A good bass player is often the glue that holds a band together. Witness of this fact are the Who’s John Entwistle and Chris Squire. The latter manages to be Yes’ glue, and at the same time, play solos. Quite an amazing feat.

Other bass players are known for exquisite lines and styles. One such player was Jaco Pastorius, who in addition to playing exceedingly well, also had a sound of his own, the Jaco growl. He prepared his bass guitar especially to make that sound, and I have never heard anybody else emulating it.

These are all very well known and discussed. There are a few others that deserve mention, but unfortunately, get drawn into the footnotes of rock or jazz history.

One such name is Graham Maby, who played for Joe Jackson for many years. He sounded great in any style, jazz, swing, new wave, hard rock. And he simply drove the band, whether a 3-piece rock band, or a swing orchestra.

Gary Thain, from Uriah Heep was also very good. His work on Sweet freedom is excellent. Gary ended up electrocuted on stage, and later died of a drug overdose – a trouble that claimed the lives of Jaco and Entwistle as well.

Trevor Bolder also played for Uriah Heep, but before that, he was David Bowie’s sideman. He was also very solid.

Jim Lea, from Slade, was a very good instrumentalist and composer. His lines were imaginative and very driven.

Bruce Springsteen’s Gary Tallent gets very little credit for the E Street band’s sound.

 

Reproduced from http://legaltranslationsystems.com/blog/blog3.php

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Many people would say that rock and roll, all of it, leads to lewd behavior, whatever is your definition of it. Others say it leads to plain immorality, and that lyrics simply entice bad habits, teaching kids to misbehave.

I have a weird confession to make. To very successful rock and roll songs from the seventies led me to think seriously about relationships, commitment and sexual involvement.

One of them “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”, by Meatloaf, might be seen by narrow minded people as an anthem to teenage sex, but it is anything but.  Yes, it does start with two teenagers who believe they are on top of the world, because they are close to “scoring”, yet, the real message of the song is in the last part. The guy forces the issue on the girl, she demands commitment, he promises it, then, voila, they are stuck forever.

In our society today, people might shrug off the guy’s behavior, sticking to his promise of staying with the girl forever, as silly, after there is divorce. However, the song hints that perhaps teenagers should indeed think twice before becoming sexually active, for depending on their character, it might involve staying forever with a person you thought you liked, but really, all you had was the hots for. I have seen some couples that married early remain together, but most don’t.

The same lesson is thought by “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”, where Brenda and Eddie, two high school sweethearts, decide to get married before it was advisable. The result is disastrous, and worse yet “you can’t ever go back to the greasers”.

Thus, I was always very cautious when dealing with the whole issue of sex, commitments and all. Courtesy of rock and roll.

As Deep Purple is being considered for inclusion in the Rock and Roll of Fame, it is only fitting I include one of their albums. What is not fitting is the fact it is up against Donna Summer, Public Enemy and Kraftwerk. The fact the band created the best known riff in Rock does not seem to make a dent on the commission’s intent to be political and include a rap group and a dead  (but good) disco diva.

Notwithstanding, choosing WDWTWA, instead of Machine Head might seem ludicrous to some people. However, this was the first heavy metal album I ever bought, so I it has some personal significance. And in spite of the fact Machine Head is catchier, I still find Who do We Think better.

I feel in love with the album in the first beats of “Woman from Tokyo”, which has the signature heavy Jon Lord organ which I try to emulate to this day. Many people might actually think some organ parts are played by a guitar.

“Mary Long” is also a great song. I used to be feel all grown up, because of the use of the word “virginity” in the album. How times change. Nowadays kids sing lyrics which are much more explicit than days. Thanks to the likes of Public Enemy…

Our Lady, Rat Bat Blue, Place in Line (great blues), Smooth Dancer and Super Trouper are all great tracks. Not a bad one on this record!

The album only has seven songs, 4 on side A, and three on B, but they are all excellent, with great solos by Blackmore and Lord. Paice as always provides solid drumming (one of my favorite drummers), Glover is not far behind on bass, and Gillan was at the top of his abilities. When I saw a recent Gillan video I almost cried. Well, voices do wear out.

