Musicians And Albums I Dig

In Memoriam: Ginger Baker

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On October 6th 2019, the drumming world and the music world at large lost an iconic drummer. Formerly of Graham Bond Organization, Cream, Blind Faith, Ginger Baker’s Airforce, Ginger Baker Trio, Bruce, Baker and Moore, Masters of Reality, and Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion, and having collaborated with such world music legends as Afrobeat pioneer, Fela Kuti, Ginger’s contributions to drumming and to music were massive.

Since I don’t have much time to write a lengthy tribute – although I might do so later this year – I shall share my first encounter with Ginger Baker’s drumming.

It was one evening in 1992. I was about 8 going on 9. My parents separated legally, and it was an extremely confusing and traumatic period in my childhood. Everything took a nosedive including my studies. I was going back and forth between staying with my mom and staying with my dad. But that one evening, when I was with my dad, and he bought me fish and chips for dinner, he put on The Very Best of Cream vinyl (yes, we still played vinyl records those days even when CDs were the dominant format).

The first track was the iconic Rock song, Sunshine of Your Love. I stopped eating and just couldn’t believe what my ears were picking up from the home stereo speakers in the living room. The guitar and bass riff on that song was the heaviest thing I ever heard at that point. Being very sensitive to rhythm also, I noticed the unusual drum pattern in the song also. The backbeats didn’t land on 2 and 4. It landed on 1 and 3 instead. There was no use of Hi-Hat or Ride cymbal. The main groove was just bass drum, snare drum, floor tom, with excursions around the toms in between Eric Clapton’s and Jack Bruce’s vocal lines – a beautifully simple and elegant example of setting up events in a song with fills.

In 1998, when I was going through yet another traumatic crisis in the family, I seemed to be drawn to the music of Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and Steely Dan. I distinctly remember playing all the Cream tracks from Eric Clapton’s Crossroads CD box set (1988, Polydor Records) over and over again. I marvelled at the songs, the musicianship (!!!), and not least, Ginger’s very unique drumming and drum sound.

In 2003, I bought the Strange Brew documentary DVD as a Father’s Day present. It was a 1991 documentary on Cream with mind-blowing clips from their legendary 1968 farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London. I ended up watching the DVD more than my dad did. This was the turning point in my life. I decided I wanted to give being a musician a try, and to seriously devote myself to practice. I became a Cream fanatic for over a year. I searched everything I could find on the band online – bootlegs, reviews, interviews, information on their equipment, analysis of their playing styles, analysis of their songs, analysis of their live performances. I studied Ginger Baker’s drumming style and technique intensely. I play alot of stuff that came from him. The way I approach jamming with other musicians, my inclination towards thinking and listening like a Jazz musician (at least I try to), were largely influenced by him.

I then researched on their pre-Cream and post-Cream music projects. With Ginger Baker, I was fascinated by his versatility to navigate through Jazz, Afrobeat, Rock, Blues, and abit of Funk, yet still retain his strong drumming identity. You just knew it was him within the first two beats, let alone the first bar of music. I was inspired to be that sort of drummer – have an identifiable sound and feel to my playing while still being versatile and competent in a number of genres. I owe it largely to Ginger for setting me on this path.

Much has been said about Ginger’s personality. I do not wish to get into that here. I acknowledge his flaws. I’m flawed too. I try my best to prevent mistakes I made in the past from happening again, and am recovering from past mistakes. Ginger, through his drumming and music, however, gave me hope when I was hopeless. As a kid, I thought I would never be in a happy family. I would never be in a family with two parents living together like I saw my classmates, acquaintances, and few friends had. I felt isolated and alienated. I became angry at the world for a time. But Ginger’s music, amongst the many others I was listening to growing up, kept me grounded, and gave me something to look forward to.

Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Mitch Mitchell, Ian Paice, John Bonham, Stewart Copeland, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Billy Cobham, Neil Peart, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Buddy Rich, Steve Gadd, Dave Weckl etc…. Ginger’s name rightfully belongs in the company of these groundbreaking and iconic musicians. To me, at least..

Thank you, Mr. Peter Edward “Ginger” Baker for inspiring this broken kid to pick himself up and make something out of himself, as you did so many times in your own life. Rest easy.

