84 thoughts on “Music 2020

  1. Some thoughts I had while listening to and enjoying Poco’s eponymous album:

    1. Country without the twang–which comes close to being country pop;
    2. The musicianship stood out a bit, including the bass. I’m not sure if that was Timothy B. Schmidt, but whoever it was, I liked the playing.

  2. New stuff released this year I’ve checked out.

    Non-metal:

    Selena Gomez (Jan 10), Rare: Pop R&B. Slick. Musically not my cup of tea, which gets in the way of my enjoying the themes, which are very positive. I like that she’s toned down the sexiness from her last album and upped the women power. Probably need to keep revisiting this before it grows on me, if it’s capable of doing so.

    Alexandra Savior (Jan 10), The Archer: Dream pop, indie rock. This has more potential to hit me, but so far it hasn’t. I like the lyrics and presentation, and I’d go see her in concert, but nothing seems to be catching hold of me, which is a little disappointing. I wonder if I’m too old.

    Hawktail (Jan 10), Formations: Americana (but really I don’t know what to call it). Brittany Haas is my favorite bluegrass fiddler and I love almost everything she does. This group has a lot of energy but the album feels strangely subdued to me, and it’s really mellow. It’s also really pretty, and it’s growing on me, ‘though I admit my attention just kinda wanders in and out whenever it’s on. I wish I knew why.

    Stroke 9 (Jan 17), Califrio: Alterna-pop. So far the best non-metal album of the year for me. It’s mellow and groovy, much more like their recent songs than their older, more aggressive stuff (which includes “Little Black Backpack,” their one hit). I recommend it for any fan of early 2000s alt-rock who wish they weren’t too old for that music anymore.

    Stone Temple Pilots (Feb 7), Perdida. Acoustic alt-pop. This album is pretty as heck but it all sounds the same to me. The whole thing would be good for a late-night writing session playlist, which would keep your brain awake but not distract you from your task. Come to think of it, everything on this list so far would be, too.

    Still wanna check out the new albums by Echosmith, Huey Lewis and the News, Richard Marx, and Pet Shop Boys. New James Taylor coming at the end of the month.

    Metal:

    Sons of Apollo (Jan 17), MMXX: Proggy alt-pop-metal. This reminds me a lot of Asia, not musically but conceptually. Take a currently popular sound, but let really really really good proggy musicians play and write the songs. So the result is a a weird mix of Nickelback and Dream Theater. I like it, especially when the band kind of lets loose with the chops, as with several moments where keyboardist Derek Sherinian gets noodley. I wish I liked it more. The other band members are Mike Portnoy, Jeff Scott Soto, Bumblefoot, and Billy Sheehan.

    (to be continued)

  3. Amazon prime streams an older British(?) TV series on classic rock/pop albums. I recently watched one (made in the late 90s) on Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours.” Here are some thoughts that occurred as I watched this:

    –Lyrics, especially the meaning, is usually not something that really draws me to music, but I’m curious to check out more of Stevie Nicks’s songs. The lyrics for her songs on this album seem really good. They’re poetic without being cheesy in my view, and if someone wanted an example of good pop lyrics, I might choose her songs–and actually some of the lyrics of other songs on this album;

    –If there is such a thing as a pop album masterpiece, this might be one I feel comfortable mentioning.

    1. You wouldn’t be reaching. Only Thriller has more certified sales than Rumours.

      Thunder only happens when it’s raining
      Players only love you when they’re playing…

      Over the band’s whole output, I like the Christine McVie songs best, but my favorite Fleetwood Mac song is “The Chain,” a Lindsey Buckingham song, with “Landslide” (the live version), a Stevie Nicks song, a close second.

    2. You wouldn’t be reaching. Only Thriller has more certified sales than Rumours.

      I don’t think I would have guessed that, but it’s not really that surprising. Having said that I was thinking more in terms of aesthetic merits, not financial.

      but my favorite Fleetwood Mac song is “The Chain,” a Lindsey Buckingham song,…

      According to the documentary the band got credit for writing this. And Nicks claims that Buckingham was having trouble finishing the song, but he insisted. I can’t remember the reason, but she looked at some of her old songs or lyrics and thought it was perfect, and she claims that’s where the lyrics (or most of it) came from. It’s a really good song. The whole album has really good songs. I need to listen to see if the sequence of them work well, too.

      1. I wasn’t assuming you meant a financial pop masterpiece; I was saying it wouldn’t be a reach to make the claim that it’s a pop masterpiece, as more than 40 million sales indicate it’s touched a lot of people.

