Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sadowsky NYC Original P Bass Guitar.

I greatly admire Roger Sadowsky, who makes the finest bolt-neck guitars and basses in his New York City shop. Some deride his creations as “parts guitars” as he does not do all of the work in-house, and because he has used Leo Fender’s designs as the basis for much of his product line.

The people who say this have most likely never seen one in person or had the opportunity to play one. The craftsmanship is exceptional, and every one that I have had the opportunity to play was an absolute dream. His pre-amplifier designs have even been copied by Fender for their Marcus Miller artist series basses.

The bass we are looking at today is a NYC Original P that was built in 2008. The NYC means this was built in New York, and is not part of their Metro line that is built in Tokyo. This is not a regularly produced model, and is available by special order only.

The Original P bass is loosely based on the 1951 Fender Precision bass, but has improved upon it in every aspect.

The swamp ash body has a full-size contoured Precision Bass profile and shape. It is finished in Sadowsky’s Vintage Blonde color, which is slightly transparent, so you can see the nice wood grain. There is a cavity in the back to access the pre-amplifier and the battery for the active electronics. There is a nicely recessed input jack on the lower bout, with a very trick-looking cover.

The maple neck has a more narrow Jazz Bass profile, which is 1.5 inches wide at the nut and has a 9-inch radius across the fingerboard. The neck uses the Musicman style truss rod adjustment wheel at the heel, so no disassembly is necessary for adjustments. This neck has the optional vintage tint finish on the neck, so it does not appear too bright and out of proportion with the rest of the instrument. I have never seen a tighter bolt-on neck joint, the fit is incredible.

This bass has its original Lollar pickup. As far as I know, Sadowsky does not wind their own single-coil Precision Bass pickups, so they sourced this from one of the finest pickup makers around. The Sadowsky pre-amplifier has the vintage tone control, so the controls are: volume, VTC, and stacked treble and bass pots. The VTC pot is push-pull, so you can bypass the active electronics.

The hardware is all first rate, with beautifully chromed and polished bridge, tuners and control plate. The bass shipped with plastic knobs, but the chrome knobs shown were also included, and look nicer, in my opinion. The 5-ply pickguard is obviously custom-made for this bass, due to its unique shape.

A nice touch on Sadowsky guitars is that they ship with clear 3M protective film on the back and around the pickup, where most of the normal playwear takes place. It is easily removable with no residue or discoloration if the owner does not like the look of it.

When this bass was made, Sadowsky was still providing semi-hard cases with zippers that did not hold up terribly well. This changed late last year when they started providing a more conventional first-rate hardshell case.

So, it is obviously a nicely-built bass, but how does it play? Incredibly! The set-up was perfect right out of the box. Due to the limitations of having only one single-coil pickup, it does not have the diversity of sounds that you find in more conventional Sadowsky basses, but it really nails the Motown thump. If you are looking for a super-aggressive bass, this one is not for you, as it may be just a little too polite. Of course the electronics are very clear with no hiss or hum.

Before I forget, one of the most pleasant parts of playing this bass is that it is very light. It weighs in at 8.05 pounds, according to Sadowsky. I’m sure they have a nice scale.

If you want one of these, be prepared to wait. The current lead time for custom orders is about 6 months, even in this terrible economy.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Los Angeles Radio

I travel around the U.S. quite a bit, and one thing that strikes me, no matter where I go, is how much better the radio stations are elsewhere, compared to Los Angeles. There is a dearth of decent stations in the Los Angeles area that play new rock and alternative music.

In the 80’s, there were three rock music powerhouse stations in Los Angeles: KNAC, KMET and KLOS. These stations were in close competition, and you could count on them bringing in new music to get as many listeners as possible. KNAC and KMET sadly bit the dust, to become Mexican Polka and smooth jazz stations, respectively. KLOS has soldiered on, but their playlist stopped adding new songs right around 1990.

