Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Philippine Embassy Consular Section in Riyadh - a salute!

Amidst the negative publicity that government employees are known to project, there are some incidents that give a breeze of fresh air to dispel this notion.

Today an incident like that happened to me.

The past few days saw me travelling back and forth to the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh because I needed to renew my passport. Unlike before when one can just wait for an hour or two before getting the much coveted document, I was informed this time that they had run out of booklets to use for the new passports.

"Just leave your old passport here so we can process it then call us after a day or two." I was told.

That was 2 days ago. When I called earlier today, I was happy to hear that my passport was finished and just waiting to be picked up. So after work, I went directly to the compound with the hopes of getting home immediately after getting the document.

But this didn't go smoothly as I initially expected.

I came at around 3:30pm, which is half an hour before closing time. All the other people that came after me already got their respective passports and left. The embassy staff looking for my passport can't seem to find it. 4:00pm came, the end of official working hours, but still no sign of my passport. After that, another staff came to help but still nothing. I even volunteered to go inside to help but apparently that's not allowed.

I was getting anxious. Half an hour has passed 4pm and still they can't find it. There are four people now looking for it in all the shelves and tables over and over.

Then a thought suddenly struck me.

There I was, looking inside from outside the counter, and seeing these people frantically looking for my passport as if there was no tomorrow. Is this for real? These are the people that are supposedly too self-absorbed and don't care about about the public they are serving. Yet they’re doing everything they can for this non-VIP person who’s the only hindrance for them to get out of the office. I was thinking that these guys could easily just dismissed me and tell me to come back tomorrow, but they didn’t! I know it’s their job but for me who had experienced one time too many the kind of demeaning and condescending treatment from other government agencies, this came as a complete surprise.

So after almost an hour after their regular working hours, one of them finally saw my passport. I was so relieved and noticed that they looked as relieved as I was. One of them apologized for the inconvenience I went through. After the smoke cleared, I felt very happy not just because I finally saw my passport, but also because of the unselfish effort that I saw unexpectedly from these people.

So to the staff of the Consular Section in the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, I’d like to thank you again for your effort and may you continue to give the public the same selflessness that our country sorely needs at these times.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

"Machine Head" - Deep Purple

Is there any rock dude who hasn’t heard of the immortal “Smoke On The Water”? For some it’s the most overplayed piece of crap in the history of music. For some, the intro is the ultimate guitar riff.

Luckily for Deep Purple, the album that included this classic isn’t just good for that one song. “Machine Head”, released in 1972 by this supergroup, is worthy of being called one of the most prominent rock albums in the development of the heavy metal and speed metal genre. For all guitar-inclined musicians all over like myself, it is a treasure chest of kick-ass riffs and a combination of classical-music-meets-blues inspired licks.

The album kicks off with the fast-paced “Highway Star”. One of their most recognizable songs, it boasts of complicated guitar and organ solos by Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord, respectively. It was so popular that Nintendo presented a version of the tune in their video game, Rock N’ Roll Racing. “Highway Star” is definitely one of my favorites. We used to jam this song in our cover band and everytime the solo part comes, I get goosebumps all over.

“Maybe I’m Leo” is a somewhat slower piece with a bit of groove going on while “Pictures of Home” begins with an emphatic display of mastery of the drums by Ian Paice. Like most of the songs in this release, both tracks have more that its share of fretboard brilliance by Blackmore and keyboard fireworks by Lord. But the latter has a little something that others don’t have – a rare bass solo by Roger Glover!

The next track, “Never Before”, is the shortest in the list. Aside from that, I felt that this is their weakest track. However, that would be a result of comparing it with the overall might of the other songs in this partuicular album. Compared to any lesser rock songs, this is defintely topnotch.

The last three songs closes the “Machine Head” experience with a loud bang. “Smoke on the Water” doesn’t need any introduction anymore. The next song “Lazy” sounds like a jam to me. It starts out with a Lord organ intro, then followed by an exchange of solos between him and Blackmore. We all know that Blackmore has been declared numerous times a guitar god, but Jon Lord wasn’t gonna make Ritchie walk all over him in this instance, or any other instance for that matter. Jon Lord is unquestionably one of the most talented organ player I’ve ever heard.

