Friday, 25 July 2008

Top 5 Vocalists

I'm almost there. Vocals this week then an additional musician and the final supergroup line-up next week. The whole supergroup thing has proved more difficult to do than I first though. Lots of cheating going on (listing people who didn't quite make the Top 5) and lots of indecision. This week's no different. I was going to do a Top 5 Vocalists but having struggled to find a happy balance have ended up doing two lists one for boys and one for the girls.

Top 5 Male Vocalists
1. Gerry Rosalie (The Sonics) - A real wild rock'n'roll singer, if you've never heard The Sonics go out and buy an album now. No, really, stop what your doing and go and buy THIS right now. Good glad we got that sorted. The Sonics have blown me away. Active in the early sixties, they are still the most exciting band I've heard in the last five years. Maybe the last ten. Rosalie's screaming vocal allied with a fuzzed-up dirty rock'n'roll sound gave them an edge no other band of that era had.

2. Black Francis (Pixies) - Having made Joey Santiago my number one guitarist last week I was resisting placing Frank Black quite so high this week but I can't deny that I love his vocal style. Not a classically great singer by any means but a voice full of passion. The Pixies are my undisputed favourite band and I guess this is why.

3. Otis Redding - So many great soul singers to choose from but Otis is the one I get the most enjoyment from. It probably helps having the Bar-Keys as your back up band.

4. Ian Gillan (Deep Purple) - A great out and out rock singer who has long been one of my favourites.

5. Jeff Buckley - A unique and passionate singer.

Top 5 Female Vocalists
1. Cat Power - I'm on a serious Cat Power trip at the moment. In fact ever since I heard "The Greatest" in 2006. Chan Marshall has a voice that can genuinely send shivers down my spine.

2. Sandy Denny (Fairport Convention) - THE voice of British folk, I can think of no other singer in that genre who even comes close. She crammed a lot in to a short time and apparently lived life to the full. Good on her.

3. Ronnie Spector (The Ronettes) - I'm not sure she quite deserves the tag "the original bad girl of rock'n'roll" but she must have been one tough cookie to have survived a five year marriage to Phil.

4. Nina Simone - A stunning voice from a lady who I'm ashamed to say I've really not got a great deal by. In compiling this top 5 I've already knocked up an extensive list of singers I really need to investigate further.

5. Lucinda Williams - A voice full of character and experience and a great songwriter as well.

So, much happier with this than I was with my Top 5 Guitarists. I'll get this supergroup thing wrapped up next week before moving on to some easier topics for a bit!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Top 5 Guitarists

I was forty a few weeks back. Thereby managing to reach an age that I previously believed to be "old" with absolutely no musical talent at all. I have made at least three aborted attempts to learn guitar but lack of any hand co-ordination coupled with a healthy dose of bloody-laziness means that so far I've failed horribly. Attempt four is currently underway. Partly because of this lack of skill, the guitar has been the instrument that most fascinates me. Those people capable of producing amazing sounds from it, that can stir the soul and excite the heart, will always be my heroes. I knew this would be a tough five to complete and my working list stretched to over fifty possibles. In the end I stuck with the guitarists that made my favourite music rather than those who are more regularly selected as the greatest in their field.

Incidentally my new definition of "old" is sixty which gives me another twenty years of leeway and a bit more time to learn guitar.)

1. Joey Santiago (Pixies) - The Pixies are my all time favourite band and Joey's guitar plays a huge part in that. I've been struggling to find the words to adequately describe why I like Santiago so much. It's probably as much about the songs as anything he does specifically. After initially being wowed by guitarists like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai I realised that I actually prefer something less flashy. Santiago seems a laid back guy who doesn't look for the limelight, and his guitar added to that unique Pixies sound without dominating it.

2. David Pajo (Slint/Papa M/Pajo) - A post-rock alt-country genre-flitting legend. Pajo has been around a bit managing spells with Will Oldham, The For Carnation, Tortoise, Stereolab, Royal Trux, King Kong, Bush League, Zwan, and Peggy Honeywell as well as his prodigious solo output as Aerial M, Papa M and now Pajo. Just to rub it in he was born in the same year as me. I've got a bit of catching up to do.

3. Johnny Ramone (Ramones) - 1, 2, 3, 4! You have to respect Johnny's ability to play song after song of breakneck rock'n'roll guitar. His biceps must have been made of steel.

4. Larry Parypa (The Sonics) - My recent journey of discovery into Garage Punk and early 60's R&B began after hearing The Sonics first two albums. Their sound is astonishing when compared with their musical peers, the original protopunk band. Larry Parypa's fuzzy guitar and his customisation of the bands equipment helped achieve a wild and distorted rock'n'roll sound that was light years ahead of anyone else.

