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I haven’t done a “recent listening” post in a while, so here’s a long-ish (but not comprehensive) list of of what I’ve been listening to lately.
1) Aphex Twin – Syro… It took me a while, but I eventually stopped caring about the technique or technical difficulty of a drummer’s ideas. Instead I’m almost exclusively focused on the ideas themselves. That’s why I love programming and samplers and geniuses like Richard D James. He thinks like a drummer but isn’t limited by physical ability. His latest record is perhaps my favorite of his entire discography.
2) Blake Mills – Break Mirrors… Another thing that took me a while was the development of my appreciation for songwriting in it’s purest form. Lyrics married to melodies and chord progressions in a storytelling effort. Understatement alert: Blake Mills is a good songwriter. The drums on this record (played at least in part by Stuart Johnson) are also pretty interesting, and after a little digging I discovered that they were recorded LAST… meaning, without click and without influencing the rest of the instruments and their respective performances. Listening to this record with that in mind has taught me a lot.
3) Dawes – North Hills… More great songwriting from Taylor Goldsmith, a former bandmate of Blake Mills. His brother Griffin plays drums… AND SINGS. Dang it. I hate it when drummers play and sing and do both really musically. I mean, I love it, I just wish I could sing too.
4) Ryan Adams – Self-titled… This is my second favorite record from 2014. I love everything about this album, especially Jeremy Stacey’s hihat sound.
5) Christina Courtin – Self-titled… I had the pleasure and privilege of spending my summer touring and performing with Christina in the Sara Bareilles band. She plays violin like an angel and sings like a badass (visible in my latest DrumCam vid), and she also writes songs and fronts her own band in NYC. Oh and no big deal but Jim Keltner plays drums on her record.
6) Dexter Gordon – Go!… I’m rekindling my love for jazz in 2015. It’s fascinating to go back through records that I’ve listened to a ton but not for a long time. Billy Higgins on this particular record is taking me to SCHOOL, not to mention Dexter Gordon’s incredible tone on the tenor.
7) Civil Wars – Self-titled… Aaron Sterling does a masterful job of putting groove behind a categorical acoustic singer-songwriter duo, and producer Charlie Peacock does a masterful job of settling Sterling’s parts and sounds into the mix. Also noteworthy on this record: A beautifully creative reworking of Billy Corgan’s ballad “Disarm,” complete with a very effective time signature shift from 4/4 to 6/8.
8) D’Angelo – Black Messiah… My entire face blew up when this album dropped out of nowhere a few weeks ago. I listened to it 5 times every day for a week straight, not because I thought such saturated listening was a good idea but because I just couldn’t help it. My absolute favorite record of 2014, a total masterpiece, and a DEEP lesson in groove.
9) Emily King – Seven EP… Emily was the opening artist on the Blessed Unrest Tour, and hearing her every night was one of my favorite parts about the tour. This EP is inspiring and grooving and subtle and sexy and a perfect bull’s eye for her sound. Her live drummer James Williams is a BOSS, but interestingly enough, all the drums on this EP are programmed… and the tones are incredible.
10) Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian… This trio album featuring three of my favorite musicians reveals something new every time I listen to it. Paul Motian plays brilliantly on these tracks, and all three of these guys are such amazing listeners. They improvise with the same attention to detail that I hear in carefully produced electronica (like the above-mentioned Aphex record).
11) Dave Barnes – Golden Days… Paul Mabury on drums. Man, I mean I’ll listen to ANYTHING that he plays on and end up really enjoying it. Not that Barnes’ latest record is a disappointment on some level outside of the drums, but the thing I keep coming back to on this album is Paul’s pocket and ideas. Noteworthy: Really creative use of subtle but effective “organic” drumkit loop overdubbing.
12) U2 – Songs Of Innocence… The backlash that U2 received for giving away their record still blows my mind. Haha. I loved it! I loved seeing that they had a new record and then realizing that it was already in my iTunes. I also enjoy all these tunes, Bono’s voice, and Edge’s guitar parts. I usually don’t relate super closely with Larry Mullen’s drumming, and this album is no exception, but I do really like the minimal sonic role that the drums play in the mix. These days it’s almost fatiguing how often I hear mixes with drums compressed and boosted to the point of drowning out the vocalist. Larry’s playing works directly alongside the way it sits in the whole mix in a way that really helps the song and I can’t argue with that.
