Sunday, September 30, 2012

3rd Quarter of 2012 Inventory Update

Como estas?

Today we are looking at what is out in the shop today. This is a snapshot in time, and next week it will be different. Almost everything I have is for sale, so drop me a line if you see something that intests you. But don’t wait too long or you might miss out…

Basses (it makes sense to start out here, as this is Rex and the Bass)

∙Three lawsuit Precision Basses: a 1977 Aria Pro II Precise Bass, a 1981 Tokai Hard Puncher and a 1981 Greco Spacy Sound

∙1982 Fender JV Serial 1957 Precision Bass re-issue

∙Two 1980s custom ESP PJ Basses

∙Ernie Ball Musican Stingray 4 Classic

∙Ernie Ball Musican Stingray 5 Classic

∙Ernie Ball Musican Stingray 4 with a 2-band equalizer

Electric Guitars

∙1980 Aria Les Paul copy

∙1983 Tokai Love Rock Les Paul copy

∙1991 Fender Telecaster Micawber

Acoustic Guitars

∙Simon and Patrick Songsmith Dreadnaught

∙Epiphone Masterbilt AJ-500E

∙Kala tenor and soprano solid mahogany ukuleles


∙Genz Benz Shuttle 6.0 12-T with extension cabinet

∙Ampeg SVT Classic with an 810 Cabinet

∙Ampeg V4B

∙Ampeg B15T Portaflex combo

∙Gallien Krueger Fusion 550 (review on its way)

Check in around the new year to see what is hanging around here. You know it will be different!


Review of The Book of Mormon at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood


I got to see The Book of Mormon yesterday at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, and was really looking forward to it as it was the hottest show on the season schedule. It has won numerous Tony awards (and a Grammy for the soundtrack), and I have gotten plenty of e-mails from the season ticket office telling me that no exchanges were available due to high demand. The New York Post (the ne plus ultra of print journalism) actually put it on the same level as The King and I and The Sound of Music. Those are some big shoes to fill.

This comedic musical is the brain-child of Trey Parker and Matt Stone of Southpark fame, and they were joined by Robert Lopez, who knows a thing or two about putting together a musical. The one now playing at the Pantages is the first North American tour of the production, and they did a nice job of putting it together.

First off, the Pantages is a wonderful facility and a really neat place to see a show. Our seats were located in the orchestra at stage left, and though they were near the edge we did not miss any of the action on the stage. The sets were not extensive but were creatively moved and repurposed and did not distract from the show.

The orchestra was very good, but then again they are professionals and they play this show every day, so I would expect nothing less from them. I counted nine members and it really is amazing how composers can write music for such a small ensemble and get the same results as they used to from a full orchestra. The music itself was appropriate to the action on the stage and worked well with the story—it was appropriate for Broadway. The choreography was good and there were some truly amazing performances by the actors

The lead performers did a great job. Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner played the roles of Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, the Felix and Oscar roles (remember The Odd Couple?). Samantha Marie Ware was outstanding as Nabulungi and has a lovely voice, and Grey Henson stole the show as the ambiguously gay Elder McKinley.

But, despite all of this great stuff that The Book of Mormon had going for it, seeing the show was a terrible disappointment, and it was certainly not in the same league as The King and I or the Sound of Music. There are a plenty of reasons for this.

For starters, the story was told through song (as it should be – it is a musical, after all) but unfortunately the majority of the numbers were done by a chorus, and the complicated lyrics combined with poor audio quality to make much of it unintelligible. By poor audio quality I mean that often times the orchestra volume was much louder than the vocals, and the vocals were not mixed evenly. It was a muddy mess, which is a huge strike one in my book.

The story was, quite frankly, dull. I love musical theatre, but this one was overloaded with songs and not enough dialogue. The characters were not even close to developed, and I found I did not care what happened to any of them. In fact, at times I found my mind wandering, which is rare for me as I am usually fully engaged when I am at the theatre. Strike two.

