Vaughan’s Top 10 Tracks of 2014

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2014 Has been a good year for new rock music so I thought I’d share my favourite releases with you, which you might also like if you’re a fan of Tidal. Here goes…

10. DOWN – ‘We Knew Him Well’

When I heard Down were putting out four EPs in quick succession instead of an LP every 5+ years as they have previously, I thought “Awesome! More Down, less waiting!”… however its still taking a good 18 months between releases! Anyway, upon hearing this first single from the second EP, I really wasn’t sure it had met my high expectations but having let the southern riffs seep into my head, its won me over in big style! Turn it up loud and your house will shed all its plaster, I speak from experience… Its worth it though.

9. Foo Fighters – ‘Something From Nothing’

As with number 10, I only gave this one half a chance to begin with. I heard the song on the radio and switched it over after about a minute thinking “Davey boy isn’t putting much effort in, weak”. Having watched great ‘Sonic Highways’ documentary though, hearing the lyrics relating to the history of Chicago and its music, it carried more interest and led me to THE SECOND HALF!! It takes off like a space bound rocket and then you realise that ol’ Davey boy was saving himself for later! Even if you don’t like Foo Fighters music, I’d recommend watching the documentaries as they give a great insight into the music scenes of some of the key cities of american music.

8. Robert Plant – ‘Little Maggie’

This song brings a bit of a change in genre, Robert Plant and the Led Zeppelin have always been partial to a bit of world music (check this epic version of Kashmir out!). This fine example also represents one of rocks living legends performing at Glastonbury, the festival which has seen more dabbling in rock over the past few years with Metallica and The Rolling Stones making appearances. There just seems to be something hypnotic about this song and it reminds me a bit of Willows song from ‘The Wicker Man’ which is great British cult horror classic.

7. California Breed – ‘Midnight Oil’

From the ashes of Black Country Communion arose California Breed, with Mr Hughes and Mr Bonham keeping their rhythm partnership together but shifting to even older school fuzzy retro vibe. I love the groove, blazing hard rock vocals, the fuzz-tastic tones, the female backing singers and the bloodline Bonham drum solo at the end. There aren’t many bands like this these days so pave the way lads.

6. Black Stone Cherry – ‘Me and Mary Jane’

Memories of the summer come flooding back, feeling merry at Download Festival with the boys, going hell for leather singing along. Black Stone Cherry have a knack for writing songs you can sing along to having never heard them before, the crowd was screaming! Seeing them at the Cardiff Motorpoint in October playing a full headline show makes you realise how many classics they have for a young band, mixing chunky riffs like this one with southern ballads, they are the new Lynyrd Skynyrd.

5. Joe Bonamassa – ‘Oh Beautiful!’

Had to include Joe as he’s one of the best guitarists out there. His presence on the Download bill probably surprised a lot of people but being the Bonna-fanatic I am I had to do some backflips with excitement (in my head). He took to the stage with a faint drone behind him and he walked up to the mic and started singing this new song almost acapella…then out of the drone emerges this massive octaved riff.  This song has a very unique structure and he deserves to and likely will be remembered as one of the greats.

4. Royal Blood – ‘Figure It Out’

Royal Blood have taken the world by absolute storm, from being nowhere to securing US/UK tours with the Foo Fighters…that’s good going. Again, I saw these at Download this year, sacrificing seeing Rival Sons which I’d getting excited for upon good recommendation from the boys… but I am glad I did. Seeing a band on their way up in the tent is something we probably won’t be able to do for much longer. Most of the time two pieces lack the third element but these boys pulverised everything. HUGE SOUNDS from layered octave pedals is clearly working beautifully. This song is showcases that and their song writing genius. Try putting this on in your car, it makes me feel like I own the road!

3. Slash – ‘Bent to Fly’

Slash is probably the most recognisable guitar player in the world and has a very unique style in how he loves a guitar melody and to bend to the notes he wants which, when played over beautiful chord progressions as with a multitude of G’n’R songs, it carries so much weight. Slash’s current band is the perfect match for him this with Myles Kennedy providing emotive vocals like he means every word and Todd Kerns hitting the high harmonies in his sleep. I had this song on loop for weeks and this live performance really shows off their talents.

