For the Duck

14 05 2012

Rest in peace Donald Duck Dunn

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Hey, Wolfie can really shred!

10 01 2012

I had no idea the boy had such skills! He’s really good.  It shouldn’t surprise me given the musical talent in his genes.





The Purple Gang: rock’s best rhythm sections

13 04 2011

To call a list a “best of” is usually a misnomer.  There is no “best of” anything, really.  It all comes down to opinion and personal taste.  But people know what is meant when that is said, so I’ll just stick with it.

I have my favorite bassist-drummer combos.  I know that other rock fans would probably not have some of these combos on their list and would add others that I hadn’t considered.  I do not necessarily rank them my favorites by technical proficiency.  I don’t know enough about jazz to talk about those guys.  And I’m not even necessarily a big fan of the bands from which these combos hail.  I know when I hear these combos though, for any number of reasons, I am moved by them. In rough order, they are:

  1. Entwistle/Moon, The Who — I don’t think there were better rock musicians at either spot than John Entwistle on bass or Keith Moon on drums.  Together, they were, I would argue, the most powerful force rock has seen.  In my book, they’re the best by miles.
  2. Jones/Bonham, Led Zeppelin — In terms of power, these guys were certainly miles ahead of just about anyone.  Their play was simply amazing.  You could tune out Page and Plant on many of the songs and just groove on the rhythm track.
  3. McCartney/Starr, The Beatles — This is where personal taste kicks in over something more objective and certainly over proficiency.  On bass, McCartney stands up to anyone, at least in his Beatles days.  He really was an innovator, though not because he was so fast or improvisational.  McCartney’s melodic approach was really the glue that held a lot of the Beatles’ best songs together.  Was Ringo one of the best drummers of all time?  I don’t think many fans or critics would say so.  He wasn’t even the best of his generation.  But he could hold his own.  Sometimes he was brilliant.  A great example of their power together is “Rain.”  Give it a listen.
  4. Lee/Peart, Rush — I’m not a big Rush fan, but recognize their skills.  Geddy’s a great bass player and Peart’s drumming — some people refuse to call him a drummer, instead favoring “percussionist” — is out of this world.  Peart might be the most technically proficient drummer in rock history, but I don’t find his work to have been as interesting and flavorful as Keith Moon’s.
  5. Sumner/Copeland, The Police — Was Sting a great bass player?  Many bass aficianados are dismissive of his playing; some think he was quite good in his heyday.  By himself, I do not regard Sting terribly highly, though he had flashes of brilliance.  But as a partner with Stewart Copeland, he made some great music.  I like Copeland’s drumming as well as anyone’s.  I recognize that Keith Moon did more with the instrument, but I get about the same amount of enjoyment listening to Copleland’s work with the Police as I do listening to the Who’s best drum stuff.   In the way that McCartney carried Ringo, I think Copeland carried Sting.
  6. The Funk Brothers — I wasn’t sure how to approach this loose group of combos, but I knew I couldn’t ignore them.  James Jamerson and Bob Babbit were sick good.  Jamerson, many bass players feel, was the best electric bassist ever.  They might be right.  Babbit is one of my favorites.  Check out his silky smooth playing on “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).”   I couldn’t tell you much about any of the individual drummers that rotated through the Funk Brothers.  I just know, as a corps, they did spectacular work.

 





My year in music

31 12 2009

The year started out with a bang.  I had just seen Oasis in mid December and was quite interested in the current British music scene.  Before January was up, I got my hands on both Fratellis’ albums, two from the Kooks and Arctic Monkeys’ Favourite Worst Nightmare.  Credit for these finds goes to magazines like Mojo and Q, which I was reading heavily at the time.  I did my level best to get my hands on Fleet Foxes’ self-titled album from the local library, but that took until Spring.

Luckily, Dennis Wilson’s revived classic Pacific Ocean Blue got a lot of love late 2008, early 2009, particularly from the Brit mags.  That has been one of the best albums I’ve bought in years.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

February was also quite interesting because the Beatles’ Take 20 of “Revolution” surfaced, and exploded across the ‘net.  EMI and/or Apple Corps made sure, within a day or so, that it vanished from some of the more notorious sites like youtube.  I wasn’t immediately convinced it was an authentic Beatles track – seemed possibly to be a mash-up of some kind – but “Beatles historians” roundly came out with opinions that it was the real deal.  That it was squashed within 48 hours of hitting the world wide web seemed to be good evidence that it was the real thing.  It’s a very cool track.  It’s basically “Revolution No. 1″ from the White Album, with loops and audio bits that ended up on “Revolution No. 9.”  As a big Beatles fan, I’m not one for second guessing them, but I think, in retrospect, “Revolution Take 20″ (let’s just call it that) would have fit better on the album than having two separate Revolutions.  No. 9 is just too long and goes nowhere.

