Join The Mutual Admiration Society Golden Shred Guitar Playing

Join The Mutual Admiration Society Golden Shred Guitar Playing

Golden Shred: Morse, Luthaker, Vai, Lee and Graydon guest on a guitar led instrumental album which takes 60s classics and gives them new life.

 

Join The Mutual Admiration Society Golden Shred Guitar PlayingOnce upon a time, two school friends started playing music together. After graduating, one of them, Sterling Ball, joined his father Ernie, who at the time was running a small company making guitar strings. This fledgeling company grew, of course, into a much bigger entity and started to make guitars too. Sterling is now Chief Executive Officer of that company… Ernie Ball Music Man. So, join The Mutual Admiration Society golden shred guitar playing with the company of great musicians.

In 1983 Sterling met up again with John Ferraro, his music partner from school and suggested they start a band to tour the local club scene. John recruited his college mate, Jim Cox, and they formed Biff Baby’s All Stars. The intention was for Sterling, normally a bass guitarist, to play the lead but another longtime friend had other ideas…Albert Lee had known Sterling since they met at a concert in 1972, and he wanted to be part of this new band. He was Albert Lee, so he was in, and Sterling went back to playing bass. This band of friends went on to tour for 30 years!

Fast-forward to 2017 and Sterling suggested they do an album together. What started as a project for these longtime friends grew into something so much bigger. As various guitar legends heard about the get-together, and much like Lee all those years ago, they decided they wanted to a part of it. And so The Mutual Admiration Society was born.

The first track is the Jesse Winchester composed Payday Song. A country stomp with gorgeous fluid playing from all involved. A crystal clear picked solo is the highlight of a familiar standard.

Next is The In Crowd, written by Billy Page, but probably best known from the cover by Brian Ferry. It takes on another life as an instrumental and is graced by the trademark sound of Steve Morse who puts in a sterling (!) performance as usual. A beautifully constructed and original solo without too much double picking and played with real feeling.

Checkin’ Up On My Baby is the Sonny Boy Williamson blues tune covered by Gary Moore and John Mayall amongst others. Here it gets a rebuild, with great organ tones behind every ‘verse’ and providing a cracking solo too. Sterling Ball is on his own here, proving what a good guitarist he is. Baby Please Don’t Go was written by Big Joe Williams. The definitive version is, in my opinion, to be found on Never Turn Your Back on a Friend by the criminally underrated Budgie. This does get close, however, as we get Steve Luthaker doing all of the guitar work and blending in a lovely solo.

Treat Her Right was written by Roy Head and Gene Kurtz as a country blues number. Here it becomes a delightful shuffle with the warmth further enhanced by a Jim Cox keyboard solo. Reminiscent at times of Green Onions, it moves along very pleasantly.

Sugar Shack was a big hit in 1963 for Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs and its inclusion here is thanks to Steve Vai who, apparently has wanted to play this since he was 4 years old. He plays a fascinating wah, wah on the verses before launching into an impressive, very clever interpretative solo. Chuck Berry’s Memphis, Tennessee now comes with a mandolin! A straightforward, countrified reading of this well-known song with Sterling on guitar and mandolin. Most successfully covered by Ray Charles, Cryin’ Time was composed by Buck Owens. Here it becomes a “British Country” tune thanks to the amazing style and performance of Albert Lee.

Now, how about some Jackson 5? Their huge hit I Want You Back is covered here. It sounds so familiar and yet, with Sterling’s picking carving out the verses on both lead and bass it sounds so different. Even more outrageous, how about a Disney Medley? Suggested by the guest guitarist, none other than John Petrucci, this mix of When You Wish Upon a Star and Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah (plus a couple I didn’t know) is transformed by Petrucci’s fretboard work. He turns them into lessons in how to transform the light-hearted into serious guitar workouts. Tremendous fun!

Hank Williams gets the Albert Lee treatment on Hey Good Lookin’. Inevitably, another country approach, brilliantly executed. The penultimate tune is the only original on the album. Composed by Ferraro, Cox and Ball it features Jay Graydon on guitar. Graydon is a noted composer, producer and session musician, responsible for hits by Earth, Wind and Fire, George Benson and Manhattan Transfer to name but few. An almost tropical feel to this, so how they arrived at the title Strip Mall Gourmet I have no idea. Good interplay between guitar and keyboards.