After the album, both Gillan and Glover left, having had quarrels with Blackmore, and the band was never the same. Bands are difficult deals. Having played in bands, I can only tell you it is very tough, and it can only be tougher when there is success. Struggling bands seem to do better…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everybody has a favorite Beatles album, and mine is Abbey Road. Like a lavish banquet, there is a little bit of everything in Abbey Road, in my view, much more so than in every other Beatles album. Sadly, it is also the last one. (I know, Let i Be came ou later, but Abbey Road was the last one recorded).

I believe that Lennon-McCartney were at their best in this album, and perhaps, the mounting tension is partly the reason. George Harrison also contributed two beautiful songs, and even Ringo Starr had a contribution, the silly, but nice, country infused Octopus Garden.

There isn’t as much experimentation as in Sgt Peppers (my other favorite), which makes the album less weird. The medley on side B has some excellent material, including “She came in through the bathroom window”. But I suppose my favorite song is “Golden Slumbers”, followed by “Carrying that Weight”.

“Come Together” has some nice electric piano and bass work, “Something” is a true classic. The album even has what John would call one of “Paul’s silly grandmother songs”, “Maxwell Silver Hammer”, notable for the Moog synthesizer use. Not Keith Emerson stuff, but it is nice to hear the Beatles using it. Funny that it is not Paul playing the bass on this song, but George Harrison. According to George, Paul got a little obsessed with the song, there were a number of takes, which frustrated other band members.

Musically, the playing and singing are good, except, of course, for Ringo Starr. His drumming was never all that good to start. When the songs go complicated sometimes you would feel Ringo would just stop playing. His singing, ditto. It does fit the silliness of “Octopus Garden”, though.

“I want you (she’s so heavy)” at times feels a bit too long, especially compared to the rest of the album, but there is some great instrumental moments.

In short, this was a great going away present by the Beatles.

Although I write, even reckon myself a writer of sorts, I have to admit that I consider rock lyrics over-rated. Sure, there are a few gems, sheer poetry, things of genius, but a large number of rock lyrics seems put together just to sound good with the sound. Or the product of some cannabis trip.

Thus, I confess that although Close to the Edge might be my favorite album ever, I do not understand  the lyrics. Granted, I never really set down to take an hour or so to analyze them. It seems so futile, in light of the onslaught of sound provided by the record. Better leave as is, why mess up a good thing?

The fact is that although I do not understand the lyrics, they sound good, extremely good with the music. And that is just one aspect of it all.

Close to the Edge to me is more than a record. It is an event. Every single note and moment on the record is great, five master musicians getting down with it. Sure, it might be ponderous at time, a lot of people (specially in this day and age of minimalist drum and bass) might find it too complicated, but I simply love it. By the way, I love classical music too.

The thing about Close to the Edge is that I can almost see the band playing it. I have seen a few Yes concerts at different ages, but they never played Close to the Edge, the song. I have seen And You and I and Siberian Kathru live. By the way, does anybody know what a kathru is, without looking up?

I was very much impressed with the whole multiple keyboard thing. Seeing guys like Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson playing two instruments at a time, sometimes not looking at any of the two they were playing, surrounded by barracks of keyboards has been awesome. Nowadays, my Triton probably makes better sounds than all of the tons of stuff that Wakeman brought on stage, but it does not matter.

Rock and roll is about posture, above all.

So, at the time Wakeman played on stage with a couple of Moog synthesizers, a clavinet, an electric piano, a Hammond organ, a grand piano, a couple of Mellotrons, maybe an AMP synth. Later on the Birotron(s). Enough for me. In college I tried to emulate a RW ensemble with a terrible sounding Farfisa organ covered with fake fur, an RMI electric piano and a contraption called a Micro-T Moog, a poor brother of the Mini Moog which would not stay in tune for more than 5 minutes, the keys were all out of alignment, and had only pre-set (bad) sounds. Enough about me.

So Wakeman was just a part of the equation. There is also Chris Squire thundering bass, connected to a harmonizer. What is that thing? In Siberian Kathru he sounds like a train coming at you full speed, in fact driving the whole song with a sometimes very complicated, then easy line.

Steve Howe always appeared unassuming on stage, but can the man play! And in Close to the Edge all three were at their best. It was also the last Yes album with Bill Brufford.