1) Joey Baron – Down Home… I love Joey Baron. He’s one of my favorite drummers. And then put Bill Frisell and Ron Carter in the mix with him and I’m gonna dig it.
2) Bob Marley – Natty Dread… I’ve owned a handful of Marley records for years but have been revisiting them a lot lately. The rhythm section (brothers Aston and Carlton Barrett) is so sick on this album, and I really like the dry drum tones. I feel like there’s reggae, and then there’s Bob Marley…
3) John Hiatt – Bring The Family… JIM KELTNER, PEOPLE. JIM KELTNER.
4) Daft Punk – Random Access Memories… 2014 Grammy-winner for Album of the Year. JR Robinson and Omar Hakim split the drum duties and combine organic drumset sounds with the signature DP synths. Incredible feel on track after track.
5) Mehliana – misc Youtube clips… Is everybody aware of this Brad Mehldau + Mark Guiliana duo project? Holy cow. Their record is due out in a month, and the live footage from the recording session is incredible.
I’m always a fan of discovering new music, and my main method of this is asking people I admire what they’re listening to. Rich Hinman, the guitarist I’m on tour with right now, gave me a rad list of stuff to check out. I’m loving these records lately…
1) Tedeschi Trucks Band – Revelator… 2011’s Grammy-winning blues album from the husband-and-wife duo Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. JJ Johnson on drums = groove city. (Hint: be sure and listen through the linked video to the second track).
2) Donny Hathaway – Donny Hathaway Live… This is the what a live soul record from 1972 is supposed to sound like. Fred White on drums, Willie Weeks on bass (probably my favorite part of the record), and a slamming aux perc player named Earl DeRouen.
3) Aretha Franklin – Live at Fillmore West… More live soul, this time from 1971 and featuring the first lady of soul herself. Then add the legendary Bernard Purdie on drums and it’s a groove fest of the highest order. Check out the tempo of Respect as the opening track. #what
4) Willie Nelson – Teatro… Willie Nelson has never really been on my radar as an artist to study, but a Willie Nelson album produced by Daniel Lanois certainly is. Much of the record features Emmylou Harris on bgvs. Victor Indrizzo on drums.
5) Gillian Welch – Time… No drums on this record. Just two vocalists, each playing an acoustic guitar. SONGS. Just songs. And it’s really beautiful.
1) Missing Persons – Spring Session M… early 80’s new wave with crazy complicated grooves and patterns. Terry Bozzio on drums and his wife Dale on vocals. Legit.
2) Justin Timberlake – 20/20 Experience… No live drums on this one, but the programming is endlessly interesting and inspiring. The grooves are just infectious, and the liner notes attribute all vocal production to JT himself, which was a pleasant surprise to discover.
4) Sara Bareilles – Kaleidoscope Heart… Matt Chamberlain shared the drum chair with Victor Indrizzo on this record, but it’s one of those situations where I don’t know officially who played on which track. Either way the performances rule, and Sara’s songwriting and vocals are equally compelling.
5) James Blake – Overgrown… I’m on a huge James Blake kick right now. His new record, released last week, is STUNNING. British electro-pop for the win.
1) James Blake – Self-titled … The UK singer-songwriter’s only full-length recording to date. The programming and overall groove approach on this album is so mind-blowing.
2) Boz Skaggs – Memphis … Most recent record by this blues legend, produced by Steve Jordan (who also plays drums). Tones are rich, warm, organic, and so beautiful.
3) St Vincent – Strange Mercy … I’m somewhat late to the party on St Vincent, a female vocalist/songwriter/guitarist with an incredibly artistic and creative sound.
4) Fourtet – There Is Love In You … British post-rock electronica. Great use of live drums within the samples and loops.
5) Keith Jarrett’s “Standards” – full concert on Youtube … the internet wins again for providing rad music and footage to go along with it. I have a DVD of this concert and it cost me a LOT back in the early 2000’s when I bought it, so don’t miss the chance to watch it for free online…
I’m still neck deep in my return to Happy Apple as my favorite music to listen to, but I’ve also continued to dig through all the tunes that John Hammond pointed me to a few weeks ago. I’ve been focusing mainly on tracks featuring Jeff Porcaro, whose reputation as a studio player perhaps exceeds that of any other drummer in history.
Porcaro rules so hard. His groove, his feel, his pocket, his time… whatever term you want to use to describe a drummer’s role in a band… Jeff NAILS it.
