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Warning: Keytar Content -- Moog "Liberation" Rising...


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This has turned out to be such a cool and rewarding adventure.  A couple of months ago, I donated a "Liberation" to the Bob Moog Foundation.  It's now been fully-restored by Jareth Lackey at SynthPro, and will be in the Moog booth at NAMM, where I'll get to see the ol' girl again.  I've also been privileged to exchange comms with Bob's daughter, Michelle Moog-Koussa, who oversees the BMF.  What gracious folks they all are.

 

If you're interested in the history, I've included my original note to the Foundation, below, plus some "before" pix, and finally the "after" video of Jareth's expert labor.  Enjoy!

 

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Hello, BMF

 

Short version: I have a Liberation I would like to give to the Foundation, if it's something you'd like to acquire.  If not, no worries; I really don't know much about how Foundations work :>)

 

Epic version: Nearly forty years ago, I purchased this Moog Liberation (photos attached) via a classified ad published in a trade rag. If memory serves (and at my age, it often doesn't, anymore) it had been listed for sale, among loads of other equipment, by Tom Schuman (Spyro Gyra's keyboardist, and one of my heroes in those years). More than that, Tom's ad claimed that the previous owner had been Chick Corea. Although I had, of course, no way to verify these claims, I had no reason to doubt them either, and I had actually once seen Tom playing a Liberation on a gig at the Roxy, in Los Angeles (although my memory tells me that that one was white, not black, so perhaps he had two, or it had been backlined.)

 

Nowadays, I'm just not nostalgic about many things, especially the notion of some instrument being "previously owned" by someone of note, and that ownership somehow making the instrument more valuable or desirable. But back then, the opportunity to collect a pretty cool-looking keytar from Spyro Gyra was practically irresistible. I don't remember what I paid for it -- I didn't have much money for such things back then -- but it was probably a few hundred dollars, and that was a lot.

 

A couple of weeks later, the Liberation arrived, freight-shipped in what we used to call an "Anvil" flight case. I was playing a little Yamaha KX-5 keytar at that time, and this rig was just a behemoth compared to that. Most certainly it had a "gravitas", just because of its size and weight. I plugged it in to make sure it was working, made a few blurps and bleeps (I had no idea how to work a real synthesizer), and put it back in the case, wondering how I could ever integrate this giant thing into my own band's performances.

 

I never did. The big ol' flight case and its vintage contents simply got moved with my belongings from apartment to apartment for a couple of years, and then it sort of just disappeared from my radar -- I had stopped thinking about it, life had moved one, and the Liberation had ended up -- somewhere.

 

Flash forward to last month: I get a call from the trombonist of my old band (who was cleaning out *his* studio), asking me if I wanted my Moog Liberation back, because he had found it, buried in a corner, under four decades of accumulated stuff -- and his wife wanted it out of there, pronto. In other words, if I don't want it, it's going into a dumpster. (Kudos to my buddy's memory for even remembering who it belonged to.) Now, full-disclosure, I really didn't want it, but I did feel a little bit responsible since I had no idea how it had come to be where it was, and frankly (did I say earlier that I wasn't nostalgic?) I kinda wanted to see it again. So I picked it up and took it home, wondering what I'd find after all these years.

 

Yes, as you might have guessed, it was a pretty big mess. All of the foam in the flight case had devolved into kind of a fragile, stiff dust that disintegrated when you touched it; the board was sort of buried in the stuff. I worked on it to clean it up enough so that I could actually touch it without getting covered with foam dust, and decided to fire it up. Almost miraculously -- it worked. All the lights came on, the keys played (including aftertouch); it made sounds.

 

I've messed with the Mixer sliders, and with the just the "Poly" up I can play melodies and chords. "Noise" is -- noise-y; "Ring Mod" is just bizarre (I told you, I don't know anything about "real" synths). The two "Osc" sliders seem to work, but no matter which key I play, I always get the same pitch; they may be working, or there may be a problem there; I just don't know what to expect.

