An album that really needs no discussion. I just want to jot down a few thoughts as I am listening:
Unsung hero? Alex Acuna. I saw him play in a small group with Brian Bromberg at Crowder Hall sometime during the period 1983-1986. He was outstanding. His contribution to Weather Report was vastly underrated.
Best track? How could it not be Birdland? Zawinul is immortal for that track alone (well, that and Mercy, Mercy, Mercy). But wait. My favorite has always been A Remark You Made. It's Wayne Shorter's finest moment on the album, and maybe his best of all with Weather Report.
Was Jaco really that great? Uh, yes. Just listen to this album. He was a kid who had only recently joined a group of very seasoned, very savvy jazz pros, and absolutely took over the joint. Next question?
Has it held up over time? Not all Weather Report albums have, but this one, you bet it has.
today I was reminded of...
one of the greatest heavy metal drum workouts ever.
No, make that one of the greatest drum workouts ever, period.
Bill Ward is the drummer. The track is War Pigs, from Paranoid, the immortal heavy metal opus by Black Sabbath.
What, you won't listen to Sabbath? Why not? They're another one of those groups that you're embarrassed now to admit you used to like, but they didn't become famous just because of all the occult trappings.
Sabbath are, after all, credited with being among the pioneers of heavy metal. They also had a few other things going for them, including: a solid rhythm section; a pretty original guitarist; and a very original singer.
Back to War Pigs. If there's a 4/4 fill in existence that Bill Ward didn't play at some point in this track, I'd like to know what it is. He also plays excellent backing on the two extended guitar solos by Tony Iommi.
The best way I can think of to describe his sound is this: he is tight without sounding tight. Same goes for bassist Geezer (real given name Terrence) Butler.
I heard War Pigs on the dinosaur rock radio station. If you don't want anyone to know you listened to it, you can wait for it to come on while you're in the car by yourself (they play it pretty regularly, I suspect). If you're not concerned about the overlords of the internet knowing you listened to it, it's easy to find on Spotify.
If you dare to listen to it on the internet, listen to the whole album. Just ignore (or chuckle at) the lyrics, and groove on the sound of what was, at its roots, a great blues rock band, while Ozzy mesmerizes you with his barely controlled scream.
I made a mistake in my soul/R&B/funk playlist. I included Out of Touch by Hall & Oates. Not that there is anything wrong with that track. It's a great track, undoubtedly one of the best by this fine blue-eyed soul team.
My mistake was that it doesn't fit my description of songs that I heard as a kid. It was released in 1984.
The track I should have included was She's Gone, one of Hall & Oates' earliest hits. That one first came out on Abandoned Luncheonette in 1973, and was re-released as a single in 1976.
Abandoned Luncheonette has been recognized in recent years as a timeless classic. An interesting fact about that album: according to All Music, Bernard Purdie was one of the drummers.
another photogenic band
Mott the Hoople were one of those groups who, like the Rolling Stones, seemingly were made for publicity photos. I love this one (left to right: Buffin, Mick, Verden, Overend, and Ian). For an extra treat, click the source link on that page and check out the June 29, 1974, issue of Billboard magazine where the photo appeared as a promo for the band's latest single. Scroll down from there for articles about Captain Beefhart's new album and Shelly Manne's work as a studio player. Fun stuff.
A Soul/R&B/funk playlist
Not meant to be at all comprehensive, just the best of the tunes I remember hearing as a kid. Take a listen:
You have probably noticed, if you've read more than a few of my posts, that I tend to overuse superlatives. I'm too enthusiastic about my subject, I guess. I'm not going to discuss who might be the best male vocalist of all time in this post. I'm going to talk about one who probably wasn't the best of all time, but has been unfairly maligned, in my opinion.
You know I like to say that, as a general rule, an artist who achieved considerable success probably didn't do it by accident. They had to have something going for them. Sometimes, however, you have to wonder.
For many listeners, Barry Manilow seems to be the exception to my rule. He may be the musician who best fits the old line about Richard Nixon (or maybe it was Ronald Reagan): I don't know how he could have won the election, no one I know voted for him.
(See how I lured you in? I'm writing a post about Barry Manilow, for goodness sake, and you're reading it! Too late to turn back now!)
Lots of people liked, and still like, Barry, whether you want to admit it or not. His records have sold millions of copies. He is still performing all over the world (he's touring the United Kingdom this spring, according to his web site), more than forty years after he debuted as a recording artist. How can that be possible?
By the way, he also has a charitable foundation that gives financial support to public school music programs. I think he deserves credit for that no matter what you think of his music.