KROQ has always been a source of alternative music, but their playlist has become stale. You can hear the same Greenday or Sublime song 2 or 3 times a day, which boggles the mind when you consider how much other music is out there to listen to.

It is not unusual in other cities to turn on the radio and hear Tool, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, or songs from the latest Flaming Lips album.

Why is this? I am not sure, but in researching this, I am pretty sure it has to do with money. Is that so surprising?

Well, the situation is not quite payola, which I always thought of as a DJ or program director accepting money to play a song on the air, but it seems pretty darned close.

It appears that there a couple of things at work here. The first would be the system of independent radio promotion, and the second would be a huge communications company that might actually be pushing the independent radio promotion folks out of the picture. Neither one of these situations is good for radio listeners that want to hear quality new music.

The independent radio promoters’ rise to power came about in the early 1980’s. They are the ones who are contracted by record companies to get radio stations to play songs. Apparently, the idea was to only have one window person (the promoter) for the radio stations to deal with, instead of representatives from every record company. The independent promoters are very expensive, and are usually paid for as “touring expenses” by the record labels, so the cost goes against whatever royalties the artist would have received. I guess this makes sense, because how are people going to buy a CD if they have never heard any of the songs? This is one of the biggest reasons why a CD costs $16.

But, how expensive is it for a record label to get a song on the radio? Expensive enough so that only major labels can afford it.

The only information I could find on this was from an article published by The article said that it costs record companies $800 per song in a mid-size market and $1000 (or more) in larger markets. The price can escalate to $5000 per song at the largest stations in major markets. Remember that this is per station, and most radio stations add between 150 and 200 songs to their playlists each year.

So, for the average rock single, record companies pay approximately $250,000 to get access to airplay on rock radio. It is even worse for top-40 radio, where it can rise to over $1 million dollars in promotional costs.

Surprisingly enough, these costs have actually begun to go down recently, thanks to behemoths like Clear Channel Communications. It appears that they are trying to put the independent promoters out of business. Due to the sad state of the industry (and the economy), the record companies do not have as much money to spread around, and Clear Channel is creating price wars with the independent promoters to capture as many of these dollars as possible.

More often than not, when independent promoter’s contracts with stations come up for renewal, the radio stations are no longer instantly renewing them but instead are taking bids from competing promoters. Clear Channel owns A LOT of radio stations, and these independent contracts represent a strong source of income for them.

This may be the worst of all situations, because we end up with one company controlling the majority of the airwaves and the concert promotions in major markets. Oh, and wait. They also happen to run a record company of their own.

The only hope we have is that the independent promoters AND Clear Channel are both starting to get the squeeze from our government. Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) reintroduced a bill to Congress that could hopefully close loopholes in the Federal Communications Commission's payola laws. The same loopholes that the promoters have been using for the last 30 years. Mr. Feingold feels that the current system has killed the quality of music we hear on the radio, and is decidedly un-American.

So, the huge expenses required to get songs on the radio could explain a bit why radio is so stale, and why the same tired songs are in high rotation. The only thing I cannot figure out is why is it so much worse in Los Angeles? It would seem that since this is where so much of the music is created, we should have it better than the rest of the country, not worse. Certainly, there are fewer English-language stations here than in other markets, so there are less stations to choose from to start with. If you add in the 8 stations that Clear Channel owns in our market, it makes the situation pretty bleak…

Monday, April 26, 2010

Yamaha STAGEPAS 500 PA System

Everybody needs a PA system, right? Well, almost everybody I know needs one. Today I am writing about the Yamaha STAGEPAS 500 system, which is the PA that I own and am very happy with.

The STAGE PAS 500 system is slick. It includes a pair of passive speakers with a built-in powered mixer. The mixer fits into the back of one of the speakers, and can be easily removed if you want to set it up on a table with the rest of your equipment. The other speaker has a storage compartment in the back so you have a convenient place to store your speaker cables and the power cord for the mixer. By the way, speaker cables are included.

