Sunday, February 20, 2011

Aria Anniversary SB Bass

I posted about an Aria 50th anniversary bass last year, but I finally found pictures of another anniversary bass. This might also be a 5oth anniversary, but it is an SB-1000RI with some graphic designs. Notice the logo is "The Aria Pro II" like the original SB-1000s, but the headstock shape is like the later incarnations. I wonder if this is a real bass or just a Photoshop mockup for the Japanese Aria site? If it's real, I guess the bass probably resides with Mr. Shiro Arai, the founder of Aria Guitars.

Custom & Unknown Arias: Part 4

Here is a rare headless SB with MIDI capabilities that I found online. As you can see, it is an "AP Custom Shop" bass. I have no idea when this bass was made, but probably in the early to mid '90s since that seemed to be the heyday of Aria's Custom Shop. If anyone out there has one, let me know.

Neil Murray and Aria Pro II

Neil with SB-1000 and SB-900 in 1981

Whitesnake, Black Sabbath, Cozy Powell, Gary Moore, Sting, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Brian May, Michael Schenker. These are just a few of the legends Neil Murray has played bass with during his long and distinguished career. (See my video links for proof!) Without question, Neil is one of the best hard rock bassists around and still going strong. He is currently playing with the We Will Rock You tribute show to Queen.

Neil was gracious enough to take the time send me loads of photos and recollections of his time using Aria Pro II basses. Neil has simply an amazing amount of information about his career. Unlike many rockers who seem to have forgotten everything, Neil actually seems to remember most of it - good news for gear heads like us!

Case in point: Neil shared a story involving fellow bassist Jack Bruce and the late drumming legend Cozy Powell. Neil says he was replaced by Jack for Cozy's solo album Over The Top because Neil's experimental Fender Strat bass wasn't getting a good sound in the studio. Meanwhile Jack Bruce comes in with his SB-1000, one of the first in the UK according to Neil, and lays down the track with a much better bass tone. Here is the title track from Over The Top featuring Jack Bruce on bass.

While with Whitesnake, Neil was able to buy his own walnut SB-900 and oak SB-1000 soon after, and would go on to use Aria for several years. It seems he preferred the SB-900 and had it converted to stereo output inspired by an Alembic he used previously. Neil says he played the SB-900 with Whitesnake on the album Ready An' Willing. Check out Neil's great bass line here.

For the next year and a half or so, Neil played the SB-900 on tour with Whitesnake including the Come An' Get It album. Listen to Neil on "Wine, Women an' Song" and the title track.

Working with Whitesnake is impressive enough, but Neil also worked with Gary Moore who, tragically, just recently passed away.

Neil says he had several custom basses made for him by Aria. These included a red SB which was very similar to an SB-900 but with the pickups much closer together. He mainly used the fretted bass but also had a fretless version as well. You can see some pictures of it below as well as in my video links page. Here is a good video of Neil playing with Gary Moore where you can get a nice view of this bass.

Later, Neil was also played with metal legends Black Sabbath. Neil continued to use custom Aria Pro II basses during this time. One of these basses was a red Integra with customized pickups. This bass can be seen on "When Death Calls". You can also see Neil playing the red Integra with a legendary lineup including Brian May, Steve Vai, and Cozy Powell!

Continuing with Black Sabbath, Neil used a signature Aria model with Bartolini pickups. This bass had a really nice 'flame' maple top. A lucky Sabbath fan purchased this bass from Neil a few years back. It can be seen while being played on "When Death Calls".

Adverts for Neil's signature "ARB-CST" bass can be found here.

Update: here is a cool interview I found of Neil Murray along with fellow bassist Phil Lynott! Don't worry Neil, you'll never be 'too old to rock 'n' roll'!
Update 2: Just found another good video of Neil with Whitesnake, this time with one of his custom Aria SBs. The video is from Top of the Tops in '84 (watch in HD!).

Thanks again to Neil Murray for all of the great photos and information!
You can find Neil on Myspace and Facebook.