Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Roland Bass Plus 30 "Roland has seen the future..." organ bass pedal replacement synthesizer advertisement, Choir and Organ Magazine, 1984

Roland Bass Plus 30 "Roland has seen the future and it doesn't involve... feet" organ bass pedal replacement synthesizer advertisement from page 32 in the March 1984 issue of Choir and Organ Magazine.

Hey - hope everyone is doing well out there during these uncertain times. While practicing self-isolation, I know a lot of you are playing with your organ a lot, so I decided to dig through my archives and post something that hasn't received a lot of attention until of late.

Roland used to love to repackage gear. A great example is the Synth Plus 60 - basically a Juno 106 with integrated speakers that looked more at home in the living room or church than in the studio. The Synth Plus 10 and 80 had the innards of the Alpha Juno 1/2. All three machines are coveted by collectors and musicians almost as much as the originals.

Another example is found in this advertisement - the Bass Plus 30. It too is a re-packaged product.

Let me give you a hint... from the ad-copy:
"The remarkably stable bass synthesizer section features full voice flexibility with dual wave forms and control for Tuning, VCF-cutoff, Resonance, Envelope Modulation and Decay."
Sound familiar? How about this:
"The programmable Accent and Slide functions bring true bass technique capabilities to the Bass Plus 30."
Whaaat? Ooooh yeah - a stripped down 303! Not to replace your band's bass player, but to replace your organ's bass pedals.

Roland wrapped the Bass Plus 30 in the same lovely wood/wood-print material you'd find covering your favourite Roland's Piano Plus-series keyboards such as the Piano Plus 30, 60 and 70 - or most any other organs for that matter. And why not? Even if you didn't have an organ with pedals, the Bass Plus would match nicely while sitting on top of your living room's electric piano.

Advertising for the Bass Plus didn't make a lot of appearances in the wild - this ad only appeared in the top nine organ-based magazines and weeklies within a relatively short four-month period in 1984. But it's not surprising that it also joined it's TB and TR brethren in the well-loved Roland "Rhythm Machines" brochure where it shared space on the back page with the Piano Plus series as well as some of Roland's ultra-greats like the Jupiter 8, Juno-60 and SH-101.

The Bass Plus didn't sell well due to the mostly-false rumors that it didn't sound like real organ bass pedals. Some geographic exceptions included the Southern United States, Belgium and the Canadian city of Regina. In all, only around 300 units were produced.

According to Organ Weekly Digest, the Bass Plus was discontinued only six months after production began, and many soon after ended up in pawn shops. But unlike it's sibling the TB-303, most Bass Plus 30's continued to sit unused on shelves and in closets until 2018 as word finally began to slowly spread of its abilities. What was once one of the most unknown pieces of Roland gear, it turns out, had been in use by well-known electronic musicians for decades.

A great March 2019 thread started on the Organ Heaven listserv by member OrganLover4Ever lists famous users, which include Jean-Michel Jarre's brother, Billy-Bob Jarre, who owned five until they were sold as a package for over three figures in an exclusive 2019 Christie's auction.  Since that time, he went on record in World of Organs magazine that he had used them mostly for his live performances. Their small size, durability and wide range of sound were great replacements for his five much heavier Jupiter 8s.

Other notable users include Borgore, who used a Robin Whittle-modified Bass Plus on his banger, "Bass Plus Bass", as well as Hardwell's "Plus Bassing" and DJ Guv's "Thirty Plus Bass". During an extended VJ session on the popular OTV (Organ Television), Richie Hawtin announced that his Plus 8 record label was named after the fact he owned eight Bass Plus 30's while living for six months in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Edna Boil, editor
Organ Emporium Magazine
Digging through my archives, I found a great review by Editor Edna Boil in the "New and Blessed" section of the June 1984 issue of Organ Emporium Magazine. Along with the other specs of the machine, she highlighted its key change feature.
"The unit contains sufficient memory to hold many patterns and also has a key-change feature that can raise the key of a programmed pattern. This feature is useful to add variation during long consecrations at mass or during those extended snake-worshiping dance sessions."
 Edna Boil knows here organs. Make sure you take the time to play with yours.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Korg Electribe A (EA-1) and Electribe R (ER-1) "The cure for the common groove" brochure, 1999

Korg Electribe A (EA-1) and Electribe R (ER-1) "The cure for the common groove" two page colour brochure from 1999.

