2009. február 5., csütörtök

Azazello - Chandler Austin Special 1992# 23

Features

Azazello is my Chandler Austin Special guitar, designed by legendary luthier Ted Newman-Jones, and made as No.23 from 1992. There ‘s no “made in” tag anywhere on the guitar, but I doubt that any of the few copies of this model were made outside the US. I'm not familiar with technical terms and wood types, but especially compared to my Fenders, it is lightweight and relativelly small guitar, with good balance. It is most confortable playing while standing, but its rather the shape of the body that is unusual at playing while sitting, than a balance problem.


The body design is the most original thing of this guitar. It is a simple, contoured black body with silver hardware, and a pearl binding and the extremity of the shape suits well its simple and elegant layout. I’ve seen a few “distorted/stretched’ tele style guitars, which I usually like, but no doubt this is the nost elegant. The tele connection is obvious due to the electronics and hardware, but apart from the narrow tele- story this most resembles a wide Gibson, more of an LS5, hence the binding, than a Les Paul.

The body shape suggests a tele in “action” , had it been recorded in movement by a slow speed camera. I’ve never seen a Newman in action, but it would perfectly fit Keefs seventies stage routin, as judged by the pictures…The body is nicely contoured, and has a few bumps and scratches. I've read at a seller’s page that it is made of alder, but the nature of the bumps suggest a more lightweight wood, they are similar to those on my jap strat, which is poplar. It seems like accidents can easily cause small bumps on the body, just like the poplar-strat, unlike my american telecaster, called Behemoth, which is rock solid and heavy.

The two-piece maple neck is scarf-jointed at about 2/3 of its lenght, closer to the tilted headstock, otherwise it is very similar to my tele's, which is a thick, strong U shape. I have big hands and I like that, it's confortable , feels and sounds good. The headstock is strongly tilted backwards, and feature vintage style Kluston keys, that I like the best. Not only they are easy to install strings on, easy to turn, but holds well, and on top of all that, they are not dangerous to the kid (he always goes for the headstock and machine heads of a guitar first, maybe cause they are the shiniest part.) When I first saw this guitar at a vintgae shop, I remember I felt I would have had to replace the tuners with decent ones, which might as well held me back for puchasing it back than. No I know I’ll never-ever replace classic Kluston tuners, they are the best. The neck has a nice, vintage satin lacquer finish and feels good to touch.. having read these reviews I was a bit worried about finish, before I bought this guitar, cause I absolutelly hate shiny sticky finishes. This is definitelly not that kind.

The bridge humbucker is in fact two singles in a line, of which one can be muted by pulling the tone control. I tend to use this feature: I play single most of the time, and only push it form more gain when necessary. This forms a H(S) / S arrangement, that consists of all the beautiful chandler lipstic PU’s. The bridge is hard-tail strat syle with string through body and provides excellent sustain. You can play and hold a note for long wiothout an amplifier.

UPDATE: At the time of purchase I thought this guitar hardly needs any further feature apart from a little cosmetics. I replaced the vintage strap holders to schaller straplocks for more confort. In addition, I added an EMG afterburner push/pull booster for extra gain. Due to the low signal of the lipsticks, whom I mainly use in single mode, this has proved to be very useful, whenever I need to boost solos or just a thicker sound without pedals (e.g. playing at rehearsals on amps I'm not familiar with). However, it also caused some usability issues, as i also wanted to keep the humbucking feature - which I re-located to the volume knob (push to humbucking) and the EMG afterburner was installed at the tone knob. (pull to boost). This virtually makes it a 4-speed guitar (single>single+boost>humbucker>humbucker+boost), but changing "gear" is somewhat tricky - you have to notice that a pull-action causes a reverse effect on the two knobs, and due to loose chickenhead knobs it is hard to keep the intensity of boosting at one position. Hence I can only use maximum boost, instead of having a single tone knob.

Sound

I play blues to relax, and mostly my own stuff, I’m sort of a songwriter who apart from the lyrics., has never went too far from blues ,rockandroll and country basics. That’s what I call music. It absolutelly fits my style, it has a unique, very bright, almost metallic sound, just like an amplified dobro guitar might have. "vibe" is a very good world, it definitelly has a vibe, that i like the most. Maybe its the lipsticks, maybe the guitar is just rightly built. I've seen John Myer playing a strat with such lipstic Pu's at the crossroads fest. Also, i have to admit, that this is the quietest guitar in my collection. You have to turn up the volume a little bit. I play mostly a hybrid fender amp (performer, which I love) and a bunch of pedals, but this one sound the best without pedals. Somehow they kill its tone more than any other guitars tone. It has a very natural acoustic sound, and sounds unnatural with most stompboxes. I tend to use a bit of tremolo and tubescreamer with it.

