Buzz's Blog

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Anything You Want We Got It Right Here …

That driving backbeat.  A relentless series of piano filigrees.  The unmistakable Chuck Berry guitar licks.  Some well placed harmony.  A gifted singer delivering simple lyrics that practically everyone can identify with – even if you’re not American.  Oh, and delivered with attitude.

Linda Ronstadt’s cover of Back in the U.S.A. just might be the perfect rock ‘n’ roll record.

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Thursday, 28 January 2016

Dust My Lick

Gibson’s 10 Iconic Blues Riffs & Melodies is focused on playing – maybe fooling around and coming up with your own riffs.  But it could just as easily be called The Best Blues Songs of All Time.

Yeah, I know, there are a few thousand tunes competing for that honour, but it’s a pretty impressive list.  Songs written by giants like Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Johnson, and played by the masters:  Sumlin, B.B., Buddy Guy, Elmore James, Albert King, Clapton, Hendrix and Johnny Winter.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

But the article’s main point is a good one:  mess around with something you already know and it might take you somewhere new.  I’m sure that’s how most songs are written.

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Thursday, 21 January 2016

I’m Glad, I’m Glad, I’m Glad

The 50’s and 60’s gave us a lot of delta blues dressed up, first as rock and roll, then as blues rock.  No surprise that Cream applied that treatment – brilliantly, in my books - to I’m So Glad by Skip James.

So if you’re a contemporary of Cream, you go looking for another tune, right?  I mean, what’s the point in re-doing See See Rider after the Animals?  No wait, someone did.  Actually, lots of people.  Nevermind.

Anyway, it turned out if you were Deep Purple you could re-do I’m So Glad and make it totally new.  You know, just weave Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade around it.  Obvious! 

Not really, and that’s what made that psychedelic era so freakin’ amazing.  Thanks to the fearless, restless exploration that dominated the times, a simple little ditty became a psychedelic, early prog rock tour de force.

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Friday, 15 January 2016

Sad Songs, Part 25

OK, the saddest song in the world is actually Adele’s Hello.  No wait!  Maybe it’s When We Were Young.

Ah, heck.  Make it the whole damn album.

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Thursday, 7 January 2016

The Circle of Love

In Guitar World’s 30 on 30, 30 great guitarists pick their favourite axemen.

All the cats you’d expect to see are there:  Green, Clapton, Blackmore, Beck, Hendrix, May, van Halen, B.B., Rhoads, Malmsteen …

As are, thankfully, a few guys you worry might be all but forgotten, like Leslie West, Alvin Lee and Mick Taylor.  And there are a few names you might not expect to be the idols of guitar wizards, for example Neil Young or Pete Townshend or George Harrison.  Not that they weren’t/aren’t amazing guitarists, but you don’t realize the hotshots feel the same way as you do.  So that’s cool.

But what’s really interesting is to see who the guys on the list like.  So:
  • Tom Morello likes Steve Vai, and Steve Vai likes Brian May.
  • Joe Perry likes Angus Young, but Angus likes Chuck Berry.
  • Ron Thal likes Zakk Wylde, whereas Zakk Wylde likes the Judas Priest duo of Tipton and Downing.
  • Richie Kotzen digs Eddie van Halen, who in turn thought Clapton was the man.
Sometimes you can clearly hear a guitarist’s influences in his work; other times, not so much.  So it’s instructive to see what they actually think.  And sometimes surprising.

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Friday, 18 December 2015

The Bad, The Ugly & The Good

When you’re listening to a song and it comes to the guitar solo, do you ever think to yourself, “Boy!  What a bad guitar solo, but it’s good.  I like it?” 

I’m not talkin’ about uninspired or lame.  I’m talkin’ awful, as in, “What’s he doin’?”

For me, a prime example would be Eight Miles High by the Byrds.  Every time I hear it, my initial reaction is, “Sheesh!  That’s the worst good guitar solo ever.”  But by the end of the solo, I’m thinking, “I dig it.  It really fits.”  Which is the ultimate compliment for a guitar solo.

