Friday, 2 December 2011

My Top Ten Great Rhythm Sections #4 - #2

Deciding who I should rank in fourth place was not easy. There is an ocean of super talented rhythm sections to choose from that it would take an eternity to make a decision; in the end it all boils down to personal taste and judgement.  

#4  The Clash: Bass-Paul Simonon, and drums-Nicky ‘Topper’ Headon. In 1985, I landed at Budapest Airport in what was then a communist Hungary. You could feel that you were no longer in the West. We boarded our coach, and started our drive to the city; we couldn’t have been more than 5 mins away from the airport, when we stopped at a set of traffic lights. There, in front of us, painted on a building in huge letters, was the graffiti- 'Freedom! The Clash!' Paul Simonon and Topper came from reggae music; one great reason the Clash had their unique sound once you added Mick Jones' slashing rock guitar. The Clash brought a fresh breath of revolutionary rhythms, to a stagnant rock world, their presence can still be felt in many of the young bands of today.

#3  Led Zeppelin: Bass-John Paul Jones, and drums-John Bonham. I would have loved to have put this duo at number one; but it would have been a vote of total passion! In 1969, I was under the impression that popular music had reached its pinnacle, but then as if by magic appeared a phenomenon called Led Zeppelin. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant played their part as the front line show men, but at the root of the band's music laid the rhythmic patterns created by Jones and Bonham. John Paul Jones is a master musician (he was the only one with a classical background), his out-of-the-ordinary arrangements added that extra feel, which made Led Zep shine. Ray Charles had great respect for Led Zeppelin, once saying that John Bonham had the fastest bass pedal feet in the business. The sample I have chosen here is an early number from Led Zeppelin- ‘Your time is going to come'-which shows the ingenuity of John Paul Jones who is playing the church organ and using a pedal to create the bass!

The number two position on my chart belongs to two amazing rhythmic duos, whose contribution to music helped bring the term soul into the world of popular music; and saw them take a major part in over 500 hits between them!

#2 a)  Brooker T and the MG’s, Otis Redding, Stax: Bass-Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, and drums-Al Jackson Jr. Most of you, I’m sure, have listened to classic soul music. Songs such as Dock of the Bay, Midnight Hour, Soul-Man, Respect and I Can’t Turn You Loose, sung by legendary soul royalty, like Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett and Carla Thomas; mostly under the banners of Stax and Atlantic Records, have remained as meaningful and touching as the day they were first recorded. A great part of the rhythms in these golden tunes was created and played by Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn on bass. Soul guitarist Steve Cropper has noted how the self-taught Dunn started out playing along with records, filling in what he thought should be there. “That’s why Duck Dunn’s bass lines are very unique”, Cropper said, “They’re not locked into somebody’s schoolbook somewhere.” You could not get any better than Al Jackson Jr. on drums. Al was called ‘The Human Timekeeper’ for his drumming style. Jackson was one of the important and influential drummers of his era, providing an instantly recognisable backbeat behind many soul records.

#2 b)  Tamla Motown: Bass-James Jamerson, and drums William “Benny” Benjamin (1959-1969) + Richard “Pistol’ Allen (1960-1972).  Jamerson, Benjamin and Allen were members of the fabled Funk Brothers, the group of thirteen musicians who created the Tamla sound. Jamerson is noted for expanding the role of the bass in popular music, which until that time largely consisted of root notes, and simple repetitive patterns. By contrast, many of Jamerson's bass lines for Motown were more melodic, and more improvisational than had been heard before. His bass playing was considered an integral part of the "Motown Sound". He transcended the standard "bass line" and created a duet with the singer. He was the uncredited bassist on most of Motown Records' hits in the 1960s and early 1970s (Motown did not list session musician credits on their releases until 1971), and he is now regarded as one of the most influential bass players in modern music history. Unfortunately, he had an alcohol problem, which led to his early death at the age of 47. The first drummer to work with James was William Benjamin whose alcohol and drug addiction caused his death in 1969, his place was taken by Richard Allen, both were in a class of their own. Their creative work invented rhythms that had the whole world dancing and singing, they formed the music foundation on which stars such as Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye and the Temptations and the Four Tops could build on. In the following clip, James Jamerson can be seen playing his Fender bass behind Marvin Gaye.

1 comment:

  1. James Jamerson is a name that shouldn't be missed when were talking about great rhythms sections. His melodic bass playing pretty much defined what soul and funk sounds like today.