Finally, we get the Guy Clark penned Heartbroke. Clark was a prolific country singer and composer. This song has been covered by Ricky Skaggs and is another excursion into beautifully played country music. A bonus of a bass solo has been imaginatively inserted too.

Before I summarise, a confession:
Within my 2000+ CD collection, you will find every session Steve Morse has ever done (and that is a hell of a lot!). I also own an Ernie Ball Music Man Steve Morse Signature Edition guitar (the original one, with the bewildering array of pick-ups and switches). I’ve followed him since his Steve Morse Band days and celebrated his recruitment into my favourite band, Deep Purple, knowing he could help them become great again. However, although his presence is the reason I bought the CD, there is so much more to this work and, I promise no bias.

Overall then, what you get here is a very country blues feeling collection, interspersed with rockier aspects provided by the guest guitarists. Possibly a little too heavy on the country for some tastes, but if you want time to pass pleasantly and effortlessly, then this is the soundtrack for it.

Thoroughly enjoyable, even if it will only go in the CD player when I want to lie back and relax with an instrumental album and a decent bottle of red wine; and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Join The Mutual Admiration Society Golden Shred Guitar Playing

The Band:
Sterling Ball; bass, electric and acoustic guitar, mandolin, ukulele
John Ferraro; drums
Jim Cox; keyboards

Special Guests: (all guitarists!)
Steve Morse
Steve Luthaker
Steve Vai
Albert Lee
Jay Graydon

Additional Musicians:
Jeremy Moyers; steel guitar
Dave Stone; stand up bass
Brad Hayman; slap bass

Sterling Ball, John Ferraro, Jim Cox – The Mutual Admiration Society – Mascot Label Group

SEVENpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Tracklisting:

  1. Payday Song
  2. The In Crowd (Steve Morse)
  3. Checkin’ Up On My Baby
  4. Baby Please Don’t Go (Steve Luthaker)
  5. Treat Her Right
  6. Sugar Shack (Steve Vai)
  7. Memphis (aka Memphis, Tennessee)
  8. Cryin’ Time (Albert Lee)
  9. I Want You Back
  10. Disney Melody
  11. Hey Good Lookin’ (Albert Lee)
  12. Strip Mall Gourmet (Jay Graydon)

 

The album was recorded at Broken Prop Studio in California; produced by Ball, Ferraro, Cox, Engineered by Bill Evans, tracked by Gordon Rustvold, mixed by Rich Mouser, and mastered by Robert Vosgien.

 

Musicians Gather to Record The Mutual Admiration Society

Musicians Gather to Record The Mutual Appreciation Society

Musicians Gather to Record The Mutual Admiration Society

Sterling Ball, John Ferraro & Jim Cox will be releasing The Mutual Admiration Society on 19 January 2018 via Mascot Label Group.

 

Check out the first song ‘Sugar Shack’ ft Steve Vai here:

 

The seeds of The Mutual Admiration Society were planted a long time ago, back in 1972 to be precise. A young Sterling Ball, was introduced to the sound of Albert Lee by his father, Ernie Ball. It was during his time in Country Rock band Head, Hands & Feet, who were opening for Jethro Tull at a local show and Ball went to see them two nights in a row and then for a third successive night at Hollywood’s Whiskey A Go Go. He was hooked, they met the next day and developed a life-long friendship.

Sterling and John Ferraro went to school together in Junior High; in high school, they started playing music together. After high school, Sterling joined a very small Ernie Ball Company (and later became CEO of Ernie Ball Music Man) and John and went on to College at Long Beach State where he met Jim Cox.

Fast forward to 1983 when they formed Biff Baby’s All Stars – a loose and fun collective that toured the world for 30 years. Sterling wanted to start a band to play the Southern California club scene. He was always the bass player but loved playing guitar. This band was going to be his chance to play guitar.  He called John and told him about it; John was in! Jim wasn’t far behind. He then asked his brother Sherwood who was an LA session singer and voice-over artist. He also roped in his friend Freebo to play bass. He told Albert about it and Albert said, “I want to play in it.”  So, it was back to playing bass for Sterling.

A 45 min jam of Radar Love at Sterling’s 30th Birthday party was enough to convince Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs, Deep Purple, Kansas, Flying Colors) whilst a music and BBQ bonding session with John Petrucci (Dream Theater) added him to the long list of stellar collaborators. Sterling and Steve Lukather became close through a mutual friend and master producer, guitarist, and writer, Jay Graydon.  Other players would come visit would end up sitting in at gigs, Steve Vai joined them during a show for the Casey Lee Ball Foundation – a  non-profit organization to raise money for paediatric kidney research.