My last wish when it’s time for me to go: play Sunshine of Your Love at my funeral. Blast that fucker loud. I don’t want any crying. I want people to rock out and sing their fucking hearts out. As one.

Songs From The Big Chair – Tears for Fears

SFBC

Spotify Link: https://open.spotify.com/album/06J93pgtDCUw6bsAQINhCs

Also available for purchase on iTunes.

I revisited this seminal 1985 work by one of the decade’s defining bands, Tears for Fears.

The songs have taken on a whole new layer of depth of meaning for me, especially with

where I am right  now,  the knowledge I’m gaining, and the newfound awareness I’ve

attained.

Since this is a drumming site, I should put in a word or two about the drumming…….AND

the drum programming. In my opinion, this is a textbook example of when excellent

live drumming (courtesy of one Mr. Manny Elias) meets excellent drum programming

to create a rich rhythmic tapestry. The sounds are dated, yes, but I think the rhythmic

creativity has never been topped since.

Give this album a spin……or as we say in today’s parlance…a stream….

My recommended tracks:

  1. Shout
  2. Everybody Wants To Rule The World (for the uninitiated drummers, see if you can figure out how this shuffle groove goes. Your ears might trick you…)
  3. Broken / Head Over Heels
  4. I Believe
  5. Listen

David Bowie: The definition of Cutting Edge in music

The music world has lost a game changing hero.

In these past two days since discovering the news of his all-too-sudden and shocking death, I reflected on what David Bowie’s music means to me – how it affected and influenced my musical path and life.

One thing is for sure, he was a great Rocker who wrote some really cool Rock songs that I would listen to right beside my other favourite Rock artists (most of whom are 70’s acts). The riffs and the grooves spoke to me right away. The lyrics were poetic.  It challenged my understanding of what Rock music could be. These are some of my favourite Rock songs by David:

Space Oddity, The Man Who Sold The World, Rebel Rebel, Suffragette City, and Jean Genie.

Just as I thought he was a cutting edge Rocker, he came up with a cutting edge Dance-Pop album called Let’s Dance. It’s one of my top favourite drumming albums and I used to play along to all the tracks on my drums.

David Bowie again challenged my notion of his music when I heard the gorgeous “This Is Not America”. He collaborated with the Pat Metheny Group, themselves a cutting edge Jazz-Fusion band, and the result was a piece of music with such a stunning ambience and truly moving/reflective lyrics.

David Bowie delivered one final album masterpiece called Blackstar. Even in the face of death, not one iota of his staggering creativity was lost. No stone was left unturned thematically, and even his death became such an artful exposition on the track, Lazarus. Some peope dismiss it as a gimmick to sell records. To that, I simply say, don’t listen to the record then.

It is no surprise to me by now that David Bowie could make truly powerful and moving art out of any theme, object, storyline in his music. He knew who he was and where he stood artistically. He never compromised on his artistic vision but his genius lay in his ability to make that vision assessable and commercially viable. How does one do that? Unfortunately we won’t have David around to show us the way, but we still have his music – his greatest message.

Rest in peace, Major Tom.

 

 

In Memoriam: JACK BRUCE

Jack Bruce

A Personal Tribute To A Musical Giant

It is with deep sadness and shock that I write this post. I learnt about the passing of Jack Bruce about 30 minutes after the stroke of midnight on 26th October 2014. He had left the world many hours earlier on 25th October due to complications from liver disease.

Although I never knew Jack personally, much less even seen him live, Jack, although a bass player, IS a hugely influential musician to me. In all the years listening to and absorbing both his groundbreaking work with the original Power Trio, CREAM, and his own richly eclectic solo work, I learnt to be as broad as possible in my musical outlook. Every form of music on earth is equally beautiful and can be integrated to form new musical languages without diluting the integrity of the original forms. In this process, you ultimately find your own voice, and boy, did Jack certainly have his own voice. This was essentially the message that Jack Bruce taught me to appreciate through his work.

Jack Bruce did it all – he wrote some of the greatest Rock standards with Cream, pioneered a modern approach to playing the electric bass, was gifted with powerful soaring vocals that lifted every track he sung on, and produced solo works that inventively fused different musical forms into a very unique musical tapestry as only he could. Jack had the ingredients to be a such a great musician thanks to a solid background in Classical and Jazz. This background he had was one of the key factors that inspired me to take Jazz seriously. I’m a better musician for it today.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, JACK!!!

