Personal blog and comfy corner of Lyra Rhodes: musician, cake aficionado, whinger...maybe just a place where I can stuff things (words!), rather than them falling down the back of the sofa

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Mini guitars - form or fashion?

Joan Baez (martin 045)
Mini guitars have always been around.
Particularly in blues and folk, the term "Parlour Guitar" has been used.
But I think it's always been more suited to the folk ethic, and particularly suits finger picking.
Take a look at this pic of Joan Baez playing a Martin 0-45 (courtesy Wikipedia)
They just sit in the lap better, easier to lean back on your sofa (risking a bad back, use plenty of lovely cushions lol) and while away the hours plinking and plonking away.
A real good example of a modern smaller form-factor guitar is the Taylor GS-Mini like in the pic below. I've got one of these, and I was blown away by the sound when I tried it out. It has a slightly rounded out back.
Amazing thing.
It just lacks a pickup, and the one you can buy for it doesn't seem all that amazing.
And they do one in Mahogany as well...which to me sounds a bit unnecessary...it's already quite a hard sound.
For me, Ed Sheeran takes it to the limit, with his "baby" guitar. (his gear guide is here). Apparently, it's a Martin LX1E. Of course, the Baby (and "Big Baby") Taylor has been around for a while, but this is a *Martin* and is electro-acoustic too...
Do I like it?
Yes actually.
These guitars are also useful because they don't have too much low-end "boominess" which is a real boon when recording, and sometimes DI from the pickup also works surprisingly well.
I mean, for your typical singer-songwriter, a Dreadnought or a Jumbo aren't particularly appropriate, not least they're a bit massive when stood up and finger picking.
Suzanne Vega favours an "auditorium" style guitar, which is entirely another subject, and given she's an idol of mine, one which I won't go into here... It'll take too long!
So, recently, given that I started out playing a classical guitar when I was a kid, I think there's a place for "crossover" guitars. I've seen some artists playing electro-classical guitars... and particularly when it is coupled with a low profile fast neck, then I think it's a winner... I even went to the extent of buying a Taylor electro-nylon guitar... but I sent it back, as the neck was still too wide, and the guitar itself too large... it was essentially "grand auditorium" as opposed to "travel guitar".
And that's the last phrase I'll leave you with... Travel Guitar. Would you take your fancy Martin or Taylor mini guitar travelling with you? Well... guitars are meant to be played, so why not!!!?
The Holy Grail?
A travel/parlour/mini guitar (whatever you want to call it) that's actually got some colour and design and style to it!! I've way too many beige guitars!!!
What about this mini Ovation / Applause? I had a larger "Applause" when I was a student, and the playability and Bass was outstanding. Why did I get rid of it? Why are they no longer in fashion, being something of an 80s thing? Dunno... thoughts on a postcard.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Songwriting - a terminally inadequate approach

I'll never be satisfied.
In the context of living a life with regrets, is "not being able to write songs that are any good" an acceptable one???
"Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets" - Arthur Miller.
That. Makes. Sense.
I play the guitar, but struggle with not being in the right LIFE position to write songs...always working, dealing with kids, sleeping, finding a house, eating cake (the last bit isn't so bad).
I remember writing one particular song in 40 minutes. Sat at my guitar, leaning over a notebook (old fashioned paper style...you think I type my songs!?) alternating between a pen and a plectrum in my mouth.
And that was good. Life was sweet. The song? Heartfelt, quick, reactionary, immediate, raw. As you'd expect!
I read something about the approach that Elton John takes, to writing music at least. He will often hear or copy something, then change it beyond recognition. I've been trying that recently. It's a common technique. Also, with lyrics, key phrases, sayings, adages, maxims... these are all really really important, so the Interwebs is a useful thing to search them out.
My mum asked me once..."what comes first? the music or the lyrics?", and the fact is, everyone does it differently... some songs they kinda happen together. A lot of music comes to me when I'm falling asleep, and hardly ever to I get out of bed and write it down or record it. Quite often, with a guitar at least, your fingers start to follow a set-pattern, a well-worn and travelled route...and this doesn't lead to anything *new*, so songs can end up sounding the same... My brother once told me many many years ago that "you should play what's in your head, find a way for your fingers to play it". That's so so true. Not always possible, but true. I try. It isn't easy.
I don't know what the answer is. Sometimes I think that really bad things must happen, to give inspiration!!! Other songs I write from memory, drawing on past experiences. Suzanne Vega is very much an observant artist, imagining scenarios for strangers. Lloyd Cole has been married since his 20s, but still writes great angst-ridden songs that whilst not speaking of heartbreak as such, describe the coldness that can exist in a relationship, for instance. I heard that his wife was a touch upset by one of his albums!
So, it's tricky.
I think the best songs, or at least the best ones I imagine, or have created a bit...are those where the songs has an instant and obvious "attitude" or style... and this isn't always easy, when dealing with acoustic guitar focussed music. Because, I write in the context of the whole song - "Are Ya Happy Now" isn't a guitar song, for me it's more about the drums and the synths in the later part - I'm most proud of a 5 second section where the synth strings swell to a climax just before the closing section.
So in conclusion, maybe I need to be more goal-oriented for a while at least, and finish a song, or write a new one and take it to full conclusion and recording. That'll help my feeling of inadequacy...and satisfy my occasional geeky computer recording and mixing side ;-) (the downside being that it means many VERY late nights...*sigh*)

