10. Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band - Body And Shadow (Brian Blade)
The Rhythm Best in drums 2018 polls received an astonishing 100,000 votes, and we're now ready to roll out the winners. The nominees were what we considered to be the drummers and gear that have excelled in 2018. Here, we present the best new drum albums of 2018. First up we have Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band's album Body And Shadow...
We say: Louisiana jazz drumming luminary Brian Blade has been making music with his Fellowship Band for 20 years now, and the outfit celebrate that anniversary with another beautiful record on famed jazz label Blue Note. It’s a record that also happens to be a lesson in drumming finesse.
With bassist Chris Thomas and pianist Jon Cowherd and sax player/clarinettist Myron Walden, the musicians create some gorgeously arranged, subtly virtuosic but laid-back New Orleans’ style jazz, with Brian’s stunning brush-work sitting just where it should to create both texture and colour on stand-outs like ‘Duality’ and ‘Broken Leg Days’.
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9. Mark Heaney - Drumscapes Vol 1 (Mark Heaney)
We say: Mark Heaney’s latest project Drumscapes is split into three EPs, with the first one out now. What we have here is almost the antivirtuosic drum album, in attitude at least. That’s because despite his humble approach, Heaney most definitely has the chops, to the point where it’ll hit you from nowhere when he breaks from the hypnotic grooves.
Drumscapes is built on lush soundscapes and abstract lo-fi samples that serve as the bed for Heaney’s weighty, processed beats. He also channels his jazz purist side with his choice of tuning, gear and soloing.
Chris Dave and the Drumhedz - Chris Dave and the Drumhedz (Chris Dave)
We say: This album is a stonking collection of very muso yet still accessible r’n’b that combines elements of funk, soul, gospel, hip-hop, and jazz into a seriously grooving whole. Nearly 50 collaborators, or ‘Drumhedz’, bring it to life – with just the core crew reading like a who’s who of amazing musicians, including bass player Pino Palladino (bass), The Roots’ James Poyser, Stokley Williams from Mint Condition and some fantastic new talents like rapper-drummer Anderson Paak.
Chris Dave calls his album a “why can’t you?” album. Which doesn’t mean it’s an exercise in self-indulgent muso jams. On the contrary, like Dave’s own drumming, there’s a smoothness and groove that runs throughout, as well as a thoughtful approach to the tracklisting, with hip-hop highlight ‘Destiny N Stereo’, funky ‘Black Hole’, jazz-styled ‘Whatever’ and busy r’n’b workout ‘Dat Feelin’’ among our favourites here.
7. Pete Ray Biggin - Drums At The Front (Pete Ray Biggin)
We say: When he’s not laying down drums for Level 42 or Stewart Copeland’s Gizmodrome, Pete’s own songs with the PB Underground are funk-soul at its best; we urge you to check out the PBUG album Drums At The Front to hear him in full flow with some fantastic musicians.
Funky-as-hell tunes like ‘Stand Up’, ‘Little Man’ and Snoop Dogg & Pharrell cover ‘Drop It’ are so infectiously groovalicious, that you’re guaranteed to a have a lot of fun playing along (with the accompanying tuition book).
6. Luis Conte and Pete Lockett - Boom (Luis Conte/Pete Lockett)
We say: Recorded in LA, London, Pakistan and India, the record draws on the rich musical heritage of Cuba, India, America, Europe and, well, everywhere. ‘Everybody’s Got One’ (which would be a more apt title for a cajon piece) is a percussive delight rooted in the vibrancy of Indian music and culture; then it’s west to Cuba for ‘Oyela’ and, while you might expect ‘Festejo’ to turn south to Peru, it’s actually more a fusion of latin and Indian sounds; similarly ‘Cross Borders’ could have you in a geographical tailspin with its sumptuous layers of all-world sounds and percussive textures.
‘Boom’ is a decidely non-explosive track; an atmosphere piece that weaves gentle percussive effects around a chilled ambient track. ‘Caramelo’ is rhythmically busy and more traditionally Afro-Cuban, while ‘Tikitipila’ has a typically wonderful combination of fantastic playing and traditional voice elements. Stand-out piece ‘Buena Noche’ will transport to instantly to you a hot Cuban night with its heady rhythmic flavours.
5. Death Cab For Cutie - Thank You For Today (Jason McGerr)
We say: Jason McGerr is one of the underrated names of modern alternative music. Always crafting parts that serve the song but never obvious, he delivers plenty of crafted parts on this, the Washington group’s ninth studio album (Jason’s sixth with the band).
