Tag Archives: sly & the family stone

Songs With Memorable Bass Lines

 

Joy Division – “Love Will Tear Us Apart”

Joy Division’s most well known song is icy and oddly enough, the closest the band ever came to being accessible. Ian Curtis’ singing is distant and sparse and the synthesizers in the background (which replicate Curtis’ harmony) only add to the eeriness of the song. The rhythm section however, takes no prisoners. Stephen Morris pounds his way through the song with an urgency in direct opposition to Curtis’ monotone vocals. Bass players usually tend to anchor the song, but on “Love Will Tear Us Apart” Peter Hook steers the song. The opening swirl of Hook’s bass pulls the listener in and prepares them for Curtis’ tale of desperation. As the bass bounces in and of the speaker, it becomes the only inviting sound in an otherwise chilling song.

Kings of Leon – “McFearless”

On the first few Kings of Leon albums Jared Followill proved himself to be the unsung hero of the band playing his bass like it was a lead instrument. Never one to be content in the background, Followill turns it up ever further on “McFearless” with a loud and fuzzy bass-line. Playing it more like a guitar riff, the bass propels the song into a distorted groove allowing Matthew Followill to try his best at sounding like The Edge, and Nathan Followill to give an unorthodox and frantic beat.

Sly & The Family Stone – “Thank You (Fahletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”

This absurdly titled song has one of the greatest bass riffs ever, and is sometimes considered to be one of the first funk songs. Larry Graham’s slap bass here is instantly recognizable, blasting in and out of the speakers in a hummable melody. What’s really amazing about Graham’s playing here is the space between the notes. While his playing is certainly the star of the show here, it never overshadows the rest of the song.

The Beatles – “I Want (She’s So Heavy)”

Paul McCartney is such a brilliant songwriter, it’s sometimes easy to forget how great of a bass player he really is. While the song is probably most famous for its ending, McCartney’s breaks in the middle of the verses are the stuff of legend. While the chorus and the ending are among the loudest stuff the Beatles recorded, the verses find them at their jazziest and loosest with McCartney taking the reins. Check out the lengthy instrumental section mid-way through the song for proof.

Modest Mouse – “Fire It Up”

“Fire It Up” is one of the standout tracks from Modest Mouse’s massively under-rated We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Eric Judy’s bass takes center stage here providing a slick groove that Modest Mouse is not usually known for.  Whether or not the song is about weed or not, it’s hard not to get caught up in Issac Brock’s chants. The closest the band gets to be catchy since “Float On”.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Funky Monks”

Flea has written so many classic bass lines that it’s hard to pick one as his best. For me, this one has always stood out. It’s the perfect balance between his slap-happy bass of the early days, and melodic. It’s also one of the funkiest songs ever recorded by a rock group. Flea’s playing is so goo that John Frusiciante is forced to mimic it throughout most of the song. As the song draws to its conclusion, Flea’s takes over the song, forcing Frusciante and Chad Smith to the backseat.

The Who – “The Real Me”

This might be the finest bass performance in the history of rock. As Pete Townshend and Keith Moon thrash away with all of their might, Entwistle’s fluid and commanding playing destroys everything in its path no matter how hard Moon and Townshend try. What makes his playing so unique here, is its existence inside the rhythm while simultaneously acting as the lead instrument. Impressive stuff.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

5 Classic Best Of Collections

I’ll be the first to admit that Best Of Collections are usually a terrible representation of an artist’s catalog. As a general rule, I usually try and stay away from them, preferring to check out the classic albums instead.  Have you ever checked out a collection from an artist you absolutely love, and been horrified at the song selection on their collection? In some instances, key songs are missing.  Or, in other cases a ban has several Hits Collections and you have to buy the separate packages to get everything you want.  (Of course, maybe this isn’t so much of a problem for those who use Itunes religiously.)

Too often, these collections tend to gloss over an artist’s evolution or focus on a singular period.  Van Morrison’s Greatest Hits, while containing some of his most well known songs, is actually a pretty poor depiction of his forays into what can be dubbed Celtic-Soul.  Occasionally though, there are some collections that are absolutely essential, that actually get the story of the artist right – as opposed to just compiling a bunch of songs together in a neat little package.

Sly & The Family Stone – Greatest Hits

Originally released in 1970 to fill the gap between Stand! and There’s a Riot Goin’ On, this set is mind-blowingly good containing the best of Sly & The Family Stone’s hits in the late 60s.  Every single track is a explosive fusion of funk, R&B, rock, and soul that tons of bands have tried to emulate, but none have perfected the way Sly & The Family Stone did.  Greatest Hits is a non-stop party that never lets up particularly on “Sing a Simple Song” and the absurdly titled “Thank You (Falentinme Be Mice Elf Agin”).  As a blend of party-music and socially consciousness anthems, it doesn’t get any better than this.

James Brown – 20 All-Time Greatest Hits

James Brown has a lot of hits collection, but this is the best singular compilation containing the early R&B hits (“Please Please Please”, “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”).  There’s also the the cultural touchstones of “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” – which almost single-handily invented funk.  More than just a collection though, All-Time Greatest Hits captures all of Brown’s energy and passion from the sex-induced singles  – “Get (I Feel Like Being) A Sex Machine Pt. 1” – to the African American empowerment anthem, “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud)”.

Talking Heads – Sand In the Vaseline (Popular Favorites)

If you ever needed to know anything about The Talking Heads, this is a great place to start.  It encompasses the big songs (“And She Was”) with fan favorites (“Heaven, “Psycho Killer”). If you listen to their early records, it can be hard to comprehend how the hell they got so big.    Without a doubt, Talking Heads remain of the oddest bands to ever chart a hit (and they had numerous hits).  But Sand in the Vaseline shows a natural progression of art inspired new-wave to pop oddities they would have in the early 80s.  It also doesn’t gloss over their strangest efforts either – the African music inspired “I Zimbra” with nonsense lyrics from Dada artist Hugo Ball is also included.

David Bowie – Changesonebowie/Changesbowie

Changesbowie was released in 1990 to replace Changesonebowie so it would include some songs from the late 70s and the early 80s.  This collection holds a special place for me, since it was my first introduction to Bowie.  My older brother used to play on his car cassette player while picking me up from school.  I was probably 12 or 13 at the time and mostly listened to R.E.M., U2 an whatever was on the radio.  Bowie seemed so far out and exhilarating.  Not one song sounded the same.  There was the neo-soul of “Young Americans” to the glam-rock of “Rebel Rebel”.  The lyrics were similarly mind-blowing.  Did he really just sing, “well hung with snow white-tan?” on “Ziggy Stardust”.  It’s a good place to start obsessing over Bowie.  I’ve always considered Bowie to be the gate-way artist to much weirder stuff, and this is a collection which leads you down that path.   The only complaint is the really awful remix of “Fame”.

Bob Marley – Legend

An absolute classic of a collection.  Bob Marley’s work is universal but also varied.  Legend does a great job of collecting the love songs (“Stir It Up”, “Waiting in Vain”) songs of protest and social injustice (“Buffalo Solider”, “Get Up, Stand Up”).  It truly captures the spirit of Bob Marley.  As for many I’m sure, this was my first introduction to Bob Marley (and also reggae) and left me wanting to know more about Jamaica, Marley, and reggae.  Kaya, Exodus, and Catch A Fire are great albums, but for some reason I find myself listening to Legend more.

11 Comments

Filed under Music