Monday, 11 August 2014

The Ten Musicians Who've Played On The Most AAA Recordings

We're returning to normal for this week's top ten and taking a break from the 'Beach Boys Ebook' I'm currently writing to bring you an entry that includes a whole host of AAA bands. A lot of my work during April and May has included writing out lots of 'band line-ups' for each album which sets me thinking: by the time I finish this site (having reviewed every AAA studio and solo album - for now live albums, covers albums and compilations don't count or the 82 Hollies best-ofs on the market allow them to win by default!) hopefully by the end of 2017, who will I have written about the most? The results are surprising, with appearances not relegated to a band's own appearance but any AAA LP they are a part of. So without further ado, whose the winner?!

1) 44 Albums: Neil Young (36 solo, 3 CSNY, 1 Crosby, 1 Nash, 2 Monkees, 1 Stills-Young Band)

No real surprise here, given that I've just finished the layout for my Neil Young Ebook with 35 main albums in it which has taken forever! (one of them a 'live' on of mew material which doesn't count here, plus two 'covers' albums)In addition to those solo albums (which work out at one every 15 months since Neil went solo in 1969), plus three studio records with Buffalo Springfield, three studio records with CSNY, one as the Stills-Young Band and two over appearances within the CSN 'family' (on Crosby's 'If Only I Could Remember My Name' and Nash's 'Songs For Beginners'). In addition Neil has guested on two separate Monkees tracks: 'As We Go Along' (from 'Head') and 'You and I' from 'Instant Replay' - Neil got the job through CSNY partner Stephen Stills, who was best friends with Monkee Peter Tork before he joined the group.

2) 37 Albums: Paul McCartney (13 Beatles, 7 Wings, 12 solo, 1 with Linda, 3 Firemen, 1 Brian Wilson)

Next up comes the prolific Paul McCartney, who mainly thanks to his two-albums-a-year Beatles period has now released 37 albums in just 51 years (or ever so slightly under the same record every 15 months as Neil) - impressive stuff! The ones you might not recognise from that list include the three 'avant garde' albums as 'The Fireman', which just about count as solo albums (we felt a bit meaning for banning 'Run Devil Run', a covers album with three new songs, and five orchestral works anyway!) and a duet with Brian Wilson on the latter's 'A Friend Like You', a rather misguided song from the Beach Boys' solo album 'Gettin' In Over My Head'.

3) 35 Albums: Jerry Garcia (16 Grateful Dead, 10 solo, 2 other solo Dead albums, 1 CSNY, 1 Crosby, 1 Nash, 2 Perro, 1 Airplane, 1 Garfunkel)

Jerry Garcia made a point of playing with everybody and anybody and if you add up all the albums he played on he would no doubt win this list (even reduced to AAA sanctioned albums he was on course to top this list had he not died so young). His output amounts to an album every 10 months between his first release in 1967 and his last in 1995! As well as the expected Dead and solo albums there are several guest appearances: Jerry played pedal steel on CSNY's 'Teach Your Children', plays lead guitar on various tracks from Crosby's 'If I Could Only Remember My Name' and 'Songs For Beginners', plays on (and produces) Jefferson Airplane's 'Surrealistic Pillow' and plays guitar on 'Down In The Willow Garden', a song from Art Garfunkel's debut solo record 'Angel Clare'. The 'PERRO' acronym that crops up a few times on this list stands for 'Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra' - the loose band of San Franciscan musicians organised by the Airplane's 'Paul Kantner for his 'solo' projects 'Blows Against The Empire' and 'The Empire Blows Back', with Garcia playing a key role on both records.

4) 34 Albums: Brian Wilson (27 Beach Boys, 7 solo)

This next appearance is based on album accreditation alone: so desperate were The Beach Boys to make sure that Brian Wilson's name was on their records that they took to adding him even when he wasn't there (1992's 'Summer In Paradise' being the lone Beach Boys record he definitely doesn't appear on). With an entry dominated by Capitol's stomach-churning record contract (demanding four albums a year - though not all of them eligible for this list), Brian scores higher than his fellow band members thanks to his renewed creativity since his first solo record in 1988. His score works out to approximately one album every 18 months in the 52 years between 1962 and 2014.

5) 33 Albums: Graham Nash (7 Hollies, 8 CSN/Y, 4 Crosby-Nash, 5 solo, 1 perro, 2 Crosby, 3 Stills, 1 Young, 1 Garfunkel, 1 Gilmour)

Graham Nash comes next and he arrives virtue by having done a bit of everything: seven albums with the Hollies, five solo, four with partner David Crosby and eight as part of CSN and/or Y. In addition Nash has appeared on all sorts of other AAA artist's LPs including Perro's 'The Empire Blows Back' , David Gilmour's 'On An Island' and Art Garfunkel's 'Break Away' as well as various CSY solo projects. That little lot amounts to one album every 17 months (with 33 released across 50 years).  

