The 80’s metal resurgence shed light on some phenomenal rock bass plays. Players like Steve Harris, Billy Sheehan, and David Ellefson all thrilled audiences with their skill and proficiency on the bass. However when we talk of the metal world and the bass guitar one name consistently is mentioned, Cliff Burton.
Cliff Burton brought a new flavor to the brand of bass guitar. While his contemporaries were comfortable riding open strings and flipping their hair, Cliff brought the bass to the center stage.
Cliff Burton’s wah filled fuzz solos rivaled those of any lead guitar player. Today we are going to look at the pedal that fueled those solos, the Morley Power Fuzz Wah.
Before we get too deep into this review, I want to say we reviewed the pedal for guitarists. The Morley Power Fuzz Wah is designed to be used with guitar, bass or keyboards just like the classic Morley pedals of the 70’s. While Morley borrows heavily from their sound and design of the original pedal, there are some exciting upgrades to the design.
The 70’s era Morley’s are huge, taking up enough space for 4 standard type stompboxes. Secondly, due to the size of the unit AC can only power it, there is no 9-volt option. The third issue is the Achilles heal of the 70’s era Morley’s…the light bulb.
Traditional wah pedals have a rack and pinion type of system that turns a potentiometer (knob) to control the tone. Morley being light years ahead of its time used a light bulb and a photoreceptive sensor. There is a curtain attached to the bottom of the Morley pedal that is in-between the bulb and the cell. As you move the pedal, the curtain goes up and down. The amount of light received by the cell controls the tone of the wah or amount of volume. If these bulbs burn out your pedal goes dead. These bulbs are not expensive, but they are a pain to change in the middle of a gig.
The new Morley or as I like to call them, 3rd generation Morleys have corrected all of these issues. The footprint is smaller. A nine-volt operation is now an option, and the bulb has been replaced with a LED.
So let’s get to the nuts and bolts, how does the pedal perform. As I was playing with the Morley Power Fuzz Wah, I quickly recognized it as a multi-effect pedal, not a dual effect pedal. The are two fuzz modes, classic and modern. You also have the ability to dial in the range of the wah. In using these feature together, I found the unit to be an excellent dirt stomp, wah, and a useable clone for the famed Systech Harmonic Energizer.
Let’s start with the fuzz. To say it is gritty is an understatement. The classic mode gives you an open, wild organic sounding fuzz. At 8 or 9 o’clock the fuzz will deliver very natural amp break up tones ala the Brittish invasion. I had a blast running through the catalog of The Who, Stones, and Beatles for a good hour this morning. A nice way to spend a Sunday.
As I started rolling the gain up, I could hear a dead on early Glen Buxton tones. I gave the riff from Billion Dollar Babies a run and felt chills run up my spine. These loose fuzz tones prompted me to run through a bit of Neil Young and Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit In The Sky with great results. This is the fuzz I have been looking for all my life. Being a metalhead at heart, I had to peg the gain to the max. Turning up the gain brought me into Black Sabbath territory with ease.
Throwing the switch to the modern fuzz settings is great. The Morley Power Fuzz Wah kept its unique sound and characteristics, to my ear is just sounded a bit more focused and tighter.
Interesting enough I had the unit on a table at this point it was not yet under my foot. I engaged the wah and started to play with some fixed wah tones. Playing with the pedal height and then dialing in the wah level I found the pedal responded a lot like my famed Systech Harmonic Energizer clone. I ran through a couple of Frank Zappa riffs to confirm my assumptions, and they sounded a lot like the man himself.
Setting the Morley on the floor delivered exactly what was expected. The musical vocal Morley sound was there. However, used in conjunction with the fuzz I was able to provide some throaty gritty tones. At times I felt like I was playing a Minimoog, not a guitar. That is the beauty of a Morly wah; the range is incredible allowing the musician to go as deep or high as they would like to go.
Yes, this pedal is a tribute to the late great Cliff Burton, and I suggest all of you rock and metal bass players get out there and give this gem a try. Guitar players do not let the name of this pedal fool you. The Cliff Burton Tribute Series Power Fuzz Wah is a powerful tool for any guitar player’s arsenal. As I said, these pedals were originally designed for guitar, bass, and keys.
If you are not a wah guy, Morley has released the fuzz as a separate standalone stomp – the Cliff Burton Fuzz Box. Cliff ’em All!