5. Kirk Hammett (Metallica) - I was a full on Metal fan when Metallica hit the scene. Their arrival took the genre to new levels and redefined what I considered to be heavy rock. Kirk Hammett had replaced Dave Mustaine (another great Thrash guitarist) and Mustaine was mightily pissed off about it for a long time. Hammett was on guitar by the time I saw them tour the UK and alongside James Hetfield's chugging rhythm set a new bar for those rock bands that would follow.

A special mention for Martin Barre of Jethro Tull (who was in this Top 5 until only a few hours ago). He is a brilliantly versatile guitarist who has coped with the changing styles of Tull and Ian Anderson's high expectations since he replaced Mick Abrahams on their second LP.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Top 5 Bassists

Week two of the Supergroup and it's time to find a bass player. This turned out to be almost as hard as drummers which doesn't bode well for finding a guitarist.

1. Mike Watt (Minutemen/Stooges) - I first discovered the Minutemen when they (well Watt and drummer George Hurley) supported Shellac at the Scala a few years back. At the time hearing their early 80's hardcore played on just bass and drums was an aural endurance test but I'm now a confirmed fan. Mike Watt's bass style is unlike anyone else I've ever seen and fits with the story that when starting out he didn't know bass guitars were different from guitars. Watt therefore removed two strings from a guitar and learnt to play with that. More recently he's taken on the role of bass player with The Stooges and seeing him perform their classic songs live took my appreciation of his skill to new levels.

2. Horace Panter (The Specials) - I've been going through a bit of a personnel Brit-ska revival this year and have played the first two Specials albums a lot over the last 6 months. More than a little excited about the prospect of a Specials reunion which I think will be more authentic than the usual in-it-for-the-money reformations.

3. John Entwistle (The Who) - I'm not muso enough to wax lyrical about the Ox's ability with a bass but he was definitely a bit special. Saw him live with The Who on one of their first reunion tours. He was good but I spent more time watching Pete Townsend to see if he was going to spear his hand with a tremolo arm again.

4. Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath) - Much like Entwistle, I didn't truly appreciate Geezer's ability until I saw him live. Another reunion tour, this time in Birmingham with the four original Sabbath members. He was superb that night which made me wonder just how good he might have been in his heyday. Set the standard for all METAL bass players that followed.

5. Paul Simonon (The Clash) - Simonon could get in this list based solely on his ability to look very cool indeed. The shot of him smashing his bass on the cover of "London's Calling" says it all. I also like the fact that Mick Jones planned to teach Simonon guitar but when he found that was too difficult decided to teach him bass instead. I reckon at least 80% of bassists ended up playing the instrument for the same reason.

I'm not going to do a full list of everyone who missed out but special mentions must be made for Danny Thompson (Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated/Pentangle), Donald "Duck" Dunn (The Mar-Keys/Booker T and the MG's), Joe Lally (Fugazi) and Kim Deal (Pixies/Breeders).

Friday, 4 July 2008

Top 5 Drummers

Back to music for a bit and I thought I'd compile my contenders for a Top 5 supergroup. Drums, Bass, Guitar, Vocals and a wild card fifth choice. Starting at the back then with the Drummer and I'm in trouble straight away. Got quite a big list of contenders and at least seven I feel I can't miss out. Can I have a Top 5 Drummers that doesn't include Keith Moon or John Bonham? No.

1. John Convertino (Calexico) - I'm no musician and so my choices are not necessarily based on technical skill. That said I'm pretty sure John Convertino is an incredible drummer. He has a great variety of style which covers hard and heavy thumping to more subtle rhythm keeping. Not what you'd expect from an alt-country performer, really powerful and a slick dresser to boot!

2. Dave Grohl (Nirvana) - I tend to like drummers whose style basically involves hitting the drums really hard. Grohl has a little more in his technique than that but still knows when all you have to do is to make a very loud noise.

3. Brian Chippendale (Lightning Bolt) - Loud and fast. Somehow he provides vocals for the Bolt at the same time. Something you really HAVE to see live. Your head will be ringing by the time it's over. Your ears might be bleeding.

4. Keith Moon (The Who) - Mad but special. I never got to see him live which drops him down the list but there's no way I could leave him out. Unique.

5. John Bonham (Led Zepplin) - The founding father of "very loud drumming". Bonham deserves his spot for the drum beat on "When The Levee Breaks" alone. Then again he could easily have lost it for the interminably long live drum solos he used to play during "Moby Dick".

This is cheating but here are the contenders who missed the cut; Clive Bunker (Jethro Tull), Ian Mosley (Marillion), Ian Paice (Deep Purple), Neil Peart (Rush), Matt Tong (Bloc Party), Todd Trainer (Shellac), George Hurley (Minutemen), Micheal Lee (Little Angels), John Coghlan (Status Quo), Brendan Canty (Fugazi), Ginger Baker (Cream), Al Jackson Jr (Booker T & the MG's).