In The Listening Room: Geddy Lee

By John Stix, Guitar For The Practicing Musician, June 1987, transcribed by Erik Habbinga

As the helmsman for Rush, Geddy Lee has taken the bass to new heights of importance and imagination. As one of the foremost role models for contemporary rock bassists, and the winner of our Bass Wars competition, Geddy's opinions on music are always welcome, so the mat went out in front of The Listening Room.

Musical selections by John Stix

1. "Yours is No Disgrace" from The Yes Album, by Yes/Atlantic

I loved this track. It was a very influential song for me as a musician. Yes had never been a very concise band but this was Yes at their most concise. There were very strong melodies, strong playing and an innovative sound and direction for song structure. It had so much complexity in the music combined with melody and texture. There's a super bass sound on this track, very driving. Time and a Word was the first Chris Squire album for me. The bass propelled that album. It led the way. Texturally, The Yes Album was a terrific album. The songs go from electric-techno to acoustic. This song, "Yours Is No Disgrace" is a full range song.

2. "Driven to Tears" from Zenyatta Mondatta, by the Police/A&M

"Driven to Tears" is another great track. This is a phase of the Police I like a lot. They have a lot of energy and propulsion and I loved the way they used to combine their sort of reggae rhythms. Sting is a bass player I have a lot of respect for and I was sort of sad on his solo record that he didn't play bass. He's got a great style with a real nice choice of notes. A lot of times he plays very simply but if you listen carefully there's an unusual choice of notes. That adds a lot of depth to the melodies of the songs he writes. He's got a great slinky style that you feel in this particular tune. He's very repetitive and locked into the drums. But it's got a real nice tone and a real good feel. He's very much a feel player.

3. "Marabi" from Vox Humana, by Jeff Berlin/Passport Jazz

This is tremendous. Jeff is one of the best bass players living today. His knowledge of the instrument is overwhelming. He doesn't have any gaps. he can run up and down that thing and knows where he can go. He knows what his options are. His precision and delivery is so precise he blows me away. He can play so many notes and make them sound so fluid. It's not easy to play but it's easy to listen to. His choice of notes and his taste is impeccable. That's what makes a great musician in the end anyway-how much taste they have and how they apply what they learn. He's got great taste. This song is taken from Cannonball Adderly and shows how he can do it all. Some of the things he did with Bill Bruford show him off even more. I think what he's trying to show on this solo album is that he's not just a bass player, he's a band leader and a composer as well. He can write arrangements for every instrument. He's saying, I'm a musician in the total sense. I consider to be a total musician. He's a mindblower.

4. "Life In One Day" from Dream Into Action, by Howard Jones/Elektra

I like Howard Jones a lot in general. A lot of pop comes by and a lot of it is synth/pop that comes and goes pretty quickly. But this guy's got real talent. This song is typical Howard Jones. It's a very fresh sound. The drums always have a lot of snap. The keyboards are never too dense. There's always lots of nice little things coming in and out. He's strong in melody and I like the statement in this song, even though it's not too complex. It's a simple song gone over and over. I like this kind of music when it's done real well. I don't think this is his best song from this album. I liked "Things Can Only Get Better" a lot.

5. "First Blood" from Fly on the Wall, by AC/DC/Atlantic

I don't know who it is, but it's not very interesting. It's obviously guitar-oriented rock. I can't understand what they're singing about, so I can't comment on the statement. It sounds pretty cliche. I can't even hear the bass and I like to hear the bass. It sounds very formulaic to me. I've grown pretty far from this particular thing. I can still feel for some young metal. I think Metallica are great. They are real players, too. Some of that stuff is wrist-breaking at five million mph. That feels close to me. With this kind of thing sometimes you have to listen to it many times to get the feel of it. It's an acquired taste. On first impressions this wouldn't be my favorite example of that style.