My Amazon LLoyd Cole - Standards review

This is what I want from a Lloyd Cole album.
I was highly privileged to be part of a group of select fans who received this early, so I've had a couple of weeks to listen.
It's the strongest A side since Rattlesnakes (remember the Perfect Skin, Rattlesnakes, Forest Fire combo?), with California Earthquake (a cover, rare for Lloyd) kicking things off, and Period Piece, Women's Studies and Myrtle and Rose being VERY strong songs. The latter is now one of my all-time favourites, Lloyd's voice is mature and strong on this. It's a very powerful song.
Side B (do folks still talk about "sides"?) has Blue Like Mars (would easily sit on the Commotions "Mainstream" album in my opinion) and Opposite's Day...the latter is a very contemporary sound in my opinion.
The only thing that lets down the album is the pace... there are some forays into deeper "country" music territory than has been usual for Lloyd, never more apparent than the end of side A ("No Truck").
My HUGE realisation is that this album...well... ROCKS. The energy and vigour is amazing (apparently motivated by Lloyd reviewing Dylan's new album and realising what energy the 72 year old icon still throws out in his albums).
This is a wonderful album, and I'm stunned by it, to be honest...

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Lloyd Cole - Standards - DN.se Kultur (swedish) review

Translated on Lloyd's facebook page (with some grammatical corrections):

Once he was described as "the Dylan of the 80's", and as a "talkative bookworm". He´s still happy to discuss and talk, still a dedicated golf player...who never smiles in pictures...Lloyd Cole.

He's bang up to date with his new electrified disc, "Standards", and is in good spirits despite a few hours of sleep. He has just arrived from Malmö to Stockholm on his month-long European tour, that doesn't consist of performances - just interviews about the new album "Standards" for newspapers, television and radio. But he notes that it is probably the last PR trip he will make. It takes too much energy, costs too much and delivers too little back in record sales and therefore un-economical.
"If the "Standards" album will not sell much more than my last album, I will continue to focus on getting my records to those who already are my fans. Chasing new listeners costs too much, and if I only lived to make records, then I would have gone bankrupt long ago", says Lloyd Cole and points out that it´s the concerts that enables him, after all, to be doing well. "I'm not young, I'm not new, I'm not particularly exciting, and even if you like my music and have a lot of my records, perhaps you maybe will feel in the end that you have enough. So I will make music as long as I have the ideas and motivation. But to reach the mass audience...no...those days are probably past." In the 1980s and early 1990s,

Lloyd Cole, first with The Commotions and then solo, was a genuine pop star - one whose picture covered the music newspapers, and he became accustomed to being hailed for his academic centred lyrics that were packed with references to literature and were beautiful songs too. Despite record label hassles and a music industry undergoing significant change - and despite the hype - he has continued to do what he has always done : music with an intellectual touch. "In 1984 I thought I was the one of the world's best songwriters. I still think I have something of my own, something no one else has. Although no one will care", explains Lloyd Cole with a wry smile. After many years of stripped-down/spartan acoustic music, he felt that he wanted to play with a rock and roll band again, the very same as the time when he worked on the acclaimed discs "Lloyd Cole" and "Don't get weird on me, babe" 1990 and 1991.

Thus, for "Standards", he has brought along drummer Fred Maher and bassist Matthew Sweet, but also his son Will Cole on guitar. "I've lectured on songwriting and like to analyze, ponder and discuss pop music, but the songs I like best are the ones that just come...those that can not be explained. So it was now...for the first time in a long time I dared to be more bombastic and epic in my lyrics. It feels so good, not to be cautious or restrained", Lloyd Cole claims.

Lloyd Cole - not commercially available...

