Thread: Neil Peart
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Old 03-29-2009, 03:50 PM
CavGator CavGator is offline
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Default Re: Neil Peart

Well, in the beginning, there was Gene, Louie and, of course Buddy. These were the drummers that made the drums the showcase of the band.

Carl Palmer was, with Mitch Mitchell, the first of the wave of technical drummers that came to rock in the late sixties and early seventies, emulating the style of the big band drummers. The paradigm of the era for the young drummers was the power drummer, be it Peter (Ginger) Baker, Moonie, Bonham and many others. All three were incredibly powerful drummers, but none had the speed and finesse of Mitchell and Palmer. So many young drummers (I among them), while appreciative of the power guys (I memorized every Zep drum track and even tried to play Who songs like Moon), was dazzled by Palmer, whose virtuosity was not grounded in a blues-based foundation (even Mitchell was blues and bebop based), but rather, with the complex classically-based structures of Bartok, Prokofiev, Janacek, and many other 19th and 20th century composers.

It was something completely different, something Keith Emerson and Greg Lake wanted as part of their sound, a radical departure from the blues-based direction of rock. Mitch Mitchell auditioned for what would become ELP, but neither party was comfortable with the chemistry. Jimi Hendrix was even interested in joining (he was knocked out by ELP at the Isle of Wight festival), but died before the first rehearsals were scheduled. God only knows what HELP would have produced!

If you ever were a band geek and was exposed to a wide range of classical music, as I was in my formative years, you could not HELP but be knocked out by the speed, dexterity and style of Carl Palmer. Most rock fans had Bonham as their paragon, but at least in my part of the world, most drummers idealized Palmer, Mitchell, Cobham, Danny Seraphine and others whose chops and speed were extraordinary. Some say flashy, pretentious and self-indulgent, but then again, many said that about Buddy as well. There is a place for all styles; it only depends on what one prefers.

Fast forward to the late 1970s. Progressive rock's peak has crested, to be replaced by punk and arena rock. Out of Canada comes this power trio that featured a drummer that, like Palmer, Bruford and others several years earlier, was not content to simply keep 4/4 time as loud as possible. Once Rush refined their sound to appeal to a larger audience than the metal crowd, everyone started to sit up and take notice of a talent the metal heads knew all along.

Even today, while many thousands of drummers still prefer the frontal assaults of power drummers like Travis Barker and Tommy Lee (among many other great power drummers), thousands of others prefer the dexterity and virtuosity of Neil Peart, the man who carried the torch from Mitchell, Palmer and other virtuosos before him. Because of Peart, there are many drummers out there who gladly pick up where Peart left off, and a new generation will follow them.

The radio hits of ELP is not really a true measure of Palmer's talent. Download The Barbarian, Tarkus, and Pictures at an Exhibition, and you will hear an amazing demonstration of power, speed and endurance. Palmer was never a groove master, and often varied in his timekeeping (one of the charms, actually, as it allowed the music to breathe). Then again, I can imagine ANY drummer, be it Gadd, Vinnie or whomever, would struggle keeping good meter going 200 BPM or faster in 5/4 time, having to keep up with arguably the greatest rock keyboardist of all time, someone who liked to play even faster in concert to show off HIS chops. On Keith Emerson's recent solo album, he covered The Barbarian with Greg Bissonette, an amazingly talented drummer. As great as Greg is, it does not have the energy and power Palmer had on the original version. Check it out.

Last edited by CavGator; 03-29-2009 at 08:48 PM.
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