Hey - an early morning post from me! Gotta get it out of the way before the Pet Shop Boys pre-sale begins!  :)

So, a short while back Korg tweeted out a Bob's Burgers gif that featured a synth. No, it wasn't the ol' one with Gene Belcher flying through the clouds in a diaper with synths floating all around him:. Although that is a classic...

No. This is one I hadn't seen before. It's Gene (of course) playing with what is unmistakably a Korg Electribe ER-1! Hubba!! It's so new, I can't even find it anywhere online yet. Kudos to Korg for being so quick on the ball.

Credit where credit is due... here's the tweet from Korg.

That gif made me happy enough to get off my ass and go looking through my packed up files to find this Electribe EA-1/ER-1 brochure from 1999.

Korg released the EA-1 and ER-1 together at 1999 Winter NAMM, and since the brochure is dated 1999, I'm guessing its one of the earlier batches of Electribe marketing material. A great start to what will become classic machines.

The cover of the brochure is exactly what you would, and should, expect from a 1999 Electribe brochure. Its definitely got that 90's techno/rave flyer vibe happening. The italicized fonts for titles, the glitchy video backgrounds behind the descriptive text, the crazy background patterns. Its all there.

The brochure does a super job explaining the two machines as well, with the two subtitles "the classic analog tweak box" and "the ultimate analog beat box" and just enough descriptive text without feeling overwhelmed. Flip it over and get all the specs.

The ER-1 is my favourite of the two - and may be my favourite out of all the first-gen and MKII Electribes. Sure, the EA-1 is a great virtual analog synth that also makes a nice addition to any acid studio - it can really growl!  But for me, the ER-1 is *definitely* the cure for the common groove and my secret weapon when I want to add an extra something-something to a techno track. And its not just the analog feel I dig - I'm even a fan of the PCM samples used for the 909-ish open and closed hi-hats.

So what exactly makes the ER-1 sound so unique and sit so well in a track? It's got everything to do to the motion sequencer. That feature allow it's sounds in a pattern to jump around and fill out unoccupied space with crazy harmonic changes in just the right way.  Add to that n awesome delay and extremely simple interface with just the right amount of programming options and you end up with an electro-making juggernaut in a box.

But don't take my word for it - read Chris Carter's review of both machines from the July 1999 issue of Sound on Sound magazine.

Spoiler alert - here's his summary for the ER-1:
"What a refreshing change, a beat box that doesn't want to sound like every other beat box. Plenty of innovative features and tons of parameters yet so easy to use. It really makes you want to experiment and try out new sounds and rhythms. Cheap too, so I'm buying one."
His summary for the EA-1 isn't too shabby either:
"A bold attempt to break the dance workstation mould with something a little different. The EA-1 is a very capable and great sounding synth/sequencer combination whether you are on a budget or have just won the Lottery. Go on, get analogue modelling you'll feel better for it."
I will never, ever give up my ER-1.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Moog Sonic Six "Moog makes the scene" ad, Rolling Stone 1973

Moog Sonic Six "Moog makes the scene" half page black and white advertisement from page 51 in the February 1, 1973 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine.

After the great response to my early 70's ARP ad from Rolling Stone, I thought it would be fun to post this Moog Sonic Six ad from the same issue... just two page flips away!

The Sonic Six doesn't get a lot of love when it comes to advertising compared to its siblings like the Minimoog. Although Moog did come out with a lovely colour brochure in 1974.

Its interesting to note that in the brochure, Moog is not just going after the live musician looking for a light-weight synth in a carry case, but its also using up as much ad copy targeting the classroom as well. Now compare that to the Rolling Stone ad... no mention of classrooms at all.

Moog definitely knew their audience and stayed mum on the school angle.  :)

The ad copy is top notch - there is so much said in such a tiny amount of space. I liked it so much I've typed it all out...
"The synthesizer that started it all is the one behind the innovative new music groups like Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Mike Quatro, Jam Band. Behind the restless exploration of new sounds, rhythms and tone colors by Gershon Kingsley's First Moog Quartet. Now Moog quality and engineering are available in the Sonic Six, the complete electronic synthesizer in a compact carry-along case. And the famous Minimoog that brings studio quality to your live performances. For name of your nearest dealer, write Moog Music Inc., Academy Street, P.O. Box 131, Williamsville, New York 14221."
It uses phrases that have since become synonymous with Moog such as "the synthesizer that started it all" and "Moog quality and engineering", and for good measure references the Minimoog (smart move!). But even more exciting is the name dropping - Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Mike Quatro and ... one of my favs... Gershon Kingsley.