And the comedy was lame. There was no set-up to any of their gags, and it was always straight to a punch line that was always crude enough to shock and awe, but never clever. It was akin to watching a cheesy sit-com , albeit one where they joke about AIDS and raping babies, along with plenty of f-bombs added for juvenile kicks and giggles. Strike three.

The Book of Mormon was not worth my time or money, and I was astounded by the audience response which included thunderous guffaws and even a standing ovation. The popularity of this musical is a conundrum, and perhaps psychology students can study it and come up with some sort of theory about the media’s influence on the masses and the effects of crowd behavior.

One last thing: kudos to the Mormon Church for taking out three pages of ads in the Playbill. I expected them to protest this musical, not chuckle and say “Now that you have seen the musical, read the book.” Too funny…


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Boss TU-10 Clip On Chromatic Tuner Review


Over the past couple of years I have tried out and reviewed oodles of clip on electronic tuners over the past few years, and they all worked well. Clip on tuners are accurate, tiny and do not need to be plugged in, so they are pretty much the best thing since caned beer. All the ones I have used are nice tuners, but none of them were made by Boss, and Boss makes some of the most bad-ass portable tuners on the planet. Well, we are going to fix that oversight and take a look at the Boss TU-10 clip on tuner today.

On paper the TU-10 has great specifications. It has an 8 octave range (C0 to C8) and it is accurate to within +/- 1 cent. It is capable of flat tuning of up to 5 semitones, in case you swing that way. Also, it has two different display modes, cent display and stream display as well as the Boss Accu-Pitch function. And the display is nice and clear and is full color. not to mention bigger than any of the other clip on tuners I have seen.

It is powered by a single CR2032 lithium battery, which should last around 12 hours in color mode, and around 24 hours in black and white mode. This does not sound like very long, but how long do you really spend tuning? The tuner is well-built with a hefty clip that would hold it to most any headstock without falling off. There are minimal controls, which include a power switch on the top and a select switch and adjustment switch on the back. It is available in a few different stylish colors (red, silver, black), in the event that this is important to you.

In the real world this Boss TU works very well, with very quick reactions and a nicely readable display, and it is certainly more accurate than I will ever need. I like the operation of the controls and this thing would be awesome for other instruments too so do not pigeonhole it just for guitar use. Which is understandable as it seems like this thing was designed by a guitar player. It does not have a swivel head, and it is quite a bit bigger than other clip on tuners (2-7/8 x 1-5/16 x 2-1/2 inches), so guitarists are probably their target market.

Neatest of all is that the Boss TU-10 has a street price of $34.99 (list price $43.25), which makes it cheaper than any Boss tuner I have ever tested. It is pretty cool, so check one out if you get a chance.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Furman M-8LX Merit Series Power Conditioner Review


As a sound guy you can never have enough power outlets, but Kmart power strips do not always provide the stable power or circuit protection that is needed for higher-end audio equipment. Furman has been in the business of making power conditioners for years, and I always wanted to try one but they always seemed to be a little too spendy for my tastes. But looking through their line-up I found that their Merit Series products are priced at a more reasonable level, so I thought it was time to give one a try.

There are a few different models in the Merit Series, and I finally decided on the M-8LX, which has all of the available features except for the built-in volt meter. The M-8LX is designed to fit into one rack unit, and it weighs in at a solid 6 pounds. It is a smart looking unit, and it includes two pull-out 4 watt incandescent lamps on the front, so you can light up the rest of your rack equipment. These lamps have a dimmer knob, in case you find that they are too bright (not likely). They are a bit dim and maybe LEDs would have been better for this application.

The meat of this unit would be the power outlets, and there are plenty of them. There is one conveniently placed outlet on the front, and eight filtered and protected outlets on the rear. Three of the ones on the rear are placed far enough apart so that they can accommodate some wall warts without obstructing the other outlets. Of course wall warts might fit so well if you have deeper rack units located next to the Furman.

Also on the back is a 15 Amp circuit breaker switch and a captive 6-foot 14-gauge power cable. A detachable cable would have been nicer, in my opinion, but then again some moron would use a less beefy cable and complain about degraded performance. From the circuit breaker you can figure out that this unit can handle a 15 Amp load, and this is up to 130 Volts AC.

