Friday, July 29, 2011

Instrument Panel

Doug: So I was having a conversation in the car with my younger son, and while we were listening to the iPod I asked him which instrument did he feel was the most important to a song's sound? We bandied that one about, choosing various songs to highlight our favorite guitars, bass guitars, horns, drums, and keyboards. Then I threw this poser at him -- what if we consider the voice as a musical instrument, then what do you think?

Doug: So we came up with some nominees: John Entwistle's bass on The Who's The Real Me (a selection nominated on this very blog way back when we looked at great bass players), Steve Perry's vocals on Journey's Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin', and Neil Doughty's keyboards on REO Speedwagon's Roll With the Changes. My son was partial to Phil Collins' drums on In the Air Tonight, but you know that's only because of that one part in the song; I told him he couldn't go wrong with Keith Moon of The Who if he wanted out-and-out violence, or Neal Peart of Rush if he wanted precision and polish.

Doug: So this was just a quick bit of fun we had over a car ride. What are some of your favorite performances over the years? Which instruments and/or vocals stand out in your memories? Thanks in advance for sharing!


Steve Does Comics said...

Let's see. Putting no great thought into it and with virtually no idea what I'm talking about, I'd say Budgie's drumming on Siouxsie and the Banshees' Spellbound, Paul McCartney's piano on Sexy Sadie, Joe Osborn's bass on Only Living Boy in New York, Mark Knopfler's lead guitar on Sultans of Swing, Steve Nieve's mighty organ on Elvis Costello's I Don't Want to go to Chelsea, and Kate Bush's magnificently demented warblings on Wuthering Heights. I still haven't quite got over the shock of hearing Kate Bush's voice for the first time.

david_b said...

Yeah.., it's a pretty broad subject here, but here's a couple of nice shout-outs to Mickey Dolenz. His vocal riffing on 'Goin' Down' is very cool/bluesy, very distinctive in a quasi-'Parchement Farm' style (sorta bluesman on speed...). Also, for an actor having to learn drums, his drumming on 'Circle Sky' (Monkees live version) is extremely stylish and progressive, aggressively and bombastically propelling the Nesmith song along. One of their finest live performances (seen in their movie 'Head'), only using the four guys.

I enjoy reviewing the progressive bass prominence of McCartney from 'Paperback Writer' through the after-session/separate tracked melodic bass lines on 'Pepper'. Back in '65/66, Lennon was always irritated that the Motown productions always had more bass, and they couldn't hear it come through on their early EMI tracks.

I'm always a bit of a fan of Indie Pop, like Sheila Chandra's 'Roots and Wings'. When I walked into a Borders in Mpls.., I first heard it rafting over the store speakers, and it instantly took me to a place I've never been to before.. The reason I mention this is I love how vocals in Indian music tends to drone over the fabric of the music, as yet another layer of it's rich tapestry. It's simply marvelous, when vocals are used as instruments.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Let me see, I guess the one that stands out the most in my mind is Mick Waller's astounding drumming on Rod Stewart's version of the Motown hit I Know I'm Losing You from Every Picture Tells A Story. It is hard to believe the man has only two hands.

Honorable mention: Dr. John's furious piano playing on Mess Around from his Gumbo album; Johnny Winter's demented-preacher vocals on Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited from the second Winter album; and the Dixieland jazz band backing up Bonnie Rait on Give It Up Or Let Me Go from her second album.

Edo Bosnar said...

The outstanding interplay of guitars by Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine on Television's Marquee Moon album comes to mind - especially on the title track and "See No Evil."
Similarly, there's the almost dual lead guitars by Shelley and Diggle in many of the Buzzcocks' songs, like "Noise Annoys" or "Everybody's Happy Nowadays."
I also really enjoy Chris Squire's powerful bass in so many Yes songs. His talent is really showcased on the Fragile album - any of the longer songs. I also really enjoy McCartney's bass line in "Coming Up."
Interesting that you mention REO Speedwagon's "Roll with the Changes" for the keyboards alone; to me that song is the perfect blend of powerful instrumental performances by the entire band.
Speaking of Rush and Neal Peart's drums, there's the obvious choice of "Tom Sawyer" and also "YYZ" (although, again, that's a case of virtuoso performances by the entire band...)
As for vocalists whose voices assume the quality of musical instruments, I can't help thinking of the late, great Ofra Haza...

J.A. Morris said...

Since the first thing I saw when I typed this url was Steve Perry's kisser, let me start by saying I can't stand Journey. Sorry.

Moving along:
Here are the first musical bits that popped into my head when I read the question(I might have different answers next week!)
Next time you hear 'Something' by the Beatles, listen for McCartney's bass. Sure, Harrison's guitar lick is great, but the bass work is amazing on this. McCartney was an amazing bassist, just as good as Geddy Lee or Flea, but in a more quiet way.
Eddie Kendricks' vocal on 'I'm Gonna Make You Love Me' is amazing.
Great falsetto there. Runner up:Another vocal that always gets to me is Michael Stipe singing 'To Sir With Love' live with 10,000 Maniacs:
Stipe shows up at the 1:03 mark.
Ever since I first heard it, I've always been blown away by Mick Jones guitar on 'Complete Control' by The Clash.
Not as dramatic as Hendrix or Clapton, but he showed that it was possible for a punk rocker to be a guitar hero.

