Posts Tagged ‘Junior Parker’


One of my recent musical projects crashed and burned because one of the other band members (a great guy and great player, who I consider a friend) wanted to do what the rest of us considered pointless, time-wasting rehearsals on needlessly complex versions of covers.

(Covers? I mean come on. Give me a break! Unless you’re doing something as brilliant as Devo’s cover of “Satisfaction,” why even bother?)

For example, take the Junior Parker tune “Mystery Train,” that Elvis made famous.

Standard 12-bar blues done in straight time.

Well, why on earth do it as a 14-bar tune and then drop back to 12-bar form for _one_ of the solos? No point as far as yours truly and the rest of the guys could see. A needlessly complex time waste (in rehearsal) that no one would ever notice.

How useless and pointless.

Then we get to the complex shit that makes sense.

Let’s take probably the most complex tune time-wise ever recorded: “The Dance of Maya,” by the Mahavishnu Orchestra, on the “Inner Mounting Flame” album. (I could be, and probably am, wrong about some of the particulars — hey! I’m a guitar player, not a drummer!)

It starts out in a straightforward compound meter 10/4 time (3+3+4), then goes to a straightforward swung 20/8 time (1… a 2 … a 3… a 4… a 5… 6…7 and), then goes double time on it, then drops back to the relaxed 20/8 time, and then superimposes the 20/8 on the 10/4.) Over and out. It’s unimaginable in any other form.

Absolutely brilliant. It just works. Blows you (at least me) away.

Pointless complexity is useless. True complexity can be beautiful.

 

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Junior Parker

It’s hard to tell you how much I love the music of Herman Parker, Jr., better as known as “Junior Parker” (1932 — 1971), who died at a tragically young age of a brain tumor.

He was a great vocalist, harmonica player, and songwriter.  Today, he’s probably best known for the Grateful Dead’s desecration of his iconic “Next Time You See Me,” which done right (that is, relaxed, behind the beat, punchy on the stops) is one of the most enjoyable songs to play ever written.

(A particularly painful musical memory is of playing a more-or-less-okay version of the tune a decade ago at a pick-up gig, and hearing a bystander say, “I hate that Grateful Dead shit.” If they only knew . . .)

Junior wrote and recorded prolifically during his tragically short life. His recordings are marked by a very high level of musicianship. a hard-edged but smooth sound that was a mix of Chicago-style, jazz-blues, and R&B; and, oh yeah, he wrote dozens of wonderful originals.

His most recognizable tunes are probably “Next Time You See Me,” and “Mystery Train.” The one I love the best, though, is “Crying for My Baby,” which drives like a mother due to the pushed horn punches on the final triplets of the “2” and “4”; (James Brown probably learned a thing or two from Junior about horn punches.)

The best compilation of his tunes/performances is the long-out-of-print and now way overpriced “Junior’s Blues.” But buy damn near any of the collections, and you´ll be pleasantly surprised.

Enjoy.