Kirby Johnson

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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.


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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

 The Honeybees

The Honeybees

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

 The Mosquitoes

The Mosquitoes

Royston Langdon

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Akin to his legendary UK ancestors Sir Paul, Herbie Flowers, Trevor Bolder, and John Deacon to cite a few; singer, composer, recording artist, multi-instrumentalist Royston Langdon is quick to sprinkle (as in “Ray Sprinkles”) just the right amount of contrapuntal and rhythmic wizardry into his recorded works, most notably with his longtime ensemble Spacehog.  

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A master compositional player, Mr. Langdon’s latest endeavor – under the moniker LEEDS (the West Yorkshire region city where he was born) entitled “Everything’s Dandy” – emerges as a cinematic song-cycle which details his astute observations on the g-g-gentrification of his beloved adopted hometown of a quarter-century and counting - New York City.

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T. Rex / Dandy In the Underworld

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https://bit.ly/2MxvdMa To my ears, the cosmic grooves, riff-raffery, and compositions which define Dandy comprise the most enduring of all Bolan slabbery – including official and archival collections. The last platter released during the former Mr. Feld’s all-to-brief time on this immortal coil, we’ve got UK session deity Herbie Flowers and longtime T. Rex bassist Steve Currie working the pocket on the majority of the tracks.And that’s Bolan on bass for “Pain and Love” and LA studio ace Scott Edwards affording Marc the soul of his final suite on “I’m A Fool For You Girl.”  

 Herbie and Marc! 

Herbie and Marc! 

 Steve and Marc! 

Steve and Marc! 

 Scott Edwards

Scott Edwards

Roger Daltrey / As Long As I Have You

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Absofookinlutely, had Ox and Moonie not popped their respective clogs, this would have made a smashing ‘Oo slab, especially given the presence of Bijou Drains - who brilliantly bolsters the old Duchess with his posh rhythmic prowess. Daltrey’s grizzled pipes prevail in the service of sensible libretti penned by geezers Stephen Stills, Boz Scaggs, Nick Cave, Stevie Wonder, and Joe Tex, among others.  High Numbers touring bassist Jon Button, Moke multi-instrumentalist John Hogg, and ex-World Party thumper David Catlin-Birch hold the bottom with imaginative pocket proclivities and countermelodies aplenty. Flog the hipster gits and naff music scribblers, Who matters even with just two mugs sucking air!   

 Jon Button 

Jon Button 

 John Hogg

John Hogg

 David Catlin-Birch

David Catlin-Birch

Chepito Areas / Chepito

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As Carlos ventured into increasingly abstract electric Miles territory in the early 1970s, his percussionist Jose Octavio “Chepito” Areas Davila waxed a killer slab in ‘74 which stuck to the Latin jazz-rock Santana formula that made them international stars following their Woodstock appearance. Doug Rauch, who replaced David Brown in the Santana line-up, plays the pocket pure and simple, whilst Chepito and his day-job brethren, including Gregg Errico, Tom Coster, Neil Schon, and Richard Kermode lay down some serious grooves and solos.   

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Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers / Hard Promises

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Before embarking on a 20-year Heartbreaker hiatus, finesse song player Ronald Edward Blair waxed, what is to my ears, some of the finest bass performances on any Petty platter. Though Duck Dunn was called in to cut "A Woman In Love" - a groove which was certainly within Ron's range - this is Blair's baby. Dig his legato phrasing on "The Criminal Kind," the heavy pocket on "King's Road," the smooth undertaking of "A Thing About You," and the subtle glissandos and sustained upper register movement beneath "The Waiting" and "The Night Watchman." 

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Paul Ill

 Paul Ill photo from Encyclopedia Metallum

Paul Ill photo from Encyclopedia Metallum

So help me groove! My musical language is determined by my musical philosophies which in turn challenge me to develop in all areas of my life. So for me it’s about body, mind and spirit – their mutual and cohesive health and development. I believe that musicians, like all people, are conduits for love, and love is the will to nurture one’s own or another’s growth….” 

