Sail Away - Whitesnake's Fantastic Voyage

Author: 
Martin Popoff
Subject: 
Whitesnake
Summary: 
 
 

A thorough (though occasionally repetitive) undertaking by Martin Popoff, this book takes you through the history of David Coverdale, pre-Deep Purple, through the many incarnations of Whitesnake up through the Doug Aldrich/Reb Beach era. There are brief stop overs on Coverdale Page, Coverdale's solo albums, some decent coverage of Blue Murder, and other ex-members' projects, both together, and solo.  There are nifty interviews from Adrian Vandenberg, Viv Campbell, Steve Vai, Rudy Sarzo. Conspicuously -- and predictably absent was anything recent or of substance from John Sykes. 

That said, the book leans heaviest on the pre-John Sykes era lineups.  There are extensive interviews with Coverdale, Marsden, Neil Murray and a bit less from others by other players who passed through the band's early incarnation.  

For me, the most interesting interviews in the book are with former superstar A&R man John Kalodner of Geffen, the man who guided the band (and Aerosmith) into the 80s metal era.  His thoughts alone made this a worthwhile read for me.   

Most frustrating -- and again, predictable, is the book's failure to shed any new or additional light on the fallout between David Coverdale and John Sykes -- the guitarist who took the band through the stratosphere by co-writing the songs on the 1987 album that sold -- according to this book, somewhere between 14 to 18 million copies -- and was unquestionably the band's financial and popularity zenith.  We are simply told anecdotally through various interviews that the fallout happened, along the lines of "by that time, David and John were not speaking" etc.  

The impression presented here -- by eveyrone asked -- from his immediate Whitesnake bandmates to Kalodner -- is that John Sykes -- as they put it (very politely), was difficult to work with, and this book implies he is a bit of a Diva.  Sadly, it goes no deeper than that. Popoff does resurrect and reproduce one interview with Sykes circa the first Blue Murder album, to attempt to provide Sykes' side of the story, but the interview reads as vague now as it did at the time (I remember it, because it's one of only a few interviews Sykes has ever given).  

As many of us have watched the Sykes' career moves post-Whitesnake, the idea that he is "difficult" has gathered steam over the years as John recently left abruptly -- or was ousted from Thin Lizzy -- albiet, after single-handedly resurrecting the band post-Lynott, and touring with them for over 10 years. More recent was a project with Mike Portnoy that failed to achieve liftoff, where Portnoy has laid the blame at Syke's feet.

That said, there are two sides to every story. The hearsay is that difficult or not, John Sykes just refuses to be financially raped by anyone. I can't fault him for that! One presumes Popoff would have done his due diligence and asked Sykes to comment for this book, but as Mr. Sykes almost never does interviews, and doesn't air his dirty laundry when he does, we will likely never know. Sykes has never gone on record with any details or his side of the Whitesnake story. As it's almost 30 years later, one can assume he will take his side of that story to his grave.

Again, the most interesting commentator on the Sykes era was from Kalodner -- who BEGGED Coverdale to work with John repeatedly for the follow-up to 87, and beyond. Story was, John Sykes was willing on a few occasions, but Coverdale was not. 

All in all, a good read for the hardcore Whitesnake fan. In summary, excellent coverage on the classic Marsden/Moody/Galley lineups; the questions still remain on the Sykes lineup; good coverage of the Vandenberg, Campbell, Vai era.  The Aldrich-era is under-covered by comparrison. 
 
 
Overall Rating: 
3

ROCKS - My Life In and Out of Aerosmith

Author: 
Joe Perry with David Ritz
Subject: 
Joe Perry
Summary: 

So after Walk this Way, and Steven Tyler's book, and Joey Kramer's book, we get a book from Joe Perry.

This book is chronology of Joe's life from childhood to present day.  As such, you read about his childhood upbringing and interests, his early musical pursuits, and as the title suggests, his long, storied history in and out of Aerosmith.

The book covers the details of Joe's many, often rocky relationships with managers, girlfriends, wives, and the very complex, love-hate relationship he has with Steven Tyler -- from Joe's perspective, obviously.  

Joe doesn't shy away from talking about his notorious drug use, but he doesn't do a deep dive on it either (in the way, say Glenn Hughes' bio did).  Joe's approach to this topic was closer to Keith Richards' approach in his bio, Life, in that Joe acknowledges that it took place, but never gives you the sense of how bad it really got.  If you want that, if you want all the dirt, read Walk this Way.  

Not surprisingly, Joe mostly paints himself in a favorable light. As the reasonable one in his dealings with Tyler and the rest of the band; as the one with the greater work ethic; as the one who was first untrusting of the band's first dubious managers.  This could all be true, but like anything, there are usually two sides to such stories, and if you haven't read the other books, know that bandmates and other sources have painted Joe differently.  To be fair, Joe also discusses his many mistakes, such as waiting way too long to fire the band's Machiavellian manager in the 90s. 

