Faces / Stay With Me b/w Debris

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Gimmie Plonk and a pint!

Behold the Faces’ “Stay with Me” b/w “Debris” culled from the magnificent A Nod’s as Good as a Wink … (1971). Everything we revere about Ronnie Lane is in these grooves.

On the A side verses, we dig Ronnie’s staccato rhythm & blues bluester and on the B side, we get Mr. Lane’s most tender ballad abetted with his Zemaitis fretless which Ronnie commandeers akin to an upright jazz master.

Make that two pints!  

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Spencer Brown & Bruce Thomas / Back to the Start

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Bassist! Author! Former Attraction Bruce Thomas plies his instantly identifiable craft with yet another fine songwriter, Spencer Brown.  Back to the Start (2017) exudes a casual bar-band vibe, and more than a few cuts certainly evoke comparison Thomas’ old boss – most evidently “Jonah in the Whale,” “Fall On You,” and “Noisy Neighbors.” As he did so brilliantly with Declan, Bruce works the pocket with melodic motifs aplenty. Ye gods, had Jann excluded Messrs. Pete and Bruce Thomas, and Steve Nieve on the 2003 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot - bass players of my generation would have raged from Singapore to Widnes….  

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The Rod Stewart Album

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“Sing a song of six-pence for your sake and take a bottle full of rye, four and twenty blackbirds in a cake, and bake them all in a pie…”

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Titled An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down in Old Blighty and the stuffy invite packaged The Rod Stewart Album stateside, Sir Roderick’s ’69 solo bow is a magnificent collection of self-penned gems (“Old Raincoat,” “Cindy’s Lament,” “Blind Prayer”) and divine interpretations (“Handbags and Gladrags,” “Dirty Old Town”).

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Good looking Ronnie Wood tears it up in the bass chair, soloing and riffing up and down the neck on the rooster haired rocker’s raucous rendition of “Street Fighting Man” – which, to my ears, upstages Sir Rubber Lips.

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In fact, every Woody bass passage completely avoids the pocket and most of the root notes on the downbeat – and it all works. And that’s Ian McLagan and Keith Emerson on keys, and Ronnie on guitar as well. “The handbags and the gladrags that your poor old Grandad had to sweat to buy you…”       

Elvis Costello / Punch the Clock

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Bruce Thomas’ credit reads “Electric Wal bass guitar.”

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Times were changing, and Fender’s trad low-end resonance could not compete with the barrage of keyboard synthesizers that dominated the pop music landscape.

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Hence many a bassist opted for more treble trolling instruments – as evidenced on Declan’s magnificent 1983 platter. Featuring Chet Baker and TKO sax colossus / clarinetist Geoff Blythe (listed as “Jeff”), Thomas’ signature countermelodic harmonic forays come to the forefront with a rather brittle twang.

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Dated production values aside, great songs make great basslines – ‘nuff said.     

Charlie Sinclair

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Assuming the bass chair from Humphrey Ocean, who went on to a rather impressive career as a contemporary British painter and Royal Academy Professor of Perspective, the rather diminutive Charlie Sinclair anchored Ian Dury’s “other group” - Kilburn and the Highroads.

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Pub rockers with a strong '50s influence, Sinclair provided the pocket for Mr. Dury to perfect his persona which came to full fruition with the Blockheads.

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Their lone official slab is a commendable collection, featuring sax colossus and future Blockhead David Payne.    

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Vern Miller

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Go figure.

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One of rock's great regional bands, Boston's Barry and the Remains, or simply The Remains failed to reach lasting national attention despite appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and opening for The Beatles' final 1966 American trek.

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Immortalized in Lenny Kaye's Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era and the documentary America's Lost Band, The Remains' bassist Vern Miller was a no frills pocket player with a rhythm and blues approach.

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After their '66 split, The Remains reunited for one more slab in 2002, a benefit tribute single to Red Sox hurler Bill Monbouquette, and assorted garage rock fests such as Cave Stomp among others.  

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The archival A Session with The Remains may just be rock's greatest live collection!

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Joe Cocker!

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Featuring  gritty interpretations of Beatles tunes  ("Something," "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window") which debuted on Abbey Road (1969) just weeks prior to this release, along with ramblin' renditions  of Leon's "Delta Lady," Bob's "Dear Landlord," John Sebastian's eternally magnificent "Darling Be Home Soon" - and Leonard's  classic "Bird on a Wire" - John Robert Cocker's sophomore slab reads akin to a greatest hits collection.

Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge

Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge

With The Master of Space and Time helming the producer / keyboard chair and a band to kill for:  Chris Stainton, Clarence White, Bruce Rowland, Henry McCullough; a carnal chorus comprised of Merry Clayton, Bonnie Bramlett, and Rita Coolidge among others - Joe digs deep into his rhythm and blues by way of Sheffield roots.

Merry Clayton

Merry Clayton

The bassist is the incomparable Alan "What's the Buzz" Spenner, grooving ala Jamerson with a mastery of time, space, rhythm,  and melody.