The mixer has two 250-watt class-D power amplifiers with plenty of power for medium-sized room or outdoor gigs. The amplifiers have been reliable thus far, and I have had no problems with overheating or cutting out.

There are 10 input channels: four mono microphone/line inputs (switchable for phantom power) and three stereo line inputs. For output, it has two main speaker jacks, as well as line outputs for additional powered speakers, RCA jacks for recording.

The STAGEPAS 500 mixer has 2-band equalizers for each channel, as well as REVERB switches on channels 1 through 4. A separate REVERB level control adjusts the reverb mix. Channels 1 and 2 have LIMIT/COMP switches. You will need the compression and limiters for those drunken karaoke folks.

The two speakers the system comes with are very rugged. They have 10" woofers and 1" tweeters. The speakers will fit standard 35mm speaker stand tubes.

How well does it work? Pretty darned good, if you’re asking me. I mostly use the STAGEPAS 500 for DJ and karaoke events, and as the bad mother of all garage stereo systems. I have run up to 3 microphones, a dual-deck CD player and my laptop music library through it with no trouble at all. Transporting and setting up the system is a breeze due to its relatively light weight and compact size. I went ahead and sprung for some wall mounts for the speakers to keep them up high and out of my way when they are not in use.

As a bassist, I would not recommend this system to a band that heavily relies on running the bass through the PA at high volume levels. It does not have enough headroom for that. Of course, additional powered speakers can be added to the system if necessary.

The MSRP for the Yamaha STAGEPAS 500 is $1249, and the street price is $899. I found it quite a bit cheaper from a music store that was clearing out all of their Yamaha equipment at blow-out prices.

If you are on more of a budget and don’t need as much presence, the STAGEPAS 300 can be had for a street price of around $600. Of course, it is cheaper so it has fewer channels (8), smaller speakers (8-inch woofers) and less power output (300 watts).

Either way, you cannot go wrong with the STAGEPAS systems. Yamaha has a well-justified reputation for providing reliable products that are an exceptional value.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Philip Kubicki Factor Basses

Philip Kubicki worked for Fender before starting his own shop in Santa Barbara in 1973. He is the man who built George Harrison’s legendary rosewood Telecaster. Factor bases are his brainchild, and are a lasting contribution to the evolution of the electric bass.

Kubicki Factor basses were introduced in 1985, and were quickly adopted by John Taylor and Stu Hamm. The Factor basses were innovative, both in their appearance and their sound.

Most obviously, these are headless basses. The bridge/tuner assembly is integrated into the end of the body, instead of being bolted to the top. The bridge is very different than the Steinberger system, in that the strings (normal strings, not double-ball strings) wrap around large drums, which provide a mechanical advantage so the tuning knobs are much easier to turn. Steinberger bridges use claws with narrow threads that are prone to wear due to the high stresses placed on them. I have never seen a worn-out Kubicki bridge.

The bodies are ergonomically contoured, and are very nicely balanced. A nice touch is the location of the output jack, which is next to the bridge. This makes it difficult to accidentally pull it out, and the bass fits nicely in a stand without the cable hanging up.

The necks are amazing, with a nut width that falls somewhere in between the Precision and Jazz bass profiles. They are crafted of 34 laminated pieces of maple with an ebony fretboard. I have yet to see one that warped or twisted. There is a conventional truss road that is accessed at the headstock, so you can adjust it while watching the relief. There are different necks for the standard Factor bass (34-inch scale, and the Ex-Factor, which has a 32-inch scale, and a clever detuner lever for a 36-inch scale E/D string. There are slotted fret markers on the sides of the neck, and these are the only thing I have ever seen consistently go wrong on these basses. On early basses, the filler for these expands, and becomes over-flush. Fortunately, it is an easy enough job to have them trimmed down to normal height again.

Serial numbers are stamped on the back of the headstock, as well as the production date, shown as month and year. Example: 1238 01 89 = serial 1238, made in January of 1989.

The original Factor basses have 18-volt active electronics, and all of the basses use two Kubicki-designed humbucker pickups.

