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Old 09-12-2008, 09:58 AM
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Best backing bands of all time.

I've been in a soul music mood for the last few days, and Youtube has given me this live performance by Sam and Dave, and this live performance by Otis Redding, which have given rise in my mind that the Stax band (aka the Mar-Keys, aka Booker T. and the MG's) might well be the best backing band of all time. In that Otis Redding clip the band nearly blows him off the stage at the songs crescendo. You have to be pretty damned good to nearly blow Otis Redding off the stage.

But then there's the JB's, James Brown's famous backing band, or Miles Davis' various bands who include a virtual Who's Who of jazz giants.

So what are some of the other best backing bands of all time?
Old 09-12-2008, 10:02 AM
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The Funk Brothers (Motown's house band)
The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section & Horns
Old 09-12-2008, 10:04 AM
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The Band's backup work for Bob Dylan is pretty darn impressive. Not soul, but still...

Last edited by NicePete; 09-12-2008 at 10:05 AM.
Old 09-12-2008, 10:08 AM
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The E Street Band

Crazy Horse
Old 09-12-2008, 10:12 AM
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The Attractions

Alice Cooper's original band

The Spiders from Mars
Old 09-12-2008, 10:14 AM
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The [Jimi Hendrix] Experience
The Chieftains, backing up Van Morrison
Old 09-12-2008, 10:16 AM
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The Meters - the New Orleans funk/creole band that can play anything and back up a few folks

The Wrecking Crew - the studio crew who recorded all the the SoCal hits, including stuff by the Monkees and Partridge Family

The Revolution and the New Power Generation - Prince takes James Brown to another level
Old 09-12-2008, 12:05 PM
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"Weird Al" Yankovic has a seriously amazing backing band, especially when you consider the vast number of genres they must perform (sometimes changing by the minute). They've been with Al since near the beginning of his career too (drummer Jon Bermuda Schwartz first worked with Al by banging his accordion case for Another One Rides The Bus in 1980). Many people have a hard time taking Al & his band seriously as musicians until they actually see them perform live.
Old 09-12-2008, 03:11 PM
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I think the OP nailed it by mentioning Miles Davis' various bands. Consider the list of people participating on Live-Evil (in various constellations):
Miles Davis, trumpet;
Gary Bartz, soprano sax, alto sax;
John McLaughlin, guitar;
Keith Jarrett, electric piano, organ;
Michael Henderson, electric bass;
Jack DeJohnette, drums;
Airto Moreira, percussion;
Steve Grossman, soprano sax;
Chick Corea, electric piano;
Herbie Hancock, electric piano;
Dave Holland, electric bass, acoustic bass;
Hermeto Pascoal, drums, whistling, voice, electric piano;
Wayne Shorter, soprano sax;
Joe Zawinul, electric piano;
Khalil Balakrishna, electric sitar;
Billy Cobham, drums;
Ron Carter, acoustic bass

The keyboard/piano setup is particularly impressive: Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarret, Joe Zawinul. Nem Um Talvez features the first three at the same time!
Old 09-12-2008, 03:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus View Post
The E Street Band

Crazy Horse
But these were not separate bands with a life of their own. The Stax band even recorded on their own, as I believe some othe others mentioned did.

But this does not detract from the awesomeness of Alice Cooper's original band. They have not received the respect they deserve.
Old 09-12-2008, 03:25 PM
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Originally Posted by dropzone View Post
But these were not separate bands with a life of their own. The Stax band even recorded on their own, as I believe some othe others mentioned did.
So? That's what makes them backing bands.
Old 09-12-2008, 03:27 PM
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Booker T. and the MGs also had some awesome songs on their own, like "Green Onions" and "Hip Hug Her". They also covered the entire Abby Road album in 1970 on an album called Maclemore Avenue.

Their backup keyboard player was Issac Hayes.

