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Various Artists

Modern Drummer Presents Drum Nation Volume One

Review by Steve Alspach

If you want to know what the state of drumming is circa 2004, you would do well to check this CD out. These drummers are all at the top of the game, and the CD explores a rather wide range of styles and moods.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
A Glimpse Into a Deeply Disturbed Mind (Terry Bozzio)
 The CD kicks off with an edgy industrial-dance piece. Bozzio doesn't veer from the 4/4, and his use of splash and crash cymbals are to a minimum.
Beelzebub (Bill Bruford)
Bruford dusts off this classic from the 1977 "Feels Good to Me" album with his current formation of Earthworks. There is no variation to the melody or arrangement, but this version, with bass clarinet, soprano sax, piano, acoustic bass, and drums, works extremely well.
Mad Tea Time (Parts 1 and 2) (Steve Smith and Zakir Hussain)
 Another jazz fusion piece with Steve Smith (this guy played with Journey?!?) and tabla player Zakir Hussain. Part 1 features a raga-like sound that includes George Brooks on sax, Fareed Haque on sitar and guitar and Kai Eckhardt on bass. Smith's work is bouncy yet not overwhelming, going with "bundled rods" instead of drumsticks to give a brush-like feel. Part 2 features the solos, Smith first and then Hussain with Brooks on tamboura, and then a call-and-response section. Given that this was recorded live in the studio, this piece is something else!
The Spell (Chad Wackerman)
This 5/4 workout sounds a bit like an Allan Holdsworth composition. James Muller has quite a bit of Holdsworth in his solo, and Wackerman pulls off a solo over the basic chord progression.
Sprung Monkey (Stanton Moore)
N'awlins funk meets East Bay grease on this workout. Moore uses the Lil Rascals Brass Band to add some punch to this. Moore's drums are prominent in the mix so you can hear his syncopated chops. His solo never veers from the 4/4 groove.
Manganese (Simon Phillips)
This is a jazz-rock fusion number, heavier on the rock than the jazz. Phillips fronts a four-piece on this one and shows admirable restraint in driving the piece without hogging the spotlight.
Lagerborg (Josh Freese)
One of the heavier songs on this album, Freese describes this as "prog-rock / new wave meets the Queens of the Stone Age." Veering between 11/8 and 4/4, this piece has a frantic feel to it. Freese hammers on the hi-hat and cymbals for a well-needed punch to this one.
Faceless Pastiche (Rod Morgenstein)
In the liner notes Morgenstein tells a story of how a critic of the then-young Dixie Dregs called their music a "faceless pastiche" (ya know, some people just don't get it). Morgenstein took that as a compliment, and to prove it, he teams up with Jordan Rudess for this powerhouse track that covers a wide range of styles in its rather short 4:27 length.
Shut Up and Play Your Drums (Tim Alexander and Brain)
With an obvious nod to Frank Zappa, these two combine forces on a rather exploratory piece. The song consists of a rather minimalist back-and-forth motif while the drumming holds itself back until gradually building and cutting loose. The two drummers feed off each other quite well and know when to hit the peaks and when to lay back.

Wandering Portland Maine (Marco Minnemann)
 The chorus to this piece is one of the most catchy parts of the whole CD. If it weren't for the hideously complex time arrangements, this song could crack the radio waves.
Pull Up My Sleeve (Stephen Perkins and Brooks Wackerman)
It is pure percussion on this one with no melody or motif. After the two of them lay down and play over a 6/8 section, the tune gets rather playful. Against a funky beat, you hear all sorts of percussion, including xylophone, tympani, tongue drum, wind chimes, shakers, and gong.

 
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