 

So, after considering what to do with this beast, and being informed by the good counsel of some fellow players, I'm reaching out to BMF to see if you would like to acquire this Liberation; if so, I'm happy to donate it. I'm sure you have the technical resources to restore it to good playing condition, and perhaps you may even have access to old sales records or other documents that could match the serial numbers to the original purchaser, and thus verify (or bust) the ownership claims. For sure, I personally have no intense desire (nor opportunity, these days) to actually play it.  Better for it to resume life, Phoenix-like, among the more committed and caring denizens of all things Moog, at the Foundation.

 

The board has been modded to hard-wire the connecting cable directly to the synth (in favor of the original jack), but appears to be otherwise intact.  Included with the manual is a loose-page illustration of that mod (museum folks love this sort of stuff, yes?), perhaps drawn by the person who did the work.  And the manual itself is a bit funky in its own right: although still securely staple-bound, it duplicates the first 16 pages, and omits the 20-odd middle pages that explain the feature set (!)

 

Please feel quite free to contact me by phone if I can answer a question for you.  And if you would, in fact, like me to send it to you, please provide any instructions I should follow.  Looking forward to speaking with you!

 

Kind regards,

Brad Kaenel

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Jareth Lackey / SynthPro restoration

 

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Legend '70s Compact, Jupiter-Xm, Mojo Suitcase

 

 

 

 

 

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A couple more fun-facts:

 

My trombonist buddy, whom I mention in the story, has worked his whole career at Moog Engineering; an aerospace company founded by Bill Moog (Bob's cousin I think?)  It's a small world.

 

Also, back in December, one of the engineers who helped design the Liberation, August Worley, hosted a "tech talk" of sorts on Facebook, featuring this board.  I learned about it too late, but I did get to chat with August about it, briefly.  He's a brilliant fellow; although unfamiliar to me, he is undoubtedly one of the old Moog engineer "rockstars"...

Legend '70s Compact, Jupiter-Xm, Mojo Suitcase

 

 

 

 

 

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That's a great story. Do you or did you used to live in Western NY? (the classified ad from Tom Schuman and the trombonist friend who works at Moog Aerospace are why I ask).

I always like seeing the "2500 Walden Ave., Buffalo, NY 14225" on the back of Moogs. Unfortunately, the location of the old factory is now a Walmart.

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Wasn't that the keytar married to a dense wood that slowly tore a divot into the shoulders of its players, eventually making them walk with a pronounced limp? Its called suffering for your art and praying for a 7-pound Roland Axis to appear. Voted Best Keytar To Play From A Damned STAND, That's What. :taz: Excellent use of a defunct instrument, Brad! 👍

"What's the password?"
"'I have bourbon.'"
     ~ Joe Hill, "Full Throttle Stories"

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2 hours ago, Jonathan Hughes said:

That's a great story. Do you or did you used to live in Western NY? (the classified ad from Tom Schuman and the trombonist friend who works at Moog Aerospace are why I ask).

I always like seeing the "2500 Walden Ave., Buffalo, NY 14225" on the back of Moogs. Unfortunately, the location of the old factory is now a Walmart.

Nope; with only two very short exceptions, have lived my whole life in SoCalif...

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Legend '70s Compact, Jupiter-Xm, Mojo Suitcase

 

 

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, David Emm said:

Wasn't that the keytar married to a dense wood that slowly tore a divot into the shoulders of its players, eventually making them walk with a pronounced limp? Its called suffering for your art and praying for a 7-pound Roland Axis to appear. Voted Best Keytar To Play From A Damned STAND, That's What. :taz: Excellent use of a defunct instrument, Brad! 👍

Yes, that control panel is bolted to a, shall we say, robust  chunk of wood.  At least 15 pounds of weight and, I agree, you would not want to wear this keytar for an entire show.  It was easily twice the weight, and thrice the size of my little KX-5. 😅

Legend '70s Compact, Jupiter-Xm, Mojo Suitcase

 

 

 

 

 

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