Author: Stemkovsky, Ilya
Date published: June 1, 2012
Journal code: MDDR
Compilation albums that really pack a punch-plus further must-have tracks. This month: glammy pop-rock from across the pond.
Greatest Hits (We Will Rock You Edition)
On the single-disc Greatest Hits, Queen drummer ROGER TAYLOR ably handles all the demands of one of the most eclectic repertoires in rock history, from the marching rhythm of "Killer Queen" to the tom fill bombast of "Now I'm Here." Taylor's trademark hi-hat-accented backbeat is all over this excellent career overview, and newcomers can hear how Roger navigates the quirky turnarounds of "Bicycle Race," plays authentic rockabilly on "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," and keeps it straight and funky on "Another One Bites the Dust." The arena-size "boom-boom-splat" of "We Will Rock You" is still super-cool today, as are the low-to-high fills on "You're My Best Friend." And to think that Taylor sang occasional lead and all the high harmonies for the band, live and in the studio. Now that's doing work.
Amazon.com physical CD (from 2004): $11.75*
iTunes full album download: $13.99
EXPAND THE PICTURE: With so many notable Taylor performances spread over numerous albums, your further education can begin by downloading from iTunes "The Show Must Go On," an epic rock anthem full of dramatic builds, heard on the last record released while singer Freddie Mercury was alive, 1991's Innuendo. Also check out Roger's double-time punk pattern in the middle of "I Want It All," from 1989's The Miracle.
Best of Bowie
Like Queen, David Bowie has been a chameleon of musical styles. The single-disc Best of Bowie spotlights his famous 70s and early-'80s periods, when he employed some of the most inventive drummers in the business. MICK "WOODY" WOODMANSEY, an original member of the Spiders From Mars, Bowie's backing band during his Ziggy Stardust period, delivers tight snare fills on that classic album's title song and trucks head down through "The Jean Genie." More 4/4, snare-heavy rock comes courtesy of AYNSLEY DUNBAR on "Rebel Rebel," and ANDY NEWMARK's slick funk graces "Young Americans." As the decade progressed, Bowie's drummer of choice became the underappreciated DENNIS DAVIS, whose meaty grooves and syncopations can be heard on "Fame," "Golden Years," "Ashes to Ashes," and "Heroes." The MTV era ushered in the Nile Rodgers-produced Let's Dance, and OMAR HAKIM's monolithic grooves define "Modern Love," "China Girl," and the title track.
Amazon.com physical CD (from 2002): $9.99*
iTunes full album download: $11.99
EXPAND THE PICTURE: Low, from 1977, isn't represented at all on the compilation, so download from iTunes the alien funk of that record's "Sound and Vision," with its icy synths and Davis's trashcan drums. And for more Woodmansey, check out the hip 12/8 kick-and-snare beat on the urgent "Five Years," the opening track from 1972's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.
The Essential Electric Light Orchestra
ELO mastermind Jeff Lynne wrote some of the most finely crafted pop rock ever, and drummer BEV BEVAN was there from the very beginning to sail the sea of thick vocal harmonies, string arrangements, and synthesizers. The two-disc Essential set shows Bevan to be a solid timekeeper with a flair for unexpected accents on chart hits like "Evil Woman," "Livin' Thing," and "Don't Bring Me Down." Bevan's hyper shuffle propels "Turn to Stone," and the tom fills in "Telephone Line" still sound huge coming from the car speakers. "Do Ya," originally recorded by the Move, Bevan and Lynne's previous group, is all ride cymbal and power chords and proves the drummer could rock too. (Recall that Bev toured with Black Sabbath in the early '80s.) Latterera ELO is represented with old-school rock 'n' roll tracks like 1981's "Hold On Tight," showing Bevan never strayed too far from his inner Elvis.
Amazon.com physical double CD (from 2011): $11.99*
iTunes full album download: available only as abridged single-disc version
EXPAND THE PICTURE: Anything from the mid-70s albums is perfect for delving deeper, so download from iTunes the prog-tastic "Fire on High," from 1975's Face the Music, with Bevan's giant 32nd-note triplet rolls ending the tune, or the percussion-heavy "Jungle," from 1977's Out of the Blue.