TM, ®, Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi
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I was surprised to see no mention of The Stranglers in your lists. Without wishing to denigrate the contributions of Hugh Cornwell (by his own admission not the best guitarist in the world) or Jet Black (who prefers the minimalist approach to drumming), I was mostly surprised that your lists do not include Jean-Jacques Burnel (Bass) or Dave Greenfield (Keyboards).

JJ Burnel was one of the most distinctive bass-players of the new wave genre, influencing many both at that time and since. His technical ability with the bass is nothing short of amazing, and one of the most memorable riffs of the late 1970s - Peaches - was a massive seller. It is the more complex bass arrangements that the crowds still find popular at sell-out gigs and festivals.

Dave Greenfield adds a melodic note to Stranglers tunes, either as a background or with his trademark fast arpeggio runs up and down the keyboard. The Stranglers stood out as one of the only new-wave bands with a keyboard player, and many classic songs would not be the same without Dave and his 'massive swelling organ'. Of course, the best known Stranglers song (by non-fans) is "Golden Brown", played by Dave on a real harpsichord.

Both musicians featured heavily in the New Musical Express and Melody Maker polls in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and although commercial success is not currently with the Stranglers, they continue to have a loyal and large fan base to make sure that most gigs are sold out.

Mike Edwards

In the list of female singers, HARRIET WHEELER of the early '90s band THE SUNDAYS ought in my opinion to be very close to the top. Her voce is the purest instrument I have ever seen and it has a tuneful and melodic quantity that surpasses even those "Sophias of popular music" (Kate Bush and Jane Siberry). It is impossible not to be shocked by how good the singing on "Reading, Writing and Arithmetic" is: never does Wheeler fail to sing one note with perfection. And the melody in her voice is always so good that even when she does not feel happy she still sings like a true angel and never overdoes her voice, nor reduce it to a whisper like Tori Amos does. Wheeler also shows considerable feeling in her voice and that is a joy to hear. [Almost as good as Wheeler is KAREN PERIS of the INNOCENCE MISSION, however, because the majority of your readers certainly cannot handle her pious Catholicism, I will not discuss her in detail. However, Peris is a most wonderful singer, quite in Wheeler's class]

Julien Benney

Among your list of best drummers, I am surprised that STUART ELLIOTT, one of Kate Bush's sidemen, was not mentioned. Because of its remarkably captivating mysteriousness, "Hounds Of Love" must rank as one of the highlights of the 1980s. Yet, Elliott's contribution to this masterpiece, especially in the captivating rhythms of "Running Up That Hill", "Cloudbusting" and "Jig Of Life" is quite essential, for with a lesser drummer, Bush could never have developed that cosmic breath in her voice that makes her so captivating. The same is true of "The Sensual World", "Rubberband Girl" and "Top of The City". (I myself admire her post-1980 work - her early albums were clearly underproduced - but do not think she is quite as good a singer as many would believe).

Julien Benney

I think its odd that you've voted Brian Jones as best keyboardist of 1966. Most of the great piano work that the Stones had on their albums of that era was by actually by Ian Stewart (through early 1966) or Nicky Hopkins (from the 1966 "Between the Buttons" sessions through each Stones album up to Exile on Main Street). I'd vote Nicky as one of the best keyboard players of all time, for his additional great work on Kinks albums (1965 through 1968), Who albums (1965-6 and "Who's Next"), a Beatles single (Revolution), Jefferson Airplane (Woodstock concert, 1969) and countless other sessions. On many of these albums he is featured more than the lead guitarist (check out "Beggars Banquet", especially "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Street Fighting Man").


I nominate for best guitarist: Randy Rhoads

I'm not a "single-lane" thinker when it comes to music, but I am a guitar player. If nothing else, Randy Rhoads was a "guitar player's guitar player." Many guitarists are capable of playing "unreplicable" riffs, simply by accident, but few are able to play what seem to be incredibly unreplicable riffs, and then OVERDUB them, note for note, flawlessly. He used this technique, rather than more contemporary methods of digital replication and offset-distortion.

I listened to Ozzy Osbourne during the reign of R.R. only for the guitar wizadry. I wouldn't give "Ozzy" (the band) a mention of respect were it not for R.R. And there is no mistake that "Ozzy" mixed it's recordings to make the best of R.R., not the band's namesake. After R.R.'s death, it all went to crap again.

R.R. was a devoted student of the guitar, humbly taking basic classical guitar lessons hours before each performance. He was able to mix heavy metal with classical music, giving an unheard of quality of soothingness (if there is such a word) to a flying-V on heavily overdriven Marshall Amps.

