Friday, 29 August 2014

The Session Men

Gibson’s 10 Great Session Guitarists brings some well-deserved focus to some brilliant musicians who have delivered a heap of magic over the years.

Lukather, Cropper, Carlton, Tedesco, Atkins, Spedding … where would pop/rcok/blues/soul be without them?  Or, to put it another way, where would Rod Stewart, Michael Jackson, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Steely Dan, Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell, Elvis, Ricky Nelson, Sam Cooke, Bryan Ferry, Elton John and  Aretha Franklin be without them?

OK, some of them would probably have done OK, but you get the point.

And then there was this cat by the name of Jimmy Page.

Note to Gibson.  No one is going to dispute the importance of James Jamerson, but he was a bass player.  Is there really no other session guitarist out there that should have made the list?

Friday, 22 August 2014

Look Out Kid

Most people think Rap started in the late 70’s and blossomed in the late 80’s.  Wikipedia cites a 1971 Isaac Hayes album as the more or less official beginning, while pointing out its African roots and the ubiquitous influence of blues.

Fair enough, but I think Rap began with Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues.  And why not?  If rapping has its origins in the blues, are we surprised if Dylan picked up on some stylings from, say, The Memphis Jug Band, and then poured it out into modern pop music?

We shouldn’t be.  You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Are We There Yet?

Kudos to RS for, you know, trying to broaden our musical horizons.  But when I examine the list I just don’t get the title.  Are they suggesting that, after over 50 years of obscurity on this side of the Atlantic, Cliff Richards is likely to bust out sometime soon?  Do they think that, at the age of 90, Charles Aznavour gives a damn?  I think we’re maybe being a little optimistic here.

Twenty acts who should have made it in America, twenty acts Americans missed out on, not everything’s made in America … there are lots of titles that don’t need to include the rather silly promise “yet.”

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Sounds Like …

Here’s an obvious truth: although they covered a lot of ground over many years (not enough, in the case of The Beatles), The Beatles always sound like The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones always sound like The Rolling Stones.

But here’s the thing:  what made them so darn good is that they could do anybody else.  The Beatles do Roy Orbison and come up with Please Please Me.  They do Dylan and come up with You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.  They start jamming Fleetwood Mac’s Green Manalishi and arrive at Sun King.

Same thing with The Stones.  While always true to their blues roots, they’ve absorbed and played back: Rock and Roll, British Invasion, Country, Folk Rock, Psychedelic, Hard Rock, Jazz Fusion – and just about everything that ever came out of Motown, Memphis and Muscle Shoals.  I know some cynics who think The Stones sold out and became silly by trying to stay relevant in the late 70’s as the world shifted into Disco and then 80’s R&B, but I disagree.

What I hear is a great band saying, “Yeah, we can do that.  Listen!”  And then they prove it by serving up a classic example of the style.  But even as the do that, they remind you they’re still The Stones.  The riffs, the grit, the guitar bi-play, the self-caricaturing vocals – they’re all there.  Miss You is both vintage Disco and vintage Stones.  Rock and A Hard Place sounds like it could have been recorded by Robert Palmer, but the presence of Keith and Ronnie make it better.  And just to drive the point home, they give us Sad Sad Sad on the same album.  “So much for this ‘new’ R&B thing.  Now here’s some rock and roll.”

Paul McCartney’s solo career proves that if The Beatles had lasted longer, they too would have remained relevant by continuing to listen to the new music around them, absorbing it, and the giving it back to us as fresh magic.

The Beatles and The Stones prove that you develop your own style by absorbing the music around you, and you evolve that style by continuing to listen.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Power of Two

Rolling Stone’s Readers’ Poll on The 10 Greatest Duets of All Time definitely reminds us that magic can happen when two great musical forces are combined.  With the exception of Sonny and Cher - and (sort of) Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell - most of the recordings listed were one-offs, which only adds to their appeal. 

Personally, I’m kinda partial to Bowie’s duet with Bing Crosby on The Little Drummer Boy, but I get why it’s not on the list.  A lot of Blues greats have done the duet thing too:  Hooker, Buddy Guy, B.B., Clapton.  Lots of magic on those records.

Anyway, you gotta dig it when great artists who respect each other collaborate.  You can almost feel their joy.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Damn Right I Got The Blues

I had the pleasure of seeing Buddy Guy in concert a while back.  While I regard him as one of the lesser powers in my particular pantheon of musical gods, his status as living legend is more than well deserved.

At 78, he’s still got his chops, and he provided an insightful and entertaining trip down his own personal memory lane, paying tribute to many of the greats who inspired him.

He also had with him one young Quinn Sullivan, a ridiculously talented fifteen year-old who has just about all of Eric Clapton’s tricks nailed.  I mean nailed.  Not approximated the way less gifted schlepps like me can do – I mean nailed.

Young Quinn isn’t the first prodigy to be discovered and mentored by an old master.  Many of his predecessors faded away before their twentieth birthday.  I hope that’s not the case here.  This kid’s something special.