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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Basic Biittner : The Greatest, without a Doubt

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thanks largely to my having a brother who is seven years older than I, I became an avid follower of pop music from the time I was 6 , which was basically at the "Dawn of Rock and Roll." And so it was that I literally grew up on the music of Elvis, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, the Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

I was also in the right place at the right time, it seems, when, following a rock and roll lull of a couple of years, the so-called British Invasion hit big when I was 14 years old. So I was really into Rock and Roll and other Pop music during my teen years - even learned to play the guitar and was a member of a group for a few years.

At any rate, though my listening to current music is virtually non-existent these days, and my familiarity with "current" music pretty much stopped sometime in the 1980s, I do own and still listen to a great deal of music from the 1960s and 1970s, and from time to time, I'll decide that "_ is my favorite artist of all time." Sometimes I'd fill in that blank with "The Beach Boys" or "The Four Seasons," sometimes with "Three Dog Night" or "Creedence Clearwater Revival," and sometimes with a solo artist, like Van Morrison or Neil Young, or a "supergroup" like CSN, The Byrds or Buffalo Springfield.

But I find, when it comes right down to it, that there is no one else who really comes close to being number one - both for the effect this artist had on the world, both musically and socially, and for the effect they had on me personally. Who am I talking about? you may ask (if you're still awake and still reading, that is). Well, who else? the Beatles, of course.

While Eric Clapton is a more celebrated guitarist than the late George Harrison, George was certainly no slouch, either - and his guitar work got better and better as the years went by. Keith Moon or Charlie Watts may have been better drummers than Ringo, but he, too, was not too bad. Elton John and Bernie Taupin a better song-writing duo than Lennon and McCartney? Maybe, maybe not. I'd vote for Lennon and McCarney myself, because, unlike Elton and Taupin, John and Paul - at least in the early years - actually sat down together to work out their compositions.

Paul McCartney? Probably the best bass player around - in addition to his singing, songwriting, and good looks. The bottom line, for me, is this: When all things are taken into consideration - the quality and variety of songs the group composed and/or recorded, the musicianship of all four members of the group, the song-writing abilities of three of the four, and the fact that all four sang both lead and (great) harmony parts, there really is no doubt in my mind that the "Fab Four" are the all-time best.

The only reason I bring this up at this time is that my "kids," who are also the number one kids of all time, in my totally unbiased opinion, recently gave me a wonderful birthday present, one of many terrific gifts they've bestowed upon me over the years. They may have topped themselves this time, though. Their gift to me was the recently - released set of remastered Beatles CDs - the entire Beatles' catalog of 14 albums, plus a DVD of mini-documentaries about the making of each of the CDs, all in crystal-clear digital sound, enclosed in a nice slipcase. Among other things, listening to these pristine recordings has validated my pick of the Beatles as the Greatest (with apologies to Muhammed Ali).

The Beatles were, above all else, a terrific rock and roll band, and their performance of oldies like "Rock and Roll Music," "Dizzy Miss Lizzie," "Twist and Shout," "Roll Over Beethoven," and, especially, "Money (That's What I Want)," are top-notch, as are their own rock-style compositions like "I'm Down," "Ticket to Ride," and "Get Back."

Along with all the attributes I've already cited, no discussion of the Beatles' recordings would be complete without mentioning the producer of those recordings, George Martin. Martin was a classically-trained musician who, among other things, introduced the Beatles to a wide range of instrumentation, sometimes even performing a solo part himself.

So for some Beatles' music with a little more "class," if you will, I suggest you check out the French Horn solo on "For No One" (on the 'Revolver' album), the soprano trumpet on "Penny Lane" ('Magical Mystery Tour'), or the harmonium on John Lennon's "In My Life" ('Rubber Soul'), all of them George Martin-influenced recordings.

For my money, these guys had it all.

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner