More than a year after their remastered albums started popping out, Led Zeppelin still represents the bulk of my music consumption. I enjoy surveying the new releases, especially in the less publicised genres of jazz and classical music, but when the time comes for some afternoon delight it's Led Zep time.
Oddly enough, my mates Robert [Plant] and Jimmy [Page] have hit front page news this week through the lawsuit claiming, 45 years later, that Stairway to Heaven stole its core theme from another song. I won't comment on that matter for two reasons, one being my lack of objectivity on the matter and the second being my general views on copyright matters.
This state of affairs did get me to think, though. As I argued last year, there is this objective scale with which one can claim that certain music is superior to other music. I claimed this is the case with Led Zeppelin, and as proof I offered the superiority of the band members' skills as musicians. This led me to contemplate: if I was able to design the band of my dreams, who would be its members?
Interesting thought. So without further ado, here is the long version of this 2c thought of mine.
That's a tough one. Technically speaking, everyone claiming to be an expert argues Hendrix is the best ever, but - with all due respect - Hendrix never "did it" for me. The ones that did, in ascending order, peak with:
Mark Knopfler: By far my favourite guitarist during my youth, I find that my taste has changed and Dire Straits' style, though still good, is now outdated.
David Gilmore: Pink Floyd's is probably the guitar I listened to the most. That said, Gilmore lacks the virtuosity of the true masters.
Jimmy Page: Winning by points, but still winning, is the versatile guitarist from this band called Led Zeppelin.
Another hard one with two very equal nominations.
John Paul Johns: Frankly, I tended to dismiss this member of Led Zeppelin's rhythm section. Until, that is, opportunity let me listen to his skills properly over remastered versions and good hi fi (try In My Time of Dying for a fine example). The guy's a genius!
Jack Bruce: Still my vote for Cream of the crop, by virtue of coming up with the tribal theme powering Sunshine of Your Love and me seeing him in live action.
Probably the easiest category to pick a winner from.
Phil Collins: I mention him in here because his work with Genesis has been the first time I took special notice of the drums.
Stewart Copeland: The Police's was probably the first to make me notice drums can do more than just set the rhythm.
Ginger Baker: Cream's drummer clearly stands out. I would recommend his jazz work, where his brilliance continues to shine. Pretty much the only drummer that comes close to our winner.
John Bonham: The reason why the drumming category is so easy to pick a winner for. The guy was so capable I often still think I'm listening to an entire band of drummers. Most notable is his performance in one of my all time favourite songs, When the Levee Breaks; and if you were to argue the drums there stand out just because of the way they were recorded, I will simply answer back: "Exactly".
Genesis' Tony Banks is worth mentioning, but to Doors' Ray Manzarek go the spoils. I mean, when was there a time other than his when one would go "wow, listen to this organ solo"? I mean Light My Fire, mostly, but there was plenty more where that came from. Not to mention the fact Manzarek did the whole of The Doors bass (the band did not have a bass guitarist).
John Coltrane, whom I love supremely.
Miles Davis, not for his skills with the trumpet as much as for his ability to invent brand new genres of music.
And so we reach the category I have the most doubts on.
Sting: Because he built a fortress around my heart.
Jim Morrison: Oh, that hypnotic voice!
Alas, with all due respect to my male colleagues, the best to be found in the human voice charts belongs to the females of the species. There are plenty, literally tons, of women whose voice can and has mesmerised me; standing at the top of these ranks are:
Kate Bush: She seems to have always been part of my existence. I prefer her earlier work (The Kick Inside is one of those albums I'm always glad to pay a visit to), but hey, what a voice throughout.
Chrissie Hynde: Aside of having a wonderful voice that has been with me for years, Hynde is personally responsible for what has probably been my most exhilarating live music experience ever. And all the while she was just a few meters away (and from time to time looked me in the eye!).
PJ Harvey: One of the most talented musicians ever. A special corner of heaven is reserved for her old strident work, with pieces such as You're Not Rid of Me. My all time favourite is To Bring You My Love, where it sounds as if the microphone was planted in her belly. So powerful!
Bjork: I cannot say I like her more experimental work, but I will say I like her voice. A lot. Her debut solo album, Debut, is one of my reference albums for sheer quality and versatility. In the personal memories department, I cherish the moment I bought it, at a shop that doesn't exist anymore in a cinema building that doesn't anymore in my childhood town, accompanied by two of my best childhood friends whom I am still very proud to call my friends. I know, this has nothing to do with Bjork herself, but who cares.
16/05/2016: List updated to reflect further contemplation.