My iTunes library has about a dozen records that Porcaro plays on, but a little Youtube searching will reveal almost all of his incredible discography.
A few recommendations/observations:
1) Michael Jackson, Thriller… Though Porcaro is regularly cited as the drummer on this record, he actually only played on 4 tracks: “The Girl Is Mine,” “Beat It,” “Human Nature,” and “The Lady In My Life.” Ndugu Chanceler played the rest of the tunes.
2) Steely Dan, Katy Lied… Jeff plays on all tracks for this record except “Any World” (Hal Blaine on that one). Super cool versatility in these tracks.
3) Toto, Toto IV… A legendary record from the legendary band that Porcaro co-founded. Perhaps even more legendary than the band itself is Jeff’s signature swung 16th hihat “shuffle” groove, heard on “Rosanna.” This same groove can also be heard on Airplay’s “Nothin You Can Do About It” and Al Jarreau’s “Breakin Away” (note the awesome and hilarious 80’s absence of the “g” in the “ing” suffix in BOTH of those last two tracks… haha).
4) Also regarding Toto, check out this live clip of Georgy Porgy. I’ve posted it before, but it’s worth posting again. #pocket #danggurl
5) Lastly, and most interestingly, I came across a Q&A page with guitarist/producer Jay Graydon (who worked Porcaro a lot). Check this out! Porcaro didn’t like the click! I mean, the era of his playing makes sense regarding no click, but it makes his consistent time/tempo (displayed on ALL the above-linked tracks) all the more impressive. I underlined the quotes that really stood out to me…
I know that you had a chance to record and play with Jeff Porcaro. What are your comments about Jeff as a musician and person. The music world really misses him!
Love your work! Rod St.Denis
Jeff was a drummers drummer! His “feel” was incredible regarding so many “grooves”. He did not consider himself a good “shuffle player” meaning the groove on “NOTHIN YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT” (AIRPLAY), BREAKIN AWAY or MORNIN (Jarreau albums). There are other “shuffle grooves” but these mentioned song grooves fall into a category called “funk-a-shuffle”. Jeff thought he was not that good in this situation. Man, was he wrong! He plays this groove better than anyone ever!
Jeff did not play with a “click” like most studio drummers. He did not totally respect the click and would “float” around it. This is good and bad depending on the band. If the players are top notch, they listen to the drummer first and the click is subliminal. This is most important to keep the feel happening. Drummers like JR and Mike Baird can lock with the click and still feel great. When playing with Jeff, better not to use a click since he played inside the cracks and his time float is what made him great.
Jeff, as a person, was totally unique. Very unpredictable and almost like he was on another planet most of the time. He had no regard for business in general. He did not go to a record date like most players meaning always a good attitude. If the session was boring musically, Jeff did not have patience and would get bugged if the producer would keep making take after take hour after hour. Jeff’s 2nd or 3rd take was his best. He learned the songs on the first run down and rarely got lost.
Yes, Jeff is missed on the planet earth. The good news is that he was here for best “musical rock/pop era” of all time! The best news is that he played on so many great recordings that will be around as long as the planet survives.
This week’s “Recent Listening” post is all about Happy Apple, the band that first introduced me to Dave King and avante garde jazz. This band had SO MUCH influence on me during my college years. I saw them play live at least 100 times between 1998 and 2002, and I have all of their records memorized. Additionally, King gave me about 1.5 gigs of live recordings which I’ve combed through repeatedly.
A handful of recent conversations with friends combined with last week’s “From The Archives” post have conspired to put me back on the train of the Apple’s triumphant discography. DANG IT. They are so good. It is basically everything I want out of music, and the more I dig the more I find. Moving compositions, incredible improvising, deft manipulation of time signatures and odd meters/phrasing, and unreal facility on their instruments. Look it up. Get into it.
My top picks for getting into Happy Apple are:
1) Please Refrain From Fronting … the Apple’s 4th record… an unbelievable display of everything awesome about music.
2) Happy Apple Back On Top … their most recent recording, which unfortunately dates back to 2007.
3) Body Popping, Moon Walking, Top Rocking … the band’s 3rd record, and perhaps their best sounding work (sonically). An amazing audio capturing of this band, with two juggernaut tunes that I can’t get enough of (Barstowe Sizzler, Wishing Book)
4) Blown Shockwaves and Crash Flow … the out-of-print debut recording. In Dave’s own words… “I played stuff on that record that I can’t play anymore. I think I was at the top of my game, chops-wise.”
