Jack Bruce (1943–2014); Another music legend passes

As a child growing up through the late 70s and into the early 80s I was heavily into the music my parents listened to. If you look at the history of popular music I’m part of the first generation that really listed to the same kind of music my parents did. My parents, particularly my mother, were really into The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, the “pre-disco” Bee-Gees, and other groups like that. My father was into “edgier” stuff like The Who, Pink Floyd, and Cream. It was through those experiences that I became a huge fan of Jack Bruce.

Like another hero of mine, John Entwistle of The Who, Bruce’s crunching bass line was often more than just keeping time with the drummer but was instead an integral part if the song itself. It’s because of him that when it comes to songs I tend to focus on the “low end” of things going on, and really respect artists that can drive songs using the end of the musical spectrum.

When it comes to the group Bruce is most famous for, Cream (with guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker), it’s the stuff that didn’t get a ton of radio play that I like the best. On of my favorites is Tales of Brave Ulysses off of their second album Disraeli Gears. I believe it was the B-side for Strange Brew, but I’m not certain of that.

Another Cream performance that I love is called Sitting on Top of the World, a cover of an old blues song originally done by Mississippi Sheiks in the early 1930s. It really shows off Bruce’s musical abilities (even in 2005 when this version was recorded) and is one of the songs that brings out the bluesman Bruce was. It appears on Cream’s final studio album, Goodbye.

Bruce had some great solo stuff that I’d bet many have never heard. Unfortunately there aren’t a ton of YouTube videos of concert footage of them, but luckily Bruce did make a couple of TV talk show appearances and played some great stuff. Here he in on the Late Show with David Letterman (with Cream drummer Baker) performing Hey Now Princess off of Bruce’s solo album A Question of Time.

Throughout his career Bruce played with many of the blues guitar legends of his ear. A few years ago I stumbled into the performance with Bruce performing with Buddy Guy in 1969 on YouTube. The bass line in both songs is classic Jack Bruce. Great stuff.

Because it’s Cream Bruce is most famous for, it only seems fitting the last footage I post is of White Room, off of Wheels of Fire. In my opinion it’s one of the best songs ever.

I close out this post with the first verse of a song by The Righteous Brothers, as it unfortunately becomes more fitting as each day passes…
If you believe in forever
Then life is just a one-night stand
If there’s a rock n’ roll heaven
Well you know they’ve got a hell of a band…

A look back at some 2011 predictions on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to post more, so as I attempt to follow through with at least two posts a week (to be honest I’ll be happy with just one, but no need to not aim high at this point) let’s take a quick look back on how good my predictions on the 2012 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were.

I had four acts that I labeled as “likely”: Beastie Boys, Heart, The Small Faces/The Faces, and Rufus with Chaka Khan. I got two right, with the Beastie Boys and The Small Faces/The Faces getting the nod. When you look at a list of the acts in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame both Heart and Rufus with Chaka Khan clearly belong so it shouldn’t be too long before they’re inducted. Then again, Rush isn’t in the hall of fame either, so what do I know?

Guns ‘N Roses and Donovan were listed by me as probable, and both were elected into the hall. I didn’t list either as “likely” because I thought that each had an issue that might have turned away some voters. I was uncertain that enough voters knew how influential Donovan was in his era, because in general most people could only name a couple of songs he sang. Luckily the voters were a little smarter than I gave them credit for and elected him in. Everyone knows about the problems between Axl Rose and the other early members of Guns ‘N Roses, and despite having a catalog that should have made them a shoe-in I was figuring on some backlash against Axl–the only remaining member of the group from their debut album Appetite for Destruction–for his antics over the last decade or so.

The artists I listed as “maybe” were Freddie King, Laura Nyro, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The Spinners. Of the four only The Spinners didn’t make the cut, and I suspect that may have been more a numbers game than anything else. Just like Heart and Rufus with Chaka Khan The Spinners should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The remaining nominees were The Cure, Eric B. & Rakim, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, Donna Summer, and War. I had them all as “unlikely” or “no”, and other than War there really isn’t any case to be made for any of these artists when you consider some of the talent not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Some of the more notable artists that are eligible but not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are the aforementioned Rush, Warren Zevon, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Moody Blues, Deep Purple, Peter Gabriel, and The Guess Who top a long list of acts more deserving than some of the 2012 nominees.

My opinions on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees

Despite me thinking the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is one of the dumbest things ever created, out of mostly boredom I figured I’d give some thoughts on this year’s nominees. Now remember this is just my own opinion, I’m sure you will have some different ones.

Beastie Boys
The Beastie Boys are one of those groups where I like some of their stuff but don’t own any of it. I see the talent there and understand their general message, but they’ve never been something on my radar when I’m looking to buy music. In the list of nominees this year they are one of the only ones that are still relevant to the genre after 25 years. In the era of one-hit wonders that’s something in itself.
Will they make it in this year: Likely
Should they make it in eventually: Yes

The Cure
Look up the word “overrated” in the dictionary and the entry reads “see ‘The Cure'”. While their rabid fans will tell you otherwise, The Cure is one of those groups whose look was far more inspiring than their music. The Cure are almost always included on the list of things that people who like to consider themselves “hip” point out as being great. Lots of the Twilight and vampire lovers seem to love The Cure, which pretty much says all I need to say.
Will they make it in this year: Unlikely
Should they make it in eventually: No