        The top-selling (certified) albums are quite a list of artistic achievement, although I can’t really speak to Come on Over except what I’ve heard on the radio: Thriller, Come on Over, Rumours, The Bodyguard (soundtrack, which I don’t care for), Back in Black, The Dark Side of the Moon, Saturday Night Fever (soundtrack), and Bat out of Hell.

    3. What I’m saying is that the financial success, even as a proxy for popularity, is a criterion I don’t give a lot of weight. If Rumours didn’t make the top 100 top selling albums, that would not change my position. Another album that came to mind is Steely Dan’s Aja. I have no idea how many units have been sold.

      I’m mostly focused on an album that would a) fit my definition of pop–versus rock, R&B, or another genre, and b) also fit my definition of a good-to-great work of art. Rumours seems like a really good candidate. By the way, I would lean towards choosing Off the Wall over Thriller; and I tend to think of both as more of an R&B album than a pop one, but I’d have to re-listen to both to be sure.

      Edit

      I forgot one other criteria. I’m also considering the way the songs fit together forming a cohesive whole, like a suite.This would preclude greatest hits or other compilation albums.

  4. The one thing cool about subscribing to an online music site is the ability to investigate songs of certain musicians you’ve liked only because of one or two songs. There are many musicians that have made songs that I’ve enjoyed, but I haven’t heard most of their songs or albums. Robbie Dupree is one example of this, and the other night I decided to listen to his other songs. When his “Steal Away” first came out, I really liked this song, and til this day, I enjoy singing this on karaoke. What if he made other songs like that? (I’m familiar with “Hot Rod Hearts,” but I didn’t like that one as much. Strangely, that song isn’t available on itunes.)

    Here are two that I kinda liked:

    More than the song or singing, the song is within a style that I really liked at the time this type of music was made. On some level this style and sound still appeals to me, although I can’t tell if it’s mostly nostalgia or just the music itself.

    Here’s one I like even more:

    What’s the opening remind you of? I’m not sure, but it seems like a cross between Paul Davis’s “Cool Night” vibe, which I like and CSN’s “Just a Song Before You Leave.” Also, the mood is in the same ball park as “Her Town.” This is sound I really like (but again, I don’t know how much nostalgia is fueling all of this).

    Another critical part that appeals to me is Michael McDonald-ish vocals–either from Dupree himself or the backround vocalists. I wonder if McDonald sang background on this, but when I tracked down the personnel listing it wasn’t him.

    Anyway, while listening to Duprees tracks, I started investigating some of the artists itunes recommended. Many of these musicians I had never heard of before–a group called, Pages; Bill LaBounty (actually I knew one of his songs, but his name was unfamiliar to me); and Ned Doheny. A part of me felt skeptical I would like their music. To my surprise, this proved wrong. It was like a discovered a catalogue of music done in this style–giving me the opportunity to hear what would essentially be new music but done in this older style. By the way, I guess some would call this yacht rock, which I’m not crazy about. I prefer the terms “marina pop” or even “beach funk” that I heard in this review of Doheny’s music. (“Beach funk” doesn’t really describe the music I mentioned here, but “marina pop” does.)

    Here’s one by Bill LaBounty in the same vein:

    One by Pages

    (This kind of has a Ambrosia vibe or maybe Player.)

    As for Ned Doheny, I can’t recall a song that would be a good example of the songs above. His music seems a bit different. Surprisingly, I think he had some of the most interesting music. More later.

    By the way, before I forget, I’d be interested in hearing if you guys discovered any good songs or albums from musicians who played only one or two songs you were familiar with.

  5. As I mentioned above, Ned Doheny was one of the more interesting discoveries in my exploration of Yacht Rock. I just re-read the Pitchfork review of a 2014 compilation that describes the music better than I could, so I would recommend reading that, to get a sense of his music. (I’ve lost interest in reading music reviews, but I thought this one was well-done.)

    Doheny’s music firmly rooted in pop, lyrically and in terms of the overall vibe. I do think that the music, instrumentation (horns) and arrangements are more interesting and sophisticated–at least enough to perk my ears up on first listen. Acoustic guitar (which I believe Doheny plays) is a constant presence, reminiscent of groups like America or Eagles. What’s interesting is when Doheny incorporates R&B-ish horn sections and funkier basslines.

    What I find hard to peg down is why Doheny and his music wasn’t more popular? A part of me thinks that the songs are OK-to-good, but lack the type of hooks to become really popular. The same might be said for Doheny’s vocals. He is not a bad singer, but I think one might be able to argue that his voice lacks charisma, if that makes sense. Something is lacking in his vocals or the music–but both are far from bad.

