Buzz's Blog

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Rover

Wow.  I always knew Jimmy Page was a session player before he signed on with The Yardbirds and then founded Led Zeppelin, but wow.  Gibson’s Jimmy Page In The 60’s article shows you just how much this guy got around.

You’ve got your big names: Tom Jones, Van Morrison, The Kinks, The Who,  Donovan, Cocker … wow.

You’ve got your forgot-about-thems: The Southerners, The Nashville Teens, The Sneekers … who?

You’ve got your really?: Burt Bacharach, Petula Clark, Lulu, Herman’s Hermits … are you kidding me?

You’ve got your that-was-him?:  Gloria?  Here Comes the Night?  Can’t Explain?  As Tears Go By?  With a Little Help From My Friends? (Cocker, not Beatles) Hurdy Gurdy Man?  Did I say wow yet?

This guy was everywhere.  But the song did not remain the same.  He rambled on, met a few friends, went out on the tiles, slapped us upside the head with Good Times Bad Times, and carried us over the hills and far away.

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Friday, 11 April 2014

A Well Respected Man

Gibson’s Dave Davies’ 10 Greatest Performances serves as a healthy reminder that The Kinks’ guitarist was about way more than You Really Got Me.

Yeah, that’s on the list, as is its sequel, All Day and All of the Night, as thats semi-sequel Tired of Waiting.

Pushed aside by the late 60’s blues rockers, The Kinks enjoyed an all-too brief resurgence ten years later, riding the punk/new wave thing for a few years.  Gibson’s list nicely demonstrates that The Kinks – and Davies – still had their chops, staying as – or even more – relevant than many of the 60’s British Invasion relics that were still out there. 

The tunes – and the guitar work – on Misfits and Low Budget are archetypal, no-holds-barred rock and roll.  The massive influence of You Really Got Me aside, for my money, this was their best work.  They rocked us around the dial.

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Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Don’t You Notice How the Wheel Goes ‘Round?

Speaking of minor and major pentatonic, there’s this guy by the name of Eric Clapton who is an absolute master at switching back and forth seamlessly between the two, creating a beautiful eight note scale that perfectly suits just about any blues or rock song you could think of.

Have a listen to his solo in Badge, probably the best example of this tasty integration, and possibly his best solo ever.  He alternates minor and major pentatonic phrases so smoothly that you don’t even know it’s happening.  What you do notice is melodic tension and harmonic brilliance that makes the solo a powerful emotional trip.

Clapton isn’t the only guitar god to integrate the two pentatonic scales.  B.B. King, for example, comes to mind as another master.  Clapton has many other attributes which help set him apart, but his constant bi-play between the two scales is perhaps his most distinguishing characteristic.

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Thursday, 3 April 2014

5 Little Notes

Western music has divided the octave into twelve equidistant notes.  The major scale uses seven of those notes.  The minor scale uses a different seven (or nine, actually, but let’s not get into that).  Such scales are known as heptatonic (seven tones).

Modern guitarists mostly get by with pentatonic scales, taking five notes from the minor scale to play blues, or five notes from the major scale to play country.  Since rock borrows heavily from both blues and country, rock guitarists tend use either major or minor pentatonic depending on the song.

Jazz players?  Well, they prefer strange seven and nine note scales with even stranger sounding Greek names.  Good for them.

Skilled and inventive guitarists throw in lots of notes that don’t belong in the pentatonic scale - sometimes to harmonize, sometimes to give you a tasty blue note – but they rarely stray from those five basic notes.  Most of the classic guitar solos follow this pattern.

Isn’t it amazing what you can do with a driving beat, a few simple chords, and five little notes?

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Monday, 31 March 2014

Hey Mr. Fantasy

As the intro points out, the number of reunions that have taken place since Traffic first did it in 1970 are too numerous to list, but the Readers’ Poll on Bands That Should Reunite is still kinda sad.

We’ve got the usual suspects: Pink Floyd, Oasis, GNR, The Smiths, Genesis, The Kinks    but most of the write-ups say something like “it ain’t going to happen ‘cause xx hates yy” or “zz isn’t interested, so dream on.”

So it’s sad.  Or worse.  I mean, Led Zeppelin can’t reunite because their drummer is dead.  Ya, the 2007 show was amazing and Jason Bonham did a great job, but shouldn’t we move on?

Can’t we treasure what’s come before and still give a shot to the host of current acts out there that deserve a listen?  Isn’t “the new” what attracted us to those old acts in the first place?

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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Good Enough

I usually reserve my 10th-favourite-guitarist-of-all-time spot for whoever I’ve listened to recently that’s very good but didn’t make the top 9.  Mike Campbell, Tom Petty’s sidekick, is frequently in that spot.

One list he could definitely top, though, is Most Improved Guitarist.  Such a designation may be unfair, because he was always terrific.  Never a wasted note, always complimenting the song with additional emotion, tasty licks, clever double stops and a unique but familiar style. 

Refugee, The Waiting or Mary Jane’s Last Dance are typical examples of Campbell’s ability to improve a song without getting in the way.  But you’d be hard pressed to move him up the list and compare him with the likes of Clapton or Page or Hendrix or SRV, right?  Not enough notes.  Not enough complexity.  Insufficient speed.  No real surprises.

OK, so go listen to Good Enough from Petty’s last album, Mojo.  It’s a trippy, bluesy, Beatle-esque number calling for either some signature Harrison bends or some classic Lennon howls.  Campbell gives you both, while still sounding like himself.  But during the extended soloing, Campbell also gives you Jimmy Page with a bit of Clapton thrown in.  If you swapped Petty’s vocals for Plant, and had John Bonham drumming, this song could be a stow-away on Led Zeppelin III.

Improved?  Well, maybe Mike Campbell got better with time.  Maybe he just became more adventurous.  Or maybe he just felt like saying, “oh ya, I can do that too.”

I should have known it.

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Monday, 24 March 2014

The River of Troubled Water

A few posts ago I said that not many artists or groups deserve their own list, but that The Band was one of them.  I stand by that, but don’t dispute that Simon and Garfunkel also deserve their own Top Ten list.

So, without question, does Bruce Springsteen, but 100 Greatest Bruce Springsteen Songs?  I mean, he’s fabulous, and I have the utmost respect, but 100?  Isn’t that just a little excessive?  What about The Beatles or Rolling Stones, or Led Zeppelin or Eric Clapton or Buddy Guy?   Really, almost anyone with a big catalogue and lasting appeal.

Maybe they’re coming, those lists.

Back to Simon and Garfunkel, their impact was large.  Their appeal transcended generations and genres.  They kept the beatnik coffee house folk thing going until the Hippies came along and (all-too briefly) breathed new life into that scene.  That’s a pretty big accomplishment.

Powerful songs, terrific vocals, musical poetry.  “Tom and Jerry” definitely deserve their own list.  Too bad that, like so much other magic from the 60’s, it couldn’t last.

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