Besides providing a convenient location for your outlets and spike protection (not to mention those lights) what else does this unit provide? It filters noise (RFI/EMI) and thus provides a quieter power supply. One thing it will not do is provide any sort of compensation for voltages that are off kilter from extension cords, generators or god knows what. This is not a voltage regulator, and that is why the Merit Series is so much cheaper than other Furman products.

The 3-year limited warranty is nice, but the best part about the Furman Merit M-8LX is its price, which is quite reasonable for what you get, even if you do not get all of the usual Furman features. It has an MSRP of $120 and a street price of $99.95, but I found that they sell on Amazon for around $70. That is quite a deal, if you ask me.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Digital Reference DRDK4 Drum Microphone Set Review

Buenos dias, amigos!

There comes a time in every sound man’s life when someone says, “Hey! Can you mic these drums?” And it turns out that there are a lot of things to think about when miking the drums, first and foremost would be: what sort of microphones am I supposed to use. Second would probably be how to mount the microphones so they pick up the drums properly.

You can handle both of these problems in one fell swoop by purchasing a pre-made drum microphone kit. My favorite would have to the Shure DMK57-52, which comes with three SM57s, a Beta 52A and three really trick mounts. But, unfortunately these cost around $400 bucks on the street, which is a screaming deal for what you get in the package, but that is too much cash for many folks.

A super-cheap (but still viable) alternative is the Digital Reference DRDK4 4 piece drum microphone set. This kit includes three DR-ST100 snare/tom microphones and one DR-K100 kick drum microphone. It also comes with clips for each microphone, three universal tom mounting clips, and a nice form-fitting carry case that looks like it should have a gun in it.

The microphones are made of metal (not plastic), have a nice heft to them and are visually pleasing. They are compact and the clips adjust so that you can minimize their profile and hopefully not get them whacked by an errant drum stick. The supplied cips are cheap, but do a reasonable job of holding the microphones in place. They are made of plastic and can get buzzy if you are not careful about where you put them on the rim.

The DR-ST-100 super cardioid tom mics have a 50Hz - 15kHz frequency response and a 600Ω output impedance, and the DR-K100 cardioid kick drum mic has a 50Hz - 10kHz frequency response and a 300Ω output impedance. With some EQ work and compression, the tom mics sound good enough for gig use, with plenty of punch for the drums, and they pick up cymbals pretty well too. The kick drum microphone left me wanting, as it did not really translate the power of the drum very well. It works pretty well as an extra tom mic, though.

For recording, these microphones do not cut the mustard. They are not clear enough, nor do they translate sounds as accurately as is needed in the studio. But they are cheap. How cheap? How about a street price of $99.99 for the whole kit and caboodle? That is pretty cheap…

And surprisingly, these microphones come with a 10 year warranty, which is amazing at this price point. And from my research, it appears that Digital Reference is an off brand of Audio Technica, so they might actually be around in ten years. But then again, who is going to save a receipt for 10 years?

Anyway, I guess I am saying that these are a heck of a deal if you are just doing the occasional live show. And if you add a decent kick drum microphone you might get away with this set for a long time as long as you aren’t heading into the studio.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Michael Packer Blues Band – Live at the Turning Point CD Review

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the June 21, 2012 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Michael Packer Blues Band – Live at the Turning Point

Interscope Records

7 tracks / 42:13

I enjoy live albums for a few reasons: they have more character than studio albums, I get a better idea of what a band is really capable of, and they often offer up the greatest hits from an artist’s catalog. But I also view live albums with skepticism because they are usually made up of tracks drawn from an entire tour (or tours) so that the artist can hide any warts that may show up. Also, they are usually over-produced to the point that many of these albums become more of a sound engineering exercise than a performance.