2. Mastodon – ‘The Motherload’

These guys are the pioneers of metal at the moment. They just seem to do things that no one else does or can do. All four of them are some of the best musicians around and they never look like they are struggling with the stupidly complex music they create. This video caused a bit of a stir as well and made me laugh out loud in the psychedelic sequence. The weirdness they pursue is a breath of fresh air…in my excitement at their show in Bristol, I bought a very weird t-shirt from the merch stand…think woman from Total Recall mixed with a rattlesnake!

1. Rival Sons – ‘Open My Eyes’

At number 1 is this band who are taking over my life! Rival Sons capture Led Zeppelin vibes so well and the singer is the best thing since the wheel! This acoustic version of ‘Keep on Swinging’ from their previous album I think is the definition of perfect. He delivers a spellbinding performance on all levels. This song though is so catchy and what rock classic rock should be, in fact the whole album ‘Great Western Valkyrie’ shows light & shade, power and fragility like a don’t know anyone else can these days.

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Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed this quick walk through some of the highlights of 2014. Has this list opened up any doors for you? Please do feel free to reply with your top songs or songs you think I’ve missed from my list. I love music and want to hear as much as I can!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year all,

Vaughan

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Lewis’s Top 5 Bassists

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The following list is of my top 5 favourite bass players. They have in some way influenced my style or bass sound over the years.

5) Flea – Red Hot Chilli Peppers

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Flea may not have the most obvious influence on my playing but he is one my favourite bass players and is one of the best players of any genre. If you listen carefully you can hear Flea’s influence in some of my bass lines. Admittedly I don’t slap but that’s not his only method, besides who’s to say I won’t slap in a future song…

If you’ve only heard Red Hot Chili Pepper’s output since 2000 and think they are a bit bland or tame then go check out their 80s or early 90s albums. In those days they got pretty close to Funk Metal or at the very least had a punk edge. Back on those albums Flea could slap his bass with ferocious speed!

Song: ‘Naked in the Rain‘. Check out the bass solo in the middle! 

4) Steve Harris – Iron Maiden

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Iron Maiden are one of my favourite bands both live and on record. Despite Bruce Dickinson being the face of Iron Maiden, Steve IS Maiden. He has been the driving force of the band from day one, not only musically but also in pushing them to such huge heights. His sound may be a little clunky for some but you always know it’s Steve playing. He is so prominent, can pack both a punch and also manages to supply the technical wizardry. Even with 3 guitarists to contend with now the bass still stands out clearly against the rest of the music.

Song: ‘Phantom of the Opera‘. One of the first songs I learn to play on bass. This shows off Steve’s technical wizardry at it’s best and demonstrates how he can easily keep up with the guitarists. This is amazing work considering it’s their first album!

3) Geezer Butler – Black Sabbath

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Black Sabbath are the reason why most bands in Hard Rock and Metal exist. Geezer Butler is a massive part of the Sabbath sound. Tony Iommi may have provided the riffs but Geezer Butler and Bill Ward were the back bone. I love his sound, it’s varied a lot since the early days but has always been prominent and never drowned out by the guitar. The newest album ‘13‘ is a great come back for Ozzy-era Sabbath and probably has my favourite Geezer Butler sound. It has plenty of low end mixed with a good level of mid punch. His style is so free and flowing that he always manages to keep the music going even when Iommi holds back. His solo backings are almost as ear catching as the guitar solos themselves.

Song: ‘NIB‘. The bass solo intro to the song with that snarly distortion is brilliant. The song itself has a great example of Geezer’s free flowing bass style, smoothly gliding across all the strings.

2) Rex Brown – Pantera, Down & Kill Devil Hill

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Rex Brown has probably had the biggest influence on my sound and has a fair bit to answer for in my style too. His bass sound has the low end but also plenty of mid and high which gives a thump, punch and a snarl. He manages to get his bass sound through an incredibly thick guitar sound and it gave Pantera and Down (the two albums he’s on – ‘II’ and ‘Over the Under‘) such a massive sound. He may not be the most technical player out of these 5 but he still has some very impressive technical chops and manages to keep up with some amazing guitarists. As well as Pantera and Down he has more recently recorded an album with his new band Kill Devil Hill, who are definitely worth checking out. I never got to see Pantera so if I was a given a time machine then I would definitely go and see mid 90s Pantera live, on my way to see number 1 on my list!

Songs: Pantera – ‘Revolution is My Name‘. For the heavier side of Rex. The bass under the solo is almost a solo itself!

Down – ‘Lies, I don’t know what they say but…‘. For a more chilled and free flowing side to Rex.

