Exes

’94 BRIAN MOORE MC/1

Brian Moore was Ned Steinberger’s right hand man, reportedly in charge of the moulding of the graphite resin parts. He broke away in the early 90’s and started making his own line of high-end guitars, launching with the MC1.

I first saw one on a business trip to New York and had to wait some time before the first four reached the UK through Cranes Music in Cardiff.  This was the only hardtail.

It’s clever because it uses a single carbon fibre/resin ‘monocoque’ floorpan, to which the headstock facing, fingerboard and exotic wood body front are all attached, creating a chambered, curved and very modern-looking solidbody guitar. It also has an innovative jack socket bevelled into an inconspicuous point high on the rear of the body at a very cable-friendly angle. Truss rod adjustment at the neck heel is also innovative, though regrettably rather less effective.

It seems that the company had a tough time in its early years – the instruments were very expensive considering their apparent ease of manufacture and their quite radical design didn’t seem to appeal to players, a notoriously conservative lot. I had the tone control modified before shipping so that the factory-fitted Seymour Duncan Hot Rails pickups in the neck and middle positions could be coil-tapped. These, and the JB humbucker by the bridge, offer a wide array of useful sounds. I recall the original frets being very high and sharp, so I had them dressed, which improved playability considerably.

The company lowered its sights, introducing models with bolt-on necks, less fancy woods and apparently less fibre/resin. Some time later, it seemed to find its feet again in the synth-ready and midi-equipped markets also well-exploited by Canada’s Godin Guitars.

All the earliest examples were hand signed by the maker, and this is a very early serial number, hardly into three figures. It was one of the first batch of five to be brought into the UK by Cranes Music of Cardiff, and one of only two hardtails.

The instrument feels quite different to conventional wooden instruments and sounds quite plinky when played unplugged. It only comes into its own at volume, when it can sing. It seems to want to play fusion styles. Looks are subjective, but I think it is distinctive and modern. It’s a fine piece of quilted maple too, and quite lightweight – comfortable for extended play.

Sold it in 2020 in mint condition as ai didn’t play it enough and needed space.

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’65 GIBSON ES330TD

An instrument I used to own and which previously belonged to Huw Lloyd-Langton of early Hawkwind, RIP and came to me via Ian ‘Sid’ Bishop.  Great condition, lovely colour, but I could never get on with the skinny later 60’s Gibson neck profile and I found the nickel covers sucked the tone of the P90’s.  A pale shadow compared to my ‘60 and ‘62 models.

More of an ornament, therefore and not a guitar I miss much – better for videos than sessions.  I acquired it in part exchange for the first Gibson my dear dad bought me (a ’72 SG Deluxe, not one of Gibson’s finest but it was my first love).  I then traded it for my ’56 Gretsch Duo Jet, so the Gretsch now carries the ‘bloodline’, and very admirably it does it too…

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’91 TOM ANDERSON DROP TOP

The first time I played one of these was when I had not long bought the PRS and the Steinberger and was still paying them off, but I was blown away and had to have one. The neck feel, the sound, was just right.

For several years I felt that these guitars should have had more recognition than they got, certainly by comparison with their peers. The clean sound remains a reference, but over time I have found its very compressed overdriven tone increasingly difficult to work with. I have the original Tom Anderson bridge humbucker, but have substituted a Bare Knuckle ‘The Mule’, which was an improvement.

Mint, with original black rectangular case and candy, sold in April 2019 as i simplay wasn;t playing it any more. Pleased to say the new owner is delighted with it and I hope it gives him as much use and pleasure as it did me back in the day.

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’91 MUSICMAN EVH SIGNATURE

A modern classic which I owned from new in 1991 until 2019. Some 6000 were made between 1990-95 and this is one of the first batch of three in the UK (a red one, a turquoise one and this one, since you ask). Very useful info site at http://www.rocknrollweekend.com/music_man.html.

The last pic was taken in sunlight as the indoor shots don’t capture the magenta colour well.  Not to everybody’s taste, but it’s quite a rare colour, especially in this dead mint condition with matching rectangular black case and all case candy.

Great distinctive palette of sounds from its custom-wound pickups. Like all MusicMans, the neck is very true so the action is very fast. Superb for modern legato, tapping and high speed widdlywiddly stuff, but surprisingly good for jazzy stuff on the neck pickup too…

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VHT SPECIAL SIX ULTRA HEAD & 1×12 Cab

This came from the VHT reformed after founder Steven Freyette’s departure to form his own boutique amp company.

Designed in US and made in China, it’s a 6-watt all tube amp with an extra input overdrive stage, tube-drive fx loop and interesting tone shaping.

 

It sounds great and enables real power amp overdrive and feel at manageable volume.  And it was really good value – ca.UK£230. I can’t put it down!

 

I’ve rehearsed with my Blackstar 1-watter and it was ok but not quite powerful enough. This is perfect.   I think it would be ok for some smaller/quieter gigs too… Sold in 2018.

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HUGHES AND KETTNER SWITCHBLADE 50W COMBOS

Despite its English-sounding name, Hughes & Kettner is a German-based company making fine tube guitar and bass amps. The switchblade was the world’s first programmable tube amp – you can save 128 different programmes into its memory and call them up via the footswitch included or remotely via midi.

The amps also have very comprehensive basic onboard effects – reverb, delay, chorus, flange and tremolo. They’re ideal if you want good tube tone but work in lots of different contexts or cover a lot of different sounds.

I had two because I used them in parallel via a passive Lehle splitter. This makes choruses wide and lush, and enables the double-amped lead sounds that characterise most great recordings. One floorboard controls both via a midi jump lead. A flexible system that sets up in one minute. Damn good, versatile all-round amps.  Sold them as I don’t play covers any more.

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BLACKSTAR SERIES ONE 45W COMBO

A very versatile and loud valve combo.

It features the Blackstar ‘Infinite Shape Feature’ variable tone stack which can be adjusted continuously between US and UK characteristics – works best with a lower middle setting.

It’s also got output power scaling, enabling saturation of its EL35 output valves at lower volumes. And it’s midi-switchable so it can be integrated into multi-amp rigs.  Good rock amp, but sold because I moved on and up to my 633’s and ODS-type amps.

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YAMAHA THR10

Great little amp this, got if for Christmas.  A compact, low-power amp that doubles up as a practice amp and an interface for recording.  It has clean, crunch and three overdrive models as well as bass, acoustic and ‘flat line input’ eq’s.  And five user-editable presets to keep your favourite sounds (like a fixed delay for playing U2, for example).

It also comes with a simple and effective editor so you can adjust all the controls and more on-screen.  It works as powered speakers for your laptop or pc and even runs on batteries so you can practice at the beach!

I use it with GarageBand which came bundled on my Mac, though it comes bundled with Steinberg’s entry-level Cubase AI.  God knows what the full version is like – you need a university degree to even register the product and another one to get any sound from it.  As I write, I still haven’t worked out how to monitor when I record and the instructions are pretty useless for a recording beginner like me, whereas GarageBand is plug and play.

The clean sound is very good, the crunch and overdrives take some tweaking to stop them sounding fizzy, but it records really well.  It also sounds pretty good slaved through a bigger amp to give it volume.  You could probably gig with it through a pa with a bit of careful eq.

Now passed on to a deserving friend and replaced by the Boss Katana Air micro amp.