Musically, he had the punctuality of Bach peppered with the contemporary abilities of Van Halen (I think EVH was a bit more avante garde), the "controlled sloppiness" that stamps Jimmy Page (but the latter could never REPLICATE it); and the ability to understand and execute complex music structure, chord transitions, and articulations. He played incredible solos, but the true key to the excellency of his music was in the transitions, the little riffs, he tossed in between phrases. When "formula" guitar would say, "don't do anything much here," he would toss in a light, but incredibly inventive (and usually, FYI, techically difficult)little riff to tie one phrase to the other.

There is nothing that R.R. couldn't play, and, indeed, interpret (outside of the "Ozzy" producers) to outstanding clarity and brilliant, precision guitar.

All of this, packed into the little blonde head of a southern-California surfer dude. Besides, he's dead, and didn't die by killing himself; he just had a stupid accident. He was a very talented airhead. If he had lived, I truly believe he would have changed the face of rock guitar.

Limited Musical examples:

Almost any guitar solo will suffice, especially the tiny transitional riffs, if listened closely only in context with the music (the words are meaningless and very forgetful). Best examples that come to mind are:

Crazy Train: the whole first solo is excellent, but pay attention to the last two measures thereof. He masterfly ties (and performs, in duo-overdub) a classical lead starting with 32nd note sextuplets, switching to 16th notes, throwing in some quick rock cliche's, and ending with a bend that holds and quivers over the resolving transition from the 2nd to 1st of the existing chord (the sixth and fifth of the dominant chord of the song). The result is a total satisfaction at final resolution.

Additionally, try to ask anyone to replicate the harmonics he hammers on the fourth and fifth eighth notes after the resolving, very basic, chords of F#, B, F#, which really makes the "Crazy Train" song sound like a crazy train. If there are any harmonics at work in the true sense, it transcends the common ear (including mine) to resolve it. But it REALLY IS a harmonic, and therefore doesn't irritate. It has an invigorating, lashing quality.

Mr. Crowley: Note the reaching bend as a background riff after the first phrase of the second refrain. It comes from nowhere, and doesn't resolve. BUT it reaches for resolution and finality. It doesn't achieve it, by design, but results in a quality of monstrosity. True to the title of the song.

Listen to the transitional riffs: very Bach-like and eloquent.

The first solo begins with a classic Jimmy Page-like riff (although with much greater classical intricacy, punctuality, and skill), and comforts us, initially. It departs from this slowly using a classical scale and resolves with a bend, pull, and bridge drop.

The final solo is a masterpiece mix of incredibly inventive creations based on classical modalities, and a shotgun of traditional rock cliche's, flamenco, and, for true resolution, classical again.

Of course I could go on, with every song, literally, in which he participated. The truth is, there is no evidence that, in any song, he slacked off, or took the easy road. He attacked every song he could with his repertoire of guitar knowledge, classical training, love for rock and roll, and pure skill. The world of rock, in fact, perhaps music, should forever regret the loss of this man, who offered us so much with the possibility of a fusion between classic rock, heavy metal, classical. And the guitarists, still living which you posture as your best, are known to give awesome (i.e., fearful) respect to this man.

We only remember him by a few albums by an idiot band. Notwithstanding, he cannot be ignored.

Kevin P. Moloney

I nominate Richard Thompson for one of the best singer/songwriter/guitarist of all time.His album "I wanna see the red lights tonight" (made with gifted vocalist wife Linda) is one of the most despairing album I know.I would only name "end of the rainbow": the narrator tells a baby there's nothing in life worth living.It makes me think of the Heine poem (that Nico certainly knew):Morphin(Das Beste w=E4re nie geboren sein) As for the guitarist,listen to his harrowing parts on "shoot out the lights".I t will leave you shivering.It's the title track of the 1982 album. And for the emotion,please listen to Linda's powerful vocal on "dimming of the day",and on"did she jump or was she pushed?"She too deserves a niche in the female singers' hall of fame.The first track is on "pour down like silver" the second on "shoot out the lights".


I nominate Tony Drake for best rock bass player.

Check him out on 'Texture'. He is a solo artist so far. But rumor has it that he's collaborating with Anton Fier on a project. He's definitely an up and comer. I saw him recently on the transmat tour. Great on fretless and upright. He seems to have a Mick Karn influence. But very original. He should be somewhere on the list IMO.

Mike Otterbine

I think that the bass player for the band Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Victor Wooten, should be the best bass player for the year 2000 because first of all he is god at the bass of todays standards....I suggest you listen to Amazing Grace on the album Live art put out by the is truly amazing!!!...The speed and clearity of his playing surpasses any other player around today...(les Claypool needs lessons from Victor!)