6=) 29 Albums: Carl Wilson (27 Beach Boys, 2 solo)

The next Beach Boy to make the list is Carl Wilson. Similar rules apply except for the fact that the only LP he sadly missed was 2012's 'That's Why God Made The Radio' and the youngest Wilson also made two hard-to-find solo LPs. We should really be counting his 'guest' appearances on his two brother's work but we've decided not to count them a) because Carl isn't technically credited on Dennis' 'Pacific Ocean Blues' and b) Carl's appearance on 'Soul Searcjin' from Brian's album 'Gettin' In Over My Head' was posthumous (and thus done without his permission, although chances are Carl would have appeared on everything Brian made had he had a chance to). That little lot still amounts to an impressive album every   15 months or thereabouts though (or 29 in 36 years between 1962 and 1998).

6=) 28 Albums: Mike Love (27 with The Beach Boys, 1 solo)

Equal with Carl comes fellow Beach Boy Mike Love, who arrives on this list courtesy of the sheer amount of Beach Boys LPs there are in the world (Mike is the only person to have played on all of them: Brian missed one, Carl missed one, Al missed the first three and Dennis missed the last three) plus one 'proper' bona fide solo LP 'Looking Back With Love' (although two more were recorded and never properly released). For Mike that works out at one album every 23 months (or 28 albums in 52 years).

8=) 28 Albums: Dave Davies (23 Kinks, 5 solo)

Next up, we have another tie - but with members of different groups this time! Dave Davies beats his elder brother on this list (who would have been 14th) by courtesy of releasing more solo LPs than him, as well as appearing on every single Kinks album released between 1964 and 1995.Along with five solo records (live ones don't count remember or the tally would be a lot higher) that adds up approximately to one album every 23  months (or 28 albums in 50 years).

8=) 28 Albums: David Crosby (6 Byrds, 8 CSN/Y, 2 CPR, 4 Crosby-Nash, 4 solo, 1 perro, 1 Stills, 1 Nash, 1 Young)

Amazingly it's Crosby who comes third out of the CSNY guys and beats the far more prolific Stephen Stills despite a drugged-out period in his life (roughly 1978-88) when he stopped making music more or less completely. Crosby beats Stills (who would have been 13th) courtesy of 'his' five albums with The Byrds compared to Buffalo Springfield's three, the four Crosby-Nash records and the sudden creative spurt since Croz's release from prison in 1987 that has seen him release more albums since then than Stills or Nash (though not quite enough to match Young!) You can also add to that more session work (in purely AAA terms) than Stills, with Crosby guesting on Art Garfunkel's 'Break Away', David Gilmour's 'On An Island' and the first of the two 'Planet Earth Rock and Roll band' albums (Crosby was in prison at the time of the second or no doubt he'd have been on that too!) as well as the usual SNY family solo stuff. That lot amounts to one album every 21 months (or 28 albums in 49 years).

10) 27 Albums: Nicky Hopkins (2 Who, 4 Kinks, 9 Stones, 1 solo with some Stones, 1 Airplane, 1 Garfunkel, 1 Beatles, 1 Harrison, 2 Lennon, 1 Garcia, 1 McCartney, 1 Carl Wilson, 1 Nils Lofgren, 1 Gene Clark)

Finally on this list, a name you might not have been expecting! originally when I started putting this list together I expected session musicians to dominate it - I seemed to be writing the names of Jim Keltner, Hal Blaine and Steve Gadd an awful lot in my layouts and yet to my surprise only one Nicky played on enough records to qualify. Pianist Hopkins plays on all sorts of key AAA albums: to give you a sample that's him roaring his way through The Who's 'My Generation' debut LP and playing on 'Won't Get Fooled Again'; that's him on just about every Stones LP somewhere between 1967's 'Between The Buttons' and 1981's 'Tattoo You', that's him Ray Davies wrote his scatching song 'session man' about on 'Face To Face' (although Nicky doesn't seem to have taken it to heart and appears on the next the previous Kinks album and the next two as well) plus the 'Jamming With Edward' LP (credited to Nicky along with Stones Mick Jagger, Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman plus guitarist Ry Cooder), the first Jerry 'Garcia' album, 'Revolution' from The Beatles' 'White Album' plus solo records by all four Beatles: Lennon's 'Mind Games' and 'Walls and Bridges', McCartney's 'Flowers In The Dirt', Harrison's 'Living In The Material World' and a whole heap of Ringo's records, the first eponymous 'Carl Wilson' LP, Nils Lofgren's 'Night Fades Away', Jefferson Airplane's 'Volunteers', Art Garfunkel's 'Fate For Breakfast' and Gene Clark's last posthumous LP. Given that Nicky died incredibly young (at the age of 50 in 1994) and his first recorded album for 'us' is The Who's 'My Generation in 1965 that amounts to one album approximately every 13 months  (or 26 albums in 29 years). Remember: the AAA discography is just a sample of what Hopkins played on across three decades: he also worked with Quicksilver Messenger Service, Joe Cocker, Marc Bolan, Carly Simon and recorded his own solo LPs. By the way he might have been even higher up the list had Decca physically credited him for appearing on Cat Stevens' debut 'Matthew and Son' - most sources say that's him on the title track but as there's no accreditation on the record or any re-issues we've decided not to 'allow' that one for now!

So there we have it! The ten musicians who, more than anyone else, have contributed to this website - all I have to do now is keep up with them and fill in the missing reviews! Another of those - and the first is another occasional series of top tens, featuring the best of the 'solo/.compilation/live album' mini-reviews I've been fleshing out for my Beach Boys book, will be along next week...

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