Various - Drum Nation Volume Two

Year of Release: 2005
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: MA-9076-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 77:21:00

The second volume of Drum Nation collects together various tracks from other Magna Carta releases that label head Pete Morticelli felt represented "the most stirring performances you've ever heard - from indisputably the most influential drummers of our time." While the first volume of this series was inspired, asking the participants to provide a track unique to the compilation, this second volume smacks of recycling, more a way to promote Magna Carta releases than to showcase top drummers with their peak performances. Now, I'm not anti-Magna Carta and I'm not trying to slag them here - though I guess that was a little harsh, wasn't it? I'm just being matter of fact of how I see this CD's role and what it really means. I don't suggest either that the label is not being forthcoming about this goal, as the outside of "page 3" of the booklet clearly states "If you have enjoyed Drum Nation Volume Two, please check out these fine albums..." and lists each album (with covers) and their catalog numbers.*

The liner notes, written by T. Bruce Wittet of Modern Drummer and Muzik/Drums Etc., neatly delineate what the drummer on each track is doing, what is special about this performance. This you'd expect in a CD directed a drummers... except not all the pieces actually showcase the drummer. They're there, doing their thing, but unless you are a drummer, you might not drill down through the arrangement to chart what the drummer is doing. I tend to (or try to) look at the whole picture anyway when listening to and reviewing music...

So then, what do you get; who's included on this album...? Household names like Terry Bozzio, Pat Mastelotto, Mike Portnoy, Virgil Donati, Simon Phillips, Tim Alexander... and many others... 13 drummers in all.

Portnoy provides a propulsive drive to the collection's opening track "Meetings" - lots of crashing cymbals, rumbles across the heads, use of the toms... This comes from Andy West and Rama's Rama 1 release. The bass gives this a dark and lumbering feel. A tight, pinched guitar (Mike Keneally) paints with varying colors, firstly in a vaguely middle-eastern whine, then with white-hot searing bursts of noise. Splashes of keyboard (Jens Johannson) flash by at various points, sometimes in a high-pitched tone. There are times (at about the 4:40 mark) when it becomes a wildly chaotic mess.

The other piece lifted from Rama 1 is "Herd Instinct" - my favorite from the source album. This features some deep toned baritone tones, which is most likely Andy West's bass, but throb and gurgle like a sax ... and sound like a happy elephant. Keys, including a tinkling piano, fill out the sound, over the steady beat of Rod Morgenstein on drums. It also includes Mike Keneally on guitars. This is funky, playful and is also my favorite on this collection.

A diverse array of drums and percussion characterize Mastelotto's performance on "Toccata," from the Encores, Legends and Paradox ELP tribute. Though he often attacks each beat as if he's trying to drive it into the ground, by the time the piece ends eight minutes later, we get a frenetic backdrop to the percussive rumbling of keys and bass.

Warm, tinkling piano begins the next piece, "One Less Worry," which soon launches into a Hammond B3 workout ('tis why they're Niacin after all) - a live showcase for John Novello. Chambers' highlight comes late in the piece, after Sheehan shares a throaty, frenetic bass solo, and lasts just over a minute - but in that minute he goes from taut and speedy, to languid and back to speedy, all naturally and seamlessly.

It's not until track 4 that we get a piece where the main focus is on the drums. "The Last Page," the collaboration between Terry Bozzio and Billy Sheehan (Nine Short Films), is actually a joint showcase for drums and bass (though Bozzio also plays an assortment of other instruments and Sheehan also plays baritone guitars). It's dark and mysterious, gritty, slightly dangerous, hiding things in the shadows. In typical Bozzio fashion, there doesn't seem to be an area of his kit that doesn't play a part... 'cept maybe the snares.

What comes after is the quirky, funky, blurby, fusiony glop - and I don't mean that in a bad way, but given the bubbly nature of what results... glop just seems like the right word. Well, hell, it's called "Cosmic Slop" after all; glop, slop, yes... it's a soup that might fry your senses or drown them in some toxic soupy mess. And it's all percussion driven. This comes from a cat called Clyde Stubblefield, the band The Clinton Administration, the album One Nation Under A Re-Groove. Another Clinton Administration piece closes out the comp, with "Family Affair" (from Take You Higher). A slow groove funk piece where keys take their cues from the spaces between the drum beats. Over this a silky smooth Hammond B3 pours... in this mix, too, we get some Wurlitzer piano; slide and rhythm guitar (3 of 'em playing); sassy, knowing guitar leads; moodily humming bass... a veritable melting pot. Listed but not heard, at least not prominently (or at least to my ears) are alto sax, flute, and bass clarinet... The result so rich is the mixture that it sucks you right in.

There's the wild fusion excursion "Space Martini," with madman Virgil Donati - or does he just look like he should be a madman? - with Derek Sherinian on keys, Brett Garsed on a glistening guitar, and Tony Franklin on churning bass, this piece from Sherinan's Planet X. Donati seems on the verge of spinning out of control, but reins it in before, shooting off into the danger zone again.

As I said when reviewed Attention Deficit's The Idiot King (2001), "My Fellow Astronauts," with featured drummer Tim Alexander, is a darkly funky and slightly playful workout. What I'll tell you now is that it's hard to say which is the spotlight instrument, but beside the searing guitar (Alex Skolnick), there's an impertinent and tart bass (Michael Manring), and Alexander's intricate and busy drumming and percussioning (to coin a term...?).

