Hidden Treasures PT 4: You’re doing it wrong
Lately there’s been this annoying trend on the Facebook, telling people that they have been doing certain things wrong their entire lives. Since my newest goal is to conform to non-conformity, I thought I’d do my version of this trend about musicians in bands. These are my opinions, but since I’m a self-appointed expert, you can trust my judgement.
This is about musicians who are very well known for their art, but are not as well known for other musical things that they do in their respective bands. Over the years, I’ve noticed these people doing a fantastic job on these things, but from what I’ve noticed, are not as well known for them. Read on, to see what I mean.
David Gilmour: Singing
This gifted musician is best known for his guitar work in Pink Floyd and his solo projects. He is often cited as a source of inspiration for many guitarists and often is lauded as being one of the all-time greatest guitar players in the rock industry. The guitar solo in the song Comfortably Numb has been called one of the top ten all-time greatest solos and as I have stated in the past, my favorite guitar solo by Gilmour is the one in the song Money.
Oddly to me, he is seldom noted for his singing. Among my favorite male singers in classic rock are, E, L & P’s Greg Lake, Asia’s John Wetton, The Moody Blues’ Justin Hayward, Queen’s Freddy Mercury and David Gilmour. His smooth, mellow tenor is always a great counter point to Roger Waters somewhat harsher vocals as can be heard in songs such as, Dogs, Run Like Hell, and Grandchester Meadows.
Where he shines the best is in songs such as Fat Old Sun from the album “Atom Heart Mother” and the beautiful Coming Back to Life from the “Division Bell”. The first part of Life is just him singing and a softly playing keyboard, and his vocals just soar in pain and passion effortlessly in a very haunting way.
Next time you listen to Floyd, I advise just tuning out the music as best you can and focus on Gilmour. I think you’ll be amazed at how powerful his singing really is.
Karen Carpenter: Drumming
The legendary brother/sister duo, Richard and Karen Carpenter (better known as the Carpenters, of course) are the best-selling pop duo of all time, surpassing legends such as Sonny and Cher and yes even, Simon and Garfunkel!
Richard was the one who in their early days, encouraged his sister to start singing on their songs and Karen’s beautiful voice is always noted to be among critics favorites. I have heard some call her voice as being almost angelic and it is certainly a pleasure to listen to.
Interestingly however, she considered herself just as a “drummer who could sing” and wow what a drummer she was. Some years ago, I was watching a PBS special on the Carpenters, which featured several clips of her playing drums and singing and even a drum solo. When she was doing the solo, her lovely smile was prominent throughout and she was having a blast doing it. She ripped through it every bit as good as Carl Palmer, Bill Bruford and even Neil Peart in their respective solos. She is also one of the very few drummers I’ve ever seen do a one handed drum roll, which is jaw dropping to see.
For a personal “FYI”, Karen Carpenter is one of my all-time favorite drummers.
Freddy Mercury: Piano
Queen’s singer Freddy Mercury is considered amongst many to be almost god like in his singing ability. His was a voice that could soar from low to high notes in a single breath smoothly and effortlessly. His passion can always be heard in anything he sang and it’s always a pleasure to hear him on any Queen album.
Most people who know anything about Queen, know that he played piano for the band, yet in my experience he is seldom mentioned as one of the great piano players in the rock industry. As with his singing, his piano playing was always done with his full heart put into his works.
From the playful sound of Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon, to the powerful notes in We Are the Champions to the mournful tears of Bohemian Rhapsody, Mercury’s style was tender, sweet and moving to listen hear.
Ian Anderson: Singing
Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson has been noted for his lyric writing ability, musicianship and flute playing, which gave Jethro Tull a different spin in the Prog Rock genre. One of his signature trades is that he always plays the flute standing on one leg, which I believe he learned to do from the person who taught him how to play it.
As with David Gilmour however, Anderson is rarely commended as one of the great singers of the classic rock industry. But his baritone/tenor voice is actually quite unique in many aspects and to me, stands out in the crowd in many ways.
In the song Aqualung, he spits out the lyrics in an angry manner as though he’s disgusted with the person in the song, whereas in Living in the Past, his voice is smooth and mellow. In the song Bungle in the Jungle, he almost sound like he’s laughing throughout.
Anderson’s voice is one that I can listen to for hours on end and not get tired of it. I suppose he’s not recognized for his singing as he’s not really a flamboyant singer, just a guy who sings in a pleasant way.
To wrap this up, I like to think that as I get older, I listen to all of the sounds of musicians in bands that I enjoy and I believe it’s always a good thing to recognize musicians for all that they excel in.