I gotta go with Moon on 'I Can See For Miles'. Epic.
Runner up:Ringo on 'Rain':

Doug said...

J.A. -- explain, please. You just cut a hole in my 1980's heart.

Inkstained -- I had to make a little drive this morning, so I re-listened to the Rod Stewart songs you suggested. Great call on the drums. Stewart's voice is also essential to the mood of "I'm Losing You".

All -- "I'm a Man" by Chicago came across while I was driving. Check it out for a great percussion jam.

Stewart Copeland's intro. to the Police's "Message in a Bottle" is pretty darn good, too.


Karen said...

Sorry Doug, J.A.'s not the only one. I feel physically ill at the mention of Perry or Journey. He looks and sounds like a sick chihuahua. Just my opinion.

I'll echo praise for McCartney's bass playing. I've been listening to a lot of Beatles lately, and he is amazing on She's A Woman, Paperback Writer, and so many others. I'm also struck by some of his vocal performances, like "I'm Down" or "Kansas City".


Doug said...

OUCH! A simple "I'm with J.A." would have sufficed... "He looks and sounds like a sick chihuahua." Man.

Just a small town girl,
Livin' in a lonely world.
She took the midnight train
Going anywhere.

Harumph... :(

Doug (ain't controversy grand?)

J.A. Morris said...

One reason I can't stand Journey is because I generally can't stand Power Ballads.
I probably wouldn't still hate them if 'Glee' and 'The Sopranos' hadn't breathed new life into 'Don't Stop Believin'.
But it's certainly okay if Doug likes them, I'm already in the minority of people in my "demo" regarding Journey.

Karen said...

You're right Doug, I should have left it alone! I know a lot of people love Journey. I agree with J.A., I'm not a fan of power ballads and that's the main reason I despised Aerosmith after they came back in the 90s.I loved their stuff in the 70s but couldn't stand them later. That's probably a big part of my dislike of Journey.

It also didn't help that in my junior year of high school I had a Spanish teacher who loved Journey and would sit in front of the class and talk with the girls about how sexy Steve Perry was. Often, that was all she did in class. Yes, my high school was THAT bad.

I'm sure you might find some of my favorite bands awful or disgusting (Iggy Pop? The Ramones?) but unlike me, you probably wouldn't say so. I'm sorry I let my distaste get the best of me.


Doug said...

So we're leaving on vacation to Disney World tomorrow (I'll be gone a week -- Karen's in charge while I'm away), and I needed to cut the yard before we left. So I soldiered out into the brutal 90 degree/80% humidity that is Chicagoland in the summer. And you all know I had the Journey playlist going on my iTouch while I was out there!!

Karen, that was a nice statement -- you didn't need to do that. But I appreciate your rationale. By the way, I have a Spanish teacher in the classroom next door to me. She's a favorite of all the juniors and seniors, because in Spanish IV and V all they really do is stuff like your teacher did!

And I don't listen to Iggy Pop or the Ramones. Not opposed, just ignorant. They never crossed my radar back in the day.

By the way, check out Journey live on "Line of Fire", for those of you on the fence. No time right now to give you a link, but I'm sure YouTube will come through. If you can't find that, you can find "Feeling That Way" from their appearance many moons ago on the Midnight Special.

I love the conversation that generates here every day. You all are great!


david_b said...

Big Ramones, Blondie, even occasional Madness/ska fan here.. All guilty pleasures, much like my Monkees and Byrds appreciation.

I don't mind good pop (even Journey..perhaps..), as long as it's nice, clean productions. I wouldn't classify myself a big fan of ABBA, but darn if they didn't score mongombo hits, and deservingly so. Great production efforts, memorable hooks.

Edo, absolutely spot on for McCartney's 'Coming Up'.. Outstanding bit of pop, especially Juber and Macca on guitar and bass, respectively. It's best served LIVE (I hated the dismal studio track..).

Hey, Doug. I'm up here in Milwaukee, Chicago's largest suburb.

J.A. Morris said...

Have a great trip Doug!

I went to Disney on my honeymoon 4 years back, 'Fantasmic' at Disney Studios was a high point, check it out if you haven't seen it.

starfoxxx said...

Wretch, "I'm Losing You" is one of my all-time favorite songs, too. Just a classic. The Faces' "Flying" is pretty awesome, too.

I could go on and on with this topic. But what first struck me is Robert Plant's distinct vocals. I caught a live performance by his Band of Joy on PBS or some channel a few weeks back, and Plant STILL has that great voice. AND they do some crazy LEDZEP tunes, with a twist. Highly recommended stuff. BTW, i guess it's not a cover if Plant is singing, right?

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