This is what makes the Michael Packer Blues Band’s Live at the Turning Point a little more special. I cannot say for sure, but it sure sounds like this music was all taken from one evening. I had to search around a bit to figure out what the Turning Point is, and I believe it is the Turning Point Café in Piermont, New York. This is a great music club that is located a little north of The City, and has been host to many great performers, including Mr. Packer. p>Michael Packer is a singer, guitarist and songwriter who was born in New York City in 1950. His music career kicked off with a bang after his group “Papa Nebo” was signed to Atlantic Records in 1969 by none other than Ahmet Ertegun. After tasting success with his project “Free Beer”, he battled his inner demons, which resulted in: 1. Dropping out of the music business. 2. Ending up on the streets. 3. Doing a year in Riker’s Island for armed robbery. He has been clean and sober for almost two decades now, and is back into the blues. Talk about the blues – he should write a book about them. I’d buy it!

Live at the Turning Point begins with an original song, “Mr. Packer”, and the tone is set for the rest of the album. Though he is from New York, Michael has a big chunk of Chicago blues in his heart and you can hear it in his growly voice and Rob Paparozzi’s sweet harmonica work. King Bear (great nickname, BTW) aggressively nails the bass line over Guy Powell’s drums. This is an uptempo number that shows that the Michael Packer Blues Band plays well together while having some seriously good times.

After listening to this first track, it struck me that this album is surprisingly well-recorded. This is a small venue, and I would expect tons of extra noise coming through the microphones, both from the audience and everybody on stage. But, the instruments and vocals came through as clear as a bell, even Ed Jackson’s bongos. They must have used a metric ton of microphones, throttled the band way back on their volume, or processed the heck out of it after the fact. Or maybe they just got lucky. Regardless of their methods, it worked out well, and listening to this album is an enjoyable experience. My only gripe would be that four of the seven tracks are covers, but they are all great songs.

Next up on the CD is a cover of “Can’t You See”, the 1973 Marshall Tucker Band hit that was written by the late Toy Caldwell. This track provides a temporary change in the band line-up, with David Maxwell on piano, Ed Snozzo on drums and the genius Felix Cabrera on harmonica. Felix has a great feel for the harmonica, and really classes up the joint wherever he plays. There is some really smooth guitar work on this song, and as it is not credited on the liner notes I figure it must be Michael Packer. It would have been nice to hear a little more back and forth between Cabrera and Packer on this one.

Chuck Berry’s “No Money Down” is also on Live at the Turning Point, with Mr. Paparozzi back on the harp, and Michael on the piano. You can never go wrong with a Chuck Berry cover, and having Powell and King Bear building the foundation guarantees a solid blues jam. You can hear the joy and fun in Michael Packer’s voice, which keeps this track real and makes me want to catch their live show next time I am in the tri-state area.

Blues legend Honeyboy Edwards makes a guest appearance on “61 Highway”, the Mississippi Fred McDowell tune. The song title refers to The Blues Highway which runs from New Orleans to Minnesota, and is probably a reference to Clarksdale, Mississippi at the junction of U.S. 61 and U.S. 49, where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil. Anyway, Edwards voice and guitar define the blues, and he does a bang-up job on this track which is, unfortunately, the shortest track on the album.

The album finishes strongly with the fastest version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” that I have ever heard. This nine minute track gives everybody a chance in the spotlight, and the opportunity to say goodbye before the album ends. By the way, I appreciate the shout-outs so I know who is playing which parts.

Live at the Turning Point is a fun album, and if you want a feel for who the Michael Packer Blues band is and what they are all about, giving this a listen is the best way to find out.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ernie Ball MusicMan Classic Stingray 5 Bass Review


It is no secret to my friends that I have a rocky relationship with 5-string basses, and I have been though oodles of Fenders, Stingrays, Sadowskys and Spectors over the years with no joy. But somehow another one has made its way into the man cave – a MusicMan Classic Stingray 5. This one is really nice and I am having better luck with this one than with any of its predecessors. Maybe it is my state of mind…

The Ernie Ball Stingray 5 has to be one of the best-selling 5-string basses on the planet since it went on sale in 1988. It seems like every country act I have ever seen has one of these basses holding down the bottom line. In 2010, Ernie Ball issued a new version of the Stingray 5, the Classic, which incorporated many of the features that were found on the popular 4-string Stingray Classic models.