David Valentine

You need to take a listen to John Fell who has moved from #82 on your drummer's list to 84. The record is the Heroine Sheiks/Rape on the Installment Plan and it is on Reptile records. He's badass. The disc opens with a song that has the most amazing sounding and hard grooving cut. The bass drum sounds like a bomb going off and the playing is just plain funky. The song jew jitsu has something played after a funky breakdown that sounds like the guy has four arms. There is a power in this guy's playing that is unreal. I met him finally when they were on the road and I saw him before with Kelly's Township, but I finally met the dude and he was awesome. His other records with less good bands than the Heroines were always awesome drummer records. The guy has got speed and lots of power and all these cool ideas

Roger Reese

Sono rimasto molto soddisfatto di aver visto nella tua lista dei "Best Drummers" il nome di Danny Seraphine. Penso infatti che Seraphine sia stato uno dei batteristi pi— personali che il rock abbia mai conosciuto, le cui influenze, tra le pi— disparate, variano da Elvin Jones, Jo Jones e Chuck Flores al pi— "Hard" Mitch Mitchell. Volevo porre alla tua attenzione un altro membro della stessa band di Seraphine: Terry Kath. Chitarrista di stampo "Hendrixiano" dalla tecnica ineccepibile, caratterizzato tra l'altro da una interessantissima vena creativa sia sullo strumento che a livello compositivo. Penso sia stato uno dei tanti musicisti eccessivamente sottovalutati (come Roy Buchanan tanto per intenderci), la cui grinta, anima e cuore nel suonare, a mio giudizio, ha pochi eguali. Altra nomination: Mike Bloomfield! Sembra assurdo fare una nomination su un bluesman che certo non ha bisogno di presentazioni. I suoi lavori come chitarrista insieme a Paul Butterfield, con la Electric Flag, con Nick Gravenites e con Al Kooper sono di una classe immensa. Ultima nomination: Warren Haynes. Eccellente il suo lavoro con la Allman Brothers Band e soprattutto con i Gov't Mule, Band che spazia dal Blues-Rock all' Hard-Rock e al Southern-Rock fino ad arrivare alle contaminazioni jazz. Che dire poi della sua tecnica slide? Sempre limpidissima e contemporaneamente graffiante, buona erede degli insegnamenti del grande Duane Allman.

Roy Blumenfeld soprattutto con i Blues Project ha proposto un drumming veramente interessante. Sono abbastanza evidenti le influenze che gli arrivano dal mondo del jazz del periodo. Direi specialmente percussionisti "duri" come Max Roach e Art Blakey. Il suo solo in "Flute Thing" sia nella versione da studio che in quella dal vivo (alla Town Hall), ricorda molto entrambi. Due parole le voglio spendere per Buddy Miles, batterista cresciuto negli ambienti soul e blues dei primi '60, versatilissimo ed estremamente espressivo (anche a livello vocale). Anche lui ha fatto uso di un percussionismo spesso esasperato, ma a tratti anche profondamente lirico e genuino.

Marco Belvedere

Trovo ci sia un'altra chiave di lettura e di valutazione da te abbastanza sottovalutata: il sound. Gruppi poco originali come contenuti sono stati però incredibilmente personali come approccio all'arrangiamento o, scendendo ancor più nell'imperscrutabile, nella maniera inconscia in cui hanno combinato i "tone" degli strumenti, gli approcci ritmici eccetera... penso ai Meters, ad esempio. Per come la vedo io Zig Modeliste e` stato, a livello di sound, il batterista piu` originale della storia del funk. Anche Al Jackson, degli Mg's e` molto personale e riconoscibile, ma piu` ortodosso. tutto il blues e il rock si puo` rileggere da questa prospettiva ricavandone classifiche molto "altre" rispetto alle solite. Credo che soprattutto il rock inglese ne uscirebbe ulteriormente ridimensionato. Il sound e` quello che contraddistingue un gruppo, a prescindere dai contenuti di cio` che va a proporre. E` come l'odore di un individuo: personale e immediato, prima di tutte le altre valutazioni possibili.
Poi: George Rains (il batterismo texano per eccellenza). Roosevelt Sykes pianista.
Il batterista Jim Keltner e` un session man. ha suonato con tutti, mostrando pero` una rarissima capacità di "vivere" l'altrui prodotto, e non solo di suonarlo. Cito collaborazioni alla rinfusa: l'ultimo Neil Young (in sezione ritmica con il grandioso Donald Duck Dunn), molto Bill Frisell, quasi tutto Ry Cooder, un pò del Dylan recente. Qualcosina con Clapton. Ha anche fatto di recente un disco con il mai troppo lodato Charlie Watts (si chiama, se ben ricordo semplicemente "The C.Watts and J.Keltner" project) che e` una delizia di gusto e misura.
Il Willie Nelson chitarrista, illuminato minimalista trasversale. Condivido l'importanza e la genialità che riscontri in Marc Ribot e infatti trovo che Willie, quando suona, abbia un approccio molto simile, pur con le evidenti differenze tecniche e di conoscenza armonica. Mi ripeto: si assomigliano come "sound".
Altra nomination: Kim Wilson come blues singer bianco è un riferimento importante.

Antonio Gramentieri

Send your nominations for any year and any instrument to the editor. Please write "nominate" in the subject.