John Petrucci (Dream Theater) was thinking of joining the Ernie Ball Music Man roster. John came to San Luis Obispo and they met at Sterling’s house for one of his barbecue parties. They talked guitars and stayed up late listening to everyone from Buddy Emmons to Ted Greene.

One day Sterling called John and said, “Let’s make a record together, just you and I.”  It was a good intention, but The Mutual Admiration Society ended up being the end result.  The album was recorded at Gordon Rustvold’s Broken Prop Studio in Fountain Valley California; produced by Ball, Ferraro, Cox, Engineered by Bill Evans, Tracked by Gordon Rustvold, mixed by Rich Mouser,  and mastered by Robert Vosgien.

Steve Morse heard a song and pretty much asked if he could participate. You don’t say “no” to Steve Morse if he wants to play on a record. The result? The Dobie Gray classic The In Crowd, Morse said; “Sterling and I have known each other for over 30 years. I’ve always enjoyed playing with Jimmy, John, and him. This was a project that I really wanted to jump into after I heard it. After listening to the great groove on In Crowd, I asked if I could add some guitar to that. Luckily, they agreed!  I approached it as if we were playing a show together; when John brings down the band with a certain type of snare hit, I tried to imagine us at a little club somewhere having a blast. This is a fun record, and we all got to hear the whole thing together, laughing and smiling the whole time.”

Then, Lukather heard Steve played and wanted to play on a track. He recorded the Delta Blues Baby, Please Don’t Go at 12 times Grammy Nominated producer, Jay Graydon’s Garden Rake Studio.

Steve Vai heard the tracks and asked if we would consider cutting an old favourite track of his from his youth, Sugar Shack. “I can count on one crippled hand the amount of times I actually asked someone if I can play on their record and this was one of them. When Sterling gave me the green light and asked what song I would like his excellent combo to work up, the song that came to mind was the old 1963 hit by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, Sugar Shack. For some reason, that song was huge for me when I was 4 years old, and it stuck! My goal with the melody was to try and retain the innocence and charm of the original.”

Albert saw a picture from the sessions on Facebook from the road and sent a message, “I hope there is room for me!” and so Buck Owens’ Crying Time and Hank Williams’ Hey Good Looking came together.

John Petrucci was concerned with what he would play. “When I heard a few of the early recordings Sterling had done for this album and how much fun my brothers-in-shred were having playing on it, I just knew I had to be a part of things; and therefore, was so thrilled when he said, ‘Of course! ” Petrucci said.

Continuing he adds; “Truth is, I really wasn’t sure what tune to do and the fact that Sterling was paying homage to music that he grew up with and had such special meaning to him, it was a bit intimidating trying to pick a song to play on. That’s why I was so happy when Sterling (knowing I was a huge Disnerd) suggested playing a Disney song together. I thought it was the perfect idea! In keeping with the spirit of the album’s classic song selections, we decided that a medley of tunes from a couple of 1940’s animated Disney movies and some old-school Disneyland/Disney World theme park songs would make for the ultimate guitar-powered walk down ‘Main Street USA.”

Other classics such as Sonny Boy Williamsons’ Checkin’ Up On My Baby, Roy Heads’ Treat Her Right (which features in the Commitments), Chuck Berry’s Memphis, Tennessee [aka Memphis] and The Jackson 5’s I Want You Back all get the Mutual Admiration Society’s formidable treatment.

What was supposed to be a record by a drummer and bassist/guitarist turned into the Mutual Admiration Society.  An unintended celebration of up to forty years of friends making music together.

Mascot Label Group is proud to announce a new and exciting alliance with guitar legend Steve Vai’s Favored Nations Records label.

This strategic partnership is a reflection of the synergy created by the respect that Vai’s Favored Nations has garnered as one of the record industry’s leading boutique guitar oriented recording label, and the strength offered by Mascot Label Group as one of the bigger and still growing independent purveyors of recorded music in the world.

Steve Vai will continue to spearhead his label’s artists and repertoire department, but Favored Nations Entertainment will now benefit from the advantages of Mascot’s well-established business structure, which will provide strong marketing, publicity, and distribution on a worldwide basis.

