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Barking Spiders

Bands whose ensemble playing impress you most

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I'm generally not too hung upon hyper technical playing skills but do appreciate bands who are not only tighter than a gnat's chuff but have the chops to boot. When I took the mrs to Download in 2019, as she's a bit of a rocker, while we were mooching around one band that stopped me in my tracks was Dream Theater. I don't listen to their albums at home but such was the fluency and energy of the playing from all four musicians I stayed to watch the rest of their set.  Since then I've watched a lot of live footage on YT and the level of skilled interplay between them is mindblowing. Watched a couple of Rick Beato's interviews on YT, with John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess, and they come over as likeable, modest geezers.  Ditto  the Aristocrats. Not normally my bag but all three players are phenomenal  and they look like they're having fun which is quite rare for fusion or metal bands.

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The Police worked pretty well as a unit for me. Loads of others I'm sure, but they are the ones that immediately spring to mind.

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Bit of an obvious one given my user name, but The Meters.

Not just their solo records which were superb, but the ones where they acted as a backing band, like Lee Dorsey, Allen Toussaint, Robert Palmer, Betty Harris etc. They just seemed to breathe as one unit musically. All the push and pulls, the hairpin bend changes of direction, they seemed to move as one.

Booker T & The MG's are another good example. Their own records are tight and super soulful, but their playing on Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Sam & Dave etc elevates them to the greats for me. Same for Willie Mitchell's house band at Royal Studios in Memphis for the Al Green records, and Ann Peebles and Mitchell's solo records etc.

And as @Mykesbass said earlier, The Police. The records are great but live footage of them proves just how in sync they were with each other, despite their personal differences. They just worked.

There'll be many others that spring to mind but they're the first I thought of.

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I could mention lots as it is that very thing that I like about a band.  But possibly a stand out for me would be Faith No More.  I can't say I particularly like them, never really listened to their output much other than to think 'meh' and move on.  But they were one of the bands in a all day job at Hyde park a few years ago, Black Sabbath were headlining.  God, 2014, just looked it up!  How did that happen?!  Anyway, also Motorhead, Soundgarden, couple of others.  Faith No More came on and I reckon it was one of the best live performances I have seen from a band.  Tight, edgy.  Delivered with venom and passion.  Absolutely fabulous - I was spellbound.  Just reformed or something?  Not sure on that.

Black Sabbath were pretty amazing, too.  Motorhead were terrible, poor old Lemmy was a sad sight.

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I love watching Snarky Puppy. Knowing how difficult it can be to get that groove with 3 or 4 other musicians I'm really impressed when you see the whole "big unit" play together.

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Some great mentions already.

Love me some Meters! They're often playing very sparse parts which alone might not make much sense, but as part of the whole contribute to something amazing.

Perhaps a bit obvious, but AC/DC gel incredibly well too. Drums, bass, and rhythm guitar meld into a single, pumping juggernaut of simple, compelling rhythm.

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The Old Firm Casuals have nailed it for me every time I’ve seen them, amazing power, solid delivery, for me a band at the top of their game.

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The Band, The Meters and Little Feat were fantastic "ensemble" players. You could probably include every Funk band in that list. Funk is a team genre.

Also the studio bands like the Funk Brothers, the Swampers and Booket T and the MG's with Isaac Hayes at Stax.

Edited by chris_b
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1 hour ago, Jus Lukin said:

Some great mentions already.

Love me some Meters! They're often playing very sparse parts which alone might not make much sense, but as part of the whole contribute to something amazing.

Perhaps a bit obvious, but AC/DC gel incredibly well too. Drums, bass, and rhythm guitar meld into a single, pumping juggernaut of simple, compelling rhythm.

Hmm, I like The Meters but the gist of my OP was more about bands whose players who technically very advanced, their music complex and sophisticated and whose interplay seems effortless. AC/DC are really at the other end of the spectrum from the likes of Dream Theater, Animals as Leaders, Aristocrats and Meshuggah. The music these bands make isn't my bag but I'd say outside of classical and jazz they don't come any more technically advanced than this. AC/DC are probably one of the bands it's easiest to copy.

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Just now, steantval said:

Steely Dan for me, incredible musicianship and tighter than a gnats chuff whichever line up they are using.

I was just about to post 'in that case, Steely dan... :) 

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6 minutes ago, Barking Spiders said:

OP was more about bands whose players who technically very advanced, their music complex and sophisticated and whose interplay seems effortless.

Ah, I misunderstood then! 

8 minutes ago, Barking Spiders said:

AC/DC are probably one of the bands it's easiest to copy.

Potentially off topic in that case, but possibly still pertinent, I'd say that while it's easy to play the same things as AC/DC, unlike Dream Theater, it is very hard to copy that feel.I wonder whether feel and complexity are two separate elements, neither interlinked nor mutually exclusive. Some bands are complex, some not. Some bands lock together, some don't.

But, yes, I did miss the point originally! 😄

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54 minutes ago, Barking Spiders said:

Hmm, I like The Meters but the gist of my OP was more about bands whose players who technically very advanced, their music complex and sophisticated and whose interplay seems effortless. AC/DC are really at the other end of the spectrum from the likes of Dream Theater, Animals as Leaders, Aristocrats and Meshuggah. The music these bands make isn't my bag but I'd say outside of classical and jazz they don't come any more technically advanced than this. AC/DC are probably one of the bands it's easiest to copy.

'appreciate bands who are not only tighter than a gnat's chuff but have the chops to boot' = The Meters 😎

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Some good mentions so far - and, from a poppier perspective, I’d also add the Attractions to the list (I went to see Elvis Costello in the mid-90s and the band were absolutely superb).

Perhaps a less obvious choice would be these...

 

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1 minute ago, Mykesbass said:

'appreciate bands who are not only tighter than a gnat's chuff but have the chops to boot' = The Meters 😎

The Meters all came up through New Orleans jazz and could certainly pull off jazz and fusion barely breaking a sweat in the process. But as guitarist Leo Nocentelli said, "there ain't no dough above the 12th fret" and back in the mid-70s they would have followed the dollars because they had to. Any noodly doodly business wouldn't have fed them or their families 😂

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I remember seeing Queen and Status Quo at Knebworth many, many years ago with friends, one of whom was a guitarist.

He was dancing along to SQ - "I don't even like Status Quo" - both bands were really tight (as you'd expect).

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4 hours ago, Chezz55 said:

Tower Of Power

'nuff said.

Yep good call. One of the best rhythm sections in any genre ever and arguably the best horn section in the soul/funk world. Liked to've seen them in their 70s heyday but at 6-8 years old my music tastes were'nt that sophisticated.

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KC Roberts & The Live Revolution - incredible. 

 

Also worth giving Martin Millers band a watch, they have some of the best covers on YouTube. 

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3 hours ago, 4000 said:

Basie & Ellington, amongst others. 

Spot on. 😎

Also the Kenny Clarke - Francy Boland Big Band too. Double drums, especially in a kick-rrse big band takes a lot of skill not to overplay. But their MPS Records period was just amazing. Some of their live recordings are tight as you like and fierce AF with it. I should post some up in the "What are you listening to now?" thread really.

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Jethro Tull, mid to late 70's - Anderson, Barre, Barlow, Glascock and John Evan.  As tight live as they were in the studio.  Following the sad death of Glascock the band endured a bit of personnel instability, but came close to those levels of team proficiency with the addition of Dave Pegg and Doane Perry.

 

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