Gershon Kinglsey is probably best known for his song Popcorn.

Love that song. He also formed the First Moog Quartet, who were -  according to Wikipedia - "the first to ever play electronic music in Carnegie Hall." With Bob Moog there too! Kingsley passed away last December at the age of 97.

Now, I'm embarrassed to admit this next bit, and that's that I had a bit of a mind-blank for the first few minutes while staring at that lovely artwork in the ad. ELP, Kingsley and Quatro were all bands mentioned in the ad-copy, but I was struggling to remember the other two bands - Trilogy and Paintings.

Yeah... then it clicked. Trilogy is an album from ELP, and Paintings is an album from the Mike Quatro Jam Band. Duh.

And speaking of the illustration, I *love* the artwork used for this ad. There's even a signature there - Lawson - but I haven't tried looking it up to see if I can find anything interesting on the artist.

If you know more of Lawson's work, send me a note!

Monday, January 13, 2020

ARP Odyssey "Conduct an Arp" ad, Rolling Stone 1973

ARP Odyssey "Conduct an Arp" half page black and white advertisement from page 47 in the February 1, 1973 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine.

Sometimes I'll take an hour or two and just look through my archives, when all of a sudden something new will jump out at me. And so it is that after more than sixth months of brochure posts, it's time to fall back in love with a synth advertisement.  In this case, a lovely Arp Odyssey ad from Rolling Stone. I've never actually seen this ad in the wild anywhere else - in another publication or online as a scan. It has just somehow managed to hide in plain sight from me.

A happy surprise.

And not-so-coincidentally, The Alan R. Pearlman Foundation / ARP Archives happens to be at NAMM (booth #8600) soonly. Make sure to check them out and show your support - financially and otherwise! 

Before Contemporary Keyboard came on the scene in 1975, many Americans would find synth ads popping up in the pages of Rolling Stone - what founder Jann Wenner described as a cross between a magazine and a newspaper that wasn't "just about the music, but about the things and attitudes that music embraces". She also described it as "reflecting what we see are the changes in rock and roll and the changes related to rock and roll".

What better product to advertise in such a magazine as a synthesizer?  Synths had begun to change the landscape of rock with many musicians embracing the technology, and the Odyssey, released just a year earlier, was already creating buzz (pun intended) on stage and in studios.

A perfect match.

The ad itself it quite tall - it spans the full vertical of the page making it over 17" high. And half the width of the page, about five inches. At the top of the ad is the lovely and large, bold ad title. And right underneath that we get that first large image. Even with the big illustration, there is still lots of space, so its not surprising that there is a fair amount of content, but it is surprising how technical that content gets. After an initial introduction, readers come across this...
"Add such state-of-the-art firsts as phase-locked oscillators, digital ring modulator, sample and hold circuits, and a lot of the functions of a complete studio synthesizer, and you've got yourself a genuine space age instrument."
ARP obviously believed there were some pretty technical musicians reading the mag, and quite frankly, even those that didn't understand the lingo would probably be impressed by it. I still am. :)

And if the buzz words didn't impress you, then the very bottom of the ad might...
"ARP ... conducted by Stevie Wonder / Pete Townshend / Ike & Tina Turner / Frank Zappa / The Beach Boys / Elton John / and many others"
ARP name droppin'!  It's an effective marketing technique and if you've read any of my earlier blog posts about ARP ads, you know I think ARP was one of the best name-droppers in the biz.

But the real joy of this advertisement is obviously the illustrations that play off the "orchestra conductor" theme and content of the ad. I'm a big fan of illustrations in synth ads, so much so that I've created a blog tag so you can see some of the other lovely artwork to be found in synth marketing material.

Here we get two lovely pieces of art. The top image is that of a conductor in a auditorium with just an Odyssey on the stage, and, even better is the second image of the conductor standing beside the ARP.

Tell me that ain't gorgeous. I dare ya!

I just wish there was an artist's signature included with the ad. If you recognize the work, please send me a note!