Finally the last song “Space Truckin’” has probably the most kick-ass intro riff in the whole set for me. This is the song that I really want to play with our group but unfortunately for me I’m the only in our band who likes it. I wonder why this never reached the same status as "Smoke on the Water". On the other hand, I think it’s better that way. With this scenario, there is a healthy balance between overly popular songs and tunes with less exposure that won't undermine the legacy of this brilliantly-crafted tour de force.

Release: 1972
Tracks listing:
1. Highway Star
2. Maybe I'm A Leo
3. Pictures Of Home
4. Never Before
5. Smoke On The Water
6. Lazy
7. Space Truckin'

Band members:
Ian Gillan - vocals, harmonica
Ritchie Blackmore - lead guitar
Jon Lord - piano, organ, keyboards
Roger Glove - bass guitar
Ian Paice - drums

Friday, April 20, 2007

Ten Easy Rock Songs For Guitar Beginners

When I started playing guitar, nobody taught me how to do it. It wasn’t easy at first. My fretting hand's fingertips were so painful that I couldn’t touch anything for days! But once I got the hang of it, I discovered it was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done. Over the years I would look back at those times and smile thinking how my life was changed the moment I picked up the guitar. It was actually my big sister’s guitar. However it turned out that I was more inclined to it than she was. She eventually turned over all the guitar playing duties to me.

I thought of making a random list of easy guitar songs that beginners might want to try playing, just to get things started. It will cover different genres but the objective is to improve playing, one song at a time. These are the criteria I’ve used for the selection of the songs:

a) Minimal number of chords –the less chords in a song, the easier it is to remember how to play it.
b) Minimal barre chords – barre chords require us to use our fretting hand’s index finger to press all 6 strings in a particular fret. Less barre chords is better for beginners.
c) Familiarity of the song – the songs are some of the most popular during their times.

And since we’re talking about beginner songs here, the primary goal of this list is to give novice players some songs to STRUM the guitar along with. No point in doing any complicated stuff yet. We have to first establish the rhythm within the player. So here it goes, in no particular order:

1. “Horse With No Name” – America
Chords: Em, F#m7sus

2. “Leaving On A Jet Plane” – John Denver
Chords: G, C, D

3. ”No Rain” – Blind Melon
Chords: E, D, A, G

4. “Every Rose Has It’s Thorns” – Poison
Chords: G, C, D, Em

5. “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” – Bob Dylan/ Guns N’ Roses
Chords: G, C, D, Am

6. “One” – U2
Chords: Am, D7, FM7, G

7. “Four Strong Winds” – Neil Young
Chords: C, Dm, G, F

8. “I Remember You” – Skid Row
Chords: G, C, D, Am, Em

9. “Come As You Are” - Nirvana
Chords: Em, D, G, Am, C

10. “Wonderful Tonight” – Eric Clapton
Chords: G, D, C, Em, Am

Finger placement:
C (x-3-2-0-1-0)
D (x-x-0-2-3-2)
D7 (x-x-0-2-1-2)
E (0-2-2-1-0-0)
Em (0-2-2-0-0-0)
A (x-0-2-2-2-0)
Am (x-0-2-2-1-0)
F (x-x-3-2-1-1)
FM7 (x-x-3-2-1-0)
F#m7sus (2-0-0-2-0-0)
G (3-2-0-0-0-3)

D (x-x-0-2-3-2)

D - the chord name
x - E string will not be struck
x - A string will not be struck
0 - D string open
2 - Press G string on 2nd fret
3 - Press B string on 3rd fret
2 - Press e string on 2nd fret

There you go! Most of the songs have similar chords. That way, if we can recall chords from another some and incorporate that chord into another song then you get to practice applied knowledge. Ain't that grand!

Happy practicing!

Related Articles:

Ten Random Tips for Guitar Beginners

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"Appetite for Destruction" – Guns N’ Roses

It was the height of the glam metal scene. Big hair, thick make-up, lipstick, more big hair, spandex pants, colorful costumes and … did I say big hair already? Everything was about the “image”. The music came secondary, at least that’s what my impression was.

