2016 Holden Calais review

Let’s cut to the chase: this Calais is a land barge. A luxurious, highly annoying land barge.  Because Holden have dived so deep into the US parts bin, it doesn’t feel like an Aussie car anymore. There are so many beeps and bongs I keep expecting the car to ask me if I want fries with that. There are many, many ‘features’ that just plain irritate me. But let’s keep it nice and start with the good stuff. Compared to previous models, the interior is top notch. The Alcantara and leather appointed interior is comfortable and stylish.   Gone are the ‘like it or lump it’ footy team colours. The interior is actually cohesive and er, top notch. On a drive from Brisbane to Noosa, the air conditioning didn’t miss a beat and it was smooth sailing. The driving position is not bad either. The seats unlike their German contemporaries are comfortable. That old Buick V6 donk wheezes along in relaxo mode with a good old fashioned 4 speed auto, no CVT nonsense and picks up like buggery when you bury the right foot into the firewall. Boot space? Easily big enough to accomodate our baby gear and holiday bags for a week. No problems there. But then the annoyances kick in. This car is so soft I swear it has a jelly centre. I think it should be the Holden Kalais Krispy Kreme Stay Puft (yes I watched Ghostbusters the other day) edition. Sure it steers OK at highway speed. But around town it sounds and steers like a barge. The blind spot warning is very useful. Because the...

Greco MR 600 review

Make no mistake, I have a very soft spot for Grecos. So when I started lusting after a double cut Les Paul, I found the MR (Mick Ralphs – of Bad Company fame) Greco. Mine was a 1977 and in bloody good condition for a 39 year old guitar (incidentally the same age as yours truly). She was a shade of orange that undermined its generation. The case was lined in Fanta day glo orange velvet. Firstly these guitars are fabulously well built. The carved maple cap is very thick. The neck join is also something special. Some great mahogany went into these guitars. The 600 meaning it cost 60,000 yen was the el cheapo version with single coil P90 pickups (or soap bars). It also meant no binding on the fretboard but otherwise a very high quality standard. What sucked about it? The neck is a little bit too wide for most people. If you’re blessed with big hands, this is the guitar for you. Oh yeah and the P90s don’t really have much of a sound on this guitar. Mine had a humbucker in the bridge but it still didn’t work. I think the higher up models would sound better. Some riffs would come off of this guitar that wouldn’t come off anywhere else but for all intents, she just didn’t have a sound that gelled with me. So she was swapped for a Telecaster with a bloke Steven who plays in a local band Stockpile. She’s had the P90s swapped for some hand wired humbuckers and is finally getting the love she deserves. They’re unbelievably well...

Maton Phil Manning Stereo Custom

So I was digging through the laptop the other day and found some photos of old guitars. Not something I’d say often but I actually felt honoured to own the Phil Manning Custom for a short time. Firstly this is an amazingly rare guitar. Not by any stretch the rarest of Matons. But Maton are a boutique Aussie brand. Maton are predominantly known for their acoustics. Which is sad because they’ve made very quirky electrics. The Manning is no exception. In 1974 this guitar cost approx. $1800 Aussie dollars. You could’ve easily bought a family car for that. So I get the feeling that this was never meant to be cheaper or rival Gibsons and Fenders (which were impossibly expensive in Australia). This was a guitar designed to do everything. From psychedelic, to chicken pickin’ to heavy pub rock without hesitation. The spec sheet is like no other. How many guitars do you know of that give you full stereo, with bass and treble switch, coil tapping plus Aussie and Canadian woods? It’s a very short list. At first I thought it looked like a bloated Les Paul and wasn’t very taken with it. The electronics looked like the Flux Capacitor in Marty’s De Lorean in Back to the Future. Absurd, quirky, weird. All these come to mind. Ultimately though all that is just horse shit. This guitar felt bespoke. I think the only plastic on it was on the truss rod cover. Even the electronics covers on the back were solid maple about 6mm thick. It felt like a pair or RM Williams boots. Like there’s the feeling you get when you go...

finding vinyl in Hong Kong

Hong Kong might certainly has many cashed up hipsters, but it doesn’t have many stores that sell good vintage vinyl. Like everything in HK, there’s stuff for the very, very rich a little for the poor and not much in between. The average price for second hand vinyl is $100 -$120 Hong Kong Dollars about $16-$20 Australian – regardless of condition. In the hipster part of town near Square Street (Central, Hong Kong Island) one antique store was selling a copy of the Rolling Stones ‘Flowers’ records for $650 HKD (approx. $120 Australian). There were ample copies for 8 Euros available online. Tell him his dreamin’!! Start with the good stuff. Look for ‘Sam the Record Man’ in Hong Kong Central. He has a small shop in an unassuming building I stumbled upon literally. He has been collecting records all his life. There’s more first editions here than you can poke a stick at. His shop borders on a museum where most things are for sale. Even the Beatles master discs which he will no doubt retire very comfortably on. Better still he’ll happily play recordings of all these albums. 20 minutes in this store completely blew my mind. I couldn’t afford anything but it didn’t matter.  I felt like a millionaire just being there. What about new vinyl?  HMV in Central had a huge amount of vinyl in all genres. The cheapest starting around $180 HKD right up to around $450. Unfortunately it’s not much cheaper than at home. If anything it’s more expensive. They did seem to have a shitload of stock left over from Record Store Day though that wasn’t...

Vinyl Hero Records Hong Kong

Vinyl digging is always about the journey not the destination. But this may have been my toughest day on the hunt yet. After stumbling by a vintage 70s clothing shop a guy gave me a business card that read PAUL 9841 7136 USED RECORDS Flat D, 5/F Wai Hong Building, 239 Cheung Sha Wan Road, Sham Shui Po (Beside MTR Exit C1), Kowloon, Hong Kong. The bloke told me this guy [Paul] had a million records. Hong Kong isn’t much of a rock n roll town. So I eagerly thought maybe this bloke somehow scooped all the cool stuff.  We’ll get to that. First of all, this bloke does have a SHIT LOAD of records. But they’re all in a tiny apartment, stacked almost 5 foot high in places. He has a very old school apartment with no air conditioning. If you want to check out this collection, call the guy first and be very patient. He has to move stuff around just so you can enter the apartment. Remember this is Hong Kong and rent isn’t cheap. We had to wait in the lobby for about 10 minutes until I could squeeze in. DON’T bring wives and girlfriends. There’s no room inside and it’s excruciatingly hot waiting in the foyer. I bought along a toddler and the poor kid lost his mind. Now about the records. The guy loves his pop. There were Spandau Ballet posters everywhere and he seemed to love the Madonna/new romantic vibe. There was heaps of Hong Kong Kitsch but only a few boxes of rock and roll available that day (as I said,...