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So says Paul Ill, a groove master in the mold of his idols - among which he lists as Duck Dunn, Jerry Jemmott, Berry Oakley, John Paul Jones, Sir Paul, and Will Lee, amid others.  A player, composer, sideman, and engaging stage presence – Ill’s illustrious resume is rather impressive: Michael Des Barres, Pink, Christina Aguilera, Hole, Celine Dion, Reeves Gabrels, Bill Ward, Juliette and the Licks, and Alicia Keys – to cite a select few.

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Chris Semal / The Joy of Bass

 Chris Semal - Early 1980's

Chris Semal - Early 1980's

Know Your Bass Player Guest Editorial By Chris Semal

OK, after the last blog post dealt with a lot of sadness, I promised to lighten up and write about something happy this time around. Since some people have a fear of circus clowns, I’ll avoid that topic and stick to a subject that certainly brings great joy to each and every person, especially me: the bass guitar! Perhaps there are some six string guitarists out there reading this who will snort with derision, but let us pity those poor, misguided souls.

I first picked one up as a freshman in high school when the bassist for the Deep Purple cover band in which I was singing had to leave school for a couple of months due to some reason I can no longer remember. He lent me his instrument so that the band could continue to rehearse and Steve, the guitarist, demonstrated zen-like patience in teaching me some of the songs. I’m sure you’re all thinking, “Ah, the first thing he learned was ‘Smoke On the Water’”, but no, believe it or not, that wasn’t in our repertoire. It was way too obvious and I commend my band mates for their foresight at that tender age. The first song that Steve showed me was ‘Child In Time’, the ten minute opus from their amazing album ‘In Rock’. I suppose he thought that the beginning chords would be easy enough, and he was right, but then about halfway through the song, it’s off to the races and I can’t speculate on how many hours we spent trying to play this, just that there were many, many blisters acquired. I should point out that Steve was a European transfer student whose father was head of the Goethe Institut in New York, the offices of this association promoting German international cultural cooperation located directly across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on 5th Avenue. The band was kindly allowed to use the auditorium and it’s a safe bet that in 1974, there were no other bands out there slamming their way through ‘Highway Star’ on the stages of institutions named for key figures of Weimar Classicism.

I’d always admired the shape of the electric guitar or bass in all its permutations, but had never strapped one on until then. I’ve now been playing for thirty-eight years (gulp!) and can still remember the initial sensation, feeling the smooth wood against the front of my body and flicking the switch to turn the amp on. If you’ve never experienced this, go into a music store somewhere and give it a try. The vibration from the strings through the wood, into the pick-ups and then finally out of the amp speakers is a majestic revelation. The instrument resonates and reverberates with the massive sound. A fourteen year old boy with a bass slung down at crotch level, plucking the low E string? Well, as I said before, I’m still jamming at fifty-two and have no immediate plans of stopping. Somewhere along the way, I actually learned how to play the instrument and it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had.

P.S. I have to mention this: I always write with music playing and have some nine thousand songs in iTunes on my computer, invariably set to random play. Guess what started playing halfway through creating this post? You got it: ‘Smoke On the Water’.

Chris Semal was born in New York City in 1959 and has lived there all his life. He is aware that other places exist and likes to visit them from time to time, but the city is a hard mistress to resist and he keeps going back to her. A musician, singer and songwriter, he has played pretty much every rock club in Manhattan at one time or another since the late 70s and went to school at the University of Miami to study Music Engineering, coming back north to do the only obvious thing possible, becoming a municipal bond broker and eventually working as a consultant building financial models. In the early part of the millennium, between both consulting and band gigs, he thought it might be interesting to see what would happen if he expanded on the 80 or so words he used in writing song lyrics and went for the 80,000 he would need for a novel. And so Trial Of Tears was born, along with a passion for developing plots and characters.

www.ChrisSemal.Com

Chris Campbell

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He exemplifies the class of players which Know Your Bass Player reveres. As I was witness, The Silver Bullet Band were among the best backing ensembles of their era, rivaling Bruce's E Street Band and Johnny's Jukes.