The controls are: two stacked pots (volume/pan, treble/bass boost), and a rotary selector switch with three passive, two active and one standby playing position.

Used Factor basses sell for around $1000 to $1500 on eBay, depending on condition and year.

From 1988 to 1991 Fender was licensed to build Factor basses. The serial numbers for these are from 1287 to 3850. The basses are essentially the same with the exception that many (but not all) came with 9-volt pre-amplifiers. There is also a Fender Custom Shop sticker under the clear coat on the back of the neck (under the clear coat). These generally sell for a little less money on the used market.

If you love the sound of the electronics, but do not want to pay the higher freight to get a Factor bass (or if you just do not like the styling), you could opt for a Fender Jazz Plus. These sell for around $500 to $800 on the used market. They were produced the United States from 1989 to 1994 as both 4 and 5-string models.

I have owned around a half-dozen Kubicki Factor basses over the years, and really like them. They are comfortable to play, and sound like nothing else on the market. The two active settings are simply thunderous, and there is no extra noise or hiss. Of course, you might not need this aggressive tone for all types of music, so it is nice to have the option of the three passive settings.

Philip Kubicki has moved his operations from Santa Barbara to Colorado. He is still building the basses to order in many different configurations. Last year, I needed a little information about replacement parts for one of his basses, so I used the phone number provided on his web site. Philip answered the phone, and was very friendly, letting me know what thread pitch was used for one of the machine screws, and where to find one of the grabber-style strap hangers. A true gentleman, indeed.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cave Passive Pedals: Grunt Review

Why would anybody want a passive guitar or bass effect pedal? Until recently I rarely used effect pedals (except for the trusty Boss Tuner), because of the hassles of having to use only powered pedals. What hassles? How about dead batteries and leaking batteries, or the fistfuls of heavy AC adaptors I had to keep track of if I chose not to use batteries (now where AM I going to plug in all of those adaptors)? Cave Passive Pedals has developed a line of passive pedals that do not require a battery or a clunky AC adaptor. Everything is powered by the output signal from the guitar or bass.

Cave Passive Pedals is a small company in Australia (Cave is Australian for pedals, mate!), that designed their own line of boutique pedals. They build them with adult hands in Australia, not by little enslaved child hands in China or India. If you call them on the phone or send them an e-mail, you are dealing directly with the people that make them, and they are friendly and obviously have a passion about what they do for a living.

Their pride in workmanship shows with these pedals. The Grunt pedal that I am writing about today is both visually and functionally flawless. The pedal itself measures about 2.75 inches wide, by 4.5 inches long and 1.75 inches tall. The chassis is powder coated glossy white, with black screen printing for the logo and control labels. The controls are simple: a two-way knob for the clean and dirty channels, and a stomp switch to bypass the effect.

Open up the back of the Grunt and what do you see? Not much, the electronics are sealed to keep connections from moving around, and probably to prevent boneheads like me from heading down to the electronics store and knocking off my own brand of passive pedals.

What does the Grunt actually do? The folks at Cave say that “The Grunt has the ability for you to choose either Clean for frequency boost or Dirty for an outrageous 60's sounding overdriven bass amplifier.”

Well, does it actually work? Hell yeah! Depending on the position of the switch, you get either a volume boost (clean), or a nice 60’s/70’s overdriven crunch (dirty). It really is a miracle, and can transform a dull bass tone into something that would make any rock or funk band happy.

My favorite basses to use with the Grunt are my Fender 57 re-issue Precision, and my Fender 75 re-issue Jazz. Both have their original passive pickups, and this is where the GRUNT really shines. With both basses, I leave the volume controls dimed (as I always have). Just for kicks and giggles, I did try backing off on the volume pots, and this does reduce the amount of dirtiness from the pedal.

I have used the Grunt with my active basses (Musicman and Sadowsky), and the clean signal boost was not as dramatic, although the dirty channel was still fun to play with. It really perked up the tone of Sadowsky original P that has a Lollar single-coil pickup in it.