Donovan
A 60’s British folk icon, Donovan had limited commercial success in the United States but is widely considered a huge influence for several groups already in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Paul McCartney credits Donovan for teaching him and John Lennon how to finger pick on a guitar, a technique that changed the Beatles sound immensely. If the Hall of Fame is about the people who influenced rock and roll history, Donovan is a no-brainer.
Will he make it in this year: Probably
Should he make it in eventually: Yes

Eric B. & Rakim
Ummm, who? I had to look these two guys up, and after reading about them for 10 minutes or so I still have no idea who they were, nor what they did to even be nominated. I know they rap and I’m not really into that kind of music, but if I have no idea who you are and never heard of the acts that claim you as an influence that pretty much excludes you from my consideration.
Will they make it in this year: No
Should they make it in eventually: No

Guns ‘N Roses
Several great albums followed by crazed antics by frontman Axl Rose that eventually led to a mas exodus of most of the original members. Is there a better rock and roll story? Appetite For Destruction is one of the great rock albums of all time, and the double release of the Use Your Illusion albums solidified the group’s place in rock and roll history. The only thing left is a huge mega-bucks reunion tour.
Will they make it in this year: Probably
Should they make it in eventually: Yes

Heart
Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson are without a doubt the first ladies of Rock and Roll. From their hard rock roots in the late 70s through the 80s power ballad era Heart continues to thrill fans with great albums and concert tours. With six top-10 albums and twenty top-40 singles Heart already had plenty of material to provide concert-goers a wide range of well known songs, and their last two critically acclaimed albums provided long time fans with new stuff to get into.
Will they make it in this year: Likely
Should they make it in eventually: Yes

Joan Jett and The Blackhearts
Now I’m a huge fan of Joan Jett, and if just she was being nominated I could probably see an argument for it. But with The BlackHearts? Sorry, I’m thinking not. They have three great songs (and one of those is a cover of Tommy James and the Shondells) but for the most part that’s it. They do put on a great live show and toured with some of the biggest acts of their time, but that isn’t enough in my book.
Will they make it in this year: No
Should they make it in eventually: No

Freddie King
The late Freddie King, along with Albert King and B.B. King, is one of “The Three Kings” of electric blues guitar. Being considered in their company alone should be enough to be included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Several top 10 R&B hits in the early 60s put King on the map, and with guitarists like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray and Jimmy Vaughan, and Carlos Santana all claiming King as a major influence his spot in the Hall should be assured.
Will he make it in this year: Maybe
Should he make it in eventually: Yes

Laura Nyro
I admit I don’t know much about Nyro. I knew she was a song writer that had some limited commercial success early in her career but was more famous for writing songs for other artists. Those artists read like a who’s who of rock and roll, including The 5th Dimension, Barbra Streisand, Three Dog Night, and Blood, Sweat & Tears. Elton John considers her an influence, and who am I to argue with rock legend.
Will she make it in this year: Maybe
Should she make it in eventually: Yes

Red Hot Chili Peppers
If there’s a better hard rock/funk fusion band out there I don’t know who it is. From their self titled debut album in the mid 80s to 2011’s I’m with You RHCP’s pounding hard rock and bass heavy style remains the same, although over time and influences of new members has resulted in a sound all their own. Unaffected by commercial success RHCP continues to push the envelope of rock and roll.
Will they make it in this year: Maybe
Should they make it in eventually: Yes

Rufus with Chaka Khan
We’ll leave the argument as to if they’re really rock and roll for another day, but there’s no doubt that they’re one of the greatest R&B groups of all time. With 12 top-10 R&B singles and six top-10 R&B albums (including four #1’s) they are the crème de la crème of the soul and funk genres. They’re last album, Stompin’ at the Savoy – Live, is considered one of the greatest live albums of all time.
Will they make it in this year: Likely
Should they make it in eventually: Yes

The Small Faces/The Faces
The list of members of a who’s who of rock and roll: Steve Marriott, Kenney Jones, Rick Wills, Ronnie Wood, and Rod Stewart. While not a commercial success in the US the group spawned off members that would preform with some of the biggest groups in rock and roll. A super group before that term even existed, the current incarnation includes Simply Red singer Mick Hucknall, a huge superstar in the UK.
Will they make it in this year: Likely
Should they make it in eventually: Yes

The Spinners
One of the R&B greats whose biggest hits came between 1970 and 1975, The Spinners first single That’s What Girls Are Made For goes back to 1961 and was the first of 19 top-10 R&B singles. Despite the deaths three original members and many personnel changes over the years The Spinners are still one of the biggest draws in the “casino circuit” and perform to sold out crowds all over the country.
Will they make it in this year: Maybe
Should they make it in eventually: Yes

Donna Summer
I am not a huge fan of Donna Summer. In fact, other than a couple big mainstream hits I can’t tell you one thing she sings. But I have friends that think she’s the best thing since sliced bread, so I asked them the question “Does Donna Summer belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”. The near unanimous answer was “no”. If her big fans say that, who am I to argue?
Will she make it in this year: Unlikely
Should she make it in eventually: No

War
It’s hard to describe the group because of their wide ranging talents. One word that definitely fits is “interesting”. Formed by Eric Burdon in 1969 War hit the charts with Spill the Wine, and then while on tour supporting their second album Burdon abruptly split with the group. War went on to have several hit singles on their own. Due to legal difficulties many of the original members of the group now tour as “Lowrider Band” and one original member formed a new group to continue The War name. Those legal difficulties may have resulted in War not being elected into the Hall in 2009.
Will they make it in this year: Unlikely
Should they make it in eventually: Yes