The masses just didn’t get it in 1989, however David’s Tin Machine, to my ears, ranks among his greatest works. As I have been witness to many a Bowie ensemble over his career, including TM on their final concert trek; the triumvirate of Reeves Gabrels, Hunt Sales, and bassist Tony Sales were incendiary on stage and on record. Tony works the pocket and often renders brilliant counterpoint with legato phrasing and a sharp tone to balance his mates, who took off into the harmonic and rhythmic stratosphere and then some. The live slab, titled as U2 spoofery, offers a glimpse of how remarkable they were on any given night. Of the entire Bowie canon, these three releases warrant re-evaluation. And they were funny in concert too, jibing each other between songs.
When you’re a bass player / composer who plays in a great band that writes great songs with a great singer, you play to the song! Which is exactly what Mike Hogan did during his tenure with The Cranberries, working the pocket and flexing his harmonic chops when necessary. Dig the pulse beneath their final single “All Over Now.” https://bit.ly/2HbbAHh
Sometimes the songs are so doggone good that the doghouse plays itself. Skip Ward works the pocket on upright in the service of Urban Americana songstress Emily Duff who waxes oh-so-poetic over our collective human condition throughout Maybe in the Morning (2017).
Cut at FAME Studios, you can feel the history of this iconic locale in the grooves and melodies as rendered by Duff, Ward, drummer Kenny Soule, guitarist Scott Aldrich and session legend Clayton Ivey.
Dig Ward's rhythm & blues and jazz flavored motifs which afford the Duff ensemble a definitive swingin' disposition. And they're even better on stage…. [www.KnowYourBassPlayer.com] Emily Duff Band photos by Jini Sachse
Who knew Gene Cornish was a bass player? You did if you read what were once known as "liner notes,” however I don't recall if credits were listed on his early slabs. Renowned as a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist, composer, collaborator, recording artist, and vocalist - Gene is a terrific song-player who waxed impressive passages on several Young Rascals and Fotomaker platters. Note that Cornish and the Rascals' cadre of studio bassists were quite impressive as well: Ron Carter, Richard Davis, Chuck Rainey, Ron Blanco, and Pops Popwell.
By Jeff Ganz
In the category of “Bassists That Deserve More Recognition”, the first one that comes to mind is Bobby Lichtig.
Bobby is probably best known for his fine bass playing on Seals & Crofts’s biggest hits, but was also an accomplished woodwind player and songwriter. Bobby was also my 1st cousin, whom I admired my whole life, hoping to model my career after his.
Bobby’s bass sound, both live and on record, was the epitome of what a superb musician could do with a Fender Precision Bass. Later in his career, Bobby had one of the first and one of the best B.C. Rich basses I ever saw or heard, certainly in his hands.
Bobby first came to the public eye as a member of The Last Ritual, recording an album for Capitol Records in 1969. He joined Seals & Crofts as their sole accompanist on bass and flute in time for their second album “Year Of Sunday”, released in 1971. Bobby’s bass playing on “Summer Breeze” and “Diamond Girl” are textbook examples of how to be a distinctive and sensitive accompanist. In 1975, Bobby joined the L.A. based super group Bonaroo; they did one album for Warner Brothers Records.
There are three particular moments I remember fondly with Bobby. The first one was in 1972 when he stopped by my parents’ house – on his way to play with Seals & Crofts at Carnegie Hall! The second was in 1991 at the Pacific Amphitheater in Costa Mesa, California when he came to see me playing with Johnny Winter.
The third moment was in 2011, when I visited Bobby at his home in Woodland Hills, California after not seeing him for many years. It was a terrific reunion, complete with ice cream.
Bobby passed away in 2012 of long-time complications from a traumatic head injury. He leaves behind a rich musical legacy worthy of detailed exploration.
“What’s up beautiful people?” With all deference to Sammy Davis Jr. - he’s the hardest working cat in show business – ever! Akin to his former teacher Anthony Jackson, we refer to John Montagna as a “bass guitarist.” Yet, John is much, much more than that: his long list of credits include: composer, singer, recording artist, educator, historian, multi-instrumentalist, producer, band-leader, journalist, sideman (“Happy Together Tour,” Todd Rundgren, Micky Dolenz, The Turtles, Chuck Negron, Mark Farner, Mitch Ryder, Denny Laine, The Cowsills, Felix Cavalerie, to cite a very select few), band member (Alan Parsons Project, among others), Berklee alum, super-fan, pundit, prog prognosticator, broadcaster with bassist Jeff Ganz on “Breaking It Down,” host of a sensational seminal slab soliloquy aptly entitled “Ride Jams” rendered from his automobile to and fro gigs, and Radio418 podcaster - among other endeavors. A multi-genre genome, a wizard a true star virtuoso of the instrument, ain’t no musical mountain too high for Montagna. “Listen to music, listen to music, listen to music…it’s good for ya!”
