Originally Posted by MikeM
I think I already beat this one to death in my previous post, but just to recap, I don’t think he’s overrated except by those applying the wrong set of metrics – that’s those on both sides of this.
Your first point is well taken. I’ve thought that myself. But I also think that Mystic Rhythms was a pretty good example of him using independence. I never thought of it as polyrhythmic stuff, though – there’s no 5 against 7 or even 3 against 4 going on there, but there is a lot of layering and things to keep track of. His four limbs are all involved in making that thing happen, and it sounds cool, which is easily the coolest thing about it. A beat like that was uncharted territory, though, and he did have to figure out how to fit and phrase all those little flourishes in there without breaking the flow, so I don’t think you can call him lazy. He did give it a lot of thought.
His single strokes and double strokes are pretty good, but nothing far beyond what you might expect. Those ostinatos are tricky and can certainly help with the independence. For me, I just don’t think they sound that cool. That’s just a personal thing I have – I didn’t like them when Bozzio started doing them either. I thought I’d rather shoot myself than spend 5 minutes on them. But more power to anyone wanting to go there.
It’s not that he comes up with stuff that no one else CAN come up with, it’s that he comes up with stuff that no one else DOES come up with. That’s a really big and important difference.
You’re right about hearing it in the context of time. Having grown up in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s I was hearing Neil in his prime. I’m not nearly as big a fan of his work in more recent years, but I still don’t think he’s overrated.
Again about the solo’s. I agree that the cowbell thing is very very tired. I also grew weary of that 7/8 marimba melody like 100 years ago. I might be one of those guys that takes a popcorn break during his solos. But again, go back to All The World’s A Stage, or even Exit, Stage Left and listen to those solos from when he was young. They were like songs in their own right and were evolving even then. I think they were quite good if primarily from a compositional perspective.
Seriously? Tony Royster? If you’re looking to the gospel chops guys, at least pick Aaron Spears or Thomas Pridgen. But I digress, yes these guys are playing chops far beyond what NP was ever capable of playing, and that cool. However, none of them are nearly as organized and compositional as NP. Here’s where it’s important not to distinguish who’s “better” but who’s really giving it some thought with a wider view.
Problem is with most technique monsters like that is that when they decide to tone down the overplaying, they just go for the straight groove (like Weckl playing with Madonna). For them it’s one or the other. The thing about NP is that he was always able to find a middle ground that was complimentary to the music. He didn’t not fight the music by laying back; he didn’t not fight the music by becoming more integrated with it. That was the key, and it had little to do with how blazing his chops were.
Could other drummers have taken this path? Yes, if among other things, they were in bands that could accommodate that (another important consideration), but did they? With few exceptions, no, they didn’t.
Again, it’s the fact that they don’t have that compositional sense that Peart has. Of course they have the physical chops to do whatever NP does, but they have to wait for NP to compose it before they can demonstrate “how easy it is”, rather than not waiting for NP and composing something equally as compelling.
Here we go with the “best” again. Be mature enough to ignore those that say NP is the “best” and remember to ask yourself: “best” at what?
NP likes melodic tom parts. Can’t really fault him for that. I play 3 toms on my kit (one up two down) and get the cocked eyebrow from two-tom hipsters from time to time. You know what? Screw people that judge based on kit size. I don’t hear anyone knocking Ed Shaugnessy with his 5 up 2 down double bass, which is pretty close to what NP uses.
And as far as “great phrases” listen to the string of fills on the outtro of The Weapon or the middle section of Red Sector A (which is just very cool and even more original). Hard to play? Some of it is. But really hard to come up with. That’s just inspired stuff there, IMO. Again, easy to knock the technique involved and even easier to miss how clever it was to begin with.
It’s like The Beatles. None of those guys thought of themselves as great players. They knew that they were just good enough to execute the ideas they had, but for them the ideas were the only thing that mattered. Some people call that “dumbing down” but screw them, they don’t get that composing itself is a craft that IMO takes a lot more thought and talent than just learning to wiggle your fingers quickly.
Song writing (or drum part writing) is the hard part. Practicing rudiments and speed are easy. Like you said, anyone can develop those skill in a few years of disciplined practice, but you may never reach the ability to compose something truly original. A lot of players in my experience are so anal retentive about practicing that they can’t find it in them to get inspired to compose or just play for the fun of it.
Sad, really. That’s how we get in these maddening debates about who’s better than who.
I might turn that around on you and say it’s a slap in the face to every drummer who puts composition above the strict technique who’s place seems to only belong in a solo aimed at proving superiority over other drummers. It's a high-minded facade hiding the fact that you're the competitive drum jock on the playground trying to knock the fun out of everyone else's play time.
Spend a little more time thinking about what makes a part cool and how to get there, and I think you'll spend a lot less time worrying about who's "overrated", or figuring out acedemic ostinatos or polyrhythms pitting a 7 against a 13 - they just don’t sound that cool.