    One other thing about this music: I feel like there are a lot of echoes in the songs and Doheny’s voice of other 70’s musicians–the Eagles for one song, Al Stewart in another, America in another, Little River Band, and many more. This is not derivative or a bad thing–just a neutral observation. I’d suspect anyone who likes that type of music would want find something interesting in Doheny’s music.

  6. I just watched a documentary on Lawrence “Butch” Morris. He’s a jazz musician who has developed a style of spontaneous composing with an ensemble–a combination of conducting and composing. I always found this style really interesting, and I wonder why more musicians haven’t worked in a similar fashion.

    Here’s a clip of Morris talking about and demonstrating conduction:

  7. Good solo intro, bass solo, and drum solo. I really like Marc Johnson, the bassist–his sound, groove and melodic sense. But the drum solo might be my favorite–nice groove, interesting development, and impressive chops. Phew.

    Now something totally different–namely, an avant-garde solo saxophone performance by John Zorn. Recently, I’ve been more interested in Zorn’s compositions and the groups that he’s lead, but I liked the solo, particularly his use of extra-musical techniques.

  8. Shared this on FB but copying it here for the benefit of non-FB people.

    One third of the way through the year. Here are my favorite albums of 2020 so far.

    Metal:
    1. I Am Abomination — Passion of the Heist II (8/10, progressive metal?)
    2. Katatonia — City Burials (8/10, progressive metal)
    3. Thoughts Factory — Elements (8/10, progressive metal)
    4. Kvelertak — Splid (8/10, uncategorizable)
    5. Apocalyptica — Cell-O (8/10, symphonic metal)
    6. The Night Flight Orchestra — Aeromantic (7/10, retro pop rock, glam metal)
    7. Delain — Apocalypse and Chill (7/10, symphonic metal)
    8. Fluisteraars — Bloem (7/10, atmospheric black metal)
    9. Seven Planets — Explorer (7/10, hard rock / psychedelic rock)
    10. Psychotic Waltz — The God-Shaped Void (7/10, progressive metal)

    Non-metal (I haven’t rated these yet, so this is mostly by feeling)
    1. Pearl Jam — Gigaton (best 2020 album I’ve heard in any genre)
    2. Stroke 9 — Califrio
    3. Gordon Lightfoot — Solo
    4. The Boomtown Rats — Citizens of Boomtown
    5. Cowboy Mouth — Open Wide (EP)
    6. Alexandra Savior — The Archer

    Still listening and haven’t rated yet: Nightwish, Morrissey, Vanessa Carlton, Maria McKee, Echosmith, Pet Shop Boys, Hawktail, Sepultura.

    Listened to and not making the list as of April 30: Haunt, Sons of Apollo, Odious Mortem, Mark Morten (this one would be #11 on the metal list), Ryte, Annihilator, Anvil, Testament, Serenity, Ozzy Osbourne, Selena Gomez, Stone Temple Pilots, Huey Lewis and the News, James Taylor.

    Stuff I’ve purchased on physical media: Testament, Thoughts Factory, I Am Abomination, Katatonia, Surrija.

    1. I didn’t realize Gordon Lightfoot, and the Boomtown Rats are still performing. This reminds me about something that came to mind when I was listening to Robbie Dupree’s music. I noticed that he recorded albums in the 90s and 2000s. That surprised me–did he really have a big enough audience where he could continue to record?

      Lightfoot or Pearl Jam recording now doesn’t surprise me, as they were quite popular in their heyday. I guess I was surprised that Lightfoot is still active and maybe even alive.

      By the way, have you ever checked out recordings of more obscure, less popular pop musicians (e.g., one-hit wonder types)–especially their more recent fare–and found really good music? Actually, I’m also interested in hearing about any good discoveries of later recordings by more popular pop musicians. For example, Daryl Hall has this solo album he put out in the mid-90s that I discovered a year or so ago that I really liked.

      1. The Boomtown Rats reunited for this record. Their last album before this was in 1984.

        I don’t know what “big enough” an audience is anymore for artists to keep recording music. There was a time when if your music wasn’t released by a record label, you didn’t have an album unless you paid for it all yourself and then sold it out of the back of your car or at whatever shows you could perform. In the case of one musician we knew in high school, you could also sell your music to your students. 🙂

        But it’s so easy now to record and release your own music that many successful artists opt for independence rather than owing something to a label. Whatever Robbie Dupree’s audience size has been, I’d guarantee it’s larger than the Choir’s, yet the Choir has released albums every few years, largely on advance crowdfunding and regular touring. Their most recent Kickstarter campaign in March drew 893 backers pledging $49,902.

