musician.educator.musicologist

on Not Really Listening

Added on by Taylor Smith.

I was listening to Ben Harper’s album Diamonds on the Inside, today. As is kind of typical for Ben Harper, the album wanders a bit; there are great moments, and then there are kind points where it kind of rambles on, wearing out its welcome at times. This album isn’t new; it was released in 2003.I have heard it several times before. But, it had been a year or more since I had listened. As a whole, the album is probably in the 6/10 range; if I could reduce it down to a five-song EP, it would definitely earn a higher score.

Sometimes, I listen too much like a record producer. Instead of just listening to a song and letting it be what it is, I often think of things that could make it better. I suppose that three degrees in music and a doctoral dissertation about mid-60s recording studio usage could do that to a person. When I should be enjoying the music, my head ends up in places like:

“Ooh. If there was a little more reverb on the guitar, there, it would sound better.”

“Man, I wish they would have waited one more phrase before bringing in the backing vocals.”

When I was listening to the title track, I caught myself thinking, “That spot, right there, would be perfect for a little bit of pedal steel.” Then, I remembered that I was talking about Ben Harper, one of the most accomplished slide guitar players around, and I was giving him advice on when/where to add some slide guitar in one or his songs. Who am I to be doling out this kind of “advice?”

Then, in the next verse ... some beautiful pedal steel countermelodies right where I thought they should be.

This isn’t me trying to do one of those “great minds think alike” comparisons or anything. I just found this to be kind of funny.

One more idea: I want the guitar in R.E.M.’s “Let Me In” (from Monster) to have even less definition. I want there to be no rhythmic distinction ... just a big wall of super-saturated fuzz. Then, when the tambourine and synth come in, it would kind of be like, “Oh, nowI can sense the beat.” Just an idea for you guys, Mike, Peter, Michael, and Bill (and Scott).

 

 

 

* I think I heard about it on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Ecclecticback when I was living in Pomona about a year after this. Actually, listening to FM radio, like a schmuck!

 

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