Action, Fit, & Finish

I play a lot of slide and hammering, when I bought the guitar, the first thing i didm was replace the strings, cause i thought they were .9's. Wrong. It was good old .10 ernie ball, just the strings feel softer on this baby than on the fenders, since it has a shorter scale (menzura?) of the neck. Which is good in a way, I can play faster solos, but makes it impossible to play slide with a medium action. take it like this: its a lead guitar and you dont play slide OR go for higher action, than you dont play lead OR go for stronger strings, medium action, and apart from a decent slide sound, you'll be able to play quite fast, whithout breaking your fingers, which is quite rare for a slide setup. I do this: .11 earnie ball strings, and open D or standard tuning.

Reliability/Durability

I never gig without a backup, if I ever did, even the most durable stuff broke off. I cannot really comment on durability, as i've only own it only for a few monts. This is an old guitar, and it looks solid, thats enough. Under reliability I note something that might be more of a usability problem. The chickenhead knobs turn easily, and I tend to turn down volume accidently when I strung a big chord. Also, the push and pull mechanism easily turns the tone flat. I usually turn the tone midways between flat and sharp, since the guitar has a trebly sound already.

I hate to destroy originality, but i seriously think about replaceing the nice chicken knobs to something more practical. i have to confess, that i never played this guitar live as yet, but I am preparing...

Customer Support

Never tried to reach them, but since the company failed to mention this model on any of its resources, I tend to think, that theres no costumer support, it they admit that they produced this model atall. Furthermore, this is very hard to find any info or pictures on this model on the internet, which suggests that it is in fact a very rare guitar... if I'll have the time, i1ll put together a page dedicated for this beauty on my blog, until then I created a yahoo group for it. Anyone owning, or interested in it, would up or download pic or info, please join, currently I am the only member.


Bottomline

I’ve been playing for 20 years now in the gigging and occasionally recording amateur league. I play a Fender telecaster (am. Stand, 1990) as my main axe, and a japanese strat (1986) , as well as a squier standard tele which I tune in open G-5 strings. I thought this might naturally replace the 5-string Squier, but this sounds so damn good in standard tuning and full-open E slide, that I have never felt like trying it in open G. fact the Squier sound pretty demanding in 5 strings, so I tend to believe that anything would sound good in open-G.

One of my childhood dreams that came true having this guitar. I’ve first seen Ted Newman-Jones's guitar in David Dalton's rolling stones bio, "the first twenty years". thats what led me to the trickery of the five string guitar. I photocopied the guitar plan and decided that once I build a guitar on that template, if I only knew how.

I first saw them, mass produced in a Chandler ad from a 93 Guitar World mag. Altough the ads did not refer to Ted N-J, but the presence of the 5-string model as well as the "austin" brand made it clear. I once seen a 5 string model in England, used, and I hate the fact that i did not buy it straight away. Apart from that, I never ever seen a 5 string model. Once again I saw a 6 string here in Budapest at a local vintage shop, and I did not buy, cause I hoped to find a 5 string model. I managed to buy the very same guitar now, some 6 years later, and I havent ever seen a 5 string model in my life since that London trip in 95.. If you got one, contact me. Don’t be mislead by the cool retro-rock design, It is an acoustic guitar well amplified. In If it would be stoled or lost, maybe I would not replace, maybe just cry.....:)

Production

Below is Lance Keltner's comment from the Gear Page forum, answering my query regarding the production of the Austin Special, which explains a lot.

"Here is a picture of Keith and I with my NEWMAN. My guitar was the one that was used to design the Chandler model. There were Black ones made, and white ones that we agreed to have made in 6 string. Apparently Paul made a few 5 strings and a few basses as well. Don't know where those are. I put the deal together between Newman and Chandler. It didn't work out great and the deal sort of ended after about a year. Nice guitars. Paul did a great job of having them built, and I do believe that Keith saw a production 5 string but I have no way of knowing for sure. One was sent to Rich Robinson and Joe Ely had one. I had a white one with maple board, and a black one with a rosewood board.If anyone ever comes across a 5 string for sale let me know..."
Later on in a reply to a comment Lance added that the only model ever produced with a maple neck is owned by him. But it seems like nobody ever seen a five string model, apart from me.
Lance is now producing and selling his Retro Channel amps as well as a productive musician.

Resources

I collected the few web resources that refer to Chandler Austin Special guitars. Should you find this blog, please feel free to comment or extend it with your pictures or resources.

The official company page... does not offer any information on this model.

Chandler guitar forum on the gear page... featuring the guy who put together the deal between ted and Chandler!

Keith's custom guitars... Really rare and nice guitars, including some Newmans

An oldschool windows theme...
remember Windows 95?


Stones forum on the disappeared designer... but of course there's a guy who saw him in Texas...

British guitar galllery (sold) you know it is priceless

Look at this weird mod... meet the instrument formerly known as Chandler Austin Special.

E-bay search...catch as catch can

User reviews... nice reviews, not including mine for some reason

Meet my band ... from now on also powered by Chandler Austin Special. Check us for friends, or we will find you...

My yahoo group .. yes, you would not want to be part of it, if they accept you for a member




1 megjegyzés:

andrabian írta...

A few vids featuring Azazello. Seems like the only Austin Special on YoutTube...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vY_dO4iVWl0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSmg9q2vm-Q

Music and lyrics by my humbleness, apart from the intro by Ry Cooder