        Dupree’s most recent album, Arc of a Romance (2012) was released on Spectra Records, whose website says, “The Spectra Music Group is a United States music company founded in February 1997 comprising the independent record companies Spectra Records, Monarchy Records, Spectra Jazz and Spectra Heritage—which is based in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom.”

        The internet’s a good thing. It lets musicians and their audiences find and keep in direct contact with each other. Dupree shared in February on FB:

        I will be performing a few shows and I hope you can attend
        May 1 Daryl’s Place , Pauling New York
        May 2 Bearsville Theater , Woodstock New York
        July 12 Bogie’s , West Lake Los Angeles

        For some musicians, this stuff is written by publicists or communications directors or managers. For some, this stuff is shared by the artists themselves, a direct line of communication between musician and fans, which develops the kind of goodwill that enable these people to keep creating and sharing their music. I think it’s beautiful, honestly.

        By the way, have you ever checked out recordings of more obscure, less popular pop musicians (e.g., one-hit wonder types)–especially their more recent fare–and found really good music?

        I don’t listen to a lot of pop, so possibly not as many as you. I guess from the lists I just shared, Huey Lewis and James Taylor qualify, although I found both albums kind of boring. The Gordon Lightfoot album is very good.

        Maria McKee was the lead singer of Lone Justice, a one-hit wonder in the 80s. I have like three of her albums, none of which I like as much as the two Lone Justice albums.

        Too tired to answer the question the way it was really meant. Lemme sleep on it.

  9. I think it’s beautiful, honestly.

    Oh, I think it’s cool. It just surprised me. I can understand underground musicians or musicians who have found a niche making new records. A part of me feels like they knew, at least at some point, that they would be obscure and have a small audience. But I just assume that pop musicians who have a hit have different expectations–namely, selling a lot of records and having a celebrity status, and once they can’t achieve that their music making would end. I admit this is kind of an insulting assumption, although maybe it’s not entirely unfair?

    Too tired to answer the question the way it was really meant. Lemme sleep on it.

    No big deal. I just thought it was an interesting question–interesting enough that I might try to explore some of the newer recordings of these type of older musicians.

  10. Apropos of nothing, I just learned that Frank Zappa liked Amy Grant. (Moon, his daughter, said he liked her voice.) Also, she said he liked the Spin Doctors. The guy interviewing her seemed appalled, but that’s not so surprising to me–Amy Grant was, though.

  11. I’m listening to Toto albums, looking for non-popular songs that I might like. I like the groove on this one, one of the most danceable Toto songs:

    1. Skimming through a few songs of Toto’s 1992 Kingdom of Desire, I thought I was listening to a Van Halen album. “Gypsy Train” is an example, especially Lukather’s solos.

      “How Many Times” sounds like a Living Colour riff, plus Yes melody.

      I think the best thing about this album is hearing Lukather shred. Also, it’s nice to hear the times the band go in a harder direction.

      I think “She Knows the Devil” is one of my favorites on this. (It kinda has a Spin Doctors groove.)

    2. Waiting for Your Love: It’s a decent song. I listened to this album several times before I saw them in concert. This song didn’t stick for some reason.

  12. After listening to some clips of Vince Gill singing with the Eagles, I re-listened to Dolly Parton’s version of “Seven Bridges Road,” which I may like even more than the Eagles version. That lead to listening to more of her music. One that stands out–Parton may be one of the most emotive singers I’ve ever heard. I still don’t care for the timbre of her voice and her twange, but in terms of singing with feeling, there’s not many singers I’d put above her. She’s up there with Aretha, for me, in terms of singing with feeling.

  13. Jazz + strings rarely produce good results. Or at least that’s been my impression. (And it’s generally true with rock and pop music, too, I think.) When I was younger the idea seemed appealing on the surface, but often the results weren’t satisfying. I finally got around to listening to Wayne Shorter’s most recent recording, Emanon, in its entirety, and while listening to this, I thought this might be the best synthesis of a classical orchestra, specifically the string section, with a jazz quartet.* The way Shorter combines not only sounds really good, but also natural and organic.

    I think part of my positive reaction also stems with some familiarity with the music and some of Shorter’s albums, starting in the 80s. This feels like a fully-realized culmination of the previous efforts. Specifically, it seemed like Shorter was working in a more orchestral way, expanding from a jazz quartet situation. I want to say he turned to synthesizer in Atlantis and High Life to get that orchestral feel, and utilized an actual orchestra (?) in Alegria, an album I also really liked. But Emanon feels like he’s reached the apex of what he was going for. I also thought Shorter’s playing sounded really good. He definitely didn’t sound like an 85 year old!

