More Chicken Skin

More Chicken Skin- Road Dog- Fall 2003

I got lots of lively responses to last issue’s Wood and Steel article listing some of my musical influences and gurus. The responses reassured me that listening must be a primal part of most of your musical diets- a source of inspiration for you as it was and is for me. Here is more of our collective chicken skin music (and brief descriptions of the reasons for your choices if you provided them).

Mark Knopfler’s compositions and guitar solos on Dire Straits’ first three albums. His unique fingerstyle Strat and acoustic work set him apart even more than did his focus on lyric and recording excellence.

Jimi Hendrix’ solos on “Purple Haze” and “Little Wing” The high point of the intersection of emotion, improvisation and technique in rock guitar.

Too many Beatle moments to recall here, including all of “Sergeant Pepper,” the “White Album,” and “Abbey Road” You all know why.

The Stones’ initial recordings of “Satisfaction” and “Brown Sugar.” Nasty and raunchy, a little distorted and just right.

Jethro Tull’s acoustic-Celtic-rock melange on songs like “Thick as a Brick,” “Wond’ring Aloud,” and “Fat Man.” It seems like an obvious marriage now, and it sure felt that way upon first hearing

Neil Young’s first recording of “Down by the River,” featuring his guitar solo consisting of seventeen repetitions of the tonic note, not one time but twice. It’s primitive genius, and it’s exactly “right.”

Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #6, especially the middle movement, which represents the weaving of counterpoint, melody and inner voices at their artistic and spiritual high points.

Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” as performed in Glen Gould’s 1950’s recorded version. Astounding music, and astounding interpretation and playing. The solo side of Bach revealed by an obsessed piano master.

Bach’s “Little Fugue in G Minor” as played by a thundering full-sized orchestral organ. Power, glory, and compositional beauty all in one. Yes, I like Bach a lot.

Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue”, especially “All Blues” and “Freddie Freeloader,” and his version of “Round Midnight” (both Miles and Trane), which took jazz to a place where the sound and the composition could resonate in your head in real time.

The opening melody from Aaron Copland’s ballet score for “Billy the Kid.” Just haunting…

The Adagio from the Bach Violin and Oboe Concerto. Yes, more Bach

The Chet Atkins version of “Vincent.”

Art Tatum’s piano playing. It’s absolutely impossible to imagine the technical and musical skill that it must have taken to spin out complex ideas at Tatum’s over-the-top tempos.

Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” Turn out the lights, sit in front of the speakers, start listening at high volume, stay seated for the whole piece, and thank me later.

Antonio Carlos Jobim’s early bossa nova recordings. Bossa was a synthesis or Brazilian rhythms and American jazz, which rang true to
American ears right away, and these recordings make it clear why it did so. The original “World Music” success story.

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, especially the opening Da-Da-Da Daaah! It is the sonic answer to all of those questions about how to write music, by showing what a genius can do for eight minutes with a relatively simple five-second melodic idea.

Dave Brubeck’s first recording of “Take Five.” There is a reason that standards become standards, and this epitomizes why that is so. Seductive, simple yet complex, and the solos give the listener time to absorb and breathe. Great sax work and sound.

In my next article, I’ll try to put some “whys” to our responses and our musical attractions, and take a look at lots of guitar music to try and begin to describe the notion of “rightness” of certain modes of playing. In other words, why does Lester Flatt’s G run or Michael Hedges’ “Aerial Boundaries” sound “right” to our ears, and resonate as appropriate and fully realized uses of the guitar? In the meantime, feel free to send me more of your own personal “chicken skin.”