Alan Spenner

Alan Spenner

The Master of Space and Time - Leon Russell

The Master of Space and Time - Leon Russell

Bryan Ferry / In Your Mind

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My girl Friday, she no square... she like lotus blossom in her hair... be-bop records and something new...sometimes borrowed but she's never blue...

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With bassists John Wetton and John Porter in song-player mode, along with guitarist Phil Manzanera and drummer Paul Thompson, In Your Mind (1977) is about as close to Roxy as you can get without being…Roxy!

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John Wetton

John Porter

John Porter

This slab is a commendable kissin’ cousin to Siren (1975) as Bryan on a busman’s holiday moves towards the mainstream whilst retaining some of Roxy’s signature art rock repartee.

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My guess is that Wetton waxes most of the tracks with most of the treble rolled off his Fender P – toiling sparingly in the pocket with an occasional gritty fill. 

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Elvis Costello / Get Happy!!!

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Somewhat tarnished by Declan’s booze fueled Ray Charles remarks leveraged at Stephen Stills and Bonnie Bramlett, which still resonated at the time of its early 1980 release -  Get Happy! was a decidedly soul rhythm and blues genre exercise that actually worked! Though Elvis’ compositions were a bit thin, virtuoso Attractions bassist Bruce Thomas upped his James Jamerson / Jerry Jemmott joneses; rolling the treble off his salmon pink Fender P and working deep in the pocket peppered with gritty grace notes and countermelodies. And dig Barney Bubbles’ radical retro artwork!  

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Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers / Hard to Handle

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Fact: With twangin’ geetars and cowboy boots, Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers swung akin to a jazz big-band.

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This, as I was witness, was one of rock’s supreme collaborations. You’ll never hear more forceful renditions of “Lenny Bruce” “In the Garden,” “When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky,” and “Just Like a Woman”– prominently featuring Benmont Tench and a gospel choir of Queen Esther Marrow, Madelyn Quebec, Debra Byrd, and Elisecia Wright. Captured at a time when both the band and their leader(s) sorely needed to rekindle the old fire whilst navigating a decade which oft celebrated sizzle over substance   - Hard to Handle (1986) emerges as a bona fide classic and a reaffirmation of art over artifice.

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Late great bassist Howie Epstein plays the pocket beautifully with few graces notes in all the right places. Of course, we all know that great songs make for great basslines. And who other than Tom Petty could get away with a top hat on stage in the service of his Bob-ness?

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Lou Reed / Sally Can't Dance

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“Sit yourself down, take off your pants, don’t you know this is a party?”

Ye gods, when Lou retained most of his Rock and Roll Animal band for his fourth studio slab in ‘74, surely a sonic assault was in the making! Nope. Reed’s courtly cohorts turned in a rather slick performance that was as jaded as their bandleader’s disposition at the time. Of course, it went Billboard Top 10! For us Lou fans, that was reward enough. Dig Prakash John percolating in the pocket – which was a far cry from his expanded harmonic forays on Lou’s spectacular concert sides – Rock and Roll Animal (1973) and the remainder of that historic Academy of Music gig as compiled on Lou Reed Live (1975).

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Mott The Hoople / Live

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“I’d like to introduce you to Ariel Bendaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!”

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As I have testified to Morgan Fisher over cocktails, pizza and Katz’s Deli pastrami; to Ian Hunter in our numerous interviews, to the late Pete Watts over bottled H20 previous to Mott’s finale at the 02, and Luther Grosvenor:  with all due respect to Verden Allen and Ralpher, to my ears and to many of my generation who started bands upon hearing this slab in its truncated eight song format in 1974; the “Ariel Bender,” Morgan Fisher line-up of Mott the Hoople was simply the best – and this record proves it.

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Morgan’s signature harmonic and melodic expertise which draws from jazz, classical, and theater combined with Luther’s sonic reinvention of the Hoople canon remains matchless.  Overend is magnificent throughout, plying his perfectly timed glissandos and his understated pocket grooves as you would expect from a bona fide rock and roll star. We waited three decades for the expanded Legacy edition – and it was worth it. If you had to explain rock and roll to a celestial being – say nothing and cue up “Walking with a Mountain.” I understand “politics” kept Luther and Morgan off the Mott 2009 /2013 bandstands, so when folks ask if I saw the Mott the Hoople reunions I respond “well, kind of…”

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Charlie Jones

Photo by David Baxter

Photo by David Baxter

Bassist (electric/upright), multi-instrumentalist, recording artist, Grammy Award winning composer (“Please Read the Letter”), producer, and Robert Plant’s son-in-law; Charlie Jones is an in-demand collaborator and session cat who excels as a song-player.

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Which is why such notable songwriters and interpreters, including Page & Plant and Robert Plant, Goldfrapp, solo Siouxsie, Jim Kerr (Simple Minds), and Loreena McKennitt, among others, enlist Mr. Jones, who oft appears on stage with transparent bass!

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Paul Gray

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Known for their high energy meld of rhythm and blues, power pop, and punk - no history of UK pub rock is complete sans homage to the Southend-on- Sea lads Eddie & The Hot Rods.