There is only one way to describe Jon Anderson’s voice – unique. There is not a similar voice in the world. Yes, it does sound feminine, but it is also masculine. Thin, but powerful. Put the five together, plus multi movement songs, intricate time signatures, and 70s, and you got something special.

Sure, not even Yes would dream of releasing a 3-song album today. Actually they managed to pull that type of stunt until Relayer, then they began putting out albums with a more orthodox number of songs.

Back to the lyrics. You don’t need much to understand Close to the Edge, the song. I get up, I get down. That is it, in short. And “and you and I”, the title says it all. As for a kathru…

I cannot really say when it is my favorite part of the album. It might be the organ-synthesizer part between “I get up, I get down” and “Seasons of Man”, the third and fourth movements. If you have never heard a church organ at full blast, you might not understand. When the organ starts kicking in, ending the slow “I get up, I get down” and making the transition to “Season of man”, followed by the Mini-moog, something happens, not sure what. Then the organ solo!

Seasons will pass you by, but seasons will not pass Close to the Edge by.

Ok, I admit it. Maybe my love for Squeeze was girl induced. I was in college, falling in love every two weeks, and this girl I liked loved Squeeze. So I ended up loving Squeeze. More telling, though, is that I had a fall out with her (never mind the details), BUT continued loving Squeeze to this day.

Argybargy was Squeeze’s Opus Master. It is basically a perfect album that still sounds fresh some 32 years after launch, except for one song that I don’t fancy.

I remember music magazines saying Difford & Tilbrook were the new generation’s (80’s, of course) Lennon & McCartney. That might have been an exaggeration, but Argybargy certainly came close to matching the Beatles latter-day works in terms of creativity, catchiness and diversity.

All the players were at their best. Tilbrook’s voice is wonderful, Difford’s unusual bass harmonies gave Squeeze a distinctive sound. Jools Holland had some very good inputs, arrangement wise, with great piano, organ and synthesizer parts. Gilson Lavis and John Bentley held their own on the solid rhythm section.

The album was basically very upbeat. “Pulling Mussels from the Shells” was a great party, dance song, however, with a very good arrangement. As I play keyboards, I tend to pay attention to keys in songs, and “Pulling Mussels” has memorable piano and organ work, in addition to a great (short) guitar solo.

“Another nail in my heart” continues the party, with a nice synthesizer counterpoint in the beginning, not very logical considering the melody, which makes it so great. “Separate beds” is a great song, typical Difford story telling that made people compare Squeeze’s lyrical prowess to the Beatles. Then a tour de force with “Misadventure” and the slowest song on that side, “I think I’m go-go”, which again has a nice synthesizer part.

“Farfisa beat” is an OK song. I guess because I owned a Farfisa organ at the time (terrible sound, btw), I had my issues with the song. However, it is very danceable. “Here Comes That Feeling”, sang by Difford, is to me the low point of the record, in fact, seems totally out of place.

“Vicky Verky” is another nice story, that has one memorable line to me “although she was only fourteen, she really knew her courting”. “If I didn’t love I’d hate you” got a fair amount of radio play, and again, the synthesizer drives the song.

“Wrong side of the Moon” is obviously a playful spoof on the name of the Pink Floyd album that refused to leave the Billboard charts since 1972. It is a typical Jools Holland fun song, piano driven this time. Jools voice was no match for Tilbrook’s though.

“There at the Top” could be a women’s lib anthem, of sorts, of course! Another memorable line “files in the cabinet so neatly numerical, makes all the clients so neatly alphabetical”. Ok, no Shakespeare stuff, just clean fun, words that sound good together.

In addition to the great vocals, Glen Tilbrook also played guitar well, and his solos were very clean, to the point, and smooth.

Bands in a given formation don’t stick around forever, and Jools Holland left for the next album. Funny that Paul Carrack, his substitute, actually penned (and sang) Squeeze’s top hit, “Tempted” and then left as well.

Be that as it may, Argybargy is still my favorite Squeeze record, with out without Terry.

I didn’t really know much about Ian Hunter, when I heard ~When the daylight comes~ being played by a New Jersey cover band. I liked the tune, and given that at the time I bought tons of albums even without knowing the artist, I needed no arm twisting to buy the disc.