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Curiously Bob Seger chose to wax a considerable number of album tracks with the Muscle Shoals rhythm section - however to my ears, those cuts lacked the muscle of the Bullet Band's classic lineup anchored by bassist Chris Campbell.

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Working the pocket with a definitive Fender tone, Campbell, in the tradition of many a master bar band bassist, moved seamlessly from rhythm & blues, funk, disco, soul, hard rock, 50s rock, and tender balladry.

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Bob Dylan / Self Portrait

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“All the tired horses in the sun, how am I supposed to get any ridin’ done….” In his autobiography Chronicles, his Bobness reveals that Self Portrait (1970) was an attempt to shed a segment, if not all of his fervent reverential fanbase who cast him as the “voice of a generation.” Regardless of Zimmy’s intentions, to my ears, this scorned two-fer and its extended Bootleg Series: Another Self Portrait emerges as a shambolic masterwork that divulges more about the artist than was probably intended. The rotating bass chair features Rick Danko on most of the tracks, along with Nashville studio cats Charlie McCoy, Bob Moore, the devil’s fiddle player Charlie Daniels, Stu Woods, and Wrecking Crew icon Joe Osborn. As a musician, I appreciate the informal, throw-it-all-against-the-wall aesthetic and target practice approach to the bass.

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Iwan Gronow

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https://bit.ly/2IR7Dnn In the early 00’s when Johnny Marr produced Brit "Beatle Barnet Fair" Haven’s magnificent pair of dream pop platters Between the Senses - perhaps a nod’s as good as a wink to the Stones’ Between the Buttons – and the follow-up All For A Reason, Moz’s former mate was certainly enamored with the melodic pocket plectrum purveyance of bassist Iwan Gronow.

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Anchoring Mr. Marr’s muscular post-Smiths ensembles, https://bit.ly/Yqnems  Iwan serves the mercurial Mancunian guitar hero quite effectively by way of a gritty, pedal pushing Fender P tones and supportive passages with an occasional harmonic foray into the upper register.

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Traffic / On The Road

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Double live slabs are oft ponderous affairs, however to my ears, this terrific Traffic twofer with Muscle Shoals Swamper David Hood in the bass chair is indeed an exception. Waxed in Germany ’73 – hence the “wir fahr'n fahr'n fahr'n auf der Autobahn” cover artwork – Hood along with polyrhythmic percussion purveyors Jim Capaldi, Rebop, and Roger Hawkins stir up a Bitches Brew brouhaha on super stretched out renditions of the studio originals. David is a master of the pocket – rendering subtle variations on what are essentially jam vamps tailored to the improvisational prowess of Messrs. Chris Wood, Steve Winwood, and second keys man Barry Beckett.    https://bit.ly/2JFsgE9 

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Phil Manzanera / K Scope

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Affix Ferry to Phil Manaznera’s extraordinary solo sides; and you’ve got another generation or two of classic Roxy. Of all the outstanding work Bill MacCormick rendered in the service of Phil and 801, K-Scope (1978) is likely the pinnacle. With his resonant Fender P up, up, up, in the mix with an occasional tinge of flange, MacCormick flexes his funky rhythmic and harmonic chops on killer tracks that ache for a charismatic crooner. Cameos include John Wetton, Tim and Neil Finn, Paul Thompson, Lol Crème, Simon Phillips, and Mel Collins.

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Hot Tuna / Burgers

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Tuna morphs from a jam ensemble to a bona fide song band on their immortal third slab waxed in late ‘71, and which also marks their studio bow. Every Casady side is essential, however Burgers further reveals the innumerable ways Jack seamlessly works the pocket and serves as a countermelodic virtuoso. The abrupt tempo changes in “True Religion” https://bit.ly/2GwgXMp , the fuzzy sustained notes, chromatic runs on “Sea Child” https://bit.ly/2Jhwf9Y and “Water Song” https://bit.ly/2q3jfwt among others, weave their way through Jorma’s repertoire of master guitar techniques too numerous to cite here.