Lloyd is trying to be more available this year, apparently. But there was a time when (and the Commotions) were *everywhere*. Found an ace blog (http://greatwhitewonders.blogspot.co.uk), talking about rare records:

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Lloyd - Standards - fab review - "Dad rock!" lol

Why I dislike warm weather

I come across as very miserable in the summer. We seem to struggle with weather in the UK, to the extent where folks are grateful for small patches of sun.
I'm not grateful for it. I refuse to be defined, molded, shaped, dictated to or controlled by the weather! lol. My mood is independent of it.
It is inconvenient. I can do less.
Ok, let's try for some bad things about sunny weather, and some good ones.
1.  Need to slap on suncream all the time
2.  It's hot. I find that uncomfortable. It makes me miserable. Miserable isn't fun.
3.  We are all expected to sit outside when we go to a cafe or bar. I burn in the sun. I'd rather sit inside. In the UK, those that smoke have taken over outside. I don't smoke.
4.  Summer clothes are just not stylish. Acres of white flesh. Give me autumn any day. When it's really hot, how can you look good? I ain't getting no spray tan.
5.  Hayfever. Sinuses. Humidity.
6.  Friends. They want to sit in the sun. I don't. I end up on my own. See also family.
7.  It's expected to like the sun. I end up seeming weird(er) to folk
8.  Sleeping is much more comfortable when it's not hot
9.  Weather forecasters, parents, everyone just *talks* about the weather, about the sunshine. I don't. There are other things to talk about I think. 
10. It's implied that it's unhealthy to not be tanned (my mum maintains this). Why is this? I'm very very pale. I'm fine with that.
11.  Swimming and stuff seems to go hand-in-hand with sunny stuff. I can't swim.
12.  Out-doors'y stuff seems to go hand-in-hand with sunny weather. I don't really do out-doors'y stuff. Well, maybe a picnic. Under a brolly tho' (see below) *sigh*
13. Wasps.
1.  It rains less when it's sunny, and thus I can use my bike
2.  Other folks seem to like the sun. That in itself is good, 'cause it's nice to be around folks who are cheerful

Basically, weather is just weather. Full stop.
Do whatever you want to do! Be happy! Whatever the weather!
What a selfish whinge-bag I really am.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Lloyd Cole - Standards - my review

I posted this on Lloyd's Facebook page. Now I read it back...it's a bit fawning...but hey, I'm a huge fan. I got a chord song book of his signed at a gig last year, and I couldn't actually speak.
If I still listened to Vinyl, then my Lloyd albums (I have them all) would be totally worn out. I have "Standards" on CD (having gone thro' the wonderful part-funding exercise), and I won't be the only one to say that it has 3 or 4 songs which are so SO gloriously *musical* and fresh amidst Lloyd's catalogue, full of vigour and reinvention. This is a lively and spirited record, and I like it a great deal...(and these songs joined my playlist alongside 17 other greats such as Cut Me Down, Past Imperfect and Don't Look Back). ELEGANT indeed!

Lloyd on Swedish TV last week

Lloyd Cole is on Swedish TV, seems like a chat show, he's 55 minutes in and plays out the show. Can't say it's his best work (with the house band), but it's his new single, so that's something...
You can listen to it here :

Thinking about a record player

I've reached a point in my life whereby a record player, once again, would be cool. Seemingly, everyone else agrees. Except my 14 and 12 yr old sons, but give them chance...! All my CD collection is on my computer, all 600+ albums as FLAC, optical out to a smashing amp and speakers.
Hell...this is all a bit geeky, even as I write it!
But at least my living room looks pleasant, no cables, no ugly computers, even the speakers are lovely wood.
And maybe a record player...just looks *nice*.
My youngest son said to me "but why would anyone want to listen to an Album? a load of songs all by the same person!? why?"

Sunday, 16 June 2013


I've enough regrets to last a lifetime. Enough guilt to start a religion. Enough mistakes to write a manual. How much JackDaniels in this!?

Saturday, 15 June 2013


Emotional "fullness". That's what I call it. That feeling of being full-to-burst...of a real need to experience beauty, creativity, just SOMETHING...
To drive through the Austrian mountains, to sit in St Marks Square (Florence, not Manchester).
Why is this important?
Well, philosophising about life feels...well...fake? Why is it necessary? Why not just sit, and knit, and have a cup of tea and maybe a custard cream?
Well, I *do* do that!
But sometimes...it just isn't enough.
Maybe tomorrow I'll consciously work on some unfinished songs, or start that novel/life-story I threaten to write. It might be something. It might be - whilst not unique - interesting.

Friday, 14 June 2013


Tidied up the blog, and put more content into the Tab headers.

Lloyd Cole - Standards

Lloyd Cole funded recording his new album with the help of a good number of fans, me included! Thus, I got a special edition of it today 2 weeks ahead of release, SO excited…

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Crappy Songs

“She said I’m trying to write my novel, he said neither am I”.
A lyric I think by his Lordship Mr Lloyd of Cole (I’m a big fan).
So…is there a ‘novel’ in me?
I think not.
Because *humility* is my middle name.
Although I’m too humble to admit to it.
But yeah. More songs to write. Or more accurately, not finish.