    For those interested, here’s the first track, “Pegasus.” This first tune really got my attention, capturing the qualities I mentioned above:


    (*I have to re-listen to the music to confirm this. It would not surprise me that if I go back to the music, with the impression this impression, the music will not match that impression. It could be that my assessment was an over-estimation or exaggeration. Or maybe I’m created too big of an expectation that subsequent listenings will fail to live up to?)

    1. I think you’re crazy. Rock with strings is the best. I mean, since the vast majority of rock songs is trash, I guess I can’t fault you for saying anything “rarely produces good results” in the genre, but of the stuff you’re most likely to hear, it’s an amazing combination. Metal was born for orchestral music, for example, and Kansas’s entire output cannot be separated from its violin arrangements. I don’t really want to get into it with you because you’re predisposed toward not being impressed by the music I like best, so it’s kind of a losing cause, but “rarely” is a really strong word.

    2. It could very well be that I’m forgetting a lot of rock/pop with strings, or I haven’t heard a lot of good examples of this. How about giving me some examples, and I’ll check them out.

      Also, to be clear, I’m thinking more of an orchestra accompanying a rock or pop group–not just the use of a violin or cello. If you can think of good examples of this, let me know.

      By the way, I can’t dispute your preference for this combination, but, for me, the essence and nature of rock seem to make this a hard combination. I think the same is true for jazz. With jazz I think the problem has to do with rhythms–merging classical music, played by an orchestra, with a small jazz combo. The thing with Shorter example, I think the overall music seems rhythmically more like classical music, at least for the most part. (I should go back and re-listen to see if this is actually the case.)

      1. Sure, but the very origins of progressive rock, which you know I favor, have to do with classical ideas (including rhythms) as the basis for rock music, rather than being based primarily on the blues. It’s why prog rock often follows the theme-variation-variation-theme kind of structure than verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus structure.

        I could give you many examples, but as I said, it’s unlikely you’ll be impressed because of your tastes. I haven’t yet watched the video you shared here but I will. Just wanted to point out that your side comment is somewhat objectionable to people who like some wide swathes of rock music. 🙂

  14. Apropos of nothing, there are two musicians that I really like in terms of their guitar playing, but almost equally dislike their singing. I think you could guess one of them, but I’d be surprised if you guys could guess the second one. I’ll wait a little before I give my answer.

    1. No, not Gabby. Over time, I went from not liking his voice, appreciating the originality of it, and then actually starting to enjoy it. (A similar thing has happened to me with Willie Nelson’s voice.)

      As a kind of hint, I would say, in general, the voices that I don’t really care for tend to fall into the white category versus black. (I’ll try to think of singers with a black sound that I really don’t like.) That’s definitely true for one of the musicians above, and I sort of think it’s true for the other, too.

      1. Yeah same here about Gabby. And Willie Nelson has gotten better as he’s aged. He’s not nearly as nasally. and that rough edge suits his persona well.

        Is either of the two musicans known more for begin a solo act than part of a band?

    2. One of them is more known for being a solo act. I would say that’s less true of the other. To the extent that he/she is known, I would say it was when he/she played in a fairly well-known band.

    3. I’m unfamiliar with Thorogood’s guitar playing, but his voice is fine, from the one song I’m familiar with.

      I know Gibbons is in ZZ Top. Is he the lead singer? Whoever does the vocals, I like it–so it’s not him. (I’m not that familiar with his guitar playing as well.)

      I’m guessing you’ll be surprised by the fact that I don’t like the vocals of one of these musicians–otherwise, I think you would have gotten him/her by now.

      Also, I didn’t known the other musician until fairly recently (maybe in the last ten years…). I must say that the more I think and hear about his voice, the more I don’t like it. When his guitar playing and the music, overall, is good, his voice comes close to ruining it for me.

      1. Thorogood is amazing. His style is all sloppy and sweaty. And you only know one of his songs? You should hear a live version of “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.” Not a radio edit of a studio version. They always cut out the good stuff.

        Clearly I’m barking up the wrong trees here, because Stevie Ray Vaughn was going to be my next guess.

        What about Eric Clapton and James Taylor?

    4. Your comments about Thorogood sound familiar. I think we talked about this before. I feel like I might have listened to “One Boubon,” but whatever the case, I’m listening to it now. (I fee like you told me it’s more his rhythm playing, not his soloing that you liked. Is that right?) I was also listening to one of his albums. For me, his guitar playing doesn’t stand out, but his singing is enjoyable enough. This is the type of music Larri really likes.

      Clearly I’m barking up the wrong trees here, because Stevie Ray Vaughn was going to be my next guess.