If an alien interloper landed among my cadre of bassists and demanded "take me to your leader" - we'd escort the little green bugger to meet Jeff Ganz. Commencing his musical journey on drums and guitar, Jeff dedicated himself to our instrument (electric and upright) at the ripe old age of 20, and his expansive career is joyous study in versatility - this cat digs just about every style of music and his playing and personal disposition reflects his curiosity as to how all music connects humanity. A player, educator, composer, sideman, collaborator, producer, and band-member (The Hit Men) whose career spans John Lee Hooker, Broadway, Johnny Winter, Chuck Berry, Rita Moreno, Roy Buchanan, Ben Vereen, Lou Reed, and Dr. John to cite a very, very select few - Ganz adapts his playing to every situation with authenticity borne of study and wonder. His podcast, Breaking It Down co-hosted with bass guitarist John Montagna is a college education on the span of 20th Century American popular music. Guy Lombardo used to say that when he exits this mortal coil, he was taking "New Year's Eve" with him - when Ganz pops his clogs, we gotta make sure he doesn't take bass with him! Stay tuned for Jeff Ganz in Know Your Bass Player On Film Season Deux in 2019!
Trust me, you’ve “heard” this bass player! Most recognized as a longtime “member” of Bon Jovi, Huge McDonald’s credits as a session ace alone qualify him for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame merits! An exemplary pocket and melodic player with wide range of styles at his fingertips, Hugh has worked seminal sides and/or stages with scores of artists spanning Phoebe Snow, Jose Feliciano, David Bromberg, Ringo Starr, Steve Forbert, Lita Ford, Carlene Carter, Alice Cooper, Rory Block, Cher, Andy Pratt, Michael Buble, Michael Bolton, and John Prine just to cite a very select few.
Singer, songwriter, collaborator, recording artist, guitarist, vocalist, session singer, percussionist, bandleader, band-member (Ronnie Spector, Band of Susans, Exit 99, Red Gretchen, Deni Bonet Band, Phil Gammage Quartet), bassist, entrepreneur, promoter… if we listed all of Anne Husick’s music credits, we’d likely break the internet. A bona-fide song-player Anne works the pocket and brings harmonic finesse whenever and wherever the situations warrants – which is why you need bass players!
Give me one guitar icon: Wilko Johnson, and add one bass icon: Norman Watt-Roy, and you’ve got Blow Your Mind (2018), a collection which does exactly as the title implies. Wilko and Norm fit like a hand in glove, riffing incessantly yet never overstating their purpose. Watt-Roy’s signature Bass Centre instrument is essentially a hot-rodded Fender Jazz bolstered with Seymour Duncan pick-ups and a Badass Bridge – essential gadgetry as my 1970s bass brethren will attest to. His tone is noticeably thicker which effectively serves Johnson’s brittle Tele timbre. With Mick Talbot on keys and son of Steve - Dylan Howe, in the drum chair - if this slab does not move you, notify your next of kin!
Nathan Watts nails the A side pocket and monster unison line in “Sir Duke,” however the real gem on this 45 is the flipside, curiously included here from Stevie’s earlier, immortal ’73 slab Innervisions. I reckon the suits didn’t want to give away too much of Songs In the Key of Life (’76) which would be any other artist’s greatest hits collection. Dig Willie’s soulful pedal on the verses which he embellishes with chromatic runs, and the relaxed soulful phrasing on the bridge. Weeks and Wonder: two masters at the absolute top of their game.
With all due reverence to Queen at Live Aid, to my eyes and ears, The Band as captured in The Last Waltz on Thanksgiving Day 1976 is, by far, the greatest rock performance ever committed to celluloid.
Granted, Roberston hijacked the proceedings, and the boys were deeply mired in substance and personal struggles.
However, they individually and collectively rose to the occasion. Van, Joni, Mac, Hawkins, Neil, Bob, The Staples, Muddy, Mr. Butterfield, Emmylou, Slowhand, and even Neil Diamond were levitated by The Band’s incendiary fusion of rhythm & blues, soul, jazz, rock and roll, folk, and country.
Richard Clare Danko soars on every track. Shot in a stunning, dreamlike sepia veneer, Scorsese and cinematographer Michael Chapman absolutely nailed it. And they looked great too!
Slick MOR 70s drivel though it was - it was expertly rendered by the top session cats of the day including Jimmy Webb, Jim Horn, Randall Bramblett, Johnny Sandlin, and Clydie King to cite few. The master Willie Weeks flexes his formidable soul chops to the max, with grooves and harmonic extensions aplenty and a pure Fender tone. You read the charts, you wax the sides, you get paid, and it’s on to the next gig!
