John Butler: Ocean

Allow me, if you will, to be a little self indulgent for a while (or more so than usual, at least). I don't often get gooey over guitarists, and my days as a John Butler Trio fan are well behind me (I've grown up in a town built on surfing, so I had to like him at some point), but Ocean - JB's instrumental magnum opus - is so lodged in my psyche that I just had to post about this new studio version. It was the first song I learnt that was built solely for performance on a 12-string - or 11-string, as JB has his set up - and I made sure I knew the Max Sessions version note for note; I must have watched that part of his DVD (which came as part of his Live at St. Gallen box set) more than any other music video.

Having learnt to play it myself, I now know that the tuning is doing most of the work, and he's really just cycling through a couple of simple chord changes, but even knowing all that I still can't help but be entranced by the track. I lost interest in the John Butler Trio after the Grand National album was so overwhelmingly dull, and even Sunrise Over Sea - the only record of his I really liked - lays on the cheese rather heavily. Like most virtuoso guitarists JB can't write lyrics worth a damn, and if you've heard one of his plus-ten-minute slide solos you've heard them all; I'd only recommend you seek out more John Butler Trio stuff if you're into surfing and think Jack Johnson's great, but if you think that, then what on earth are you doing reading this blog?! Ocean, however, will stay with me forever.

There's about a million different versions of this track out there - all of varying quality - and almost every one of them has a slightly different arrangement; he must play this track all the time, so who can blame him for trying to keep things interesting? This new version is one of the better ones, and you download it from his site or through the Soundcloud site, but I recommend you hear it with the visuals for the full effect.

And here's my favourite arrangement from the Max Sessions DVD mentioned above (at six minutes, it's much shorter than most of the other versions). Whichever version you choose, however, it will still be worth your time; I guarantee it.

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