For my money, they were the best there ever was. They were more than the sum of their parts. Even the fabled Wrecking Crew didn't have that kind of synergy.
Old 09-12-2008, 03:31 PM
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The Heartbreakers
and the Hooters on Cyndi Lauper's first album
Old 09-12-2008, 03:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus View Post
So? That's what makes them backing bands.
I suppose we're using different definitions. I think of your examples as dependant on a specific lead singer, who is an integral part of the band. A backing band, to me, and I think from their examples, to some other people in this thread, are hired guns, able to back anybody they're hired to back.

(looking at both bands' history) Okay, Crazy Horse qualifies. And I suppose the E Street Band does, too. But NOT The Spiders From Mars or The Attractions.
Old 09-12-2008, 07:30 PM
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Nik Turner's backing band for the "Space Ritual 1994" tour consisted of:

Del Dettmar (ex-Hawkwind member, playing the double-bitted wood axe synthesizer)
Alan Powell (ex-Hawkwind)
Paul Della Pelle

and

Len Del Rio, Tommy Grenas, and Paul Fox (i.e., the band Pressurehed--excellent industrial/spacerock)

plus

Helios Creed
Genesis P-Orridge
Old 09-12-2008, 08:49 PM
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Whoever's backing up Chuck Berry tonight. They're to be onstage, set up, when Chuck arrives. No set list, no soundcheck. Chuck plugs in and starts playing, and they're expected to keep up.
Old 09-12-2008, 09:16 PM
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Like Miles Davis, one of Frank Zappa's talents was putting together great bands.

One of my favorite concert videos Joni Mitchell's Shadows and Light - w/Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, Lyle Mays, Don Alias, and Michael Brecker
Old 09-12-2008, 09:27 PM
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I've thought for a long time that this Japanese singer, aiko, has an absolutely top-notch backup band, though I don't know if they have a name unto themselves:

Taking a page out of the James Brown/Stax book:
Part 1 - http://youtube.com/watch?v=E6NEo5OgrjI
Part 2 - http://youtube.com/watch?v=Ul2x0gGfj5Q
Part 3 - http://youtube.com/watch?v=QU1q7HJePjg

Or if you don't want to watch a 12-minute medley, here's a condensed 4-minute version from an earlier performance (before she added the horn section):

http://youtube.com/watch?v=ZNbXnXbh8ho

(Though I prefer the left-handed bass player she usually uses.)
Old 09-12-2008, 11:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 42fish View Post
The Funk Brothers (Motown's house band)
My vote also. Ever seen Standing in the Shadows of Mo-Town? Decent film, outstanding soundtrack.
Old 09-12-2008, 11:44 PM
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There's that Roy Orbison black-and-white concert that PBS airs during its fundraising drives. From here:
Quote:
Put together by musical director, T-Bone Burnett, Orbison was accompanied by a supporting backing band which included many notable musical performers. All were fans who volunteered to participate in the special. Other celebrity admirers of Orbison were in the audience, including Billy Idol, Sandra Bernhard and Kris Kristofferson. The backing band was the TCB Band, which accompanied Elvis Presley from 1969 until his death in 1977: Glen D. Hardin on piano; James Burton on lead guitar; Jerry Scheff on bass; and Ronnie Tutt on drums. Male background vocalists, with some also joining in on guitar, were: Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther, Steven Soles. Singing the female background vocals were k.d. lang, Jennifer Warnes, and Bonnie Raitt.
Now that's a hell of a band.
Old 09-13-2008, 12:07 AM
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Actually, as was pointed out in another CS thread recently, the group that played backup for Linda Ronstadt's early recordings went on to record on their own. You may have heard of them -- most of their music was written by band members Don Henley and Glenn Frey. Something about a bird, I think, IIRC.
Old 09-13-2008, 12:23 AM
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Originally Posted by bradministrator View Post
Whoever's backing up Chuck Berry tonight. They're to be onstage, set up, when Chuck arrives. No set list, no soundcheck. Chuck plugs in and starts playing, and they're expected to keep up.
We may have a winner in a special catagory, "I wish I was one of them but I'm glad I'm not." Old man can still rock. OTOH, it's not like those songs are not in every musician's DNA by now.