I have only used the Grunt with my current amplifier setup, which is a Genz Benz Shuttle 6.0, and either a Genz Benz Uber Bass 410T 4-ohm cabinet, or a Genz Benz Shuttle STL-12T cabinet. Be advised that unless you are dialing gain into the tube pre-amp stage, both the Grunt’s clean and dirty boost will not be as dramatic.

Cave pedals ship in a nice handmade and waxed boutique MDF box along with a microfiber cleaning cloth and some basic instructions.

All Cave pedals come with a lifetime warranty, which I cannot imagine ever needing to use. They are very well made, and with the passive electronics, there really is not much to go wrong with these. But surely, if something were to go wrong, the friendly folks at Cave are just an e-mail away to help you out.

The Grunt is priced at $129 AUD, which works out to $120 USD, as of today. Pedals can be ordered directly through their website: , and they accept PayPal with no troubles.

Note: There is now also GRUNT MkII, which I will be discussing in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

Disclaimer: I am an endorsing artist for Cave Passive Pedals, but I paid for my first one, and was totally blown away. I would never represent a product that I do not 100% believe in.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Memory Lane: Guitars ‘R Us, Hollywood

It has been more than 10 years since Guitars ‘R Us in Hollywood closed its doors, and I still miss it. I discovered this shop around 1990 and it was one of the only reasons I would ever have to go up to Hollywood from Long Beach.

The shop was located at 7406 West Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, across from the Guitar Center. It was kind of a dimly-lit dive, with funky old carpet and Miami Vice-like paint splashes across the walls. I had to use the bathroom there once on an emergency basis. Ick. The most striking feature was the front counter which was covered to look like a giant amplifier. I wonder whatever happened to it.

But, despite the squalor and cramped space, the walls were covered with the most amazing instruments, and there were guitars on stands and vintage amps all over the place.

You could find the usual high-dollar Gibsons, every model of Rickenbacker ever made, and tons of pre-CBS Fenders (this is where I got my 63 Jazz), but there was also an amazing collection of really bizarre sparkly guitars and more Mosrites than I ever saw in one place before.

The shop was run by Howie Hubberman and Albert Molinaro. I must have started frequenting the store after Howie was no longer involved, because I only dealt with Albert any of the times I went in there.

Albert could be cranky, especially with young goofy folks who came in wanting to buy stuff that he did not sell, like strings and picks, or people that wanted to buy crappy student-quality instruments. But, he knew more than anybody I ever met about old Fenders, and apparently his personal collection was something to behold. When they write those 100-pound coffee table books about vintage guitars, they take pictures of HIS instruments.

Albert could also be a really nice guy. Rumor had it that he produced Coco Montoya’s first album with virtually no expectation of getting anything in return.

The shop closed up the later 90’s, and I only found out about it when I stopped by and found an empty store. Some folks told me that it was because the rent got too high. That is some pretty valuable real estate, I suppose.

Maybe he just saw how things were going, and decided to move on. Albert was very hip to the ways of the future. In the back of the shop he had one of those little tombstone Macintosh computers that he was using to contact Japanese buyers for his instruments. That was the first e-commerce I ever saw.

After closing the shop Albert built high-end Fender clones under the name Guitars-R-Us to sell in the Japanese market. These hand-built instruments are amazing, and still command very high prices over there. I recently saw a Red GRU Stratocaster on sale for around $3500. Not too shabby. I think he stopped producing them in 2004, or so.

Today, Albert does a brisk business on eBay (user name “largeal”), where he sells guitars and parts, as well as high-end bicycle components.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

1990’s Favorite: The Toadies “Rubberneck” Album

Well, I guess this one counts as an oldie. The Toadies released the “Rubberneck” album in 1994, but it is still one of my all-time favorite albums. What was I doing in 1994? Home improvement projects, most likely…

Anyway, there was one popular hit from this album, “Possum Kingdom”, which hit #9 on the Billboard charts. Other than that, “Rubberneck” fell off the radar quickly. The album topped out at #56 on the Billboard 200. That is a shame, because this is one of the few albums of the last 20 years that is entirely made up of REALLY good songs. If you go to iTunes and buy only “Possum Kingdom”, you will miss out on a lot. Go ahead and spring for the whole album.