Musicians Gather to Record The Mutual Appreciation Society

Steve Vai Teams Up With Mascot Label Group

Steve Vai Teams Up With Mascot Label Group

Steve Vai Teams Up With Mascot Label Group

Mascot Label Group is proud to announce a new and exciting alliance with guitar legend Steve Vai’s Favored Nations Records label.

This strategic partnership is a reflection of the synergy created by the respect that Vai’s Favored Nations has garnered as the record industry’s leading boutique guitar oriented recording label, and the strength offered by Mascot Label Group as one of the bigger, still growing and dependable independent purveyors of recorded music in the world. Ed van Zijl, Mascot Label Group, “This is another great step for Mascot Label Group. We are always looking to move forward and collaborate with the best musicians and minds in the business, so we are very excited to be working with the prestigious Favored Nations Entertainment and with the great Steve Vai. Our future together will be very exciting.”

Steve Vai will continue to spearhead his label’s artists and repertoire department, but Favored Nations Entertainment will now benefit from the advantages of Mascot’s well-established business structure, which will provide strong marketing, publicity, and distribution on a worldwide basis.

Steve Vai, “We are absolutely thrilled that Favored Nations will be partnering with the Mascot label in Mascot overseeing all FN day to day biz. Ed van Zijl and Mascot have a powerful infrastructure including marketing, accounting, distribution and artist development and have always been a tremendously artist friendly camp. This partnership will also be freeing up more of my time to focus on the A&R function I enjoy most in owning a label. 
 
“And I’m happy to report my first signing under this new deal, “The Mutual Admiration Society” presented by Sterling Ball, John Ferraro and Jim Cox. This record is a dream treat for the lovers of melodic beautiful sounding guitar. Along with the special guest artists who have contributed to this record, Sterling Ball’s unique technique and tone on the guitar is a surprise highlight.”  

In addition to all future Favored Nations products, Mascot Label Group will also manage the re-release of the label’s back catalogue.

Founded in 1999, Favored Nations provides a platform for artists of the highest calibre to deliver exciting, energetic, and emotional performances in a market that was virtually invented by founder Steve Vai. Favored Nations artists have included Johnny A., Larry Carlton, Peppino D’Agostino, Marty Friedman, Johnny Hiland, Allan Holdsworth, Eric Johnson, Stanley Jordan, Steve Lukather, Novecento, John Petrucci, Eric Sardinas, Neal Schon, Dave Weiner, The Yardbirds, and Dweezil Zappa, among others.

Favored Nations’ inaugural release with Mascot will be the debut by Sterling Ball’s new band, Mutual Admiration Society, which sees Ball teaming with drummer John Ferraro and keyboardist Jim Cox. Produced by the band, the record was mixed by Rich Mouser and engineered by Bill “The Sonic Doctor” Evans (Flying Colors, Galactic Cowboys, Neal Morse), whose ground-breaking mix technology, Harmonic Phrase Analysis, allows mixes to be created with unequalled transparency and detail. Special guests on the album include Steve Morse, Steve Lukather, Steve Vai, Albert Lee, John Petrucci, and session legend Jay Graydon.

Sterling Ball , “When John Ferraro, Jim Cox and I set out the make this record, it was a passion project to celebrate our love for music and guitar. It’s since grown to an incredible project featuring some of the greatest guitarists in the world, and more importantly life-long friends.  It’s beyond an honor to be the first release by Steve Vai on Favored Nations, whom I consider to have one of the most discerning voices in guitar related music today”
 
Mascot Label Group is a 100% independent record company specialized in guitar oriented music with a focus on rock, metal and (blues) guitar. The company has offices in New York, London, Paris, Milan, Cologne, Stockholm and Rotterdam (headquarters).

Artists on the MLG roster and in the catalogue: Joe Bonamassa, Volbeat, Beth Hart, Black Stone Cherry, Ayreon, Robert Cray, Shaman’s Harvest, Eric Johnson, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Quinn Sullivan, Eric Gales, 10 Years, Little Hurricane, Gov’t Mule, Black Country Communion, Masters of Reality, Johnny Lang, Robben Ford, Walter Trout, Black Label Society, Sadus, Agent Steel, Eleven Pictures, Bootsy  Collins, Monster Truck, The Rides, Warren Haynes, Flying Colors, Steve Lukather, etc.