1) Cliff Burton – Metallica

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It could only be one player for me. Sadly Cliff Burton was killed a year before I was born so seeing Metallica in ’85/’86 would have been priority number 1 for me. I have downloaded several live sets and I own ‘Cliff ‘em All’ on DVD, I just wish I could have been there! His live sound was amazing, chunky as hell but most importantly PROMINENT. The bass levels on the 3 Metallica albums he is on (arguably the 3 best) have him criminally low in the mix. I would love to hear remixed and re-mastered versions of Metallica’s first 4 albums (including the non-existent bass sound of ‘…And Justice for All’ album with Cliff’s replacement Jason Newsted) with the bass given the much higher volume level it deserves.

Not only was Cliff a bass playing genius he was also a master musician. He brought so much musicality to ‘Ride the Lightening‘ and ‘Master of Puppets‘ that I don’t think the other 3 players would have been capable of without his influence. From what I’ve read he even helped write some of Kirk’s solos on those albums.

Song: No choice for me other than ‘Orion‘.
This song got me into Metal music in the first place. It is a beautiful song that features not only one of Cliff’s rare stand out bass sections on record but also a bass solo that duets with Kirk’s guitar solo. It took me years to realise that it was a bass solo as it sounds so much like a lead guitar solo just played on the lower strings.

Hope you found that interesting. Feel free to respond with your thoughts and opinions. Vaughan has previously written his top 5 if you missed it so keep an eye out for Wilkes top 5 next.

Cheers,

Lewis

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Vaughan’s Top 5 Guitarists

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These five guys all have very unique qualities but all of which have a strand of something running through them that has struck a chord in me (no pun intended), and how I approach the guitar…

5) Jimmy Page

 

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Jimmy Page probably makes the top 5 of most guitarists. His playing has influenced so many guitarists during Zeppelins era and even now in modern music, yet his playing is still so unique and unrivalled by anyone. Led Zeppelin have such a diverse range of songs from heavy riff driven songs like ‘Black Dog’ to the acoustic masterpieces like ‘The Battle of Evermore’, and their both found on the same album (I haven’t even mentioned Stairway to Heaven… Ah well I have now).

He triggered my expensive love for Gibson Les Pauls (along with Mr Wylde) so here he is performing ‘Ramble On’ from Led Zeppelin II

4) Tony Iommi

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This guy created the sound of heavy rock music through a bit of bad luck! On his last day of work at a factory before quitting to be a full time musician, the ends of two of his fretting hand fingers were chopped off! Since that day he’s created his own fingertips with melted bottle tops and some leather for grip. In turn he then started tuning down his guitar to make the strings easier to bend.

What I love about Tony Iommi is the huge riffs that he brings to the table then goes off on one on jazz solos a laSabbath Bloody Sabbath‘.

The song below ‘Dirty Women’, is the live version from 1978 but it’s definitely worth checking out the studio version from 1976s Technical Ecstasy to witness his dual solos fighting each other to take centre stage. There is one note in there that gives me goosebumps every time!

3) David Gilmour

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I’ve got be honest in that I haven’t really got into Sid Barrett era Pink Floyd but albums after Dai Gilmour got involved really grab my attention. You try listening to Dark Side Of The Moon with the lights off, you see things…crazy things…

Engineers/Producers Andy Francis & Phil Humphreys at Boneyard Studio created a bit of that vibe during the tracking of our song ‘Rain Dance’. The lights went of, the room lit by nothing but the power lights of the Orange & Marshall heads along with two gothic looking candle lamps…they cranked up the volume & the reverb… and then pressed record. Good times.

David Gilmour is Mr Feel. The song below ‘Shine on Your Crazy Diamond Part I-V’ is the proof…

2) Dimebag Darrell

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My teenage years were pretty much dominated by Metallica, Down, COC, Alice In Chains and this guy in Pantera. I’m not sure anyone has ever played with the groove this guy had before his tragic on stage shooting in 2004.

I remember schoolmate Ainsley calling me up, panic in this voice “Vaughan, Dimes been shot!”. I didn’t believe him “Vaughan he has, check BBC news!” So I scrambled to the telly and to my horror he wasn’t lying. It was like a bit of our world died!

He plays some mental groovy technical licks like on ‘Cowboys From Hell’ & ‘Revolution Is My Name’ but it’s all still rooted in blues scales. As you’ve probably guessed the theme here, it’s full of emotion and feel!