The first thing I noticed when I first saw this bass was that it looks a lot more like a 4-string Stingray than a Stingray 5. The body shape is the same (with the classic slab contraction), and the pickguard and control plate cover (chrome-plated brass, BTW) look just like regular Stingray parts.

The body is made of ash, and has a super thick coat of Classic White poly finish. This color contrasts nicely with the tortoise-shell pickguard and chrome hardware. The bridge is set-up so it strings through the body, and there stainless steel saddles and mute pads that are adjustable for each string. These classic models use a 6-bolt neck joint, and it seems as if there is not quite as much access to the upper frets as there is on a regular Stingray 5, but I never use those frets anyway.

The neck is simply gorgeous, with a nice birdseye pattern in the maple. Flamed necks are also available, should you prefer that. Also they are available with maple or rosewood fretboards, and all of them have a smooth poly finish on the neck with a bit of vintage tint thrown in to the mix. The headstock has the traditional 4+1 tuner set-up (with Schaller BM tuners), and they use the old-school MusicMan logo and font.

The neck is the usual 34-inch scale and has 21 frets over a 7.5-inch radius. It is about 1 ¾ inches wide at the nut (not compensated, by the way), so this has a fairly narrow string spacing for a fiver. They stuck with the new-style trussrod adjustment wheel at the heel of the neck, so adjustments are as easy as pie.

The electronics package on this bass is simple, with a single alnico magnet humbucking pickup and a 2-band active equalizer. The battery is accessed through a vintage-style chrome cover that screws to the back of the body.

And the craftsmanship that went into assembling all of the wonderful parts is first rate. The finish is smooth and the fretwork and neck to body fit are superb. It plays wonderfully, and the relatively narrow nut (for a 5-string) means less of an adjustment for me. This bass sounds amazing and its tone sits very nicely with the kick drum.

Some folks will find nits to pick with it, such as the kind of useless mute system (which still looks really cool), and the fact that you cannot get a left-handed of fretless version of this bass. But, you really cannot please everybody.

It is possibly the ultimate rock bass, but with all of this good stuff, you are not going to get one very cheaply, and that may be a problem for the company. With a list price of $2820 and a street price of $1974 the MusicMan Classic Stingray 5 falls into a no-man’s land in between the hordes of $800-$1000 “entry-level” basses and the realm of $3500+ custom basses. But once you play one you will surely it is worth it and there will be no turning back. Try one and see…


Friday, September 21, 2012

Broadway L.A. 2012-2013 Season at the Pantages Theatre


I was tickled pink when our Broadway L.A. 2012-2013 season ticket package showed up a few weeks ago, and thought maybe I should share what is going to be included in the upcoming season at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood.

The Pantages is located at Hollywood and Vine in Hollywood California, and it has been a Southern California treasure since it opened in 1930. It started as a vaudeville theatre, but it has hosted all manner of shows, operated as a movie theatre, and was even the home of the Academy Award Ceremonies for 10 years. Rumor has it that when Howard Hughes owned the theatre he had his offices on the second floor. Creepy. Anyway, the theatre had a $10 million renovation in 2000, and it is still in marvelous condition.

The Pantages is home to the Broadway L.A. 2012-2013 season, and there are quite a few treats to be had. I am sure they will all be winners, as I had a blast at each of the shows I attended last year. The music, sets and acting were fabulous in each of them. This seasons’ line-up includes:

Book of Mormon, September 5 to November 25

Donny and Marie Christmas in Los Angeles, December 4 to December 23

Peter Pan, January 15 to January 27

Rain – A tribute to the Beatles, January 29 to February 3

Jekyll & Hyde the Musical, February 12 to March 3

Catch Me if You Can, March 12 to March 24

Beauty and the Beast, March 26 to April 7

West Side Story, April 9 to April 14

Priscilla the Musical Sensation, May 28 to June 16

Sister Act, July 9 to July 28

If you do not want to buy the whole season, There are five and seven show packages available, where you get Jekyll & Hyde, Priscilla and Sister Act, and you can fill in the rest of your package with your own choice of shows. It looks like Book of Mormon is no longer part of a package, but it can be added on separately. It really is the crown jewel of the season, so you have to get it.

