12/11/2009 (1:46 pm)
I’m in a musical mood, but couldn’t make up my mind which of several pieces to post, so y’all get to choose: two classics and a marvelous modern guitar composition.
First is Steely Dan from their Steelyard “Sugartooth” McDan (and the Fab-Originees.com) Band tour in 2006, playing an updated arrangement of “Do It Again.” There are lots of things not to like about Steely Dan — the main guys are reputed to be thoroughly unlikeable, their lyrics are always seedy, raunchy, and depressing, and even the name of the band is a completely tasteless reference I won’t explain — but musically, they’re about the smoothest funk in the rock world, and among the best musicians. The opening shots are of Dan Fagin on keyboard, the rhythm section, and Walter Becker on strat (guitar), and Fagin and Becker are the two mainstays of the band over the years, the rest mostly being studio players. However, on this cut the lead is sung by Michael McDonald, whom we know from the Doobie Brothers and from solo work. McDonald actually sang and played with Steely Dan from about 1974 onward. This song is about how one’s sins keep recurring, but counter-thematically, they’ve altered the changes at the end of the chorus and added some truly fine breaks, especially Keith Carlock’s drum fills at the end. This is the first time I’ve watched these guys on video, and I’m surprised to discover that the fine Telecaster guitar work I’ve admired over the years is not Becker’s, but that of Jon Herington (and that it’s not a Telly, it’s a Gibson semi hollow body.)
Next is Cream from their 2005 Reunion Tour, playing the old blues standard “Sitting On Top of the World” at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Cream was always at their best playing the blues, in my humble opinion, although “White Room” sticks in my mind as one of the finest examples of studio guitar work from the 1960s. I play bass guitar, and Jack Bruce is one of my prime influences as a player. The instrument he’s playing is a Warwick, and it’s my next instrumental purchase (I’ll go for a 5-string); I think the sound is fabulous. I’m sure there are blues players all over the US thinking that there’s no way a bunch of wrinkly, old, skinny, white gits from England should be able to do blues this well, but… they’ve still got it.
And finally, Kaki King. It was her hands that did all the fabulous tapping and hammering guitar work in the 2007 film August Rush, so I looked her up on YouTube. I would not call her the best technical guitarist in the world, or even anywhere near that, but her compositions are fascinating and original, and her interpretations of them are compelling. This was recorded live at Tower Records in San Fransisco in 2004, and it’s called “Neanderthal.” It was probably recorded on a small portable digital camcorder, not a professional camera, but the sound system they used was clean, so the sound is far better than the video. Enjoy.