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Their bassist during the Rods’ most productive era was Paul Gray -who later went on to serve in one of the many revamped line-ups of The Damned, and U.F.O. Gray, who also plied his craft with Johnny Thunders and the other guy in Wham! Andrew Ridgley, strummed his Rickenbacker 4001 akin to a rhythm guitarist as he pumped out simple bass lines that served the band’s unadorned yet infectious canon.  

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Mudcrutch

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You’d be hard pressed to find a more joyous rock ‘n’ roll busman’s holiday.

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Mudcrutch yielded two fine slabs and an EP (whatever that means in the 21st Century).  Akin to Heartbreakers’ bassists Ron Blair and the late Howie Epstein, Tom Petty worked the pocket to serve the singer (himself) and the songs with economy and expertise. 

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My choice cut from this spirited triumvirate is Petty’s homage to his beloved Byrds with a rave up of “Lover of the Bayou” from their 2008 debut platter. 

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Skip Battin / Topanga Skyline

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Two legendary Americana bassists on one slab! Cited by this writer in Huff Post as Eleven More Bass Players Who Belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (http://bit.ly/2gHNIOA) for his outstanding tenure in the latter-day Byrds, the late, great Skip Battin waxed this platter just days following the tragic passing of Clarence White in 1973.

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Though not released until well into the 21st Century, Skip’s cosmic cowboy yearnings, produced by his pal and co-writer Kim Fowley, recall his work with the countrified McGuinn & Company. Backing Battin on this song-cycle is bassist extraordinaire Chris Ethridge – working the pocket.  

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Note: included on the CD version is a hidden bonus rehearsal cut featuring Clarence’s last known recording.  

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As cited in the Sierra Records Press Release: "Skip Battin: Topanga Skyline" was to be part of a five album release back in 1973 that would include the album releases of Gene Parsons' "Kindling", Country Gazette's "Don't Give Up Your Day Job", Gram Parsons' "Sleepless Nights" later released as "Grievous Angel", and what turned out to be the never released "Clarence White" solo album on Warner Bros. Records. All five releases were to promote a Fall 1973 Concert tour with all these performers on stage with Skip providing the bass playing and adding his vocals. I wonder what a Gram Parsons/Skip Battin duet would have sounded like! The tour was to be kicked off by a "Folk/Bluegrass/Country" Festival in September 1973 in Lancaster CA. Sadly, it too never materialized because the "city fathers" did not want a music festival with "long hairs" and by then Clarence and Gram were gone. 
 

Ian Hunter / Stranded in Reality

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He's the longest tenured bassist in iconic career of the former Ian Patterson.  

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If you want to experience the most Paul Page in one place aside from moving in with him, look no further than Ian Hunter's magnificently massive Stranded in Reality (2016) archival box which spans 28 CDs and over 400 tracks. 

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A pocket player extraordinaire, you get Page in the studio (Man Overboard, When I'm President); you get Page on stage (Live in the UK 2010, Bag of Tricks); and you get Page on the telly with Ian and the Rant Band DVD It Never Happened

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(Fantastic photos courtesy of Tamara Guo!)  

The Sidney Greet Street Band / Half Live

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Standing in the shadows of Page! In the distinguished service of Ian Hunter (he is the iconic bard's longest tenured bassist), among others, Paul Page serves the song first and foremost. However with the busman's holiday Sidney Green Street Band, featuring kindred spirits Lance Doss, Steve Holley, and Justin Jordan - Page flexes his groove chops aplenty on the scorching Half Live (2017) set.  Swingin' ("Stay All Night"), cryin' the blooze with fine countermelodies ("Miss Understood"), rippin' the joint with a gritty glam rave-up ("Rock Star") or doin' like Duck Dunn done ("I Ain't Sleeping with the Lights On"), Page is up in the mix - where he belongs!  

Photo by Tamara Guo

Photo by Tamara Guo

Keith Richards / X-Pensive Winos Live

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In the service of Keef, you leave space and you hang on the root!

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Which is just what Charley Drayton did on this killer live slab which captures the ragged glory of Richards on a busman’s holiday.

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An accomplished drummer, Drayton lays in the pocket as X-Pensive Winos Waddy Wachtel, Ivan Neville, Bobby Keys, Steve Jordan, Sarah Dash and their bandleader rip the joint (Hollywood Palladium) with tunes from Talk Is Cheap (1988) along with choice Stones nuggets.

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Johnny Winter / Saints & Sinners

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‘Twas a time when guitar gods and their bass players regularly roamed the terrain.

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Waxed in waning hazy daze of ‘73, Saints & Sinners (1974) sinisterly stews with a heavy stream of soul stimuli. Produced by the former Ricky Zehringer, and featuring Randy Brecker, Bobby Caldwell, Dan Hartman, Tasha Thomas, and brother Edgar – Johnny’s main anchor, the late bassist Randy Jo Hobbs, percolates in the pocket. 

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Dig Winter’s wicked invocations of the Stones’ “Stray Cat Blues,” Van’s “Feedback on Highway 101,” and Allen Toussaint’s “Blinded by Love.”    

Rick Derringer

Rick Derringer