What could there be in Barry's records that makes people want to listen to him? Two things stand out to me:
(1) the records were always put together perfectly. The material, the arrangement, and the recording were always superbly done;
(2) face it, the man can sing. He might not be Sinatra or Bennett, but he's a lot closer to them than a lot of other singers, even ones you like.
You can hate on the songs, the arrangements, and the genre all you want to, but you can't say Barry doesn't sing well, or that his records are not masterfully done. One characteristic of his records proves my point, although I suppose it also points up how formulaic they were: the patented Barry Manilow last verse key change, taking the song up a step in pitch for the last verse so Barry could really belt it out. I don't know if that technique originated with Barry, but he sure used it to maximum effectiveness. I think virtually every one of his hit records employs it.
The recording that best demonstrates what I'm talking about is Looks Like We Made It. It wouldn't kill you to listen to it. It's on an album titled This One's For You. The lyrics aren't going to drive you crazy (maybe that's what people hated about his records), it's a great arrangement, and it shows off his voice as well as anything he ever recorded. Give it a try.
WHAT A COMBINATION
Listening to Elton, I was reminded of my affinity for the playing of Nigel Olsson. As often happens, this led me to search for photos. I struck gold: this snapshot of Nigel with none other than Ashley Force.
You don't know who Ashley is? Well, she might not be a household name, but certainly you have heard of her father, NHRA superstar John Force, right?
Who would've guessed that an English drummer would be, like me, a drag racing fan?
No, not this kind of tenor. I'm talking about the kind of saxophone that was played by John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Wayne Shorter, Stan Getz, Frank Foster, and Hank Mobley, just to name a few of my favorites.
When it comes to tenor solos, I'm pretty particular. I love Wayne Shorter's playing (and I love his composing even more), but he was not one of the great soloists. Getz might have been the most original (well, after Trane), but he's not one of the top soloists, either.
Not surprisingly, my selections for the three best tenor soloists are also the three tenorists who are generally acknowledged as the three best of the hard bop era: Trane, Dex, and Sonny. I have listened extensively to the output of all three of them, to the point where if I hear a solo by one of them that I don't already know (which is rare), I can almost always identify the player immediately.
But which of their solos are the best? I know, it's a silly exercise, but I like doing it. Actually, I think the absolute best is by Sonny, even though I think he ranks (slightly) below Trane and Dex (in that order) overall.
So which solo am I talking about? I'ts on a Blue Note album titled Volume Two. The tune is Monk's essential Misterioso. As if having solos by Monk and Horace Silver on the same track wasn't enough, Sonny invented new melodies that have to be heard to be believed.
Next, one that most listeners are more likely to have heard: Trane on Freddie Freeloader from the justifiably famous Miles Davis Quintet album, Kind of Blue. It's a melodic exploration, but with the harmonic elements that only Trane ever mastered.
What about Dex? Actually, this might be the easiest to pick of the three: Cheesecake, from Dex's Blue Note masterpiece, Go. I have long thought that this is the standard by which all tenor playing must be judged. Nobody could lay back while going a mile a minute like Dex could. If you don't understand what I mean, listen to this solo a few times and you'll get it.
I must confess, however, that I might be biased toward Dex by the fact that I actually met him in person. I'll have to tell that story sometime.
This photo really needs no comment. The man was a mad genius.
Dylanesque Singer #1?
I have written before about the number of singers whose sound has obviously been influenced by Bob Dylan. One singer who might be both one of the most obviously Dylanesque, and one of the most successful of those who emulated the master, is Tom Petty. I discovered him about the time he began to receive widespread attention, with the release of the second Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album, You're Gonna Get It, in 1978.
The song that best illustrates my point is I Need to Know, one of several great tracks (and the first single) on You're Gonna Get It. From the first line of the first verse, Petty's atonal whine is truly worthy of the master.
Another great track from the same album is Hurt, where you'll hear some of the instrumental sophistication that marked the band's later work. The lead/rhythm guitar combo is particularly striking. I really like the sound the lead player makes with the subtle licks on the chorus of this track.
You may recall that it was only a year later, when Damn the Torpedoes was released, that Petty rocketed to superstardom. And although both Petty and the band obviously matured between the release of their second and third albums, Petty really didn't change his vocal style at all. Listen to the chorus on Here Comes My Girl, and the chorus and bridge on Even the Losers, just to name two spots where if it had been Dylan singing, you wouldn't have been able to tell any difference.
A lawyer who likes to write music commentary.