The Beach Boys are frequently in my playing rotation (though not at the moment.)  Last Spring, I really wanted to go back and full up my collection from their post-Smile late 60’s, early 70’s catalog, but never quite got around to it.  I did dig out my copy of Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys, and played discs 2 and 3 quite a bit for a few weeks.  I came to love Dennis Wilson’s “Little Bird” from the album Friends.

Speaking of Beach Boys and Wilson brothers, Brian Wilson’s performance of Smile from a few years was an amazing surprise.  I’ve had the bootleg tracks (and songs from the box set) for years, but his performance of the aborted album from start to finish is something special.

Virtually out of nowhere, I felt this draw toward bass guitar.  My six string had been in the case for years; I played it a bit and decided I wanted to be a bassist.  In March I picked up my Dean EABG and jumped right into it.  I got Bass Guitar for Dummies and started playing (or learning) quite diligently.  In April I bought a 1997 Epiphone Accu-Bass and a Kustom 80 watt bass amp from a pawn shop in Detroit.  I have not played the electric much, but it’s there if I need it.

Late spring and early summer came.  I still played quite a bit of bass, taking my acoustic with me on family trips and weekends out of town.  I didn’t quite finish Bass Guitar for Dummies, but I’m planning a return to the book.  Because of my love for bass, anything with excellent bass found its way into my rotation.  I picked up What It Is! Funky Soul And Rare Grooves (1967-1977), an absolutely fantastic 4 disc set put out by Rhino.

Midsummer my MP3 player completely crapped out.  I couldn’t replace the battery for it, either.  We traveled a lot on weekends so my daughter had frequent requests for the Beatles or the Beach Boys, so that’s most of what I heard.

Christmas came early, on 09/09/09 in fact.  Apple Corps released the Beatles’ entire catalog, remastered, in stereo and mono (at least up through 1968.)  I got the Beatles in Mono box set before the stereo set.  I burned the CDs and put ‘em back in the packaging immediately.  I never even looked at the booklets, liner notes etc.  I got the stereo set a few days later, but still have not opened it.  September and October were Beatles-filled months.  Even now, at year’s end, I’m listening to bits of Abbey Road quite a bit, mostly because I’ve picked up the bass again and am trying to learn some of the licks.

Noel Gallagher “quit” Oasis but, surprisingly, this didn’t bother me a bit.  I’d love to see them make music forever; but if it ends it ends.  Noel’s the heart and soul of the band and he could go on making great music without his pesky little brother.  Here’s to a solo career that he will hopefully launch…and soon.

They never made sense to me in 38 years on this planet, but I finally gave in and got a few Pink Floyd albums, The Wall and The Dark Side of the Moon.  I would never have bought them at the store, but they’re at our public library, so I’ve given them a whirl.  I have to admit that I quite like both of those albums.  I’m not quite convinced that I like PF enough to start buying up their other albums, but I certainly am at least open to considering a bit more exploring.

The burden of sick loved ones and the “death” that comes in late Autumn probably put me in something of a slight funk.  I found solace in U2’s song “40.”  I think God wanted me to hear that when I did.

I’ve kind of fallen in love with music again in the last week or so.  I recently replaced my MP3 player and loaded it with really great stuff.  Of course it’s got all the Beatles stuff.  But I really love that I’ve got a few Miles Davis albums, Elvis in Memphis, a great two-disc set from his 1969 work, Little Richard and Ray Charles compilations/anthologies, Johnny Cash’s Personal File and a bunch of his compilation discs, and the new Black Crowes double album, Before the Frost…Until the Freeze.  I almost can’t take my headphones off these days.  I’ve already used up all 8 gig on this player and I like everything on it.

It’s hard to say what next year will bring.  If I’m going to resolve to do anything, one of those things will be to play more bass.  Perhaps instead of listening to and writing about other people’s music, I’ll make more of my own in 2010.





Stuck in my head

4 06 2009

During my morning work out, this song, “Lighten Up,” played on my MP3 player.  I haven’t heard the song in a long long time, but now I can’t get it out of my head.

If you’re not familiar with it, it’s from Beastie Boys’ classic album Check Your Head.  It’s kind of a simple but trippy funk tune with a nice little bass line.  It’s probably better for hanging out than working out, but it’s a great tune nonetheless.





Here she is

17 05 2009

For the last month or so I’ve been meaning to post pictures of my most recent instrument purchase.  She’s a 1997 Epiphone Accu-Bass.

Supposedly she has a plywood body, but she has really, really good sustain.  Sometimes I can get the growl I want but I think she sounds better in the mids.  Her action is good and she’s pretty easy to play for a 34″ scale bass.  I haven’t weighed her, but she’s a tad heavy when strapped and over my shoulder.  I suppose that will just take some getting used to.