Effortlessly bouncing between electro-funk on opener ‘Dreamt We Spoke Again’ into more traditional singer songwriter backbeats on early single ‘Gold Rush’ or out-and-out live electronica for ‘Summer Years’, Jason’s drumming captures your imagination and holds your attention with the sonic layers of textures: sampled claps, machine-like tom grooves and processed acoustic drum sounds.
Throw in the fact that the quality of songs on ‘Thank You For Today’ rarely dips and you have an album of alt-rock songs that prove that guitar music is still interesting.
4. The Chick Corea & Steve Gadd Band - Chinese Butterfly (Steve Gadd)
We say: Steve reunites with his old buddy and pioneering keyboard legend Chick Corea to record a new album of jaw-dropping jazz-fusion. Steve and Chick are joined by percussionist Luisito Quintero, bassist Carlitos Del Puerto, guitarist Lionel Loueke and Steve Wilson on sax, and the musicality on display here is stunning.
Steve’s drumming is, of course, utterly fantastic; his technique is never short of incredible and here he provides such rhythmic originality as to make grown drummers cry. He dextrously grooves on ‘Chick’s Chums’, lays down sweet Latin-tinged grooves on ‘Serenity’ and ‘A Spanish Song’ and makes the infectious odd-time grooves of the title track seem truly effortless; a gift he’s always had for making drum grooves that are at once perfect for the song, clever as hell, and gorgeously laid-back.
And that’s just disc one of this two-disc treat. On disc two, Steve and co deliver a wonderful new take on Chick’s signature ‘Return To Forever’, with added vocals courtesy of Philip Bailey, while ‘Gadd-zooks’ is a drum feature in the best traditions.
3. Nate Smith - Pocket Change (Nate Smith)
We say: Whether you’re a long term fan or are only discovering Nate Smith in recent times, once you know, you know. Following last year’s Kinfolk comes Pocket Change. If you’ve ever thought that other instruments only get in the way, this is a drums-only album of Nate’s grooves.
The 11 tracks twist and turn as Smith shuffles, diddles and displaces his way through imaginative breakbeat, funk, disco and more. There’s plenty of variation in the sound too, from crisp and cracky to dead snare with trashy hi-hats. If you’ve ever wanted unhindered access to Smith’s masterful playing, this is your chance.
2. The Sea Within - The Sea Within (Marco Minnemann)
We say: As expected, Marco Minnemann impresses throughout, blazing through progressive hard rock/metal, classic prog and fusion-tinged moments. Opener Ashes Of Dawn and the 7/8 marsh of Sea Without gives anyone who saw his 2011 Dream Theater audition a flavour of what might have been. It’s not all freaky time signatures and synth solos, though: The Void sees Marco laying back with some impeccable subtlety, while An Eye For An Eye For An Eye sees a more straight-ahead, punky side to Minneman’s playing as he channels Copeland’s rockier moments.
The 14-minute opus that is Broken Chord takes in Queen-style leads takes us on a journey of The Beatles, Queen, Steely Dan, Floyd and Jaco-isms, mixed with Marco’s blistering fills and a bass drum assault midway through. But, one of the standout features of the whole recording is the entirely natural sound of his kit. In a genre full of sample replaced bombastic perfection, it’s refreshing to hear the kit shine through in a punchy, clear and organic way, allowing the tone and playing to do the talking.
WINNER: The Pineapple Thief - Dissolution (Gavin Harrison)
We say: It has to be said that 21st century prog occupies a bleak landscape. It’s a stark contrast to the heady days of the 1970s with bands like Yes and Genesis and their tales of ‘shining, flying purple wolf hounds’ and murderous nursery misadventures. These days, it’s all introspective soul-searching bittersweet love songs – and practically no one does it better than The Pineapple Thief, here with their 12th album.
Gavin Harrison occupies the drum throne for the second time, taking time out from his gig in the court of Fripp’s King Crimson. Let’s not forget that he has beaten skins for Steven Wilson’s Porcupine Tree as well – not a bad-looking CV, by all accounts! In any case, this most recent release from the band seeks to reinforce The Pineapple Thief’s place at the helm of the current new wave of British prog, further venturing into rich, yet sombre soundscapes with tracks like ’Threatening War’ and the epic, 11-minute long ‘White Mist’, their multi-layered textures and melodic chicanery demanding repeated listenings from this reviewer.
Gavin Harrison’s solid percussive attack has all the precision of forebears like Bill Bruford, along with a dash of Phil Collins’ top-kit flamboyance added in for good measure, making him a near perfect fit for the band.