T-73. Chuck Leavell (118 points)
Total number of songs: 19
Average song score: 3.16
# of 5-point songs: 1 (Georgia on My Mind, live)
# of 4-point songs: 3 (Alberta, Alberta, live; Compared to What, live; Tumbling Dice, live)
Top 50 track bonus: none
Personnel bonus: #3 miscellaneous/multi-instrumentalist (piano) Chuck Leavell
Recommended listening: Alberta, Alberta, live
; Comin’ Home
; Down the Road A Piece, live
; Georgia on My Mind
; Tumbling Dice, live
This entry is a little bit different as it is kind of like a life-time achievement award. Chuck Leavell has come up a few times in the countdown already and will certainly come up again. Rock’s greatest pianist is not only one of my favorite musicians, but I find him to be one of the most fascinating people in the world.
For those who aren’t familiar with Chuck and haven’t read my previous posts about him, he was an official member of The Allman Brothers Band during their commercial zenith, where he wrote and performed the greatest piano solo of all time
(see the “Jessica” entry in my Allman Brothers thread, which discusses how Chuck was nearly as important in the development of the song as Dickey was).
Beyond that, for nearly 35 years he has been the primary piano player and musical director for The Rolling Stones. He was the founder and leader of the critically acclaimed jazz fusion group Sea Level and a key member of B.H.L.T. (both of whom have already appeared in the countdown). He was the pianist on Eric Clapton’s Unplugged
album, Gregg Allman’s Laid Back
album, and David Gilmour’s Live at Pompeii
album. In addition, he has played and recorded with Chuck Berry, Aretha Franklin, George Harrison, The Black Crowes, and Gov’t Mule. I know I’ve posted it before, but one of my favorite piano solos ever is Chuck’s solo on this version
of “Look on Yonder Wall.”
This entry is technically for Chuck’s solo work. He has put out several really good solo albums and occasionally tours with his own band, which is also really strong. Obviously, the ranking is significantly boosted by his personnel bonus, which I feel captures all his other musical contributions not covered elsewhere.
The fascinating thing about Chuck is that he is only a part-time musician. He spends a good chunk of his life serving as an award-winning tree farmer. If you get the chance, check out the documentary Chuck Leavell: The Tree Man
. Absolutely fascinating.
T-73. Ry Cooder (118 points)
Total number of songs: 41
Average song score: 2.83
# of 5-point songs: 1 (Dark End of the Street)
# of 4-point songs: 5 (Boomer’s Story; Crazy ‘bout an Automobile, live; Feelin’ Bad Blues; Jesus on the Mainline; Let’s Work Together)
Top 50 track bonus: none
Personnel bonus: none
Recommended listening: Feelin’ Bad Blues
; How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live, live
; Paris, Texas
; Tattler, live
, Tap ‘em Up Solid, live
; Too Tight Blues #2, live
Speaking of musicians with a Rolling Stones association, few of their collaborators can top Ry Cooder. The multi-instrumentalist is probably best known as a collaborator, not only with the Stones but also with John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal, Neil Young, Little Feat, Eric Clapton, and even Randy Newman. But he also did a lot of great solo stuff including composing soundtracks for a number of films such as Paris, Texas
We have a bunch of songs here, like “Dark End of the Street,” “Boomer’s Story,” and “Jesus on the Mainline” that have appeared elsewhere on the countdown. But we also have some great Cooder originals.
A really soulful slide player, Ry was close to getting a personnel bonus for guitar. I also considered him for a bonus on the multi-instrumentalist list. I love his mandolin playing on “Love in Vain