Re: Neil Peart
I've been a fan of Neil's since I started playing drums - in fact, he was probably the reason I started my music career 25 years ago! My avatar is actually one of two postcards that I had received from Neil in response to "ask a pro" letters I had sent years ago. In spite of my admiration for and inspiration from Neil, I am not a fan that bows to every single note he plays. I can be equally critical of certain aspects of his playing. HOWEVER, I think most criticisms miss the point when they say "his stuff isn't that hard to play." Neil makes music - he plays as a contributor and supporting member of his band. He is not in the business of just creating the most difficult drum fill to play or the craziest odd time groove ever committed. Even his solo is created in a musical sense and is appropriate for the venue it is performed in - large arenas filled with Rock fans. Perhaps it would be different if Neil had developed playing jazz clubs for the past 33 years... Neil is humbly inspired by the masters of drumming history and modern monsters - and he writes about how he wishes he could play like them.
I was thinking about differences in approach between a modern rock master, such as Gavin Harrison, and Neil. Gavin's approach to fills is much more rooted in improvisation - and this, while usually always very impressive, has mixed results. My humble criticism of Gavin's approach would be that his fills almost become interchangeable. You could almost take that massive fill in "Fear of a Blank Planet" and cut and paste it into "Anesthetize" with only a few die hards would notice. On the other hand, Neil's well thought-out fills and patterns almost become part of the melody of the song - it is this aspect that gives many of Neil's drum parts so much personality. Both are valid approaches, with pros and cons.
The fact remains that Neil has been a huge inspiration to a whole generation of Rock drummers, and he, along with Rush, have had a amazing 33 year career (!) of making very creative music that has defined it's own style.