REVIEW: Roger Mayer Vision Wah Special

Legendary pedal designer Roger Mayer says the Vision Wah Special comes from the same bloodline as a pedal he built 40 years ago for Jimi Hendrix. That may be so, but to think of this as just a foot-operated portal to Jimi’s patchouli-scented spirit is to sell it way short.

Visually, the Vision Wah Special borrows a little bit of the science fiction vibe of Mayer’s famed spaceship-shaped pedals. There are two side mounted knobs, but the sleek design dispenses with any writing whatsoever on the visible part of the pedal. Instead you have to flip it over to see “Roger Mayer Vision Wah Special – Handbuilt in the UK” and that the knobs are labelled Wah Sweep and Wah Blend. Closer inspection of the pedal base also reveals a tiny hole leading through to a trimpot inside the pedal, which allows you to set a minimum volume for when the pedal is in bypass mode: when you’re not using the wah effect, the unit functions as a volume pedal. However if you don’t need the volume pedal option, you can simply turn it off by moving a jumper on the PC card.

The wah effect itself is engaged via a switch at the full ‘toe down’ end of the wah treadle, and if you’re worried that your Chuck Taylors will stomp the effect on when you’re using the volume mode, you can remove the base plate to find a small control on the PC card labelled SW Adjust, which sets the required bypass switch pressure. The treadle itself is smooth and comfortable, and relies on a clever vari friction nylon bearing, combined with a fully balanced top plate which allows the user to customise the tension from light to firm. The treadle will always remain exactly where you leave it, for those Michael Schenker fixed wah tones.

As you’d expect from a pedal associated with Jimi, the Vision Wah can sound funky and earthy. I found that at the most extreme end of the Wah Sweep control, the pedal cut through in a very sharp, bright manner especially suited to wild psycho soloing or clucky clean funk, while lower, more bass-heavy settings introduced a supportive, thick quality similar to Jimi’s soulful wah work, or the sounds of Alice In Chains’ ‘Dirt’ album. Somewhere around the upper middle of the Wah Sweep trajectory I was able to dial in a cool nasal Zappa ‘honk.’ Depending on the setting and how you play the pedal, it can go from a ‘wah wah’ to a ‘quoll quoll,’ ‘loop loop’ and ‘qua qua’ pedal. The Wah Blend control allows you to introduce the dry guitar into the sound, which is a great way of maintaining pitch clarity and the quality of your phrasing without having them be overwhelmed by the wah effect.

The Roger Mayer Vision Wah Special is more than just ‘like the one Jimi used.’ It’s a modern update on the wah concept in general, and while its ability to recreate classic Hendrix tones is a great selling point, it’s just one of the things it does very, very well.

If you’re in Australia, you can buy Roger Mayer pedals online from Guitar Toyz

NEWS: Eddie Van Halen Frankenstein humbucker available for preorder

Whoa! I just spotted this over at the Van Halen News Desk. Released on March 1 is the EVH Frankenstein humbucker. Recommended retail price is $199.99. There’s also a relic’ed, Eddie Van Halen-autographed version (see below) for $399 which, while expensive, is pretty freakin’ cool!

CLICK HERE to buy the EVH Frankenstein Relic Humbucker LTD (Signed) Standard for $399 from Music123.

CLICK HERE to buy the EVH Frankenstein Humbucker Standard for $149 from Music123.

Or if you’re feeling particularly saucy, why not CLICK HERE to splash out $25,000 for the EVH Frankenstein guitar?

A page on the Van Halen Store says:

EVH Frankenstein Relic Humbucker LTD (Signed) StandardThe legendary humbucking pickup from the guitar that changed everything.

Think of it as a brand-new version of the original Frankenstein’s battle-worn pickup, wound to the exact original specs and built to fit in any humbucking-pickup-equipped guitar. One of the most famous humbuckers of all time is now available at a competitive price and serves as a great upgrade and alternative to the popular crop of cliché replacement humbuckers.

This is awesome news. Who hasn’t wished they could leach some of that famous Van Halen I tonal magic? I think I might just have to get one of these and chuck it into the Ibanez RG370 I wrote about in my guest blog on Jemsite.

New releases 27/01/2009

Well, the Christmas/New Year period is well and truly over, so it’s time for new CD releases, after about 2 months of reissues and best-ofs. So let’s peer into the crystal ball and see what will be rocking your socks this week. Links to buy each title are at the bottom of this post.

The Empyrean by John Frusciante
The eleventh solo album from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ guitarist. The Empyrean is a concept record featuring Flea, Sonus Quartet, Johnny Marr (woo!!!), and The New Dimension Singers.

A-LEX by Sepultura
Graar!!! Brazil’s most metallic export cranks it up with this concept album based on A Clockwork Orange. One for fans of brutal metal, citrus fruit, and/or watchmaking.

396 by Chris Duarte
Duarte has always been a monster player with chops out the wazoo. His new album is a collaboration with Japan’s premier blues-rock band, Bluestone Company.

Old Money by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
This new conceptual solo album about exploitative industrialists from the Mars Volta guitarist is said to fit comfortably between his work with The Mars Volta and his prior rock-based solo releases. Sweet.