As I recall, The dB’s were too good for their own good! With top notch songwriters Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple, and a rockin’/groovin’ rhythm section; drummer Will Rigby and bassist Gene Holder, this indie-pop quartet had the compositional and instrumental chops to go the distance ala REM. However the business of music is not known for its fairness, alas the dB’s never quite broke out of their hallowed cult status. Holder is the consummate ensemble player, working the pocket and rendering melodic passages in the service of the almighty song.
Though he plies an upright in the video clip, you’ve heard his sleek electric bass harmonics and groove passage on the 1987 “sophisti-pop” hit Mary’s Prayer https://bit.ly/1wuI4KX with Meet Danny Wilson. A busy session player who currently anchors Simple Minds, Gerard “Ged” Grimes is also a producer - composer for television , film, and video games; and music business entrepreneur.
KNOW YOUR BASS PLAYER BLOWN AWAY: By Carmine Rojas on the live tracks on the former David Jones compilation Loving the Alien (1983-88). Rojas was brilliant on David’s Let’s Dance (1983), Tonight (1984), and Never Let Me Down (1987); working a modern rhythm & blues / reggae / funk / soul pocket with a piercing tone signature of the era. However, on the Serious Moonlight Live ’83 selections, Carmine goes full-throttle with harmonic extensions, pop/slap passages, and register leaping counterpoint to reinvigorate Bowie’s early canon. Dig the space he leaves in “Rebel Rebel,” and the wicked interplay on “Cracked Actor” to cite two extraordinary cuts. As I recall back in the day, Bowie diehards recoiled (and many still do), however Rojas and that band (also featuring Earl Slick, Carlos Alomar, Tony Thompson) kept the Ziggy zeitgeist relevant for a new generation. Essential listening for those who did not get it the first time around!
Bassist Davey Faragher, a fine player, has the unenviable task of following Bruce Thomas in Declan’s regular backing ensemble, aptly dubbed The Imposters as compared to The Attractions. To my ears, when the mirthless McManus shed Bruce, it coincided with a rather noticeable slump in songwriting as his catchy tunes gave way to mostly vitriolic tone-poems. Look Now (2018) is actually worth a repeated listen. Costello & The Imposters have finally forged an identity. Aural references to Imperial Bedroom abound, and Faragher abandons the pocket on several occasions for a countermelody or two or three or four…. which certainly echo (dare is say “appropriate”) his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame predecessor. Thomas would have been masterful on this song-cycle. Perhaps I’ll head to the Bass Centre on my next trip to London, purchase a Bruce Thomas Profile Bass (in salmon pink, no less), and give it a shot!
Kudos to Mrs. Lennon for unlocking the Imagine vault wherein we hear not only John in his un-Spectorized natural habitat, but the remarkable ensemble playing of Hari, Sir Winston, Alan White, Nicky Hopkins, and the inimitable Klaus Voormann, among others. Sans the flatulent Flux Fiddlers and excessive knob twiddling, the raw studio mixes reveal remarkable grooves and riveting interplay at every turn. Even on the jam-oriented tracks, Klaus was perfect. Had Lennon toured and recorded with this outfit, he’d have been a reborn artist at the center of ‘70s singer-songwriter movement. Or maybe this was all that was left in him. We’ll never know. Certainly, Mind Games and Walls & Bridges, had their moments, but this was Lennon at his solo best.
Herein lies the mighty Rolling Thunder Revue’s finest 56:13 on wax. To my ears, Zimmerman’s most potent ensemble, anchored by Rob Stoner and Howie Wyeth, affords the revered bard the much-needed muscle to contend with the 70s generation’s au courant rock heroes: David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, and the emerging punks – all of whom were leaving the 60s far, far behind in sound and artistic vision. Rob is both pocket and melodic catalyst on this stunning song-cycle, penned by Dylan and Jacques Levy. Just when you think the whole shebang is about to go off the tracks, blood and all, Lieutenant Stoner throws down a passage that rights the train. Note that this was first of two album jackets wherein Dylan directs his gaze towards the bassist, noted by Rob Stoner in Know Your Bass Player On Film Season Duex due in 2019.
Pocket player Kirby Johnson anchored The Lincolns folk group which waxed one side in 1963 on the Kapp imprint, before they changed their moniker to The Wellingtons.
Featured on several Disneyland slabs on tunes such as “Savage Sam,” “Folk Heroes, “The Ballad of Davey Crockett,” and “Annette on Campus” – the band reached their widest audience on TV’s Shindig, Hollywood A Go-Go and with the 60’s hit sitcom Gilligan’s Island wherein they cut the initial version of famous theme song – which only appeared in the first season before being replaced by “The Eligibles” - and as the fictional band “The Mosquitos” – performing self-penned compositions. https://bit.ly/2E0woKY
On the 1965 episode “Don’t Bug The Mosquitoes” the band was consequently upstaged by the Honeybees aka Ginger, Mrs. Howell, and my personal favorite, Maryann – whose vocal track on “You Need Us.” https://bit.ly/2pObAB5