Neil Peart: A Conversation

Frequent visitors to this blog are aware that sometimes I post things that are controversial. Another drummer who I’m not that enamored by (for very different reasons) is…get ready…Neil Peart. What? Did he just say Neil Peart?…Yes I did. I will certainly admit that Peart is one of the most technically-talented drummers alive today. He is revered by many and drummers drive themselves crazy trying to mimic his parts. He is a master of playing odd time signatures and complicated polyrhythms. His solos are considered to be some of the best of all-time. Simply put, he is considered by many to be THE best of all-time.

That said, I prefer to listen to groove-based drummers like Steve Jordan and Steve Ferrone. Although he is filling in space within a trio I still find Peart in my opinion, overplaying. I simply can’t find what I would consider to be a traditional groove. There are a few songs that he limits his fills in. “Subdivisions” comes to mind. On the other hand, drummers like Jordan and Ferrone are able to lock in to a groove and stay there. Perhaps RUSH’s music doesn’t lend itself to that.

I may be totally off, my expertise with the RUSH catalog is lacking, but I’d venture to guess there are others who feel the same way. I’d also like to add that I am not criticizing Neil as a person. He seems like a really nice guy. His lyrics are exceptional. His books receive great reviews. His style is just not for me. I started a conversation over on Facebook to discuss this topic anticipating I would get blasted by RUSH fans. I was not. In fact, many shared my opinion.

My purpose with this post is not to insult Neil Peart. It’s just to show that many drummers, like myself, prefer the groove over monster chops. Here are the first ten thoughtful comments I received on Facebook:

  1. Jordan Hemsley: Overall I’d rather listen to a busier drummer like Neil, but then Levon Helm and Ringo are some of my favorites, so there’s that. Also, Neil’s style isn’t for everyone…
  2. Michael Lester: I think it all comes down to preference. I’m not a Rush fan, but I will listen to Neil for ideas and to try to get into his head. Lol. But I’d much rather listen to John Bonham. And his band is way cooler. Better songs too. Just my opinion!
  3. Hal Bowman: Peart – I get it. I respect it. I can appreciate it. At times, astounded by it. BUT…. never have I been musically/emotionally “moved” by it.
  4. David Osmar: I would rather listen to the technical abilities of Casey Scheuerell and Mark Craney.
  5. Richard Cole: I admire drummers I find more “musical.” While technically a master, Peart shows us how to get things to fit in time (polyrhythms, odd time signatures, etc.) with finesse, but I find Jeff Porcaro, John Bonham, Steely Dan and Oz Noy drummer Keith Carlock, and Steve Gadd to have more musical rhythm and “swing.”
  6. Woody Mike Emerson: Neil is my all-time favorite! But the “reggae” beats of Stewart Copeland of the Police gets me moving!
  7. James Barron: Neil was a big influence on me as a kid back in the late 70s and early 80s.That said, he started and influenced a lot of the drummers that have become the norm of today. Is he the most technical today? No, not by a long shot. Thomas Lang, Steve Smith, Vinny Calauta (sp), Dave Weckl are all way more technical than Neil ever thought about being.
  8. Eric Bartholomew: I can agree with this statement. (Maybe Neil is not quite “The greatest ‘technical’ drummer,” but I understand what you are saying.) As for myself, I do prefer the groove guys. But as far as prog rock goes, I like how what Neil plays, as busy as it may be, still fits the song.
  9. Dave Bloom: With all due respect to the Neil worshippers he is good, but he is certainly not the greatest technical drummer alive today. Steve Jordan is awesome. He is so smooth and owns the pocket.
  10. Gillan Arcoleo: Honestly I don’t like Neil Peart. He has many of the same little shows in his playing if you get down to it. I would rather listen to Terry Bozzio or Steve Gadd.

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