If you want more tickets information, including show times and prices, check out their web site at

And, of course, I will be writing reviews for each of the shows that I will be attending, so stay tuned to Rex and the Bass.


Monday, September 17, 2012

SKB 1SKB19-P12 ATA Pop-up 12U Mixer Case Review


Mixing boards are covered with oodles of small knobs and fader switches, all of which are easy to break off if you even look at them funny. Once broken off, it is usually not easy to find direct replacements (in a timely manner), and it usually takes plenty of labor to disassemble the mixer and replace the parts, if it is even possible. It is better to protect your mixer in the first place, which is why I really appreciate products like the SMB 1SKB-P12 Mixer case.

SKB has been around since 1977, and they make molded polymer cases for most everything you can think of, from sporting goods to military applications to musical equipment. Many manufacturers (such as Fender and MusicMan) provided SKB-sourced cases for their instruments. SMB has tremendous customer support and offers a lifetime warranty on many of their products.

I got this 1SKB-P12 case to use with my Yamaha MC166CX mixing board, which is just about a direct fit for this unit. SMB specs this as a 12-space rack, and Yamaha says their mixer is 12 spaces tall. Somebody is wrong (Yamaha, it turns out), because after I installed it there was one space left at the top, which is fine because I can install a pre-amplifier or power conditioner in that spot. It is the standard rack width (19 inches) and it can handle mixing boards that are up to 5 inches deep.

The case it made of molded polyethylene (in fashionable black), and is pretty big on the outside. It measures 27 x 24 x 10 inches, and weighs a little over 16 pounds when it is empty. It has two latches with built-in TSA-approved locks, should you happen to feel comfortable turning your mixing board over to the baggage handlers (I cannot imagine a situation where I would actually need to lock it). The hinges on the opposite side of the case are designed so that the lid can be easily removed during performances. Oh, and there is a fairly comfortable handle provided too.

The best part of the case is that rack is mounted to a ratcheting mechanism, so it can be tilted up for easier viewing and reachability. The ratchet provides plenty of stops so you can find an angle that is best for you, and to return it to flat again, just pull the rack up to its highest angle and the ratchets will release and allow it to fold down.

Looking at the case, there is no way I am going to be able to break this thing, in fact it meets meets ATA 300 Category 1 specifications. This means it should be good for a minimum of 100 common carrier trips. And after using the case a few times I have no gripes. The ratchets and hardware are up to the task, and the material they made the case from is super tough. Plus I am able to fit a few extra microphone cables and my usual paperwork into the case, which makes my other road cases not quite as over-packed as they normally would be. I think it is a winner.

The 1SKB-P12 is a fantastic case, and it delivers everything that is promised, but man oh man it is expensive. It has a list price of $405, and a street price of $269 which is a lot of cash but it is worth it to protect your investment, not to mention getting all of your gear to the gig in one piece.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lisa Mann – Satisfied Album Review


This CD review was originally published in the June 14, 2012 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Lisa Mann – Satisfied

13 tracks / 51:09

When I got Lisa Mann’s latest CD, Satisfied, I was glad to find a fellow bass player who has the initiative to take the leading role in a band. She is accomplished in both roles, having won awards for both her vocals and bass playing from the Cascade Blues Association (she hails from the Portland, Oregon area).

Besides her performing roles, Lisa also has the principal songwriting roles in this release. She wrote nine of the thirteen tracks on Satisfied, and they all have smart lyrics and great musical scores. It is nice that they give their customers over 50 minutes of music, as many new releases barely come in at 40 minutes these days.

One worry that I had before listening to this album was that if the leader and songwriter was a bass player, that this exercise would be a total bass wank-fest. It turns out that though the bass part is forward in the mix and a more complicated than on many blues albums, is never becomes overbearing.