All of the songs are quite different from each other, as if they did not feel the need to make the songs flow seamlessly from one to another. It is kind of like the “Pulp Fiction” of rock albums. There is an instrumental, a ballad or two, and lots of hard-driving countrified rock.

Beside the tremendous variety of musical styles, the lyrics cover a panoply of issues, from sex to religion to the occult and even some incest (and other kinds of relationships) for good measure.
The songs include:

”Mexican Hairless” (instrumental)
“Mister Love”
“Possum Kingdom” (the name of a lake and state park outside of Dallas)
“I Come from the Water”
“Tyler” (my favorite)
“Happy Face”
“I Burn” (man oh man, does this song build)

To me, the heart of this band is Todd Lewis (vocals and guitar), who got most of the songwriting credit. He provided a unique voice, clever lyrics and a few of the nicely layered guitars of their harder-driving songs. Also on the album were Lisa Umbarger (bass), Mark Reznicek (drums), and Darrel Herbert (guitar).

I would be remiss if I did not offer my opinion that the reason that this album is so close to perfect is because it was mixed by Grammy Award-winning Andy Wallace. He has been around a long time, and was instrumental in putting together Nirvana’s albums. He has also worked as producer/engineer/mixer with The Cult, Slayer, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, White Zombie, Faith No More, Rollins Band, Rush, Alice Cooper, Rage Against the Machine, Foo Fighters, System of a Down, A Perfect Circle, and Paul McCartney, to name a few.

In checking around on Al Gore’s bitchen internet, I found that this Texas-based band did have some personnel changes, and did eventually break up. Their follow-up album “Feeler” was badly torpedoed by Interscope, and did not have the same level of success as “Rubberneck”.

Fortunately, The Toadies re-united, released another album in 2008, and will complete another this year. They still do some gigs, most notably the annual “Dia de los Toadies” which is held in August each year. This year it will be in New Braunfels, Texas (Near San Antonio). I need to figure out some sort of work trip for late August this year, apparently.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Super Guitar Shop Big Boss, Nagoya Japan

While wandering the Osu Kannon temple and market, if you are lucky you may find the Super Guitar Shop Big Boss. This is surely an awkward name, but they got it right. There are plenty of crummy guitar shops in Japan that sell the lowest-grade crap on the planet, and you will find none of it at this Nagoya gem.

Name your favorite guitar or bass, and Big Boss probably has it in stock. They have all of the popular US-manufactured instruments from Fender, Gibson, Musicman, Paul Reed Smith, Rickenbacker and Lakland. Of course, you will take it in the shorts if you buy them in Japan instead of the US. The real finds are the Japan-only models from Fender Japan, Gibson/Orville, Tokai, Musicman EX, Sadowsky Tokyo and Jackson Japan. They have colors and options you will not find in the US, and the craftsmanship is first rate. There are no ugly surprises with these guitars.

Big Boss is THE place in Nagoya to special-order a guitar from ESP, the Godzilla of Japanese guitar companies. They have racks of body and neck blanks just waiting for you to pick them out and have them made into your dream guitar. If you are impatient, they have quite a few already built, but be prepared to spend anywhere from $1000 to $6000 to pick up one of these beauties.

This shop is comparable to the giant Ishibashi chain of stores in its selection of accessories, effect pedals and amplifiers.

There also is a full-service repair shop that can handle everything from simple set-ups to major repair jobs. I have never needed to use their services, but it looks like a first-class operation.

The only thing this shop is lacking is a healthy selection of used instruments. That is not too unusual for a higher-end shop.