      Yeah, I like his voice, and his playing. Same with Clapton and Taylor….You’re going to be really surprised by one of the musicians. And I think I might have said something that unfairly threw you off for one of them. The other one, I don’t think you’ll get. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of him. (I think I may have talked about him on V-I, though.)

    5. I like the guitar in the intro here:

      If that’s the sound and style you like, I like it, too. I feel like there’s no enough of it in the song, though.

      1. I would have been surprised if it were James Taylor; that’s why I guessed him. He’s an underrated guitarist, by the way.

        Is either of the guitarists British?

    6. One of them is Hendrix! (I like Prince’s voice.) Do you think describing his vocals as a “white-ish” sound is inaccurate or too misleading? I’m not sure, but I feel like he doesn’t really have a black sound…Well, when he’s singing the blues, it’s more in that vein. Overall, I feel like has a goofy sound that doesn’t really fit with the sound and style of his guitar playing.

      By the way, I’ve heard that Taylor is a good guitarist. My college roommate, who was a (rock) guitarist really liked him. His playing has never caught my ear, although I’ve never really focused on it all that much. Is his guitar recorded well? I wonder because I feel like the other instruments drown it out, except in pared down situations. And in pared down situations, it hasn’t really stood out…I need to listen to his playing more.

      1. I never noticed it until I saw live performances on PBS and when I tried to play his songs via tablature.

        Hendrix sounds black to me. His adlibs are like adlibs in soul music, like in “Hey Joe” and “Foxy Lady” (here I come, baby. comin’ to getcha!) And in “Foxy Lady,” the way he does the “you GOT to be all mine, all mine…” it sounds totally like black music.

        I can’t separate the vocal stylings from the playing. Nobody played like him before, so to me his vocal and playing are just part of the Jimi style.

        Is the other guitarist alive?

    7. I never noticed it until I saw live performances on PBS and when I tried to play his songs via tablature.

      When you watch those type of performances, which I assume usually features a band, can you hear his guitar parts? I feel like I have a hard time hearing them in those settings.

      Hendrix sounds black to me. His adlibs are like adlibs in soul music, like in “Hey Joe” and “Foxy Lady” (here I come, baby. comin’ to getcha!) And in “Foxy Lady,” the way he does the “you GOT to be all mine, all mine…” it sounds totally like black music.

      Yeah, his way of singing definitely, but I feel like the timbre of his voice fall into the black sound, which, I think, has two general categories. You have the more gruff, gravelly sound and smoother, sometimes high-pitched sound–e.g., James Brown versus Marvin Gaye, respectively. Hendrix doesn’t fall into either, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

      I can’t separate the vocal stylings from the playing. Nobody played like him before, so to me his vocal and playing are just part of the Jimi style.

      Both his playing and singing are pretty unique, and I can understand why you seem them as one. I just really like his guitar playing and almost equally dislike his singing (although at this point I’ve acclimated myself to it), so for me I can separate them. The thing is, his guitar playing can be so hard, and then this voice just doesn’t really match that.

      Yes the other guitarist is alive. I’m pretty sure he is American, but he kinda sings in a way that I associate with the British for some reason. I feel similar about David Byrne. I don’t generally like that sound.

      1. I’ve seen him in live performance with a band, but I’m talking about when he’s playing solo.

        I’m going to guess Brian Setzer even though I think you have disdain for rockabilly. Another guitar player who doesn’t get enough credit except in guitar magazines.

      1. More obscure rules out my next five guesses: Lindsey Buckingham, Jack White, Joe Walsh, Steve Miller, and Neil Young. Too bad. I had a good feeling it would be Jack White if you’ve actually explored his guitar playing, which I wouldn’t have bet money on.

        Is the second guitarist white?

      1. Okay, I think you’d been saying “him” but now it’s “him/her,” so I’m going to ask if the second guitarist is a woman. I had a few women guesses but took them off the list.

      2. I tried to not reveal the person’s sex, but I might have slipped a time or two. I will reveal it now: The musician is a man.

        Again, I wouldn’t be surprised if you or Don never heard of this guy. He is not someone who would be frequently mentioned on a list of guitar gods, at least I don’t think he would.

    8. Nope, not Healey. Healey had videos on MTV, right? Late 80s, early 90s? I remember watching those. I don’t think the guitarist had any MTV videos, or not any that I remember.

    9. No, not Cooder, but a not-bad guess–although I think the guitarist is a bit more obscure. I think I knew of Ry Cooder in high school or college because of his score in Crossroads. I might have seen him in other contexts as well.

        1. Yes, and you’ve heard his music, notably on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. He also died last year, but I didn’t expect you to know that.