MLG owned labels: Mascot Records – Provogue – Music Theories Recordings -Cool Green Recordings

 

Steve Vai Teams Up With Mascot Label Group

Review of Steve Vai @ St David's Hall, Cardiff

Steve Vai - St Davids Hall - Sept 2013_0001l

Steve Vai - St Davids Hall - Sept 2013_0023l Very dramatic entry, opened the set of an extroverted showman, from the off we were being entertained by a band of three top-notch professional musicians then to complete the quartet Steve Vai the talented mega-guitarist. Steve Vai is all about the music and is less reliant on the backdrop of video images than fellow Ibanez guitarist Joe Satriani. There is no argument that Steve Vai is a real genius on the guitar using a plethora of guitars across the two and three-quarter hour set.

Steve Vai - St Davids Hall - Sept 2013_0032l
He ensured that the changes were for a musical purpose every guitar had a different sound creating a variation in tonal textures and style from heavy rock, grungy rock and then a gentler tone and throughout it was the melodic major line that was important and lead the rest of the band as they filled in the gaps creating a swirl of sound that rose up to the rafters and across the tiers of seating in St David’s Hall.

Steve Vai - St Davids Hall - Sept 2013_0257lHe uses every bit of the guitar demanding every inch of the instrument to bend under his will creating squeals and chords whether playing up the neck with both hands reminiscent of Joe Satrinai, using his tongue, teeth and playing with one hand the guitar is an integral part of Steve Vai’s whole persona. Thus the guitar moaned, squealed, talked and Steve Vai - St Davids Hall - Sept 2013_0057linteracted at an electric level, there was no need for vocals this was complete musical communication the audience’s reaction said it all they were rapturous.

Steve Vai - St Davids Hall - Sept 2013_0241lThis was not an egocentric set all about Vai, his interaction with the band was open and honest this was a quartet of musicians who enjoyed the music they were playing and each other’s skills. This was demonstrated by a blistering bass solo by Philip using all of his six strings to brilliant effect creating the full gamut of sounds including a strong, loud and awesome funky interlude. Steve also interacted with the audience building an atmosphere, creating humour and a feeling of bonhomie, this was achieved by a microphone being bought into the stage and Steve directly talking to the audience, who interacted with him and took pleasure, if sitting in the front rows, from the number of plectrums he threw into the crowd. The use of keys played by Dave Weiner the second guitarist added yet another tonal layer to the aural experience that is Steve Vai. Steve Vai - St Davids Hall - Sept 2013_0206l

Then Steve left the stage for the first time of the evening for a costume change and were treated to an acoustic interlude provided by Dave Weiner, which was full of vim and passion with swirls of Spanish Flamenco using 2 capa; Dave is a skilful guitarist who adds so much to the show whether playing electric or acoustic adding little riffs of pure pleasure.

The next part of the show was opened with ‘Weeping China Doll’ with thumping drums courtesy of Jeremy Colson, dramatic chords and loud feeling of despair. There was a brilliant moment of Phillip on the bass and Steve harmonising creating a deep raw demi-duet whilst the drumming and second Steve Vai - St Davids Hall - Sept 2013_0098lguitar kept the who tune in the round so there was never a moment of self-indulgence.

Clangers came to town as Vai got the Cardiff audience to participate with noises that would have been at home with this popular show, but this was fun the audience was eating out of his hands, but there was still more surprises to come. The drummer went missing and Vai shouted for >him and with than he re-appeared with a mini-kit strapped on and came to the front, we were treated to some interesting drumming and interplay between Steve and Jeremy.

There was one vocal track Steve Vai’s ‘Rescue Me or Bury Me’; where sitting on a seat he sang for his supper in his own indomitable style this was sung as poetry, he is not a great singer but he knows how to perform and was accompanied by Philip Bynoe on a Piccolo Bass so another texture added for interest and our delight.

Cardiff, home to the Dr Who experience, was then treated to a monster shape that would have been at home with those exhibits as Steve Vai returned to a darken stage covered in laser lights that moved and changed colour as he played on entertaining the whole time the background of roving search-lights across and around the stage added to feeling that this was something from another time and place who had invaded our space with a wall-to-wall sound.

This was a dynamic show, Steve Vai was no static front-man but as he played the guitar he used the space on the stage dancing across and around generating energy, he never missed a beat, this was a show of electric music delivered at the highest level creating a stratosphere of sound that melded and blended and at times was contorted and forced into a melodic shape that created a wheel of musical colour with every shade incorporated into a complete organic musical fiesta.