All in all, it's a very good, enjoyable read. You come away with a good sense of who Joe is, his motivations, and what is important to him. Neutral topics are covered in more detail, while touchy subjects feel a bit glossed over. 

 

 

Overall Rating: 
4

Fargen MiniPlex III Amp Head

Head/Combo: 
Head
Price Paid: 
$1995.00
Condition: 
New
Country of origin: 
USA
Tube Type: 
EL34
Features: 

 

The Fargen Mini Plex MKIII -- as shipped with EL34s -- is essentially a boutique, hand-wired version of a Marshall Plexi AND a JCM800 rolled into a 12 watt, 25 lb. amp head. 

It provides quality tone on par with a 50 or 100 watt Marshall, and maintains this tone at apartment/bedroom, and club-gig levels without tonal sacrifice. 

The Decade switch lets you choose between two completely different classic British preamp circuits: Classic Plexi JMP and hot rodded JCM 800. 

Full feature list:

  • 12 Watt Class A power amp
  • Custom USA transformers w/ 8-16 ohm taps
  • Vintage style mustard capacitors
  • Dual power tube sockets for use with any octal power tube(no re-bias)
  • Use EL34/KT66 /KT77/6550/6L6/5881/6V6 ECT
  • The ability to mix and match any of the above tubes…(i.e.El34 + KT66)
  • DC Filaments for ultra quiet operation
  • 1/8″ aluminum chassis for the true vintage British amp sound
  • 2 position rotary decade switch that alters the circuit for true 70’s or 80’s Marshall Style tones. (Plexi / JCM 800)
  • Variac switch for tight or loose response -- this means either no dropping resistor in power supply, or larger dropping resistor in power supply to creat some sag/squish feel
  • High & Low power switch (switches between tube and SS rectifiers)
  • New tube buffered FX Loop w/ true bypass

Specs: 

  • Dimensions: 20″W x 11″H x 10″D
  • Weight: 25 lbs.
  • Output Power: 8-12 watts
  • Tube Complement: (2) 12AX7, (2) EL34
  • Will also run KT66, KT77, 6550, 6L6, 6V6, 5881
  • GZ34 Tube rectifer
  • Class – Parallel single-ended class A
  • Front Panel Layout & Equalization – Decade, Volume, Master, Treble, Bass, Mid

 

Pros: 
  • Tone - the amp delivers the advertised tones very well.
  • Versatility - Basically, this amp is like having an extremely well-designed/built mini Marshall Plexi and/or JCM800. The response and rectifier switches provide a degree of versatility atypical of mass marketed amps.  The ability to customize your tube configuration (including mixing tube type) adds to the sonic versatility for tweakers who want that.
  • Convenience - If you like running low-wattage "lunchbox" amps to get power amp distortion at reasonable volumes, the MiniPlex III provides that ability for bedroom practice, for recording, and for club-size gigs.
  • Portability - while it it not the smallest lunchbox amp physically, it is only 20" wide and weighs only 25lbs.
Cons: 

The only things I'd change are the following:

  • I'd put the Power and standby swtiches on the front panel in a traditional manner, and move the Hi Power/Variac switch to the back panel.  The Standby switch is hidden between the two rectifier settings.  Fargen told me that there is "no need for a standby switch on low-wattage, slow warm-up tube rectifiers," but if you like using one (when you walk away from the amp for a time), having it on the back is inconvenient. 
  • I'd use less confusing labeling for the Hi Power/Variac and Hi Power/Low Power switches whch should be called the "Response" and "Rectifier" switches respectively.

Both of thse things are a little wonky (IMO), but you get used to it soon enough, so they're  not enough to deduct a point from on an otherwise stellar amp.

Sound Quality: 
5 (excellent)
Reliability: 

The amp is bult like a tank with high quality components. I don't anticipate trouble.

Customer Support: 

When you buy a Fargen, you deal with Ben Fargen directly, and he seems dedicated to ensuring quality support.

Summary: 

This amp fits in well with my other 15 watt-ers from other maunfacturers, and provides great Marshall tones at low wattage volume levels.  My bandmates are raving about how great it sounds.

I run the MPIII at or near full-out through a Bogner 1x12 cube cab, and in conjuncion with a similarly-powered, low-wattage amp through a second cube cab (in stereo), there is more than enough volume for band rehearsals with a powerful drummer, and any gig where your cabs are mic'd.

As with any low watt amp, if you're using it with a small cab and trying to compete against 50 or 100 watt amps through 4x12s, you will not keep up if volume wars ensue.  But you knew that going in, right?

 

Overall Rating: 
5

DRG Member's band wins 2014 DRG Album of the Year

 

Our own Nick Layton's band Firewolfe has won the DRG Album of the Year for 2014! This is the first time in DRG history where a member's release beat out the likes of Accept, Priest, BLS, among others, so it has to be a pretty good album!  For more on Firewolfe, check out these links:

http://www.firewolfe.com/

https://www.facebook.com/FireWolfeBand 

 

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