Neil Peart - Anatomy of a Drum Solo Review
By Travis Becker
As a non-drummer, Neil Peart's Anatomy of a Drum Solo threatened to overwhelm me several times as I pored over the hours of content crammed into two DVD's. While I won't be heading out to make a name for myself behind the kit for an arena-touring rock band, my appreciation for the art and science of drumming has been born. I've always known, I suppose, that the drums are really what make Rock and Roll what it is. They represent the primal, driving, foundation of the music. They're what get your feet tapping, and what makes folks get up and dance even and especially if they've had a few too many. Of late, the drums have been relegated to a supporting role in rock, but once they were a focal point of any rock performance and the drum solo stood as the nexus. Neil Peart of Rush has maintained the art and carried the torch throughout it all. Since the early Seventies, he has pushed the art forward in a much more visible position than some of the other masters of drumming, such as Terry Bozzio, who cater more towards skins-enthusiasts and hardcore musicians. Anatomy of a Drum Solo approaches drumming from a point of view that is, at once, accessible and still purely technical enough to please people coming from the world of drumming and those novices looking for a little enlightenment.
The first disc of the set presents the program proper as Peart explains his history as a drummer, his influences, and a little about what inspires him. He continues on to break down the solo he performed on Rush's thirtieth anniversary tour in 2004, "Der Trommler". He covers everything from the tempos and time signatures he employs, the narratives the solo takes on to the advantages of using a traditional grip versus the more modern "mash" grip (or maybe "match"). Apologies to drum people if I got this wrong, he's Canadian for God's sake-I could barely understand him at times! As a worshipper of the Ramones, for whom the drums are the back beat, hearing about drum solos in waltz time, and featuring African call and response passages was a revelation, and I may never listen to drumming on a Rock record the same way again. Even his long dialogues on equipment were fascinating as Peart explained both the acoustic kit he uses and the "back kit" he employs for the part of the solo featuring electronic drums complete with electronic symbols, samples, and MIDI. Several multi-angle features also grace this disc and there are prompts to cut into other compositions and solos by Peart as he explains them in the context of "Der Trommler."
In the way of bonus features, these two discs are loaded. Two explorations highlight the set. Each of these thirty-plus minute solos feature Peart doing just what it sounds like, exploring what interests him in the course of an expanded solo and warm-up. They run a bit long, but the experience proves worthwhile to hear that kind of sheer improvisation. Bonus performances also lace the discs, including three extra solos each from a different tour and two songs in their entirety from the 30th anniversary show filmed from a drums-only perspective.
The Rush in Rio solo remains fairly similar to "Der Trommler" with some subtle exceptions, including the fact that Peart begins the Rio solo on the "front kit" and the 30th anniversary solo on the "back kit" which makes a huge difference in the dynamics and structure of the solo as a whole. Interviews with Peart's drum tech and Rush's producer, Paul Northfield, and featurettes on Peart's signature cymbals and the assembly of his massive kit round out the collection, and there's even a transcription of the solo for real drummers tucked away on the DVD-Rom content.
Taken in its entirety, Anatomy of a Drum Solo looms as quite the imposing collection of drum-related information and entertainment. The basically technical nature and hefty price tag will appeal mostly to Rush collectors and serious drummers. However, taken in smaller pieces, this collection provides a very accessible look into the world of drumming hosted by one of rocks most innovative and talented musicians. Peart engages his audience and speaks with knowledge and aplomb about his passion and about the many people who came before him who allowed him to achieve the level of excellence he has achieved at his chosen instrument. Make no mistake, this collection is a mouthful, but if you spend some time chewing it all up, it provides an amazing and satisfying experience. Give it a try and you wont' hear rock drumming the same way again either.
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Neil Peart - Anatomy of a Drum Solo
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