          I can’t imagine your having a problem with Richie Furay’s voice (but then I couldn’t have imagined it with Jimi Hendrix either), and you mentioned listening to Poco some time ago. What about him?

          1. I don’t think it can be Jason Isbell, but that’s my next guess while I think of a new question to ask.

        2. I don’t know who Richie Furay is. But if he sang for Poco, of the few albums I’ve heard, I’ve never heard any vocals I didn’t like.

          1. He sang lead vocals on most of their songs, but I guess he mostly played rhythm guitar anyway. He was also the pastor of Cavalry Chapel in Broomfield, Colorado until a few years ago.

            One of them is more known for being a solo act. I would say that’s less true of the other. To the extent that he/she is known, I would say it was when he/she played in a fairly well-known band.

            Is Jimi the one who’s more known for being a solo act? Also, I notice you said you dislike the singing almost as much as you like the guitar playing. Jimi’s voice is that bad to you? Or you don’t love his playing SUPER plenty?

          2. Yes, I was thinking of Jimi as the one known for more of a solo act. I really don’t care for his voice–it is kinda that bad for me, but I’ve also built up more of a tolerance for it over the years. I can say that timbre is original.

            I guarantee you know the musicians/groups the other guy played in–at least the two that I know of.

    10. I don’t think it can be Jason Isbell, but that’s my next guess while I think of a new question to ask.

      No, not him.

    11. No, but that seems like a decent guess–although I think you’d have more chance of knowing Anastasio than the guy I have in mind; then again, maybe not.

      (On another note, from what I remember of his voice, I’m not a fan of it, but I’m not familiar with his guitar playing.)

      1. Okay, it can’t be Steve Lukather beecause you said you only became aware of him in the last ten years or so, plus his band isn’t obscure at all. But maybe you meant you only became aware of the guitarist. And he’s not a good singer. So that’s my next guess.

          1. I’ll have a heart attack from shock if it’s Rik Emmett, or if you even know who Rik Emmett is, but he fits a lot of the descriptions (sorta), even if he’s not American. But that’s my guess, and since it’s incorrect, here’s my next question.

            Is the guitarist’s band especially associated with a specific American city and scene, such as 90s Seattle, 60s San Francisco, 80s Athens, or 80s Los Angeles?

          2. I don’t know Rik Emmet, so you’re right about being incorrect.

            This guy made albums under his own name. Whether this is considered part of a “scene,” regional or otherwise, I’m not sure. He did play in a band that I would say is part of a scene.

          1. I’d be almost as shocked if it were Tom Verlaine, but that’s my guess.

            Was he the primary lead vocalist in his most notable band?

          2. I’m unfamiliar with Verlaine, so no.

            I believe this guy was the primary vocalist in his most notable band, while he was in it.

  15. Last night I was in the mood for Caetano Veloso, a musician I first started liking after seeing his performance of “Cucurrucucu Paloma (Hable Con Ella)” in Almodovar’s Talk to Her. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to him. Anyway, I partly mention this because I think this is a guy who both Mitchell (and maybe Don) could like. Here’s a clip from a relatively recently new album, a duet between Veloso, on guitar, and a clarinettist.

    And here’s the clip from Talk to Her

  16. In the conversation above about the two guitarists, I became aware that there aren’t many guitarists I really like because of their rhythm playing. That is, my favorite guitarists are those whose solos and riffs appeal to me. Oh, the timbre/sound is also important.

    I find this is a little surprising and odd because I really like strumming accompaniment as well. And yet I can’t think of many that stand out enough to the degree that would attract me to them on this basis alone. I can’t really think of many rhythm guitarists with an original style, too–but there’s gotta be a bunch of them. It’s a weird blind spot I have.

    1. One we discussed (but you didn’t say you particularly liked) is Richie Havens. In the rock world, the acknowledged beast is James Hetfield of Metallica, not only for his riffing (which is the heart of the Metallica sound) but his fast, steady strumming, often while singing lead vocals. I saw a red-carpet interview video leading up to a (stupid) awards ceremony where the (stupid) interviewer asked guitarists how they might Frankenstein the perfect guitarist, and a few respondents said, “James Hetfield’s right hand.”

      I’d suggest Malcolm Young is another who gets a lot of attention for defining his band’s unique sound.

    2. I need to check out Havens again, and thanks for the other recommendations. I was hoping you’d give some. If you have specific albums or songs that you’d recommend, I’d appreciate those, too.