I’d say that ‘Cemetery Gates’ is probably one of my favourite solos ever, but the solo & outro to the song below ‘Floods’ really is outstanding…

1) Joe Bonamassa

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This guy is immense. He played with BB King when he was 12, grew up on Free, Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac, Deep Purple and has absorbed everything worthy of remembering from pretty much everybody.

He can play anything fom his blues/rock/folk solo work, classic/hard rock in Black Country Communion, funk in side project Rock Candy Funk Party… the list goes on…

Oh and his sound is incredible! Have a listen to Black Lung Heartachefor a glimpse of diversity in a single song. Very bluesy and stripped back then….SMASH with a killer guitar sound…. I also need to mention his guitar sound… ‘The Ballad Of John Henry’, it’s COLLOSAL.
Ooooooo as you can probably tell I like this guy.

Here’s a live version of ‘Dust Bowl’ demonstrating the feel he conjures up over some of his more mellow songs. This guy is awesome.

So there we have it. Lewis and Wilkes are putting their lists together so get involved tell us who inspires you on your instrument and why! 👍

Over and out,

Vaughan

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May Bank holiday takeover

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What an absolutely #wompin weekend.

Friday – Kingsfest
We kicked it off with the trek up to Llanidloes for the annual Kingsfest event, now it’s ninth year. This, from what I can remember, is our fifth visit back to the festival, each year working our way up the bill so this year we were delighted to headline the Friday night. This really is a truly brilliant festival run and attended by people who really do love their music. To most people it seems like a little town smack dab in the middle of Wales but as soon as the tent goes up…mayhem! It gets proper messy too. It’s easier to count the number of times Lewis hasn’t spewed. Seriously.

Having caught great sets by both The Callout and The Kryptics, the daylight died and I could feel something was on the way! We cranked the amps up to 12, my guitar screaming impatiently….1,2,3,4, dun, dah…Caged Bird set free.

We played for a full hour to a packed tent playing songs off the album as well as 3/4 new songs, including my favourite song at the moment Cut The Wire. We were even joined by local legend ‘Sponge’ for old Tidal classic OTT.

Moshing, singing, screaming, shouting, dancing… the festival go-ers did it all. It seemed like they knew the words better than me!

Thanks to Garth Stephens for offering us the headline slot, and thanks to everyone for the support. Having been up there as a four piece for years it was great to talk to people and hear that the three piece has kept all the balls we had before, and even managed to grow more.

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Sunday – Bulletfest
With a days recovery we then ventured up to Abersychan to play a set at Bulletfest, a charity festival raising money for Clapa – Cleft Lip & Palette. We were invited onto the bill having played with Deathbullet at a show in Weston Super Mare last year. Suffice to say that venue housed some of the heaviest bands we’ve played with. Desalvo were like 90s New Orleans sludge, I drooled for 30 mins over the Gibson Black beauty on the hands of Electric Furnace guitarist, then it was our turn…

…so we layed it down! Given the audience we used what we call the “heavy set”. No letting up for air at all. Seemed weird just playing a 30 min set after recent shows, over in a flash. Maybe we just thrashed it up by playing all our songs at 230bpm.

Black Light Machine provided some epic soundscapes of steel, like a terminator soundtrack or something. Then Deathbullet smashed it. Between the Mesa half stack and the Orange bass rig it was #phat. Hats off to Paul for organising another amazing event, all in the name of charity.

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Amazing weekend, a pleasure to be part of two such great festivals and it’s great to be back playing again. The three of us are having a BLAST!

Over and out,

Vaughan

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It’s good to be back…

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I’ve got be honest, whilst practice every week is great fun, nothing really beats setting up your gear in a venue and going hammer and tongs.

Valve amps really do purr like a v12 in a more open space where you can turn it up a little more (unlike practice rooms where a more confined space means the sound waves rattle around like billions of pinballs off all the walls). My jeans were flapping round like a flag in a storm standing in front of my faithful cab. If we didn’t have a show to perform I could quite happil just played the D chord we started our set with and let it ring for the full hour. Probably would have been just me that enjoyed that though. It’s been over 5 months since our previous live show so it’s good to be reunited with the beast.

The Swans4Cancer was a great event organised by good people investing their time, managing to sell out the show and raise over £1000 for Cancer research. Hats off to Mark & Crissy Christansen.

Anyway next show is the headline slot on the Friday night at Kingsfest. If you haven’t been before your missing out.

I. Can. Not. Wait.

Over & out,

Vaughan

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