Neil Young’s also excels at being not so good in a compellingly good sort of way.  As does Robby Krieger of the Doors, Dave Davies, John Lee Hooker, and a cat named John Lennon.

It’s a taste thing, of course.  But it’s interesting how we can embrace music that falls short of our personal standard of what constitutes “good.”  One more of the many mysteries of music.

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Friday, 11 December 2015

Twice The Fun

The guitar is a wonderful instrument.  In the right hands, it can be strongly emotive, awe inspiring, gobsmacking.  Unfortunately, sometimes there can also be a bit too much look-at-me-look-at-me-look-at-me, as Guitar Player points out in Top 10 Guitar Tandems.

Two guitarists can keep that impulse in check.  And the bi-play between them can take a song to a whole new level.  Allman and Betts, Tipton and Downing, Angus and Malcolm, Keith Richards and whoever … some pretty good bands have decided that two guitars are better than one.

Nothing wrong with Guitar Player’s list, but there are lots of other acts you could add:  Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Humble Pie, Wishbone Ash – and, oh, this little band out of Liverpool called The Beatles.

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Friday, 4 December 2015

Two Of Us

Not that he hasn’t worked damned hard to overcome it, but Paul McCartney is forever destined to be remembered as John Lennon’s partner.  A little unfair maybe.  After all, he only spent 13 years with John.  And he’s given us a lot of great music and memories over the last 45 years as a solo artist.

Then again, maybe he’s never given up trying to replace John.  Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Elvis Costello, David Gilmour, Dave Grohl, Kanye West …  it’s a pretty impressive list of collaborations.

Or maybe Paul just digs music, is a fan like the rest of us, and understands that at bottom music is a shared experience.

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Saturday, 28 November 2015

Who’s That Again?

Interesting memory test in Rollling Stone’s 10 Singer-Songwriter Albums … You’ve Never Heard.  Forgive me if I abbreviate the ridiculously long title.

Anyway, the 70’s was the heyday of the singer-songwriter, and I remember a lot of it - some good, some angst-ridden cheddar.  But I guess I didn’t notice it all.

I remember Hoyt Axton because I remember Three Dog Night.  I remember Thank You For Being A Friend, but not Andrew Gold.  I remember Tony Joe White because Polk Salad Annie was a fun tune.  Jesse Winchester?  Vaguely remember the name is all.

Elliott Murphy?  Steven Grossman?  Wendy Waldman?  Randall Bramblett?  David Forman?  Rory Block?  I gotta believe my FM station played all these artists, because they were pretty diverse.  But sorry, don’t recall them.   Goes to show our memories make us all smaller over time.

Thanks for the homework, RS.

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Friday, 20 November 2015

Long Long Long

When we think about longevity, images of wrinkly Rolling Stones or half The Who come to mind.  And that makes sense, especially from a performance standpoint; some acts just keep on trucking.  The Stones, especially, give the air of having some kind of record for surviving the longest.

But if you examine the question from the perspective of recording new music, they haven’t/didn’t last so long – at least in my iTunes library.

Here’s the ranking of the artists who have had the longest careers in terms of their earliest and latest recordings (again, in my iTunes library – yours will differ).

Earliest Recording
Latest Recording
Number of Years
Ringo Starr
Paul McCartney
B.B. King
Bob Dylan
Steve Winwood
Eric Clapton
George Harrison
James Taylor
Robert Plant
Joe Walsh
David Gilmour
Mark Knopfler
Bruce Springsteen
Tom Petty
Rolling Stones

OK, the Ringo thing is a bit of a fluke.  I finally saw him live in 2012, and was so happy about it that I bought the tee-shirt and the CD.

I don’t buy everything these folks release, but it’s wonderful that they’re still making great music – the ones that are alive anyway.

Speaking of which, I wonder if Hendrix or Lennon …. oh nevermind.

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