As in all of the nicer Japanese guitar shops, do not just grab a guitar off the wall. They are attached by clear plastic tethers, and your reckless actions will surely damage something and cause great embarrassment to you and your country. Ask one of the employees for help, and they will remove the tether, and find a cord/amplifier for you to use. If someone is already trying out an instrument, they will have you wait your turn. There is no Guitar Center thwackity cacophony in Japan.

In the bigger Japanese cities many of the shop workers have very nice English skills. This gross generalization is proven untrue at every guitar shop I have ever been to there. Communication is reduced to pointing at things and poking at a calculator. Do not let this deter you from shopping. The guys at Big Boss are friendly and eager to help out. Do not be surprised if they let you pick out a set of strings or a strap on the house if you buy a guitar.

There are two good ways to get to the shop via subway:

1. Take the Tsurumai Line to the Osu Kannon Station, use exit 2, and head west though the temple and market about ½ kilometer to the shop.

2. Take the Meijo or Tsurumai Line to Kamimaezu station, use exit 10, and head north on Otsu-Dori for about 300 meters. Big Boss will be on your right.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fender Japan 57 Re-issue Precision Bass (JV Serial)

This is a very early Fender 1957 re-issue Precision Bass that was made in Japan. It has a pencilled neck date from 1983 and a JV serial number. These have become very hard to find, and the collectors love them.

These early Japanese models put the US made Fenders of the time to shame, and therefore were not imported in any significant numbers to the United States. I brought this example back from Japan on one of my business trips.

It has the original black finish with some nicks and scratches in the finish from normal gig use, but definitely not abuse. It is growing old gracefully.

The neck is where this bass really shines. The original frets are fine, with very little wear. They are nicely finished on the edges, unlike a lot of the newer Fenders I have seen. The neck to pocket fit is excellent too. It has been played, so there is some wear to the finish, and there are some of the inevitable tiny dents on the back of the neck from 26 years of being leaned up against things.

The hardware is pretty darned cool too. The reverse tuners work fine and look just right. None are bent and they do not bind. The original bridge has serrated saddles, so it captures the pre-CBS look as well.

It has the original electronics, and thankfully there was no S-1 switching back then. I love the cloth-covered wiring.

The Japanese re-issue Fenders always have one or two things that just are not period-correct, and in this case it was the pickguard. It had the original cheesy single-ply white plastic guard, which I replaced with a genuine Fender anodized guard. I am not changing anything else on this bass. It is perfect to me, and at less than 8.5 pounds it is easy on my back.

It plays and sounds as good as it looks. My tech set it up nice and low with D'Addario Chromes (flats, of course for that Motown sound), and I could not be happier.

You will have to pry this one from my cold, dead hands.

Ernie Ball Musicman 30th Anniversary Stingray Bass

The 2006 Ernie Ball Musicman 30th Anniversary Stingray bass is a personal favorite of mine. These basses are the perfect Stingray and I have owned many of them over the past 4 years.

There were only 783 of these made, and there are some significant differences from the standard Stingray models of the same year. These include: mahogany body, figured maple neck with a poly finish, string-though the body bridge and the special logo on the headstock.

They were only available finished in transparent crimson with a single humbucker and the 3-band active pre-amplifier. Fretted models only came with rosewood fretboards, and fretless models were available lined or unlined with a pau ferro fretboard.

There were at least two that were specially-built with two humbucker pickups.

The plywood cases were made by G&G with a burgundy tolex and a black poodle lining. There was a 30th anniversary plate mounted inside the case.

These basses are more resonant than a the conventional models and are definitely the best-sounding Stingrays ever built.

The list price was $2500, and they were slow sellers at the dealer level. Guitar Center eventually sold their remaining stock at clearance prices as low as $800. Nice examples can be found on eBay for around $1000 today.

My only criticism about the bass would be its weight. Many were were around 11 pounds. The cases are another story. They are very fragile, and the basses fit very loosely in them. Many cases were damaged in shipping due to the bass moving around, acting like a slide hammer and wanting to escape out the end...