(aside to the kids) Are they? I mean, given a bar from "Maybelline" you can turn on your autopilot and keep up, right?
Old 09-13-2008, 06:53 AM
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Originally Posted by bradministrator View Post
Whoever's backing up Chuck Berry tonight. They're to be onstage, set up, when Chuck arrives. No set list, no soundcheck. Chuck plugs in and starts playing, and they're expected to keep up.
I have a friend who did this - not fun. Don't get me wrong - I worship all this Chuck but he doesn' talk or look at the band, launches into a song that he plays a sort of bad haiku version of and expects you to keep up.

No eye towards quality - just lookin' to get paid. His right at this point but *sigh*
Old 09-13-2008, 07:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vibrotronica View Post
Booker T. and the MGs also had some awesome songs on their own, like "Green Onions" and "Hip Hug Her". They also covered the entire Abby Road album in 1970 on an album called Maclemore Avenue.

Their backup keyboard player was Issac Hayes.

For my money, they were the best there ever was. They were more than the sum of their parts. Even the fabled Wrecking Crew didn't have that kind of synergy.
I'll second Crazy Horse, but I'll note that I've seen Neil Young playing with Booker T and the MGs as his backing band. Which was nice.
Old 09-13-2008, 08:03 AM
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Originally Posted by WordMan View Post
I have a friend who did this - not fun.
I don't know, how hard can it be? The guy only wrote like three different songs and changed the words to them a few times.
Old 09-13-2008, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Cluricaun View Post
I don't know, how hard can it be? The guy only wrote like three different songs and changed the words to them a few times.
Sure - that's the premise, but try starting cold in front of a few thousand people where Chuck is doing one of his famous stop n' start licks leading into a song - but you can't tell which song because many are in the same key but have different stops and starts...not fun.
Old 09-13-2008, 12:02 PM
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This may be actually more of a collaboration, but what about Wilco "backing up" Billy Bragg on the "Mermaid Avenue" CDs?
Old 09-13-2008, 12:14 PM
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Linda Ronstadt's backup band, better known as The Eagles, has got to be on the list somewhere.
Old 09-13-2008, 12:19 PM
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Post #21, to be precise.
Old 09-13-2008, 01:26 PM
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Not really a band per se, but the prolific Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare come to mind.
Old 09-13-2008, 10:24 PM
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Gabriel's first touring band wasn't too shabby:

Peter Gabriel: vocals
Robert Fripp (aka "Dusty Roads"): electric guitar
Steve Hunter: rhythm guitar
Larry Fast: synthesizer
Allan Schwartzenberg: drums
Tony Levin: bass
Jim Maelen: percussion
Jozef Chirowski: keyboards
Old 09-14-2008, 12:00 AM
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The Brian Setzer Orchestra.

Example
Old 09-14-2008, 03:48 PM
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Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Post #21, to be precise.
So much for using the "find word" feature instead of reading the thread thoroughly, huh?
Old 09-14-2008, 03:59 PM
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The Dap-Kings are the best thing about Amy Winehouse.
Old 09-14-2008, 08:06 PM
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I think the Tower of Power horn section ought to be considered one of the best. Consider this partial list of groups that have hired them as a backing band:

Little Feat
The Monkees
Santana
Al Kooper
Elton John
Linda Lewis
John Lee Hooker
Rod Stewart
Jefferson Starship
Jose Feliciano
Heart, Huey Lewis and the News (toured with them extensively)
Big Brother and the Holding Company
Spyro Gyra
Lyle Lovett
Poison
B. B. King
Phish
Toto
Aerosmith

(And that's just a small sample. The whole list can be found here:

http://towerofpower.com/2007/ind...ask=view&id=62)
Old 09-14-2008, 09:30 PM
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The Band.

edited to say I missed on the first readthrough of the thread. But it's true.

Last edited by Purd Werfect; 09-14-2008 at 09:31 PM.
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