For $300 out the door I got the bass and an 80 watt Kustom amp.  The bass is definitely worth all of $150, which is what the pawn shop guy was asking for her.  I s’pose I paid full price for the bass but saved some money on the amp.

Hopefully when the NHL playoffs end — I’m loving watching them this year — I’ll be able to get back to more playing.  I feel like I’m missing out on quality time with my new girl. (That’s a joke)

Epi1

Epi2

Epi3

Epi4Epi5





I’ve had it up to here with…

17 04 2009

I try to stay positive on this blog, but tonight I feel like ranting.  This is a list of things in/around popular music that I can no longer tolerate.  I’d like these things or people to vanish from sight for just awhile.

John & Yoko’s wedding and bed-ins — I’m about as big of a Beatles fan as you’ll meet, but I’m sick to death of all this stuff celebrating the 40th anniversary of John & Yoko’s marriage and their bed-ins for peace.  The bed-ins were a funny idea, but the fact that we’re talking about them 40 years later baffles me.  These weren’t marches like civil rights supporters held in the south in the 50’s and 60’s.  The marches actually changed things.  The bed-ins were a gimmick that attracted a lot of media attention for a positive subject (world peace is a good goal, I agree) but, in the end, accomplished nothing.  I’m frankly sick to death of seeing those old photos of John and Yoko laying in bed together.  I saw Imagine: John Lennon when it came out in theaters 20 years ago.  It had all one would ever need to know about their wedding in Gibraltar and the bed-ins.  Let’s move on, ok?

Phil Spector’s reputation as a genius — I can’t say all about this subject that I would like to, at least not in this post.  Suffice it to say that I think his “wall of sound” sucked on albums like George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass.  Spector ruined that brilliant album.  McCartney was wise to “de-Spectorize” Let it Be a few years back.  He sees (hears) what many others are unwilling to recognize: that Spector could be a hack and he overproduced stuff.  More about this some other time perhaps.

Beatles Rock Band video game — I’m not going to blast Paul, Ringo, Yoko and Olivia for allowing this video game to come out.  It will introduce younger kids to the Beatles just as I was introduced to them the better part of a decade after they split.  That said, I’m sick to death of reading and hearing about it.  Instead of playing video games, kiddies, get a damned bass or guitar and learn to play music yourselves!  Parents can get starter guitars, with amps, cords, the whole bit, for $200.  XBox or wii or whatever systems kids play on these days (I sound old, don’t I?) cost as much or more than that.  Make your own music.  Stop living in the fantasy world of playing someone else’s music on a computer.   Either that or stop telling me that Rock Band comes out in September.  Stop posting ab0ut it.  I’ve read it at least 100 times already.  I get it.

Disney actors cutting albums — I fully support a lot of what Disney does.  But I’m disgusted that they keep pumping out CDs by child actors that can’t sing a lick.  That Emily Osment has her own album is proof positive that the music business these days is just plain awful.  It’s a joke.  I like Disney’s TV shows for kids, but how about we get kids listening to good music instead of garbage like the Jonas Brothers.  To balance out the sonic assault on my daughter’s ears that she gets from Disney channel and Radio Disney, I play the Beatles, Oasis, Marvin Gaye, Hank Williams, Sr., Paul McCartney, Sinead O’Connor, and other artists that actually have (or had) lots of talent.  She knows what a good singer should sound like and she knows that the crap Disney is trying to sell her isn’t good.

Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — I was recently happy to learn that George Harrison was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Besides being a Beatle and a pretty darned good solo artist, George was into film and his company, Handmade Films, put out some pretty cool stuff in the 80’s.  My happiness for one of my favorites being honored was diminished when I learned that guys like John Stamos also have stars on the walk.  John Stamos?  Really?  C’mon.   It seems anyone that’s ever been on a bad sitcom gets a star on the walk.  It’s the equivalent of every kid in little league soccer getting a trophy.  Ugh.

Coldplay — I’m not going to attack them.  They seem to be a pretty decent band.  They’re not my cup of tea but, hey, I think I have an idea why others like them.  My beef, though, is that it has been put ’round that Coldplay are the “Beatles of their generation.”  I hate declarations like that!  Coldplay might be one of the most popular bands around these days, and for the last several years, but this generation has no Beatles.  Since the height of Beatlemania, there has been nothing even close to the Beatles.  Michael Jackson in 1983-85, U2 in the late 80’s and again in the early 90’s, and Oasis (mostly in Britain) in 1994-97 came about as close as anyone ever will, but were still light years behind the overall popularity and madness surrounding the Beatles from 1964-66.  The world will never see a band as popular and influential as the Beatles.  Never!  So the comparison is ludicrous.  Can’t we call Coldplay the “U2 of their generation” or the “Michael Jackson of their generation”? Those labels work better.

I think I have more rants in me, but I’ve run out of steam.