Reviewed: Sterling by Music Man Ray 34 Bass
When I’m not assailing you, dear reader, with seemingly endless dross in these hallowed pages, I spend my days gainfully employed at your friendly, local guitar store. More often than not when people venture into Bass Corner, down towards the back of the shop, they pick up the P-Bass or Thunderbird that we have safely nestled back there and do their best Flea impersonation. Now, while Leo Fender’s Precision may be one of the most recorded basses in music history, these people are cruelly overlooking a machine that is much more suited to that particular style of playing: the Ernie Ball StingRay, whose honking high mid-range vivacity and balance sits perfectly in the pocket of the more percussive elements of modern music. While they may not sit well with the snobby, classic-rock crowd, there is more than enough colour in the StingRay to render it a welcome addition to any collection. Sterling pays tribute to the mainstay of the So-Cal revolution with their Ray 34.
REVIEWED: FENDER AMERICAN PROFESSIONAL PRECISION BASS
The mood in the Fender factory in the year 1951 must’ve been absolutely electric. With the popularity of Leo and co.’s builds skyrocketing and one of the most profound shifts in popular culture blossoming all around them, I can only imagine what it was like for the people on the tools that gave rise to such mythic instruments as those that we now know to be the gold standard in four and six string design. If ever the question, ‘What does a bass guitar sound like?’ is asked, more likely than not the beast that springs to mind is that year’s deadliest weapon, the Precision Bass. 60 years and countless technological advancements later and still nothing quite compares to that tough, solid monolith of low-end.
REVIEWED: YAMAHA BROAD BASS BB 234, 434 AND 734
If my tinfoil hat and I didn’t know better we’d think that maybe the Yamaha Corporation, not the Rothschilds, were secretly in control of the world. They have their fingers in so many pies, from motorbikes to electronics to grand pianos; that they are the commercial equivalent of that one friend who is too good at Monopoly to play against. Far from being as dystopian as I could suspect though, it seems the whole company is run on the steam of thousands of good ideas. As instrument manufacturers their reputation precedes them; they are one of the handful of builders responsible for the infamous ‘lawsuit’ era of competitive guitar making that kept the big guys on their toes in the 70s. Since then they’ve marched through the decades with a wry grin and a quintessential industriousness as their banner. Add to that foundation a generous dollop of playability and low-end freedom and you have pretty much described their new Broad Bass series of four and five string behemoths.
FENDER AMERICAN PROFESSIONAL JAZZ BASS
Tried and trusted, Fender’s Jazz Bass is a living classic. From the outset its brighter tone, richer midrange and more prominent treble made it a much-loved point of difference to the Precision Bass, and an embraced constant in the ever-changing Fender range. It’s a bass guitar with style, with pizzazz, with oomph and versatility thanks to a couple of well-refined single coil pickups, added controls and a sleek offset body. Like any proven formula, it’s something that you don’t want to mess with too drastically, otherwise risk muddying the sonic personality and the aesthetic appeal of the instrument. With every new iteration of the bass model, it always begs the question: what can Fender do that hasn’t been done before? And after that, what is the impact of these changes and/or additions? With the release of the new American Professional Jazz Bass accompanied by a bunch of new features, it’s time to once again answer these pertinent questions.
Ernie Ball Music Man Cutlass Bass
As the eldest sibling in a reasonably large litter, it has always been my job to bear the focus of my parents as they set off on the first lap of the child-rearing racetrack.
Ernie Ball Music Man 40th Anniversary “Old Smoothie” StingRay Bass
Picture this: the year is 1976. You’re sitting in a sunken lounge lined with shag pile carpeting listening to your brand new copy of Frampton Comes Alive or Songs In The Key Of Life, reading about the dissolution of the Viet Cong. Everybody has been talking about this raucous new wave of bands they’re calling ‘punks’; The Ramones have just put out their first 12”, some ugly English kids calling themselves The Sex Pistols have played two shows to less than fifty people (many of whom would go on to change the world themselves) and it all sounds like the second coming of rock and roll Jesus. You swap the newspaper for a catalogue from your local music store and nestled somewhere around the forth or fifth page is the brand new StingRay Bass. Little do you know the lasting effect just about every detail of that situation is to have on the next forty years!
Guild Starfire Bass Guitar
Sometimes in this job you have what I’ve come to refer to as a ‘Pulp Fiction’ moment. You get a call from the Editor to go and pick up a couple of bits and pieces for the next issue. You’re greeted with an imposing, black tolex case that sits quietly in the back seat all the way home. You lay it out on the table, flick open the latches and your face is bathed in the golden glow of something truly magical. This is exactly what happened to me with the Wine Red Guild Starfire Bass.
Yamaha TRBX204 Bass Guitar
Before getting into this review, it’s worth pointing out that in 20 years of playing in bands, working in music stores, writing for magazines and working with gear companies, this writer has never come across a bad anything from Yamaha. Their quality control and construction standards have never been anything less than gosh- darn impressive, whether you’re talking about an entry level acoustic guitar, or a top-of-the-line Billy Sheehan Attitude Bass. So you know that when it says Yamaha on the headstock it’s going to be reliable. So what’s this particular instrument, the TRBX204, all about?