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"Five Tool Players"


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There are many many great technical musicians....but it all comes down to the music they make. A lot of heavy metal guitarists can fly up and down the fretboard with great technical ease...but you can fit those solos into thousands of other heavy metal tunes.The music does not move me. I'll take a great melodic solo over speed anyday. To me....it's all about the music. BTW Steve...I'll take Paul over Geddy Lee any day. And I'll take Bill Wyman over Geddy Lee too!

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The admiration of your peers really tells people all they need to know. I remember reading an interview with John McLaughlin in some guitar magazine, and he said that he thought that John Lennon was a "stompin'" rhythm guitarist. For those of you who have never heard of John McLaughlin, he was the guitarist for The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Technically he could probably run rings around any guitarist you mention. Not my cup of tea...but do you see what I'm talking about? I also remember Jack Bruce admiring the beauty of George Harrison's playing. He said he's never heard anyone who can get such a clear, crystalline sound on their chords as much as George did. He always admired George's use of diminished and augmented chords that he incorporated into his composing and playing. Now that's praise coming from two technically amazing musicians!

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Here's the thing...every one is entitled to their opinions...but not their own facts [Where have I heard that before?].Paul McCartney's bass playing has been cited since since the Beatles early days...he is ALWAYS mentioned as one of rocks finest bass players in virtually any discussion on the the subject..always. When someone tries to say otherwise...well...it's time to call bullshit.Trying to say that Eric is a "5 tool player" [which he is] and Macca is not is laughable and needs to be exposed for it's sheer silliness.

Being a Rush fan not not give one a pass to post foolishness on EC.com. If you are a Rush fanboy,that A-OK with me...I like two of their songs...Teehee.

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HERE'S the thing:

Loving music, being smart about music or even being right about a point doesn't justify acting as an asshole...and attempting to degrade another member in order to win an argument.

Especially an erudite member who has acted only with the utmost in class and decency here, and has added a lot to this site since joining.

That's the message here, IMHO of course.


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Definitely, I know one.

I'm going to look up some things about him first that I might overlook. I've known him since 1993. He's recorded with Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, etc. Then two albums with Michael's touring drummer, who I have also met after an All-Star Jazz show. He holds a record for something, too. He has also recorded with studio/stage performing musicians. He's white, but he sings R&B, Pop/Soul very well. And he's still friends with Stevie.

Some of his songs have been analyzed at Berkely College or University.

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Just putting in my two cents on this subject, I think there is too much emphasis being put on the ability to play classical music. I mean, frankly, how do we know who can or cannot play it and what determines what is classical music? The Beatles music was the “classical music†of our time, IMO. I mean, is it a style, is it a rhythm, what makes something “classical†at this point in time? Is it “classical†because we imagine, no pun intended, it will last for hundreds of years? If that’s what makes it “classicalâ€, the Beatles music, still pertinent already fifty years later already, sure appears to make the cut.

Paul McCartney is the greatest musician of our time, again, in my opinion. His songwriting is superb, his voice is recognizable by people from nine to ninety, and that is whether he is singing a beautiful ballad or belting out some thumping rock and roll, and I feel one of the best bass players of all time.

It seems the bass playing is what is in question here, however.

What we need to consider, though, is his style fits into the song that is written. He can play a walking bass line, like in “Kansas Cityâ€, a uniquely styled pattern like Steve mentioned in “Rain†or “Come Togetherâ€, an individualized melodic bass line such as “Silly Love Songsâ€, that is so far different than the melody, yet fits perfectly, you could enjoy listening to it as an instrumental.

But, I’m going to assume that by “classicalâ€, we think of Bach, or Beethoven, or Brahms, etc. So, let’s take a look at that style of performing.

McCartney has put out several classical pieces in that style, starting with his “Liverpool Oratorio†in 1991, 97’s “Standing Stoneâ€, 99’s “Working Classicalâ€, and his beautiful “Ecce Cor Meum†in 2006. He also contributed to the “Garland For Linda†CD, a classical tribute to his deceased wife.

If you can WRITE classical music, lets’ assume you can PLAY it, no?

So, in closing, we have proven that Macca can play the music of the classics, now the only thing left is to question could Bach have put a groove to “Band On The Run�

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I remember listening on the car radio to Marian McPartland's interviews with some famous jazz musicians who had trained under a teacher of classical music. These musicians said how training in the classics had made it possible to create their best jazz compositions and instrumental performances.

I've also heard some rock stars say similar things.