I have regretted quite a few things in life, not this, for sure. I have heard this album (or songs in it) hundreds of times in the course of the years and still do.

The album cover itself was intriguing. The name as well.

With the first beat in “Just another night”, I became hooked. In fact, the album’s first three songs, “JAN”, “Wild East” and “Cleveland Rocks” were one big party. Nothing complicated, totally unlike most classical rock I was listening to at the time, but right on. Ian does not have an excellent singing voice, but he swings in his own way.

I soon discovered that part of the sound was due to some musicians playing in the record, including Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg from Bruce Springsteen’s band, and the late Mick Ronson.

There was some intriguing use of synthesizers, including the rhythmic use in Cleveland Rocks, and the wonderful strings in Ships. Side A ended with “When the daylight comes”, which turned out to be the weakest song on that side.

Side B was a little mellower, in spite of “Life after death”, but had a few gems, such as “Outsider” and “Standing in my light”.

I still have the vinyl, have bought the CD, and have the album on my ipod.

Too bad Ian was never able to repeat it. The next album, Short back and Sides is an acquired taste (I dig it, but can see why people might hate it), although “Welcome to the Club”, the live album is quite good too.

I have seen Ian live many times over the years, and he gives quote a bang for the buck.  He is over 70 now, so I don’t think he delivers as much energy.

Getting just the right hook or intro is a very difficult thing, for any musician. I am terrible with intros, no imagination whatsoever, so I tend to appreciate these memorable hooks.

But it is amazing how people rip off other people’s ideas, and from fairly popular songs too!!! Listen to the intro to “Yummy yummy yummy”, by 1010 Fruitgum Gum and “Just What I Needed”, by the Cars, and you will be perplexed.

On the other hand, the general idea of the synthesizer intro (and intermezzo) from “Video Killed the Radio Star” appears on the arrangement of “Love will never do with you”, by Janet Jackson. It is quite amazing.

*********

It is also amazing how many people comment that the song “Single Ladies” by Beyonce, is annoying. OK, there is some apocalyptic synthesizer playing in the middle that I can’t decide if I like or not, but the song in general is interesting. I think that what offends the ears of a lot of listeners is the Middle Eastern-Indian feel of the melody. I don’t mean they don’t like it because they know it is Middle Eastern, rather they simply reject the novelty of the sound.

A couple of years back, a friend of mine came to my house, and started recording something on my Triton. It was a hook for a song, totally Middle Eastern. Well folks, guess what, it is here to stay. Middle eastern hooks and melodies, sung to a drum beat.

More common than you would think. Put a ring on it.

* I remember seeing articles on r&r magazines about a band called Klaatu. There were rumors that the band was the Beatles in disguise. Time would prove that wrong…

* the Who are You album sleeve has Keith Moon pictured sitting at a director’s chair that says “Not to be taken away”. A few months after the release he was dead.

* the Who by Numbers is definitely a very depressing album, with songs like “However much I booze and “How Many friends” dictating the somber mood of the album. Yet, the track “Blue red and Gray”, performed solo by Pete Townsend playing what seems to sound like a banjo, but might be a ukulele, is anything but depressing, in fact it is perky. So much for bipolarism…

* In a Circus magazine interview, Ian Hunter called David Bowie a “crafty bastard”, in the best possible meaning of the term. I tend to agree with that, this is probably the best definition of Bowie, who could set trends and jump into existing ones with much ease. Bowie wrote Hunter’s biggest commercial success “All the Young Dudes”, performed with Mott the Hoople.

* The sleeve of Queens album “A day at the races” has a curious bit of information. It says quite plainly, and proudly, there were no synthesizers in the album. This would indicate Freddie Mercury’s aversion to such electronic playthings. Yet, a few years down the line Freddie used no other than the Fairlight, a monstrosity that cost tens of thousands of dollars, in his solo album. Plus Queen began making heavy use of synthesizers in the 80~s. So much for a change of opinion.

* I remember the big deal people made about the fact that Cheap Trick used recorded synthesizer tracks in live renderings of the son “Surrender”. I never quite understood what was the problem, the synth only added a rhythmic backbone to the song…

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