(Zip Records)


Out of San Francisco, California, the Zip Records imprint is laying down some mighty fine pop / power pop style discs of late. Back in the ‘90s (remember then?) Oglio Records released several CDs including reissues from the power pop group 20/20 featuring guitar ace and singer-songwriter Steve Allen. So, it’s taken a while but Allen reappears as if by pop magic with a fine solo album called Thinline. He names the ten track CD after the Fender Tele style guitar he bought new in 1972. Anyway, the album is really fine. Nine toe-tapping, road-running pop jewels that linger long are offset by a pair of cool instrumental tracks that mix rock, prog and soundtrack sounds—one called “Oklahoma Sky” and another "Crawlin Back Up." No offense to Sir Paul, but he could learn a trick or two from our man Steve, who not only plays outstanding electric lead guitars and most of the instruments but has recorded the whole thing quite impeccably. That said, Allen employs some fine backing players, like three bass playing cohorts—Brad Jones, Allen’s former 20/20 bandmate Ron Flynt and Springsteen bassist Gary Tallent—along with a bunch of drummers. Commenting on the album Steve adds, ‘I wanted this record to have tighter songs and to feature more of my guitar playing. It was written and recorded over a few years and when it came time to look for a title, that guitar tied it all together.’ /

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Musical Background

Well, I got my first guitar when I turned 12 back in ‘64 after the English Invasion hit. It was an old brown Silvertone U1. I could not wait to learn how to play! I went to my first group lesson at the Guitar House in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the teacher was a really cool guy who turned out to be Eldon Shamblin one of the worlds greatest rhythm guitarists and my mentor.

We learned from Albert's Basic Guitar Book but Eldon showed me a lot of jazz standards like "Misty" and I also spent a lot of time trying to learn from records. The day I learned "Day Tripper" by myself was huge. The family got a piano soon after and I would take my guitar knowledge and learn piano chords. That led to being in various garage bands until I went to college to study music theory and began playing the bar band circuit 6 nights a week. After my first year of college I bought a Fender Telecaster Thinline new in '72. The band I played in the most, Sweet Virginia, began doing some of my originals. Then I was in a art rock band called Mondo Combo and we did lots of recording demos. Ready to chase the big dream and having played all over the state, I did the Okie move to Los Angeles in '78 and soon after formed the band 20/20 with my musical partner from the sixth grade, Ron Flynt.

New CD

The new record is called Thinline after the Fender I bought back in '72. It's got a lot of character and miles on it. Also, there's a thinline between many things. That guitar seemed like the glue of the record.

I moved to Nashville from LA back in '92 and opened a studio in the basement to produce other artists, do production music, and make my own records. My first solo record In + Out Of The Light was released in 2001. Thinline came out in January of 2010, this year. I chose songs I had written over the last few years. I wanted to play most of the instruments myself on this one. I played all guitars and keyboards and even drums on two tracks. Bill Lloyd, my partner in the Longplayers here in Nashville played some crazy guitar with me on "No More War". Garry Tallent from E Street Band and the Longplayers played bass on a few, Ron Flynt my sixth grade 20/20 partner played on a few, and Brad Jones on the rest. Paul Griffith, Steve Ebe, Rick Schell played the drums. All worldclass players. Nashville has some amazing talent!

I recorded the record on ProTools here in my basement and mixed it in the box as they say. With this record I wanted to let the guitar stretch out some but still keep tight song writing.

Art Herman with Zip Records in San Francisco wanted to release the record and I'm eternally grateful. It was mastered at Yes Master here in Nashville by Jim Demain.

Favorite Guitars

The main instruments I played on this record are the '72 Telecaster Thinline, a 70's Martin D-35, and a Wurlitzer electric piano. I mainly used a '64 blackface Deluxe Fender amp. I've collected a ton of pedals over the years but the main ones are the boss tuner, echo, and bluesdriver. I also use a new one by ZVex called the box of rock, a Line 6 echo, a Memory Man, a small stone, a fat-boost, and too many others to list them all. I use D’addario strings on electric 9, 11, 16, etc.

At this time I'm playing a 2006 Goldtop Les Paul an awful lot. It's so solid. I also use an SG Jr., a Jimmy Vaughn Strat, a Traveling Wilburys guitar, a Silvertone U1, a Jerry Jones 12 String, a '67 Hofner bass, a Fender classical, and a few other guitars. How many guitars does a guitar player need? Just one more.

I bought a '65 Bandmaster head that never quite worked right and I just got it fixed up by Kye Kennedy and it is a jewel. I had a 2-12 Fender cabinet and I just put two Vintage 30's in it yesterday. Love that big sound. I also use a Marshall JCM 800 50 watt amp.

Musical Influences

Well I always loved lots of different kinds of music and some of my first records were by Dion and the Ventures in the early 60's when I was around 7 years old. Then the Beatles and the English Invasion hit and it had a deep and profound effect on me. Those years from '64 to '70 are still unbeatable. Throw in Eric Clapton with Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page with Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, the Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, it's freakin' amazing. I must mention Bob Dylan. Of course the 70's had Bob Marley, Neil Young, David Bowie, Mark Knopfler with Dire Straits and a lot of cool stuff that all influenced me. Then the late 70's and the new energy of the New York scene and the English scene and I was lucky enough to be part of in the LA scene with 20/20.

Some favorite albums would be all the Beatles records, esp. the Beatles white album for some reason, Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland, Cream's Disraeli Gears, Who's Next, Beggars Banquet by the Stones and so many others from that time. I was also really influenced by Roy Buchanan's second album in the early 70's. What a guitar player. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are still one of the best. Just heard two tracks from their new album, Mojo and they are great.

Upcoming Plans

Well, Thinline just came out and I hope to do some shows playing those songs this year. I actually play quite a bit live with the Longplayers here in Nashville and Mystery Trip, a Beatles band. I also play with other artists like Steve Forbert, Jonell Mosser, a Native American artist Arvel Bird, and others. I have a band called Agent 86 that plays a few weeks a year down in Key West. And every so often 20/20 gets together again. We played in Japan for the first time in 2009. It's great to play with someone who you first learned how to play with in the sixth grade, that being Ron Flynt. Also, 20/20 is putting out a vinyl and CD release of unreleased songs and demos later this year. I always play on a variety of sessions here in Nashville. I love music and the guitar and I'm very lucky to get to do that for a living.

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