Everything is Copasetic, Now

At Girish’s request, I’ve pasted together a mix of music that features the Fender Rhodes. If you want a copy, send me your snail mail address. (For the record, I’m going by ear here, so it’s possible that what I’m hearing on a few of these tracks is actually a Wurlitzer. Liner notes are surprisingly useless in this regard.)

  • “She’s Gone” by Hall and Oates
  • “Celebration Suite, Pt. 2” by Return to Forever
  • “Niki Hoeky” by Aretha Franklin
  • “Two Trains” by Little Feat
  • “No Quarter” by Led Zeppelin
  • “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy” by Elton John
  • “Nanook Rubs It” by Frank Zappa
  • “Living for the City” by Stevie Wonder
  • “Humdrum” by Peter Gabriel
  • “Fainting in Coils” by Bruford
  • “Babylon Sisters” by Steely Dan
  • “Midnight Rider” by Gregg Allman
  • “Breakdown” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  • “Do You Feel Like We Do” by Peter Frampton
  • “Tombigbee” by Tori Amos
  • “Nowhere Again” by The Secret Machines

It’s a fairly eclectic mix, I think. I did my best to pull from several genres:

Pop: “She’s Gone” and “Breakdown” have been played to death over the years, but they’re still perfect pop songs. (“Sarah Smiles” is even better, but, alas, no Rhodes.) “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy,” as I’ve said before, is a not-too-guilty favorite.

Classic Rock: It’s hard to be a piano player when you really want to be a rock star. John Paul Jones’s electric piano on “No Quarter” is almost as cool as Jimmy Page’s Gibson. I put “Do You Feel Like We Do” at the end of the CD so you can skip it more easily, but I really do love Bob Mayo’s solo (around the 4 minute mark).

Southern Rock: This version of “Midnight Rider” is from one of Gregg Allman’s solo albums, with Chuck Leavell’s keyboard covering the Dickie Betts parts. “Two Trains” is among Lowell George’s best songs. And Billy Payne’s playing is typically tasteful.

Progressive/Fusion: I limited myself to two tracks in this genre, knowing that few people share my love of 70s fusion and progressive rock. Bill Bruford (of Yes and King Crimson fame) had a great band in the late-70s that featured Jeff Berlin, Allan Holdsworth, and Dave Stewart. Stewart’s playing on “Fainting in Coils” is inspiring. Return to Forever was a fusion supergroup, with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Al DiMeola, and Lenny White joining up for the album No Mystery. That’s where I grabbed “Celebration Suite, Pt. 2.”

Soul: I was tempted to include Aretha’s cover of “Eleanor Rigby” from Live at the Fillmore West, but went with “Niki Hoeky” instead, if for no other reason than to hear her sing the line that gives this post its title. The Rhodes makes Aretha’s rhythm section. Stevie Wonder tended to use the Rhodes for his sweeter, more melodic pop songs; his funkier tunes, like “Higher Ground” and “Superstition,” were all about the Clavinet. “Living for the City” meets those two styles somewhere in the middle.

Hard to Classify: No one shows off the melodic possibilities of the Rhodes like Donald Fagen. “Babylon Sisters” is one of about twenty Steely Dan songs that could have made the mix. “Humdrum,” from Peter Gabriel’s first solo album, is just a beautiful, beautiful song. And Zappa . . . well, “Nanook Rubs It” is great fun, and you get George Duke on keyboards, to boot.

Epilogue: I had planned to choose only songs that were recorded from, say, 1968 to 1978 but decided to throw in two songs by current acts that are using vintage keyboards. Tori Amos brought along a couple on her last tour (see the Welcome to Sunny Florida concert DVD) and used what appears to be an 88-key Rhodes on “Tombigbee.” I don’t own The Secret Machines album, but I stopped in my tracks every time I caught the video for “Nowhere Again” on MTV. Brandon Curtis’s Rhodes is filtered, fuzzed, and distorted beyond recognition, and god bless him for it.