Then came the 1987 debut of the band Guns N’ Roses.

It was raw, loud and raunchy. It’s got that in-your-face attitude that seems to taunt you from the first track to the last.

First song from this album that got my attention was “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. Although I’ve heard “Welcome To The Jungle” earlier, it didn’t caught my attention as much as “Sweet Child...” did. I loved the melodic riff that Slash did in the intro. The solos in-between stanzas provided enough tension to support the build-up going to the main solo. And the main solo itself is totally captivating.

However, I learned that Slash hated the intro riff because it was simply a technical exercise and was played only as a joke during a jam session. It turned out that the song that started out with a “joke” riff became one of their well-known songs. “Well-known” is an understatement really. In the Pinoy band scene at that time, a concert where this song won’t be played is as rare as the chemical element Astatine. Yes, it was one of the most overplayed songs then. That was before “Smells Like Teen Spirit” made its presence felt in the early 90’s and grabbed that dubious title. But that‘s a different story altogether.

The aftermath of "Appetite for Destruction" resulted in the departure of Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler for the same reason, but from different perspectives. Adler was kicked out of the group because of substance abuse, while Stradlin decided to leave to get away from substance abuse. It was quite unfortunate as these two were instrumental in achieving the sound that made their debut very successful. Another reason for Stradlin to leave was when Adler was replaced, he apparently felt that the replacement’s sound didn’t work for the band.

I agree with him.

The GNR version sans Stradlin and Adler sounded a bit lacking to me. This is not to discredit the talents of the numerous substitutes that completed the GNR lineup over the years. They are class musicians in their own right. However, I strongly believe that there are some bands that aren’t meant to be splintered. Removing one will take away essential ingredients that makes them unique.

Guns N’ Roses is one of those bands.

I been thinking about this since the group went their separate ways. Would GNR be a different band or will they tread along the hardrock path in the same fashion as “Appetite for Destruction”, if the original line-up remained intact today? I guess the fans will just be contented to these speculations and what-ifs.

Released: 1987

Track listing:
1. Welcome To The Jungle
2. It's So Easy
3. Nightrain
4. Out ta Get Me
5. Mr. Brownstone
6. Paradise City
7. My Michelle
8. Think About You
9. Sweet Child O' Mine
10. You're Crazy
11. Anything Goes
12. Rocket Queen

Band members:
Axl Rose - vocals
Slash - lead guitar, acoustic guitar, rhythm guitar
Izzy Stradlin - rhythm guitar, lead guitar, backing vocals
Duff McKagan - bass, backing vocals
Steven Adler - drums

Sunday, April 15, 2007

"Back In Black" - AC/DC

In the early part of 1980, Bon Scott, lead singer for AC/DC, spent a night of partying which resulted in his fatal alcohol poisoning demise. This incident came as a shock to his band mates. They had been doing very well after their release of "Highway to Hell". After this unfortunate accident, the band came to a crossroad on whether to continue or not.

Did they continue?

Of course they did! At any rate, the decision to go on was beyond any doubt, the best they ever made! The Young brothers got ex-Geordie screamer Brian Johnson as replacement and created their masterpiece "Back in Black" as tribute to their fallen comrade.

I first heard of AC/DC when the horror flick "Maximum Overdrive", a version of Stephen King's short story "Trucks", was shown in the Philippines in 1987. To promote the film, the local radio stations gave considerable airplay to their anthemic song "You Shook Me All Night Long", which was included in the movie soundtrack. Man! After I heard that song, it kept playing in my head over and over. Also, the image of Angus Young strutting the duckwalk and playing lead guitar on the video gave me a lasting impression. What attracted me more was how the solid rhythm section of Malcolm Young, Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd relentlessly laid the foundation for Brian Johnson to dispense his raspy, gut-wrenching vocals.