REVIEW: Jeff Beck at the Palais, Melbourne

Last night (January 26, Australia Day, woohoo), I saw Jeff Beck at the Palais in Melbourne. I’ll write a full review for the next issue of Mixdown magazine, but in the meantime here are a few thoughts and observances for anyone who’s interested. Beck’s playing again at the Palais tonight, so CLICK HERE to see if there are still tickets available.

Okay, thoughts in dot-point form cos they’re fun.

· Beck appeared to have a pair of Marshall Plexis on stage, (although only one of them was turned on – I guess the other was a spare) and a Fender combo. My vision sucks at the best of times (but at least I have cool glasses), so I couldn’t quite tell what models they were.

· He played one of his signature Fender Stratocasters for the whole show, and only needed to retune once, about an hour into the gig, despite his frequent and mind-destroying whammy bar use.

· On drums, Mr Vinnie Colaiuta. Frank Zappa’s favourite improvisation buddy, and an important part of why Megadeth’s ‘The System Has Failed’ album is so friggin’ cool. Vinnie threw in lots of double-kick work, and stole the show several times.

· On bass, Tal Wilkenfeld. She’s only 22 and her playing is frighteningly good, especially her solo during ‘Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers.’

· Beck long ago chucked away guitar picks, and it’s inspiring if not a little intimidating to hear what he can do with just his fingers and a whammy bar. Surprisingly, most of his vibrato comes from rapidly pushing and releasing the guitar’s tremolo bridge with the side of his picking hand, instead of from his fretting hand.

I won’t spoil the setlist for those who are yet to see this tour, but Beck’s playing is as good as ever, and his band is amazing. If you’re in Melbourne and you haven’t already got a ticket for tonight, GO GO GO GO GO!!!

CLICK HERE to buy Jeff Beck’s ‘Performing This Week…Live At Ronnie Scotts’ from Amazon.com

CLICK HERE to buy the Fender Jeff Beck signature Stratocaster from Music123.

Remaining Jeff Beck Australian tour dates:

27 Jan Palais Theatre, VIC

29 Jan Brisbane Convention Centre, QLD

30 Jan Enmore Theatre, NSW

31 Jan Enmore Theatre, NSW

NEWS: DVD release – Girls Rock: The Movie

Out today on DVD is Girls Rock: The Movie, a documentary chronicling an all-girls rock ‘n’ roll camp in Portland, Oregon. The film centers around girls ranging from ages 8 to 18 who have one week to form a band, select an instrument they may have never played, and write a song.

The film features appearances from female rockers Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and The Gossip’s Beth Ditto.

You can download the track “Global Warming” by one of the bands, Blubird, for free by CLICKING HERE.

I’ll review the documentary soon, but in the meantime, the trailer is below, and you can see the official site HERE.

NEWS: More Sterling By Music Man details

Thanks to Dan for alerting me to the new website for the new Sterling By Music Man brand, which will be priced somewhere around the same level as the now discontinued Ernie Ball Music Man SUB series.

The site will be fully operational from March 2, but there’s already a downloadable catalog there to check out.

Pictured is the John Petrucci model. I really really wish they’d accepted the extra cost and installed Dimarzio pickups in this. I imagine a lot of players will swap the pickups as soon as they get the guitar, which is exactly what many have done with the budget-priced OLP Petrucci model.
I like that there are two Axis models, and I’m sure that if this first run is successful, they’ll add some colour options and other models. Perhaps a Petrucci 7-string, or a Steve Morse model?
I’m looking forward to trying these, and if I get my hands on one I’ll be sure to post my thoughts here.
CLICK HERE to see Ernie Ball Music Man guitars on eBay, including the awesome rosewood-top Axis pictured to the left. This is totally my dream guitar. Well, one of them, anyway…


NEWS: Glen Drover auctions ‘Peace Sells’ ESP

Former Megadeth guitarist Glen Drover is auctioning his famed ‘Peace Sells’ ESP. I saw Glen with Megadeth four times and this axe always got a strong reaction from the crowd (although I liked his ‘Countdown To Extinction’ model even more).

CLICK HERE to see the guitar or place a bid.

The listing reads:

This guitar was made for Glen Drover in 2005 and given to him by ESP guitars at the 2005 NAMM convention in California, for the ESP anniversary party. It was also used by Glen for all touring for 2005 and 2006 with Megadeth.

This is an “ESP” version of the LTD Deluxe M1000 and designed to Glen’s specs.

Easily the most popular guitar from Glen Drover’s collection used while in Megadeth.

Specs:

Set-Thru neck

25.5” Scale

Alder Body

Maple Neck

Rosewood Fingerboard

Locking Nut

43mm Neck Width

24 XJ Frets

Grover Tuners

Floyd Rose Bridge

Front cover “air brush” of the Megadeth album cover “Peace Sells, But Who’s Buying” on front body and head stock. purple transparent finish on back of guitar.

Seymour Duncan pickups (distortion in bridge, 59 in neck position)

3 way toggle switch

1 volume control, 1 tone control pot.

If Vs are more your style, Dean offers a few graphic Dave Mustaine models, including the low-cost VMNTX with the ‘United Abominations’ album cover, and the new ‘Rust In Peace’ VMNT.

CLICK HERE to buy the Dean Dave Mustaine VMNTX United Abomination Electric Guitar Graphic from Music 123.