Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Farewell My Friends to the Show that Ends

In the past week, three more major musicians have clocked out. What is going on?
At 90, George Martin's death last Tuesday wasn't a surprise. Forever associated with The Beatles (and quite happy to be so I imagine) he produced lots of other artists, from Celine Dion and Elton John to UFO and Ultravox, but nothing that really stood out. He was old school, suit & tie, an arranger as much as anything. 

A day later, Nana Vasconcelos died of lung cancer, aged 71. Not a name that trips off every music fan's tongue, but he was one of the best percussionists in the world. Three days of mourning have been announced in Recife, his home town. I still have his wonderful Saudades album from 1979, the three Codona LPs he made with Don Cherry and Colin Walcott straight after that, and scores of albums by the likes of Talking Heads, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Eno & Hassell, Penguin Cafe Orchestra and Laurie Anderson to which he contributed. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. My one regret is never having seen him live.
But perhaps ther saddest of all, is Keith Emerson's suicide last Friday. Shot himself following depression caused by a nerve-related condition to his right hand which for a proud keyboard player like him must have somehow tipped him over the edge. I was never a huge ELP fan but still have Pictures At An Exhibition and Welcome Back My Friends... They're are often held up to be the epitome of prog excess, and it's true they were uber-accomplished musicians playing uber-flashy music. But my main complaint is not so much about the excess, more a dislike for classical pastiche and the fact that they sounded soulless and thin. The other triple live album of that era, Yessongs, was just as instrumentally 'sophisticated' but so much richer, thicker and involving by comparison. And no drum solos. Anyway, that's no way to end an otherwise inspiring life. Tragic.

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