The classics develope discipline, focus, excellent manual skills and an appreciation of beauty among other things.


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Reading some of these responses, you'd think I'd said the Beatles suck and McCartney is a hack. The Beatles are my favorite band. The only youtube videos I've posted on facebook in the last several months are by the Beatles and the Raspberries. I have immense love and respect for the Beatles and their music.

The irony is, in some circles I travel in, I'm the one constantly defending and promoting the Beatles.

The only reason this whole controversy began was because I thought a few things were interesting to consider and discuss:

a.) what were different strengths musicians/performers/songwriters might or might not possess

b.) which musicians had them all

While it might seem like a meaningless distinction to some, there is a big difference between writing a part for an instrument and performing it. In classical music, there are extremely accomplished musicians who have never composed anything in their lives. Their strengths lie in aspects of performing: phrasing, technical mastery, whatever else.

Granted, in rock music, the distinction is less obvious because so many are filling both roles. Writing an awesome bass part (say) for a song is arguably more important than performing it, as it requires more creativity. AS EC so eloquently pointed out recently, Paul McCartney writing an awesome bass part for "Day Tripper" would not in itself merit a writing credit, so we'd have to include this in arranging, or give it a separate category altogether. However you slice it, it has nothing to do with performing/playing.

Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Pete Townshend may in fact, even strictly as performer/players, be top notch. If that's the way the majority feels, so be it. I'm really not interested in turning this into a negative/argument thread, I'm just interested in who people feel meet this lofty criterion.

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He writes the songs...which are uniformally great...and supplies beautiful and imaginitive basslines for them.Stuff that your boy from Rush could never...and has never come up with...

I know you don't have the ability to separate your biases and preferences from an objective assessment, but I never give up hope. So, while Rush is nothing like the Beatles, I like to think this track contains some creative and imaginative (not to mention technically amazing) basslines:

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This is a nice thread, thank you. Don't let snide remarks from the know-it-alls amongst us bug you. We've all been "put in our place" at some point, if you know what I mean; let it go in one ear and out the other. (James, very diplomatic work here!)

Anyway, my list of those who fulfill your five-tool criteria would be, off the top of my head:

Paul McCartney

John Lennon

Brian Wilson

Eric Carmen

Karl Wallinger (World Party)

Lindsey Buckingham

Billy Joel

Jeff Lynne

I'd think of more if I dug through my collection, but those eight, I'd say, are five-tool players, meaning they're capable of executing all the roles you mentioned, and of doing it well. They don't (or didn't, in Lennon's case) always take on all those roles, but they have (or had) the skills.

I'd put Macca at the top, too. I consider him a great bass player, but he's also played some great lead guitar licks, and still does (as on "The End"). In fact, it oversimplifies things to say that the Beatles had Paul on bass, John on rhythm guitar, and George on lead. Both Paul and John played some lead parts, and George played some rhythm. Also, John played keyboards, and Paul is especially accomplished as a piano player.

Also, I've read (in Bob Spitz's book, I believe) that the Beatles were known to poke fun at John because he wasn't known for having great rhythm, technically speaking, though his guitar playing is distinctive and hot and spot-on.

In the case of Brian Wilson, I know he wrote relatively few songs without a co-writer, but from what I understand, it wasn't a straight split of responsibilities; he had a hand in the words to a lot of his songs, including things like "God Only Knows." And I like the simplicity of his lyrics on the songs he did write alone, especially "Surfer Girl," "Girls on the Beach," "The Girl I Once Knew," and "Til I Die" (which isn't a bad song to stick in here...).

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As every baseball fan knows, a "five tool player" is one who has it all: hits for average, hits for power, plays defense, throws runners out, and has speed.

Let's call a "five tool player" in music someone who simultaneously excels at:

1. singing

2. writing lyrics

3. writing melodies

4. playing an instrument

5. arranging songs

Five tool players in music are pretty rare. We're all a bit biased, but Eric Carmen seems to be one. 1,3 and 4 (piano) are pretty much slam dunks. I would argue that he's at least a very good to great lyricist. And, while not going it alone, I'm pretty sure the buck stops with Eric when it comes to arrangements of his songs (correct me if wrong).

Who else is a five tool player? I honestly am having trouble thinking of any. It's debatable, but I don't believe any of the Beatles are technically great players, though they're very good at what they're going for. Pete Townshend, to me, neither a great singer nor a great guitarist. Elton John, not a lyricist.

Anybody have someone?

I was staying out of this bloodletting, until I thought of someone who fits all 5 categories: Barry Manilow.

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