"Steroids," by a group lead by guitarist Oz Noy (the album Oz Live), is a piece that begins with a taut bass line (James Genus) over some crisp drumming (Keith Carlock), before a fusiony guitar comes in to duet with the bass. It later takes the lead, but there's a sudden, but subtle, shift where Carlock becomes the focus, he seemingly focused on the mounted toms. One thing about this piece is that it seems hurried, like it knows where it wants to go, but is to rushed about getting there. However, the title to this funky number is not a misnomer... 'cept it's the 'roid rage aspects I'm thinking of. The other Oz Noy piece here, "Cissy Strut" (a cover of the Meter's tune) is a showcase for Anton Fig, in a piece that seems to be entirely about the drum groove. Yes we get guitar here, fat sounds that alternate with thin ones, you are tempted to say searing, but... not quite. Bassist Will Lee plays an appropriately strutting and cool line, walking it with assured confidence. Unlike the hurried "Steroids," this piece takes its time and gets into a bouncy, juicy... groove.

"Baby-Faced Assassin" - Josh Freese, from the album Stripsearch - has an industrial sound, with buzzing guitar, squonking horn, deep-throated bass, and assaultive drums. It's raw and bloody and painful, like doing the deed with a rusty chainsaw and uncontrollable rage. At the end all that will be left is ribbons of crimson flesh mixed in with a pulpy mess of sinew and tissue.

Well then... what do I think. Well, I'm not sure if these are each performers highlight performances of their careers, or even in the Magna Carta catalog, but it is a collection of nifty tunes - my faves being "Cosmic Slop," "Herd Instinct" "Cissy Strut," and in some perverse way "Baby-Faced Assassin." Whether you are a drummer or not there's much to like here, though Volume One still gets the full marks. The rating here takes into account the execution of the concept and the material itself...

* Yes, I'm well aware I "recycled" my comments about Bozzio's piece in my review of Volume One, and here again, though less so, in commenting about "My Fellow Astronauts." Ironic, in'it.

Meetings (Mike Portnoy, Andy West with Rama, Rama 1) (5:55) / Toccata (Pat Mastelotto, Encores, Legends And Paradox) (8:04) / One Less Worry (Dennis Chambers, Niacin, Niacin Live Blood Sweat And Beers) (7:28) / The Last Page (Terry Bozzio, Terry Bozzio & Billy Sheehan, Nine Short Stories) (8:25) / Cosmic Slop (Clyde Stubblefield, The Clinton Administration, One Nation Under A Re-Groove) (4:57) / Space Martini (Virgil Donati, Derek Sherinian, Planet X) (3:47) / My Fellow Astronauts (Tim Alexander, Attention Deficit, The Idiot King) (4:04) / Steroids (Keith Carlock, Oz Noy, Oz Live) (4:52) / Herd Instinct (Rod Morgenstein, Andy West with Rama, Rama 1) (4:36) / The Barbarian (Simon Phillips, Encores, Legends and Paradox) (4:40) / Baby-Faced Assassin (Josh Freese, Stripsearch) (9:54) / Cissy Strut (Anton Fig, Oz Noy, Oz Live) (4:06) / Family Affair (Stanton Moore, The Clinton Administration, Take You Higher) (7:05)

Mike Portnoy - drums (1)
Jens Johannson - keyboards, synths (1)
Mike Keneally - guitar (1, 9)
Andy West - bass (1, 9)
Pat Mastelotto - acoustic and electric drums and percussion (2)
Peter Banks - lead and rhythm guitar (2)
Matt Guillory - lead synth solos (2)
Trent Gardner - keyboards (2)
Wayne Gardner - bass (2)
Dennis Chambers - drums (3)
Billy Sheehan - bass (3, 4), baritone guitars (4)
John Novello - keyboards (3)
Terry Bozzio - drums, vocals, keyboards, and various guitar-like synth solos, percussion and tuned percussion (4)
Clyde Stubblefield - drums (5)
Skerik - sax (5)
Robert Walter - keys (5), Hammond B3 13)
Melvin Gibbs - bass (5)
Phil Upchurch - guitar (5)
Chuck Prada - percussion (5, 13)
DJ Logic - turntables and sound manipulation (5)
Virgil Donati - drums (6)
Derek Sherinian - keyboards (6)
Tony Franklin - bass (6)
Brett Garsed - guitar (6)
Tim Alexander - drums and guitar (7)
Alex Skolnick - guitar (7)
Michael Manring - bass (7)
Keith Carlock - drums (8)
Oz Noy - guitar (8, 12)
James Genus - bass (8)
Rod Morgenstein - drums (9)
Simon Phillips - drums (10)
Robert Berry - bass and guitar (10)
Igor Khoroshev - keyboards (10)
Josh Freese - drums (11)
Mike Elizondo - bass (11)
Michael Ward - guitar (11)
Jason Freese - saxophone (11)
Anton Fig - drums (12)
Will Lee - bass (12)
Stanton Moore - drums (13)
Kai Eckhardt - bass (13)
Michael Lee Firkins - slide guitar, rhythm guitar and guitar solos (13)
Cochemea (Cheme) Gastelum - alto sax, flute, bass clarinet, and effects (13)
Fareed Haque - rhythm guitar (13)
Charlie Hitchcock - rhythm guitar (13)
Eric Levy - Wurlizter piano (13)

Drum Nation Volume One (2004)
Drum Nation Volume Two (2005)

Genre: Various Genres

Origin VA

Added: December 28th 2005
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 765
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]