5) SEEING THEM LIVE. Really appreciating the art behind this music can’t happen fully without witnessing it personally. Since they don’t play out very often anymore, I recommend hitting this great playlist of tracks from their 2011 performance at Lawrence University.
PS… I had an absolute blast last week making this mashup using the 16 seconds of intro groove King plays on “Waltz For The Few Remaining” (off Please Refrain From Fronting). That tune is one of my all time favs.
I am getting freaking SCHOOLED by a bunch of listening recommendations from my friend and A-squad Nashville session player John Hammond. I’ve been emailing back and forth with John over recent days, and most of my listening revolved around his suggestions. These include…
1) Gino Vannelli – Brother to Brother … 70’s and 80’s pop artist/singer/songwriter/vocalist/instrumentalist Gino Vannelli has possibly the most incredible roster of backing musicians on his recordings that I’ve ever seen. Drummer Mark Craney on this records blows my mind, and I’d never heard of him before John told me about him. #whoa
2) Mother’s Finest – Another Mother Further … 70’s funk stylings from the South. Drummer Barry Borden laying it DOWN. #whoa
3) The Producer’s – Self-titled … 80’s new wave from Atlanta. The drummer is Bryan Holmes. #whoa #howdidInotknowaboutthis
4) Joni Mitchell – Wild Things Run Fast … a less jazz-leaning and more 80’s pop-leaning record from the iconic singer/songwriter. Vinnie Colaiuta splits the drum tracks with John Guerin. Both are #whoa
5) Graham Central Station – Misc … I’ve been digging through a handful of tracks from Larry Graham’s 70’s funk band. Graham played bass in Sly and the Family Stone and is hailed by many as having INVENTED slap bass. Not yet sure who the drummer is on these tracks because they are a compilation. But still. #whoa #funky
1) The Verbs – And Now, The Verbs … Steve Jordan on drums, and Jordan’s wife Meegan Voss on vocals and songwriting. The ultimate hipster band. Two words: DRUM TONE.
2) Rascal Flatts – Nothing Like This … the 2010 release from the platinum and Grammy-winning country band. Also known as a Chris McHugh domination station.
3) Alan Silvestri – Cast Away soundtrack … it’s a somewhat abnormal submission for a listening suggestion, but I have to make mention of this 3-min track composed for Cast Away. I’ve been going through my library of string-heavy mp3s for use in sampling and mashups, and this one just stands out so much. Really moving.
4) Boiler Room … here’s another unconventional entry for these listening posts, but it totally counts. I’ve been dialing up Boiler Room DJ sets on Youtube and checking those out. I actually go one step further and record them into ableton and bounce them into mp3’s so I can listen to them offline. Photek’s 35-min set is CRAZY awesome, and Thom Yorke also has an interesting set. But there are dozens of these to check out. Worth it.
5) Lastly, in the MOST abnormal listening mention I’ve ever made… I’ve been listening to MYSELF a ton lately. Ha. Basically, I’ve been doing some editing and mixing on the project that guitar phenom Jasper Nephew and I recorded with Matt Patrick at the Library in early January. All improvised instrumental stuff. I’m really pumped about it. Stay tuned for that to release digitally in March or so.
1) Carrie Underwood – Blown Away … The most recent record from the American Idol star. I love her voice but I love Chris McHugh on drums even more. And on top of that Paul Leim plays on 3 tracks instead of McHugh, but you have to guess which 3. Comment with your guesses if you care to.
2) Kettel – Through Friendly Waters … good old-fashioned Dutch electronica.
3) D’Angelo – Voodoo … I listed this album on an earlier “Recent Listening” post, but here it is again because I’ve been spinning it a ton lately. The grooves are so sick and so epic. Listening tip: pay attention to how Questlove gets energy and dynamics on the kit without ever using sloshy hats or crash ride or anything like that.
4) Earth – The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull … aaaaaand hand’s down the best album title EV-ER. But this album is not for everyone. Slow instrumental doom rock. So vibey. So cool. So… boring? It’s fine if you think it’s boring. It probably is. But I freaking love it.
5) Maroon 5 – It Won’t Be Soon Before Long … the funky 2nd full length from M5. Cool grooves and aux perc stuff. Matt Flynn is the current drummer in the band, and this was his first record