Thread: Neil Peart
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Old 04-07-2010, 06:57 AM
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MikeM MikeM is offline
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Default Re: Neil Peart

You know, I just gotta say that while I agree that he's not the "best in the world" (whatever that might mean), it's worth keeping in mind that most signature drummers do their most ground-breaking work when they're in their 20s, and into their 30s if they're lucky.

And it's not just drummers, it's a common phenomenon - take Einstein for example. He was in his 20s when in 1905 he published papers on Special Relativity and the photoelectric effect (for which he won the Nobel). He was in his 30s when in 1916 he published General Relativity. After that? Practically nothing, other than trying to convince himself that "God doesn't play dice" which clearly, he does! (see quantum theory, which Einstein spent the rest of his days trying to refute). He never came close to those youthful achievements, despite his best efforts.

Here's another example (and back to rock): Look at Van Halen. They jumped the shark with 1984 and everyone pretty well knows that (maybe even before then depending on who you ask). At least for those of us old enough to remember them in their heyday. Van Hagar is no more representative of the magic of that band than anything NP's done since the early/mid '80s.

If you listen to Neil Peart between the years '76 and '81 (2112 thru Moving Pictures) you get the most accurate representation of why NP is so revered among (most) drummers. Sure, he's still trying new things, is entertaining, and seems like a nice guy... but that fire he had then just can't be recaptured. It's been gone for years - decades, even. You can't just watch him with the Buddy Rich big band and think you know all there is to know about him. You can't watch his modern solos and think that that's what he's been doing all along. If you want to understand what the fuss is about, you have to go back further; back when he was keen to make a name for himself - not after he'd done so.

Perhaps the song "Losing It" was him coming to the realization that he was about to start burning out. I think if you're making judgments on him based on anything Power Windows or later, your missing out on what it was that made him so great to begin with. (I still like a lot of later Rush, but for different reasons)

Go back and listen to the Working Man solo on "All The World's A Stage" and listen to that 23 year old tearing into that kit with such abandon and exuberance and tell me that he wasn't an exceptional talent. That thing was as musical as it was epic. His solos have evolved over the years (as all things must), but they've never approached the energy of that one.

Limelight - listen to him smoothly and subtly invert his 4/4 beat against the 6/8 for 8 bars and then invert it back again nearing the outtro, which most drummers probably never even noticed despite having listened (and air drummed) to it a thousand times. That was before guys like Vinnie and Dave made beat inversions commonplace and obnoxiously obvious. And that "solo" at the ending? Wow. Keep in mind this was a major radio hit.

Nobody gets to go that over the top without losing the audience, yet as drummers (and non-drummers), we're awed that that level of complexity and audacity could be completely tasteful and appropriate - necessary, even. It just makes me laugh. He was the first drummer that I was aware of, then or since, that elevated drum compositions to such a degree. It's wasn't just accompaniment or showboating; it was somewhere in between and beyond. He brought rock drumming to a new creative level on par with the other instruments. Perhaps his most significant achievement was being the first universally recognized great rock drummer who wasn't a converted jazz drummer - he was rock from the word "go". (Mitchell, Giles, Bruford, Palmer,... even Bonham had that swing)

Did I mention that he raised the bar on precision? He may look and sound stiff now, but when he was younger and more limber, he was uber-precise and powerful. Not a robot, but a finely-tuned, well-oiled machine.

It was never so much that he was the "best" at chops (although they were mighty and fearsome), but that his time was so consistently smooth, his fills so accurate and well-conceived, and overall, his compositions were so clever and clean and just so far beyond just banging out a standard rock and roll beat... it was the combination of all those virtues that has won him more awards than any other drummer to come along. The guy clearly loved playing the drums more than anything else in life. That may not be true anymore, but it was then.

Overrated? This drummer doesn't think so.

Last edited by MikeM; 04-07-2010 at 08:33 AM.
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