Much has been said about his groundbreaking work with CREAM that also included guitarist, Eric Clapton, and drummer Ginger Baker, both also massive influences on me. I would however like to share some tunes that I particularly like from his solo work. If you’re new to Jack Bruce’s music, perhaps give these tracks a listen. I hope that you’ll love these works of high level art as much I do:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnO1UDqsvjI – Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out Of Tune (from the album, Songs For A Tailor)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YguY_jUDXRs – Theme From An Imaginary Western (from the album, Songs For A Tailor)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSinbaeI7Cc  – Mickey The Fiddler (version from the album, Jet Set Jewel, also recorded on I’ve Always Wanted To Do This)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiNN24qevBU – Directions Home (from the album, Shadows In The Air)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLUE2132_Mc – Hey Now Princess (performance on The David Letterman Show featuring Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker).

Enjoy these songs!!

Jack Bruce, rest in peace. We have your music close to our hearts every moment. May your shining example as a musician and person continue to inspire future generations of musicians who look to push the envelope of musical possibilities as you so capably had.

Miles Davis Live At Tanglewood, 1971 (Full Concert)

Badass. These guys write the book on on high level musical interaction. This is my favourite lineup of all the fusion bands Miles Davis had. Funky, free, at the same time. How do you do that? They can seriously rock too. Miles would then go into more repetitive rhythms, basslines,and riffs, but this band struck a balance which I like.

Personnel:

Miles Davis – Trumpet, Music Director

Gary Bartz – Saxophones

Chick Corea – Keyboards

Keith Jarrett – Keyboards

Jack Dejohnette – Drums

Dave Holland – Electric and Upright Bass

Airto Moreira  – Percussion

Tribute To Johnny Winter

I was shocked and devastated to learn of the passing of one of my musical heroes, the legendary Texas Blues-Rock guitar slinger, Johnny Winter.

I remember hearing The Progressive Blues Experiment album when I was in my preteens and was mesmerized by his fast, clean playing along with a very gritty, deeply rooted slide guitar playing. Johnny Winter And Live which features some heavyweights of 70’s Rock, guitarist, Rick Derringer, and killer drummer, Bobby Caldwell, taught me how to be exciting live within the Blues-Rock context but also have moments of quiet subtlety.

I think the ultimate favourite Johnny Winter track for me would be Mean Town Blues, from the Progressive Blues Experiment album. I just love how that boogie riff chugs so nicely on top of that solid and swinging Rock beat. Plus, it also contains one of my favourite guitar solos of all time. Another one would be his cover of Bob Dylan’s Highway 61, renamed as Highway 61 Revisted, from his Second Winter album. His voice, his badass slide guitar playing and that real tough texas shuffle just got to me in a real powerful way.

Thank you, Johnny Winter, for the years of inspiration. Your uncompromising approach to to the Blues, your steadfast belief in being rooted in tradition no matter how far out you take things, is a huge example for me to follow. You truly exemplified the phrase, “Looking back in order to know how to move forward.” The coolest thing about you also is that you always gave credit to the early Masters along the way.

Have a great time jamming up there with all the greats!

ZZ TOP, THE MOVING SIDEWALKS & THE 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS | TEXAS MUSIC LEGENDS

Early photos of the baddest Rock power trios. How cool is that! Note the huge absence of beards..

The Selvedge Yard

zz top chevy lowrider el dorado

“Our ’65 Chevy low rider convertible, flying the colors of ZZ Top’s El Dorado Bar is solidly a Texas car yet, equally at home on the streets of LA, Fresno, or Bakersfield.” –Billy Gibbons. This pic of ZZ Top has it all, in my opinion. Just checkout that custom-built Texas state Gibson guitar! The band has acquired an enviable car collection over the years, and is out and about in the custom scene. “We attend the Mooneyes Festivals in California and Japan and always make the SoCal Speed Shop summer ‘Open House’ gathering. Always a terrific time. As far as clubs are concerned, we think of ZZ Top as one.  We hang out, we shoot the breeze, we get down, we move on to the next town and, of course, it’s all about the arrival.  Loud, low, while you Rock and Roll…!” –Billy Gibbons

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Young ZZ Top Prom

“Dusty Hill, Frank Beard, and Billy…

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