“See You Next Tuesday” is the lead-off track on Satisfied, and right away the listener gets an uptempo blues romp with Brian Harris on the organ and Jeff Knudson playing smooth licks on the guitar. If this is your first experience with Lisa Mann, you will find that she has a rich and full voice, and can really belt out a tune. It is a brief and humorous tune, which makes it like a good appetizer before a feast.

Jeff Johnson’s “Gamblin’ Virgin Mary” comes next and changes things up a little as it starts out with a growly bass lick that proves that Lisa has got the blues pouring out of her fingertips too. Lisa switches to more a gospel tone with her vocals, and the keyboards are layered with honkytonk piano and organ tones. Michael Ballash’s drums are perfectly in sync with Lisa, providing a solid foundation.

“Always Nobody” is another original song with funny lyrics, describing how humbling is it to be home when it seems like you are appreciated everywhere else. Fellow Oregonian (and one heck of a musician) Lloyd Jones is featured on vocals and guitar on this track, and his voice works in very well with Lisa’s. I wonder if he does not feel famous in Portland too…

From the title you can figure out that “Have I Told You I Love Your Today” is a love song. It also happens to be a very good pop/rock tune that is as radio-friendly as you can get, and is yet another great showcase for Lisa Mann’s vocal talents, too.

Carol Bayer Sager’s “Alone” is just Lisa and her bass, and she has tastefully reworked this song to make it her own. Her raw emotion and beautiful voice make this one of my favorite tracks on Satisfied. This track provides also gives the listener a small rest before jumping back into the blues with Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Don’t Touch Me”, which has some awesome guitar work from Kevin Selfe, and horns from Dan Fincher, Joe McCarthy and Brad Ulrich.

After eleven tracks with the usual blues themes of hard times, disillusionment and love lost, “Kings of Black Gold” is a splash of cold water to the face with its heavy political message. I do not see Satisfied as a political album, so this track does not fit in with the rest of the tunes. Of course it is a well-written song, and Mitch Kashmar does a nice job with the harmonica parts on this track, so I did not let it bring me down.

The somber tone does not last though, as the album finishes off with “Doin’ Alright”, which is an upbeat tune with Joe Powers sitting in on the harmonica. Also featured is Brian Fowxorth, who takes over as drummer and adds a little soul with his backing vocals on this track. This song was a great choice for ending the album, as it brings things to close on a happy note.

So, the bottom line is that Lisa Mann and her group did a very good job on Satsified, which provides a little bit of everything from blues to pop and sadness to humor. This is a solid album with consistently catchy tunes and a passel of great musicians, and is well worth the ten bucks it costs to download it online. I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Orange Crush PiX CR50BXT Bass Combo Amplifier Review


There is a huge market for cheap bass combo amplifiers – ones that are mostly used for practice or very small gigs. There is also a lot of competition and it seems like every manufacturer has a player in this game. Today we are going to look at Orange’s offering, the Orange Crush PiX CR50BXT.

Orange amplifiers have been around since the late 1960s, when the company was started in England. They made powerful tube amplifiers with a tone that was to die for, and a lot of high-profile acts were using their equipment. There has been a resurgence of popularity for the brand in the past decade, and this has led to their production of cheaper solid state amplifiers for us mortal folks.

The Orange Crush PiX CR50BXT is a solid-state 50-watt (RMS) bass combo amplifier. It is equipped with a single 12-inch 4 ohm Orange Crush speaker. There is an auxiliary speaker ¼-inch output so another 4 ohm (or greater) speaker can be added. The whole thing weighs 41 pounds, and it measures 10.5 by 16.5 by 18 inches. Oh, and you can have your choice or orange or black tolex. There is no point in getting an Orange amp with black tolex on it, if you ask me.