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Papa John and drummer Sammy Piazza add a funk - swing vibe to the proceedings. And that’s David Crosby on “Highway Song” https://bit.ly/2q1cPgo wherein Jack disposes the distortion for an usually resonant trad bass tone.         

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Ivan Kral

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https://bit.ly/2GjdLI2 He is a prolific Grammy Award winning composer, filmmaker, producer, solo recording artist,  multi-instrumentalist, and founding member of the Patti Smith Group wherein he shared bass duties with Lenny Kaye.

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His collaborations and band memberships span Blondie, Iggy Pop, John Cale, and John Waite, to site a scant English speaking few.

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As a bassist, Ivan was the consummate song player, working the pocket and outlining them changes to ensure everyone around him on the bandstand and the studio sounded great. And they did!     

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Dick Diamonde

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He anchored “Austraila’s Beatles!”

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Dingeman Adriaan Henry van der Sluijs aka Dick Diamonde was The Easybeats' bassist for their entire career which spanned 1964-69 and one successful reunion jaunt in 1986. Most noted for their hit “Friday On My Mind,” waxed with Shel Talmy in the producer’s chair when the lads migrated to swingin’ London in ‘67, Diamonde worked the pocket with a booming resonance symbolic of the era.

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The band split following a pair of commendable slabs which forsook their powerful pop inclinations for heady psychedelic prog -which  failed to reach an audience. Guitarist / composer George Young’s siblings Angus and Malcom went on to fame and fortune with AC/DC, and along with his Easybeats partner Harry Vanda, Young formed Flash and the Pan whilst Diamonde toiled in several New South Wales ensembles garnering scant attention.        

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Stephen Thompson

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https://bit.ly/2IX3G1h A soulful pocket player given to supportive harmonic extensions and grooves, the late Stephen Thompson was a magnificent anchor for John Mayall – especially the Bluesbreaker bandleader’s brilliant drummer-less ensemble as captured on the iconic live collection The Turning Point (1969).

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An in-demand session player, Thompson also waxed seminal sides with Jesse Ed Davis, Stone the Crows, Denny Laine, Alvin Lee, and Kevin Coyne, among others.   

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Robert Palmer / Sneakin' Sally

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The Meters and Stuff on a single slab under the semblance of Robert Palmer’s solo debut!

 George Porter Jr. 

George Porter Jr. 

Waxed in ’74 in ‘Nawlins and New Yawk, bassists George Porter Jr. and Gordon Edwards pulsate in the pocket with their patented Fender P penchant for lower register repartee replete with upper register notes of grace. 

 Gordon Edwards

Gordon Edwards

Working the almighty groove with drummers Pretty Purdie, Simon Phillips, and Ziggy Modeliste – George and Gordon’s mastery of tone, rhythm, and space is matchless – and not a note was popped, slapped, nor plectrum purveyed!     

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Lorraine Leckie & Her Demons / Live at Mercury Lounge

 Charlie DeChants, Lorraine Leckie, Hugh Pool

Charlie DeChants, Lorraine Leckie, Hugh Pool

Demons or angels? You decide!

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Released as a fitting tribute to drummer extraordinaire Paul Triff, who passed shortly after this September 2015 gig, Live at the Mercury Lounge captures folk noir goddess Lorraine Leckie's posse in their natural habitat - the concert stage!

 Paul Triff

Paul Triff

Featuring (as usual) bravura performances by Ms. Leckie, violinist Pavel Cingl in John Cale/Jean Luc-Ponty mode, and local guitar legend Hugh Pool - the cat who stitches it all together is bassist Charles DeChants. Groovin' with a masterful command of rhythm and space, DeChants' legato phrasing and warm tone affords a heavenly pocket to further fortify Ms. Leckie's oft wicked libretto.

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