Sly and Robbie Deep In the Pocket

If you care anything about grooves like I do, I’m a bass player, then you will find the groove in the above song fantastic.  Sly and Robbie, one of the greatest rhythm sections ever, having worked on countless great reggae recordings, lay down the stickiest and deepest of grooves.  Sly Dunbar’s drumming has me particularly captivated on this track.  An interesting side note:  Sly and Robbie also provide the rhythm tracks on Bob Dylan’s 80’s masterpiece Infidels.

Wingless Angles

Anyone that reads this blog knows that I get on trips, write about the same subject a lot for a week or even a month, and then move on.  This blog is a catalog of my obsessions to some degree.  Right now my obsession is Jamaican music.  A record I have long admired is the self titled album by Wingless Angels.  It’s nyabinghi drumming and singing recorded live outside in Jamaica.  The albums producer, none other than Keith Richards, overdubbed instruments, with a few others, after the original tracks were recorded.  It’s beautiful meditative music.  It’s spiritual music in the best sense.  Richards does a great job with producing, adding just the right amount of overdubs to make the songs varied and colorful.  (Although Keith’s bass playing is the one thing that is merely adequate.)  You can hear the crickets chirping in the night giving the record a sense of true mystery, as nature itself plays a roll in the recordings.  I remember at the time of the album’s release Richards saying that the tempos were just below the rate of a human heartbeat, that it is healing music.  Who know’s how much bullshit Keef was talking, but the results certainly seem to support his musings.  Unlike a lot of music to “chill out” to, this album has rough edges, never allowing it to be something that could melt completely unnoticed into the background.  Despite Richard’s important involvement, the singers and drummers, lead by Justin Hinds, are the true heart of the music.  It’s communal singing where every one sounds moved by the spirit.  It is singing that is in the moment and ghostly at the same time.  If you ever find that it is a damp, drizzly November in your soul, this is a record that can calm the waters and transport you.  Although there are a lot of Jamaican records that I like better, this is a unique piece of work that deserves to be heard for the particular mood that it casts.

The Badass Drumming of Tony Allen

Brian Eno said that Tony Allen was, “perhaps the greatest drummer that ever lived.”  As a rhythm section guy (bass) that has been lucky enough to have learned a lot about drumming from two of Austin’s best drummers (Keith Langford and Alex Moralez), I have been marveling at the drum work of Tony Allen lately.  He is most famous for his work with Fela Kuti where he helped create Afrobeat.  I learned about him, like many my age in the West, first through his work with Damon Albarn.  He has been a part of a ridiculous amount of great records.  Above I picked a live version of the single from his newest solo album Film of Life.  This is a song he wrote with Albarn.  You really need to check out more than his work with Albarn, because again there is so much fantastic stuff to discover, especially if you appreciate great musicianship.  Although I love Albarn and I think his work with him is excellent, it is really only a sliver of what makes him so great.  I simply picked this because it was new and I know that there are some people who would find a pop song the easiest place to start.

Giorgio By Moroder and the Commonality of Music

Was listening again to Daft Punk’s brilliant Random Access Memories earlier today.  The production and musicianship on this album are completely topnotch.  The piece Giorgio by Moroder is particularly jaw dropping.  It features narration by electronic music pioneer Giorgio Moroder.  However, the song is about music itself as much as anything.  The song features disco music, music that emulates Moroder, a symphonic breakdown, a drummer/DJ battle, jazzy keyboards, and more.  It reminds you how there really are no rules to music and that all styles have connections to each other.  The part with the drums and the DJ scratches is particularly inspiring as the drummer and the DJ match each other’s every syncopated move.  It’s the kind of thing that you could see making young fans of electronic music appreciate live musicians, and older fans that don’t like electronic music or hip hop see the talent that is evident in those forms.  It’s an extremely inclusive piece that I feel can’t help but bring people together if they are open to it.  The song never states it in any way, and the song is most definitely explicitly about music, but one can’t help draw the conclusion that in connecting the dots between music from various eras and genres, music that often has tribal implications, that it is also about shared aspects of the human experience.  One of those rare things that truly deserves to be called a tour de force.

P.S.  If you are in any way interested in rhythm sections (I am because I play bass among other reasons.), you simply must hear the drum section I mentioned above.  The rhythm section is killing it there!