All of the controls are nicely laid out on top of the unit, and there are only five knobs: gain, 3-band EQ and master volume. There is also a single input jack, a headphone out, a 1/4-inch direct out and an 1/8-inch input so you can plug in an iPod to play along with. As an added bonus, an onboard tuner is included with lots of red and green LEDs. The power cord plugs into the back, and that is also where they hid the ON/OFF switch (boo).

It is best to not set your expectations too high when you are looking at an amplifier in this price range and with these features. It is not going to be terribly loud and it is not going to provide a thunderous bottom end. If you keep this in mind, you will not be quite as disappointed.

I ran a few different basses through this Orange combo amp and had mixed results. First, I tied is with a passive precision bass and the amplifier had no added noise (hiss and static), and it sounded pretty nice at lower volume levels, with an actual Orange amplifier sound. When really pushed it farted out at volume levels that would not keep up with even a medium-loud jam session or rehearsal. But, this amplifier was never intended to provide designed for high volumes, so I should not really be complaining.

With an active bass (Musicman Bongo with a 18-volt preamplifier), the CR50BXT really could not cut the mustard. The input was too hot, and there is no pad switch or input, so I really had to cut back on the gain. Even through the headphones the tone was sadly weakened. With either instrument, the bass knob of the 3-band EQ seemed to make almost no difference in the tone from the amplifier.

On the plus side, the tuner worked nicely, and the input for an mp3 player makes this into a great practice amp when coupled with the headphone jack. Plus the amp can work as a boom box if you just want to play your iPod though it. But, when price is considered this amplifier is not my choice.

The Orange Crush PiX CR50BXT has a list price of $329 and a street price of $269. In this price range you can get the 50 watt Ampeg BA112 for $279, a 75 watt Fender Rumble 75 for $249 or a 100 watt Ashdown Five Fifteen for $249. These amplifiers are at guitar shops everywhere and I highly recommend trying and comparing them before buying.

Friday, September 7, 2012

1977 Aria Pro II RB-750 Lawsuit Bass Review

Hi there!

This is the story of the one that got away. I saw one of these beautiful Aria Pro II Rickenbacker 4001 copies at a secondhand store in Japan a few years ago, but I already had already picked up a few SB-1000 basses and there was simply no more room to bring this one home.

I did some research after I got home, and figured out that it was a 1977 Aria Pro II RB-750CH, finished in a lovely cherryburst fade. The body and headstock shapes, as well as many of the features were direct lifts from Rickenbacker, and one could easily see how this may have upset them. As far as I can tell, these basses were only made in 1977 and 1978.

If I remember correctly, it was neck-through bass and even had the dual-truss rod system. The wood looked like alder to me, with a rosewood stringer for the maple neck. There was a simple 1-ply white binding around the top and back as well as along the edges of the fretboard. The fretboard was rosewood with triangular mother of pearl inlays. Unlike the 4001 basses, there was no heavy clear finish over the fretboard, which is a huge improvement in my book.

The electronics were strikingly similar to the Rickenbacker as well. There were two single coil pickups that were wired for both mono and stereo (Rick-O-Sound!). Amazingly, the neck pickup still had its cover on it. The controls were also the same as a Rick, with volume and tone for both pickups, and a three-way selector switch.

The hardware was a bit of a hodge-podge with a swoosh-shaped trussrod cover, faithful copies of the Rickenbacker tailpiece and bridge, and some cheap-o closed back Japanese tuners. The tuners are really the worst thing about this bass, and putting some Schallers on it would make it look more like a Rickenbacker. They would surely hold better, too.

And holy cow this was one really slick-playing bass. The neck and fretboard radius had more of a Fender profile, and it was very comfortable feeling, unlike every 4001 or 4003 I have ever owned. It was well under ten pounds and was nicely balanced on a strap without any neck-dive. On top of this it sounded great – very much a Jazz Bass tone.

Pretty much it was a winner, and was priced at only around $400 – keeping in mind this was when the Yen was around 120 to the dollar. It would have been a no-brainer to buy it, if only I had the room to bring it home. If I had it to do over again, I would have figured out a way to ship it home or have a friend hold it until I got over there again to pick it up. Opportunities like this don’t come up every day, you know….