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Posted on 31/10/2012

I’m back in Dakar for a few weeks to help my friends from Think Zik! with the production of Faada Freddy’s first solo album outside of Daara J. We already did some work on this project in July (previous post here), and we’re back here to try to get most of the tracking done. The arrangements are mainly done with vocals, so it is essential to have oustanding vocalists, and fortunately some of the best from Paris will be joining us in the coming days… I’ll post an update sometime next week. Faada is a fantastic singer, so it’s a real pleasure to be a part of this, and I think we’re going to get a great result. Faada’s facebook page is here. He opened up for Imany at la Cigale in Paris in September, here’s a short excerpt:

John Bonham

Posted on 21/10/2012

What a drummer he was… love these solo drum tracks from Led Zeppelin’s last album, “In through the Out Door”, recorded in Abba’s Polar studios in Stockholm in 1978. Raw, rock’n’roll energy and sound, yet such an amazing groove and pocket: the best of both worlds.


Posted on 13/10/2012

I was in the studio this week recording for Tété. I think he’s one of the most talented artists of his generation, and I have enjoyed his music for many years now, so I was more than thrilled when the opportunity came along to participate in the recording of his new album. My old friend Julien Delfaud is co-producing with Tété, as well as recording and mixing the record. It was some very creative and rewarding days in the studio, and I think we came up with some cool parts. In any case, the record is looking to be very strong: fantastic songwriting, great playing, and Tété’s vocals are better than ever. This is Tété’s first record working with Julien, and the combination is working frightfully well.
The album should be released early next year on Cinq-7/Wagram. Tété’s Facebook is here, and he is constantly updating it with new content, so it should be a space to watch over the coming months, as the album release approaches.


Posted on 08/10/2012

And now for something slightly off-topic. My sister, Lea Thau, produces a great radio show in Los Angeles: “Strangers”. She’s working in collaboration with KCRW, which by the way is a fantastic station for music. “Strangers” is a story-telling show with true stories from everyday people. Each person tells a story per show, and they can be as funny, crazy and unexpected as they can be intimate, sad or uplifting. I really recommend you check this out, she has done 19 episodes since she started earlier this year, and you can listen to the podcasts on iTunes.

Here’s a recent story from Lyena Strelkoff, “Falling Slowly”.

And another one, “Cop Lover”, from Carl Kozlowski:

Lea is starting a Kickstarter campaign to fund season two, and could use your support. In any case, it’s always a great help just to check out the show, share it with friends and maybe give a good rating on iTunes. But if you have the possibility to help financially, it will help her keep the program going and expand it. Here’s a video presenting the show and the Kickstarter campaign. Click here if you want to find out more.

VOX Continental

Posted on 01/10/2012

The trouble with making a portable version of the Hammond organ, that I talked about in my post about the Clavia C2D, is in no way a recent phenomenon. Way back in 1962, Pop and Rock & Roll bands were starting to use Hammond organs, particularly semi-portable versions like the M-3. Though lighter than a B3, they were still monstrous, heavy machines to carry around. At the time, the Hammond company was still attached to using tonewheels as sound generators, which is basically a set of spinning metallic wheels, one per note, spinning in front an electro-magnetic pickup. Without getting into the details, for one organ you need a lot of spinnings metallic wheels (typically 96), a motor to spin them, a lot of pickups, and the result is a very heavy instrument, no matter how you try to reduce the size and weight. So there was a huge market for an innovative company to come up with a new way to generate the sound, and create a light, portable organ.

The Vox Continental

That company was JMI from the UK, who by the early sixties were already having an enormous success with their VOX amplifiers. One of the owners of the company had a history in organ production, and came up with a transistor-based design that, while maintaining an interface fairly similar to that of a Hammond organ (including drawbars), was completely different from Hammond’s technology under the hood. This allowed for a much lighter instrument, suited to the many bands touring at the time.

John Lennon on stage with a Vox Continental

The VOX Continental organ was instantly a huge success, and became an integral part of the sound of the 60’s. One of the most famous users is Ray Manzarek of the Doors – it is impossible to imagine the sound of the Doors without the VOX Continental – and there is a long list of other users that have helped make this instrument a classic.

Ray Manzarek live with the Doors and the Vox Continental in 1966 at the Whisky A Go Go

I have had a VOX Continental for several years now, and while I don’t dare take it on the road (my trusted Nord Stage does a very good imitation for live uses), I use it on almost every session I do. It can create soft, flute-like textures, aggressive chords, psychedelic tones, cheesy vintage sounds.. Used with effects pedals, the applications are endless.

Recording Vox Continental for Piers Faccini’s album “Two Grains of Sand”
(photo credit: Jeremiah)

The model I own was built in Italy in the late sixties. JMI could barely keep up with demand in the UK, so to supply the booming American market, JMI licensed the design in 1964 to their North American distributor, the Thomas Organ Company, and the story of the VOX Continental took a strange twist. The Thomas Organ Company started building Continentals in America in 1965 using American labor, but they soon realized that it would more cost-effective to set up a factory in Italy, where workers from accordion manufacturing had the necessary skills, but were much cheaper than their American counterparts. JMI was strongly opposed to this move, but had no legal way of stopping the plan, and though JMI did manage to ban the Italian models from the UK market, by early 1967 the Thomas Organ Company were producing VOX Continentals in Italy in huge numbers. While I have never had a chance to try a UK or American model, I am very happy with the model I own which was built by the inexpensive Italian workers.

Needless to say, an instrument of this age requires maintenance from time to time, and just this week the incredible Stéphane Archambault fixed a dead note on my Continental in less than 2 minutes. This operation could have taken hours or days for somebody not familiar with the complicated wiring of the instrument, but Stéphane identified a dead soldering in a matter of seconds, and the instrument is almost as good as new.

Stéphane at work on my Continental

For further reading, I strongly recommend this site: Vox Showroom. They are a very good source of information on every piece of VOX gear ever built.

Some classic tracks featuring the VOX Continental: