50 years of ‘fine as wine’ music with RJ
50 years of ‘fine as wine’ music with RJ
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - June 23, 2014 - 12:00am

It started with a guitar.

Ramon “RJ” Jacinto started playing the guitar when he was 12. His mom bought him a cheap locally-made starter guitar.

When his mom saw RJ’s passion for music, she brought him a Chet Atkins gretsch, then a 1961 Fender Jazzmaster and Stratocaster.

Soon his school band, RJ & the Riots, became the No. 1 band in the land playing fender electric guitars and amps.

After 50 years of witnessing and dabbling in different guitar-playing styles that have come and gone, RJ goes back to his preference of making the true tone of the electric and acoustic guitar come to life once again. The style is minimalistic without wasted notes that just clutter the delivery of the song. The album is designed for easy listening more than rockin’ and rollin’.

Available at Astroplus and Odyssey stores next month (and may now be downloaded from iTunes and Amazon), the album is called Fine As Wine, his first of that kind in 20 years, marking RJ’s going back to his roots (“with modern, tasteful and fine touches of jazz and blues”) when guitars had little or no effect pedals at all, just pure tone and some echo and reverb.

“I am a firm believer of putting the right note in the right place and making every note count,” stressed RJ. “If you don’t do that, you are just like a person who talks and shouts all the time. Soon, no one will listen to you.”

RJ uses his favorite guitars in this album — his 1961 Jazzmaster Fender, his RJ No. 1 roadtone guitar, an RJ bluesbreaker semi-hollow electric guitar, and Taylor and RJ acoustic guitars.

“As much as I could,” he explained, “I tried not to put anything in between the electric guitar and the digital recorder. I even minimized the use of the amps. I plugged the guitar directly into the digi design 003 audio interence and miked the acoustic guitar through a 1961 —  Newman mic with an API preamp to capture the true tone.”

To celebrate RJ’s golden year, Funfare asked him to make a list of his 25 Most Memorable Songs, the Soundtrack of His Life. Here it is:

1. Long Tall Sally by Li’l Richard

I heard this song and saw Li’l Richard perform it in one of the earliest rock n’ roll movie, Don’t Knock The Rock, and that was when the rock n’ roll bug bit me.  This song started my rock n’ roll journey that still continues to this day.

2. Someday by Rick Nelson

This was a late ‘50’s big hit when times were simple and uncomplicated. “Crushes” were the thing. Many teenagers had their dream sweetheart who did not notice them. “I know that someday, you’ll want me to want you.”

3. Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis Presley

One of the earliest Elvis hits with a blues flavor and good guitar work by Elvis’ guitarist, Scotty More.

4. Bimbombey by Jimmie Rogers

Jimmie Rogers had a big hit called Honeycomb. Bimbombey was a follow-up hit and this song taught you how to properly strum the guitar and keep the beat. A little folksy but with a rock n’ roll touch.

5. World Without Love by Peter and Gordon

A song written by Paul McCartney for Peter Asher who was the brother of Paul’s girlfriend, Jane Asher.

6. Walk Don’t Run by the Ventures

The first hit of the world’s greatest instrumental group, The Ventures. That was in 1960, and I quickly became a guitar instrumental fan and student of the Ventures way of playing. This hit of the Ventures will go down in modern musical history.  And they spawned millions of guitar aficionados. It changed my life and I quickly became a Ventures’ addict. My band, RJ & the Riots, became known as the “Ventures of the Philippines.”

The guitar icons of today credit the Ventures for their influence — George Harrison, Joe Walsh of the Eagles, John Fogerty of Credence Clearwater Revival and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter of Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers were influenced by the Ventures.  

7. I Wanna Hold Your Hand by the Beatles

I was in Los Angeles in 1964 when this song was being played so many times on the radio as the Beatles exploded and conquered the world with their music.

8. All My Loving by the Beatles

An endearing, romantic song with a beat and great sing-a-long material.

9. If I Fell by the Beatles

This is indelibly marked in my memory because I saw the Beatles perform this in the movie A Hard Day’s Night.

10. Softly as I Leave You composed by Giorgio Calabrese and Tony De Vita.

This is one of the most touching love songs ever written by someone who is permanently going away or dying. The lyrics are beautiful.

11. Mack The Knife by Bobby Darin

A big band, jazzy song from the pre-rock n’ roll era, which was recorded by various musical greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Louie Armstrong and Frank Sinatra. I like Bobby Darin’s version best.

12. I’ll Remember You by Elvis Presley

Written by a Hawaiian songwriter, Elvis did such a wonderful performance in his Aloha Concert in Hawaii and this could just be my most favorite romantic song.

13. Till There Was You by the Beatles

The Beatles just covered this song but their version with Paul McCartney’s voice soaring pure and rich in the recording makes this unforgettable.

14. Mr. Dieingly Sad by the Critters

It was early DZRJ that made this a hit in 1962. I judge a good song by the way it flows and what mode it brings out in you. This song flows perfectly.

15. Wonderful World by Louie Armstrong

What is more timeless than this classic Louie Armstrong hit. It creates a happy feeling inside you and it refreshes you.

16. Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry

Every self-respecting rock n’ roll guitarist will admit that is he is not worth his salt unless he passes through the portals of the intro guitar lick in this song.

17. La Bamba by Ritchie Valens

A traditional Mexican mariachi song that Ritchie Valens redid in the late ’50s. My mother’s favorite and she would make me sing this in parties and when the family would dine in restaurants abroad where there were bands. She would whisper to the bands to make me jam and it was a “command performance” for her.

18. Strangers In The Night by Frank Sinatra

Again this song evokes the magic of romance where you meet someone whose presence strikes you like lightning.

19. United We Stand by the Brotherhood of Four

A song that brings out loyalty and bravery with a touching melody.

20. Happy by Pharrel Williams

Amazing current megahit. Well-written, makes you happy and gets you to dance. Reminiscent of Motown in the ’70s.

21. My Girl by the Temptations

Another timeless classic. Everyone sings along at my RJ Bistro when we do this.

22. Bye Bye Love by the Everly Brothers

Without the Everly Brothers, there would be no Beatles harmony since these brothers inspired the fab four in harmony. You can hear the Everly Bros. when you listen to many Beatle songs such as Can’t Buy Me Love, Love Me Do, She Loves You and many more.

23. I Saw Her Standing There by the Beatles

Definitely a show stopper. People just can’t help but sing-a-long and dance to this. Irresistible and I always end my performance with this fun song.

24. Twist And Shout by the Beatles

An Isley Brothers original but the Beatles version is the best. A good encore number that will leave the crowd high as I end my gig.

25. Layla by Eric Clapton

I only took to Eric Clapton when his playing matured. At the time of his unplugged MTV concert, this unplugged version of his own original Layla is great.

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com. You may also send your questions to askrickylo@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)

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