BEHIND THE CURTAIN WITH TERRY MANNING

 
When I started looking at them more intently, it was the same thing - 'This is much more than just a jamband. This is blues, it's rock, it's country. It's all kinds of influences, and everyone in this band is powerful and brings something unique to the sound.

-Terry Manning on WSP

 
Photo by Jeremy Jones

AT: Let's talk about that for a moment. What did you hear specifically in their music that flipped the switch for you?


Todd Nance at Compass Point
By Lynn Goldsmith
TM: First and foremost, it was the individual prowess of each player. Todd Nance is a drummer... and I shouldn't say this publicly, but why not, I'll go ahead. It may seem a bit blasphemous to some, but so be it. I worked with Led Zeppelin years ago, and I just felt a little bit of a similar vibe and energy with these guys. They all have a similar mix of individual skill and power that Zeppelin had when I worked with them.

I wouldn't want to compare any drummer to John Bonham, but Todd has a lot of the same solidness and backbone that John had, really that relentless ability to keep the groove going with all kinds of other influences happening around you. I saw that in Bonham a lot – he would throw in little frills or throw in an amazing high hat fill or something – but the backbone never quit. Everyone on stage might be playing completely against his rhythm, certainly [guitarist Jimmy] Page. Page told me on several occasions how much he loved experimenting with rhythms that he believed no one else in rock was doing and wouldn't be doing for many years to come. So he might be off in a completely different direction, but Bonham's solid drumming always brought them back.

I saw a lot of that same type of thing in Todd. On bass, I mean, my God, how many bass players in the world play like Dave? Not many. He's solid, he keeps the root going, but he can throw in the fastest, coolest licks out of nowhere. It's never gratuitous, and it's always in the right place at the right time.


JB recording at Compass Point
By Lynn Goldsmith
Sunny [Domingo 'Sunny' Ortiz] on percussion is another solid rock. He's always on-time with the right sound. He brings a whole other element to the band with the Latin sound he creates. The thing that's great about this band is that they have all these different elements that make up the music.

John Bell shares some of the same type of things that Robert Plant did. Totally different approach to music, but both have that amazing ability to have that harmonic content in the voice, to push it to the max of their range but still keep it restrained. It wasn't just screaming, but when you get to the most dynamic part of the song, you're there and it just floats over the top of everything else.

Jojo [John 'Jojo' Hermann], my God. Here's a guy who can play Professor Longhair authentically, who can play classical, who can play country, and who can bang out the eighths for rock 'n' roll at the top. Wow, what an asset. And he'll then switch to B3 organ and sound anywhere from Deep Purple to Booker T. I was just shocked when I really listened to him.


Jojo recording on a vintage piano at Compass Point
By Terry Manning
George [McConnell] brings a whole new melodic structure and sound to the guitar that I really liked and wanted to work in. So, yeah, I was pretty excited about the ingredients I had to work with going in - really great people and good, solid building blocks to create a rock album.

My approach to making this record was to take those ingredients and to keep the improvisational approach that they have to their music, but I also wanted to stress melody and song structure. What they do as a band - to be able to almost turn rock into jazz without sounding jazzy and take these beautiful music adventures – is brilliant, I think. I wanted to capture that brilliance in a compact, tight statement of a rock album.

There's a little bit of Robert Palmer's "Sneaking Sally Through the Alley," a little bit of Deep Purple at their funkiest, a little bit of Zeppelin, and there's some of the Beatles' melodic stuff here. But it's all its own thing. It's the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, yet all of its parts are amazing.


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