comes to Robbie’s Let Me Entertain You – in the key of F – he reaches for a Les Paul goldtop with mini humbuckers.
‘This is a lovely guitar; it’s now six years old, and it sounds great with a little compression and delay,’ he praises. ‘I’d been discussing sounds and pickups with my guitar tech, so he turned up with several Les Pauls for me to try – and I fell for the goldtop at first sight. The mini humbuckers seem to sense the vibration of the strings in a narrower magnetic window… while the output is slightly lower they have more clarity and definition, and really cut through with or without overdrive.
‘I did have another just like it,a red one, but I’m rather clumsy and got my foot caught in the lead while it was leaning up against an amp during rehearsals in this huge wine warehouse. The neck just went pop; not many people believe me when I say not one of those thousands of bottles of wine were to blame... ha!’
Like all busy songwriters, Neil has several acoustic guitars lying around the house. ‘The Ovation Glen Campbell Artist is a real landmark acoustic,’ he says. ‘I actually have two: one’s for the road, and one’s always at home. These were really popular during the ’80s – most sound engineers wanted to work with Ovations at the time. Mine have improved and mellowed over the years and they have some nice features like ebony fingerboards, AAA-grade sitka spruce tops, walnut bridges and gold tuners, and they sound pretty sweet both acoustically and with the pickup.
Maple to the max: a matching pair of Rickenbackers
104 Guitar & Bass FEBRUARY 2012
A Brandoni slimline electro and a Godin Acousticaster
Left, an Ovation Glen Campbell Artist; right, a Yamaha CJ32
‘The red sunburst Yamaha CJ32 electro-acoustic does it all, from late night couch sessions to studio and live work. It sounds great on its own or plugged straight into the desk. I love the woods – ebony for the fingerboard and bridge, a spruce top of course, and maple for the body and neck. It’s really loud and meaty in the low end with rich mids and highs… it’s really dynamic and seems to deliver no matter how hard or soft you play it. I’ve used this whenever Robbie’s done a BBC radio show, and also more recently on Everybody Seems To Know My Name on my album.
‘My favourite songwriting guitar is an electro-acoustic built in Wembley, London by Brandoni Custom Guitars. Roberto Brandoni brought up the entire stock of bodies, necks and woods from the Italian maker Eko when they closed in 1987. A lot of the woods had already been seasoned for over 20 years, so the timbers on this guitar are well over 40 years old. The top is spruce and the back and sides are rosewood, and it’s got a Shadow pickup. It still looks like a modern design, and the woods all have a story to tell.’
Neil used the Brandoni for many of his recent songwriting sessions with Steve Torch, an Ivor Novello Award winner who has written for Hall and Oates, Kylie Minogue and Cher. ‘The acoustic volume is quite remarkable for such a shallow-bodied guitar,’ Neil says. ‘It has this sweet, percussive tone, and the sleek neck makes it easy to play. I find it very inspirational. Steve and I often use it as a communal guitar when we sit around bouncing ideas back and forth. The album’s taken four years to write; he provided a lot of the melodies and lyrics. We’ve seen the sunrise on many occasions after a long night with a guitar and a few glasses of wine…
‘I was given my black Godin Acousticaster by Tears For Fears when I toured and recorded with them in 1990, and I used it on Advice For The Young At Heart. I liked the fact that it played like a really good electric. The onboard graphic made it an iconic guitar of the time. It doesn’t get used that much for live work now, but I keep it close to hand at home for when the writing ideas come in.’
Finally, Neil’s two Rickenbackers are a 360 and a 4000 bass in mapleglo. ‘On tracks like No Self Control and Would You Love Me I needed extra zing in the lower frequencies, and the Ricky bass filled the gap perfectly. I often write a song and record it with a variety of guitars and basses… the differences can take a song to a new level. For instance, I recorded the riff for Would You Love Me with various guitars with a chorus effect, but as soon as I used the 360 it just came to life. I love the natural finish – these are the only two I like all glossy and brand new-looking!’
For more information on Neil Taylor, visit www.silvermusic.tv