Once I got enthralled by this song, I started wanting for more. That craving led me to the "Back in Black" album, which is one of the best-selling albums of all time. Thankfully, it turned out that the other songs aren't patsies compared to "You Shook Me…". The album track is definitely another favorite of mine. Its seemingly basic E-D-A riff gets my adrenaline pumping, right (or left) foot stomping and head nodding to the rhythm. Too bad it was covered by Celine Dion (ew!), surprisingly even she was captivated by the song. Could she a be a rocker deep inside that cheesy marshmallow exterior?

Oh my God! Why am I even discussing Celine Dion's musical preferences! Ugh!

"Shoot To Thrill" is another gem. If you had watched Jack Black's movie "School of Rock", you might have heard that the pre-lead portion of this song is quite similar to the song written by the movie's 10-year-old guitar prodigy Zach Mooneyham. My other favorite tracks include "Have A Drink On Me" and the rock statement "Rock N' Roll Ain't Noise Pollution". All AC/DC songs are completely jam-worthy, but I'm guilty of not giving more time to learn the songs enough. I know the whole "You Shook Me.." but still, I want to play along with the whole album.

There's something I noticed though. The riffs for the songs may seem to sound very simple and basic; but there's something that these guys have in their music. That gives them a little more than your average hard rock band. Whatever "that" is, it's something that makes AC/DC special.

Released: 1980

Track listing:
1. Hells Bells
2. Shoot To Thrill
3. What Do You Do For Money
4. Given the Dog a Bone
5. Let Me Put My Love Into You
6. Back In Black
7. You Shook Me All Night Long
8. Have A Drink On Me
9. Shake A Leg
10. Rock And Roll Ain't Noise Pollution

Band Members:
Brian Johnson – lead vocals
Angus Young – lead guitar
Malcolm Young – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Cliff Williams – bass guitar, backing vocals
Phil Rudd - drums

"Moving Pictures" - Rush

"Moving Pictures" is the classic album from the Canadian progressive rock trio of Geddy Lee, Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson. It was released in 1981 and it remains the group's most popular collaboration so far.

I've read about this group for a long time. They first came to my consciousness when I read something about The Dawn around 1987-ish, when Teddy Diaz and the gang were still establishing their hold of the Pinoy rock scene. Rush was mentioned as one of Teddy's influences. I was like "Rush? uh ok". At that time, the internet was still in its developmental stages. So, the only source of music info one can get is through magazines. Most of the popular music magazines at the time feature mostly glam metal band like Poison, Motley Crue and the other popular hair metal groups.

A Rush article wouldn't get coverage in those publications even in a million years.

Back to the present: Over the years, I've gotten enough info about those guys and only recently did I muster enough courage to give it a try. So I ordered a CD of Moving Pictures online through Amazon.

The first thing that came to my mind after hearing it was, "Why did I wait THIS long to get their CD!"

I became part of the millions hooked to the magic weaved by these musical geniuses. The Morse-coded "YYZ" is the clearly the most energetic track in the bunch. But my most favorite would be "Red Barchetta". You could almost feel like you're riding the roadster along a highway feeling the air in your face! "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight" are likewise masterfully crafted musical gems. You can't miss the references the guys make to literary influences they have and it make you admire them even more.

The musical expertise of the group are very much evident in this album. The only thing that bothered me initially is Geddy Lee's somewhat whiney-sounding voice. But after a while, I got used to it and felt that it is actually a factor to the band's unique sound.

Released: 1981

Track listing:
1. Tom Sawyer
2. Red Barchetta
3. YYZ
4. Limelight
5. The Camera Eye
6. Witch Hunt
7. Vital Signs

Band members:
Geddy Lee - bass guitar, vocals
Alex Lifeson - electric and acoustic guitars
Neil Peart - drums and percussion

Friday, April 13, 2007


First ever post here!

Well, this is just something for me to bare my mind about whatever topic I want to talk about, at any time, whenever I can.

Guitars, guitar-related gear, tributes to my guitar heroes, ramblings about my favorite albums, favorite bands, boxing, basketball, technology... what else. It's not limited to those things. I want to try keeping things interesting for me so I'll be posting things that I like.

Just speaking my mind out :D