To transcribe and play Cranes songs as they appear on the studio recordings you first have to note the altered tunings that are used on ALL Cranes songs. They are, in fact, pretty straight forward but essential if you wish to use the correct fingerings and chord voicings.
All guitars on all Cranes songs are tuned a semitone below concert pitch. Wings of Joy, Forever and Loved all use standard guitar tunings which are dropped by a semitone so instead of the usual EADGBE you should tune your guitar to E flat, A flat, D flat, G flat, B flat, E flat. The exception to this rule is the Population Four album where Jim tunes his guitar to an open E major chord. Again, this is flattened by a semitone so the actual tuning ends up being E flat, B flat, E flat, G natural, B flat, E flat. Although the songs can be played using the standard tuning, the feel and openness of Population Four cannot really be achieved using the normal tuning. In the transcriptions I will point out the various tunings, capo positions etc song by song.
For those of you interested here's a quick run down of what guitars were used on the studio recordings. For Wings of Joy, Forever and Loved the main electric guitar was a Washburn Chicago Series guitar fitted with a Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo system. The bass guitar used was a Fender Precision. Acoustic guitar parts were recorded using Ovation and Yamaha guitars. No one can remember the exact models. The main instrument changes occurred with the Population Four album. Jim used (almost exclusively) a Fender Jaguar, but also appearing on the album is a Fender Telecaster and a Fender Precision bass guitar.. Acoustic guitar parts were recorded using an Ovation Custom Legend.
The guitar sounds were achieved in a number of ways. The Cranes have never used one definitive method for guitar sounds, preferring instead to address each song as it was written. This way guitar sounds would be customised to fit the song instead of making a song fit the sound. In the old days Mark used a Roland GP16 for the live shows and for a long time Matt used a Roland ME5. Also, for the live shows, Alison would usually play through Marks setup. This was until about a year ago when she moved over to her own setup.
Playing style plays a large part in how the songs sound regardless of chords, timing etc. If you listen closely to the albums you will hear a lot of open strings and a lot of sliding chords. Things to note when trying to work out the guitar parts are : 1. Don't change a chord shape when you can slide the one you're already fingering and 2, don't bar a barre chord if you can let the open strings ring.
I have already explained the tuning methods used by the Cranes but to ease the writing and playing of these transcriptions I shall refer to chords as if the guitar was tuned to concert pitch (even though it isn't, if you see what I mean). I will transcribe all the major parts of the songs (the riffs, changes, fingerings etc) but I'm not going to do a note for note, bar for bar, transcription. However, with the information I provide you will be able to play the entire song with the correct tuning and fingerings. All you've got to do is put the parts together. Good luck.