Julian Casablancas – Random Access Memories
Julian Casablancas, formerly of The Strokes, currently of The Voidz, appears on only one track on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, but that track, Instant Crush, happens to be one of the very best on the album. Key to the track is Casablancas’ wonderful guitar work.
Al Kooper – Highway 61 Revisited
Kooper found himself on the organ for the Highway 61 Revisited sessions only because Mike Bloomfield was a better guitarist and then because the organist in the studio got moved to the piano, but that organ sound ends up defining the sound of the album, one of Dylan’s best, as much as anything. On Like a Rolling Stone, it’s the lead riff and it winds through the album in a really impressive way given that Kooper had only rarely played the organ before these sessions.
Charlie McCoy – John Wesley Harding
On John Wesley Harding, Dylan stripped back the huge sound of Highway 61 Revisited & Blonde on Blonde. The bulk of the album features only Dylan on vocal and acoustic guitar, Kenneth Buttrey on drums and a jaw droppingly great Charlie McCoy on the bass. With such sparse arrangements, the bass really pops off the tracks and the lines McCoy lays down on this record are as good as the lines laid down by a lot of more famous bass players on more famous albums. When people talk about how mediocre most studio musicians are, play this album for them.
Robert Mercurio – We Love ‘Em Tonight: Live at Tipitina’s
Another bass player, of a very different kind, makes the list. New Orleans based band Galactic played Tipitina’s, one of the most famous and beloved New Orleans venues, on this live album. The entire band really cooks and the mixture of jazz, psychedelic, funk, blues and rock really comes alive. Mercurio handles the various genres with aplomb, particularly excelling in the jazzier moments, and absolutely raising the roof with his funk riffs. This album is good for many reasons; Mercurio’s bass is one of the biggest.
Stanton Moore – We Love ‘Em Tonight: Live at Tipitina’s
One of the other reasons? Stanton Moore’s brilliant performance on the drums. Playing with a band like Galactic is a challenge for a drummer. It’s necessary to be able to function at a high level of precision, but also be able to bring the raw energy the drums need. Moore does both. There are moments here of amazing precision; but then when the time comes to just tear off a ridiculous fill, he’s there with bells on.
Zurn – A Beautiful Glow
Rock N Roll Worship Circus paved a new and exciting direction for Christian music with its heady blend of sixties-style pop & rock; unfortunately no-one followed that road and worship music stagnated a good ten years ago. But this album remains a tonic and drummer Zurn lays down the beat and sets the grooves to perfection, whether he’s blamming out a Bo-Diddley-esque beat, grinding a slow riff-driven rock tune or bringing the Middle Eastern flair on a sitar drenched epic.