For most Jamaican musicians, keeping the island vibe parochial is a key to their international identity, for most – but not for Phil Chen, who passed away today, December 14th, aged 75. No, the great bassman, as Phil preferred to call himself, had a lot of skank in his playing, yet it was the mighty melodic layer of what Chen did that elevated him to the ranks of rock royalty. Of course, this artist’s profile hit the peak when Phil joined Rod Stewart’s band and appeared on popular tunes, including “Hot Legs” and “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” – although watching him on video or live, some people used to mistake him, a guy of Chinese origin, for Tetsu Yamauchi – yet he landed that gig thanks to playing on Jeff Beck’s revolutionary “Blow By Blow” on which Chen emerged as a co-writer of “Air Blower” and a fusion force par excellence.
Earlier, soon after his relocation to the United Kingdom, Phil left his mark on such chart entries as Linda Lewis’ “Rock-a-Doodle-Doo” and Jim Capaldi’s “It’s All Up to You” and was also a member of BUTTS BAND alongside John Densmore and Robby Krieger, joining the latter in the 2000’s and appearing with the guitarist as late as 2019, and also penned “Pop-A-Top” with Jess Roden for the group’s debut album. Chen’s low-end can be heard on Gary Boyle’s "Electric Glide" and EURHYTHMICS’ “Revenge”; he took part in Brian May and Roger Taylor’s projects; he even recorded with Lita Ford and Bo Diddley – the span of the veteran’s stylistic reach seemed immense. Not for nothing he received Jamaican Order of Distinction in 2014.
We were in touch for years and even started an interview long ago – left unfinished, for good now. Sleep well, old friend, De Bassman.
If there’s ever been a famous musician who could be called a Todd Rundgren aficionado, it’s Fernando Perdomo: the American guitarist follows and loves his idol output to such an extent that he issued “TRGTR” – a special album dedicated to the veteran – in February of 2021. Fern also produced a multi-artist homage to Paul McCartney‘s “Ram” three months later, so he’s no stranger to covering a revered record in its entirety. Still, giving such a treatment to one of the most adored double LP doesn’t seem to be a mean treat, yet February 1st, 2022 will see the release of “Someone/Anyone?” – the 50th Anniversary “TRibute” to “Something/Anything?” – which is to feature a plethora of wonderful performers, including such luminaries as Rundgren’s longtime associate Kasim Sulton, Marshall Crenshaw, Jordan Rudess, Ken Sharp and Louise Goffin.
One of the well-respected, if criminally underrated, bass players, Chas Cronk is mostly famous for his decades-long, if intermittent, stint with STRAWBS, but there’s more to his creative biography, including spells with Rick Wakeman and Steve Hackett. What it almost doesn’t include is a solo career, as the veteran releases only one album under his name, the meditative “Mystic Mountain Music” from 2002, although Cronk’s trademark songwriting and playing were a major part of “Touch The Earth” – his 2007 collaboration with the bandmate Dave Lambert, who’s present on Chas’ sophomore offering.
Composer, author, photographer and, first and foremost, guitarist, Andy Summers could be called a Renaissance man if most of his interest didn’t seem to revolve around art and if what he does wasn’t so contemporary, and “Harmonics Of The Night” – the master’s latest album – is a testament to that.
This also means seeing the veteran only as a former member of THE POLICE is a criminal underestimation of Summers’ manifold talents, which was why this scribe tried to avoid digging into the band’s stories during our conversation, a chat lasting twice as long as Andy planned and touching on much more interesting subjects.
Prog rock has been rotting for decades now. It’s impossible to hear original sounds today, when every influence is within reach, because everyone tends to snap to a prefab sonic template instead of going back to roots and trying to construct something new upon a stable foundation. Such an IKEA approach might be convenient yet it’s also lazy where creativity is involved.