That's not a direct quote, but you get what I'm saying. 

Guitar World Magazine recently published an article that scratches the surface of the topic and in part one of "Guitar Talk" with Wicked Wisdom musical director and guitar man Pocket Honore, the minister of heavy metal takes it a step further:

There’s a point when you walk on then there’s a point where you’re the messenger after you walk on.  And it’s like, for me, it’s the only time I feel free.  And then when that happens some things are beyond your control because a higher power is trying to get a message to you.








Photos Courtesy of Pocket Honore