      1. Richie Havens opened Woodstock, and the other bands hadn’t shown up yet, so he ended up performing for two hours (according to some apocryphal accounts I’ve read). The last song he performed, “Freedom,” he made up on the spot, having run out of rehearsed material. He combined some impromptu “freedom…freedom” lyrics with “Motherless Child” and it’s one of the iconic Woodstock performances. I would start there. I haven’t been able to find a video with decent audio, nor a video that shows him actually playing his guitar (dang it). Sometimes I hate editors of concert video. Still worth checking out on YouTube.

        This is one of my favorites, though. “Here Comes the Sun.” I’m as fascinated by Havens’s toe-tapping as I am the extremely unorthodox use of his chording thumb. Is he playing in an open tuning? Whatever he’s doing, it just makes me feel good. And the way the song climaxes near the end, I feel like I need a smoke when he’s done. You may respond differently, but I love this performance, and watched it repeatedly the day he died a few years ago.

        1. I appreciate the originality of the approach and the energy in his playing, but overall this doesn’t appeal to me much. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the Woodstock performances, too, and I think I had the same reaction.

          What’s a bit strange is that, when I used to play guitar, the general strumming style could be in this ballpark. I’m not implying that it was as good, though. But you would think I’d fine this style more appealing. I can’t explain why I don’t, except to say that I’m not really happy with my style of playing.

      2. This is a pretty good example of Kirk Hammet’s rhythm playing. “Battery.” I’ve been impressed lately with a new energy they’ve brought to their live performances in the last couple of years. They always do a good show, but there’s something different lately, and honestly I like this band of old guys better than I liked the young guys, at least live. This is from just a year and a half ago.

    3. In thinking about this topic a bit more, I feel like I can think of specific examples of strumming/rhythm guitar playing that I’ve liked, but I struggle to think of rhythm guitarists I like for their overall strumming style. And I can think of guitarists whom I like for the way they accompany soloists (e.g., Jim Hall, John Abercrombie), but I’m not drawn to an original strumming style that they have. I don’t know if that makes sense.

      One musician that might come close is Roland Cazimero. I like his overall style of playing, and i like the sound as well, which I guess is not super original, as other Hawaiian musicians have that 12 string sound.

      Here are few strumming I like on individual songs. I like the strumming here, but it’s also the licks added to it as well:

      I love this Mexican (Mariachi?) style (I wish this track weren’t so short.)

      Oh, I like the strumming of the Gypsy Kings, but it’s also the percussive effects (e.g., hand claps) as well. In general, I like Flamenco strumming, as well.

  17. Sad news the other day about Eddie Van Halen’s passing. A few weeks ago I was going through all the Van Halen albums, making a playlist of the songs I liked. I noticed that Eddie didn’t really have a lot of solos–or at least his solos seemed to be the least interesting aspect of his playing for me, which is interesting because generally I tend to like guitarists for their ability to create lyrical solos.

    For me, there are two things I really love about Eddie: his rhythmic licks and his use of sonic effects. He sort of like a combination of Jimmy Page and Hendrix–and taking it to another level. On a side note, another Bill Frisell is another guitarist whose masterfully use of effects creates a unique sound.

    One another thing–like Hendrix, he seems to be able to get a lot of sound and music out of one guitar.

    RIP

  18. I came about this yacht rock playlist by Questlove. The backstory is that he and Anthony Bourdain would argue about the genre–with Quest for and Bourdain against. Everytime Bourdain came on Jimmy Fallon’s show, Bourdain would want a harder, edgier song, but then Questlove would play a Billy Joel or something.

    What I find interesting is the mid to late 80s selections on the list (e.g., Sade, Phil Collins, etc.). If these songs are accepted, than it suggests yacht rock is a more substantive genre and not just a style that really doesn’t have any creative life beyond a certain time period. (Aside: This may be true of something like New Orleans/Dixieland jazz as well or be-bop, as distinguished from hard-bop or post-bop).

    For me, I make a fairly strong distinction between Robbie Dupree type of sound from the mellow, night vibe of mid to late 80’s mellow or slow jam music–or even anything beyond…I guess some of Meyer Hawthorne’s stuff could be categorized as yacht rock. At the same time, his music is very retro.

    And I guess what I’m going after is post 70s yacht rock that doesn’t sound retro. Sade or Phil Collins “One More Night” seem like good candidates. (I also like Hall and Oates’s “One on One” as a candidate.) Or even a group like Swing Out Sister (although I don’t know I say that). If we can get behind the musical trappings specific to an era (e.g., fender rhodes), then we can get closer to the heart of the genre.

    On a side note, I discovered two songs that I was totally unfamiliar with, but I ended up really liking. I’ll post them below.

    (Just found out the Sun Rai song is a more recent song.)

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