Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Power Trios 101: The Art of Noise


Power trios are are pretty amazing and critical phenomenon in rock history, rising in the 1960's when full scale assault was possible through amplification technology, as in Cream and Jimi Hendrix. The power trio was the ultimate home of the guitar hero; the man who could take on the whole audience on his own, walking the tightrope with the bassist and drummer providing the safety net.


Blue Cheer, the seminal proto-metal band was also a trio, as was Grand Funk and Motorhead.

Loud, bombastic, massive long sets, heavy bass, distortion; it all made up for the fact that there were only three in the band. The James Gang, Budgie, ZZ Top, The Robin Trower Band; all trios.


Prog rock also had it's power trios, often leaving out the guitar and replacing it with keyboards, pretty amazing when you consider the complexity of the music: Soft Machine, The Nice, Rush and Emerson, Lake and Palmer all relied on only three members.

Many of these bands relied on creative multi-instrumentalisation rather than power to fill in the sound.

1. Geddy Lee from Rush simultaneously sings, plays bass, and plays keyboard with foot pedals.

2. Boris, the Japanese experimental trio compensate by using a double neck instrument with one neck being a guitar and one neck being a bass.

3. King Crimson could sound like a power trio but they referred to themselves as a 'double power trio" (two drummers, two bassists, two drummers)


One of the most famous power trios of recent years is, of course, Nirvana. Kurt Cobain followed the challenging tradition of trios in playing guitar, singing and writing all of the songs for the band. The Melvins, their inspiration, is also a fantastic trio.

One of the most recent is a band that calls on the tradition from the late 60's, Aussie born Wolfmother. They are band that is well aware of the tradition they come from. (Cog are another aussie band trio but more progressive)

Here's a good list of power trio albums that includes some of the great trios of jazz

Here is Ten great tracks (leaving out the dead obvious ones), like Purple Haze, Blue Cheers' Summertime, Sunshine of Your Love, Ace of Spadesetc

1. NSU Cream
2. If Six Was Nine- Hendrix
3. Satisfaction- Blue Cheer
4. Sword of Glory- Motorhead
5. The Barbarian- ELP
6. Woman- James Gang
7. Ten Dollar Man- ZZ Top
8. Electric- Boris
9. Revolve- The Melvins
10. Very Ape - Nirvana

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