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Showing 1-10 of 80 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 110 reviews
on May 1, 2002
This book and CD combination examines the music of James Jamerson, the studio bassist on most of the early Motown hits. Until rather recently, Jamerson was unknown to the general public and not widely known to musicians. Nonetheless, his playing was very influential and many bassists today consider his playing the gold standard of bass guitar in popular music.
This book is valuable as a reference for the history of Motown, but it is primarily a teaching tool. It is organized into three parts. The first 78 pages give a biography of Jamerson and put his work into historical context. Part two (17 pages) is a compilation of data: descriptions of bass equipment, recording facilities, accompanists, and discography. Also included in this section is a four page "Appreciation of Style" by Anthony Jackson that attempts to analyze the musical elements that made Jamerson unique. Part three contains 90 pages of transcriptions of Jamerson bass lines and accompanying text. The transcriptions go with the CDs described below.
The CDs and transcriptions are the heart of the set. The CDs feature Motown tunes with the bass lines played by over two dozen "all-star" bassists (e.g Marcus Miller, Jack Bruce, John Entwistle). Bass is on the left channel with instrumental accompaniment on the right. The bass lines are transcribed by the author and the transcriptions are accompanied by short bios of the artists who play the lines. The tracks on the CDs are interspersed with short interviews of people who knew Jamerson. The artists reportedly donated their services as a tribute to Jamerson and the bass lines and accompaniment were recorded in a variety of circumstances. Many tracks are recorded in home studios. The quality varies, but all tracks are well played and all are useful teaching tools. I thought the variation of sounds would be a drawback, but it is a very interesting part of the project. The best Precision Bass tones are not necessarily from the artists you would expect. (Not everyone tries to duplicate Jamerson's tone. Geddy Lee was approached backstage at a concert and contributed "Get Ready" on either a Steinberger or a Rickenbacker. Lots of fun.)
The level of the transcriptions is somewhat advanced. Transcriptions are given in traditional bass staff (no tab) and the rhythms will give your reading skills a workout. There are very few specific comments about fingering, right-hand technique, or damping. Yet the range of difficulty is from dead simple (beautifully rendered) line to lines that will challenge the most advanced player. (The challenge is rhythm and feel not lots of note or big stretches.) Beginning to intermediate players can use this book, but will benefit greatly by using it with the help of a good teacher.
One can quibble with the historical overview. It is quite readable, but doesn't dig deeply into any of the tough issues it raises (e.g. Jamerson's drinking and emotional stability, Berry Gordy's business practices). Since the focus is on the music, some of this reticence is laudable. However, one important musical controversy that the author fails to pursue is the question of the true credit for recorded bass lines in the era when Motown was moving from Detroit to LA. (Many tracks were demoed by LA studio bassists and then cut by Jamerson as well. There is still debate as to which track made it to the final recording. The question is acknowledged, but no new information is brought forth.) Another musical deficit is that there is very little about the interplay between Jamerson and other members of the rhythm section. (This is in contrast to the author's better-written (if slightly less important) book on the James Brown rhythm sections.)
Even with those minor issues considers, this is an extremely valuable book. It is clearly a labor of love and will be an extremely valuable learning tool for any bassist with the fundamental skills (or support) necessary to ap
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on June 2, 2017
If you play electric bass, you kinda need to work through this book. Good look into the life of one of the most influential bass players ever. The transcriptions are 95-99% on the nose and the accompanying CD's with all the different bass players is really cool.
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on April 3, 2015
A great book for intermediate and advanced electric bass players which tells the story of the Godfather of electric bass playing James Jamerson. Also there are a bunch of pro bass players who play transcriptions (which are provided in print and on CD's) of some of the hits he played on for Motown. There is also a bass exercise in there that he used to develop his chops on the electric bass. Very good job by the author. Highly recommended book about a bass man that all bass players should know about.
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on June 26, 2017
I'm a big fan, inspired by this legendary musician. It's great to know that material such as this is still around for my generation. R.I.P Mr.Jamerson Sr. & Jr.
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on March 9, 2008
I've always been a fan of Motown but of the singers, now I'm starting to realize I shouldn't give the singers all the credit, it was the producers, songwriters, and musicians who made the artists become hits. If it wasn't for the unique, special Funk Brothers who knows if the Motown artists would have become as successful as they did. It doesn't matter how good of a singer a singer is, if the music ain't right, the singer ain't gonna sound good. Its that something special about the Motown Sound that sparks something in our minds, hearts, and souls, the music complimented the singers excellently. James Jamerson was just a handsome, wonderful, real, interesting, talented person. Its sad he had to get recognition after he passed on. It seems the only way to become a legend is to die first then people appreciate you more, well this book taught me to love and praise people while their alive that's what keeps them going. All James wanted in his last days was recognition and to know he did make a difference in the world of music. This book taught me to appreciate the musicians, songwriters, and producers, the people behind the scenes, who made it possible for the music to become timeless, sometimes we give the singers too much credit.

It was interesting for me to read most of the Funk Brothers didn't even like Rock N Roll or Soul music, they were really jazz fans and wanted to play jazz, so it shows how gifted they were to still play soul music effectively even though it wasn't their cup of tea. Another reason why Motown sound is so appealing and fresh is because the Funk Brothers laced different genres of music into the soul music and tried new things with the music creating the Motown Sound, a sound in its own class.
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on August 14, 2014
This gets "10" stars cause this guy was amazing. BUT, I would like to add that while the CD's are awesome and awe-inspiring, and the book itself is very interesting, you'd better be able to read music to learn from the book itself.

I'm not a trained musician but I've played guitar 20 years now, in bands, etc. But I don't know how to read sheet music, so I have to learn stuff by Tab or by ear. So I personally get more use out of the CD's, because I can figure out what he's doing in my head with the bass parts separated, whereas the music written in the book is chinese math to me.

Seriously, a version with added tablature would be awesome....!!
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on July 15, 2011
All those years ago when I was taking lesson on how to play bass and read the bass clef, my tutor got me to buy a book "Rock Riffs for Bass" which covered a wide variety of bassists and bass styles. Amongst the most influential bass players mentioned in this book was James Jamerson, The Mowtown Sound. I had never heard of him but I had heard many of the songs he recorded coming out of the radio but at the time I was more into players like John Entwistle, Jack Bruce, John Paul Jones etc, so his significance passed me by. Many, many years later I saw the movie "Standing in the Shadows of Mowtown" and again James was one of the featured musicians, I took more notice but never really investigated further. Just recently I was listening to some of Marvin Gaye's music and while focussing on the bass sound it prompted me to do a search on the web to read a bit more about this bass player. I found this book and based on the reviews I read, decided to buy it. Even though it was written in the late 80's the telling of his life story and transcription of his playing remains timeless. It could easily be a textbook for budding musicians and the Cd's included are an added bonus. James was an inovator and as it always seems with genius, recognition of their contribution happens after their flame burns out.
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on April 21, 2017
The book is pretty fine. The only thing I would like to comment that this is not so up-to-date ( all the 'present-day' information refers to 1980's ). I also expected the book to go in greater detail explaining James Jamerson's approach to building his bass lines.
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on March 21, 2013
Haven't really dug into the CD's yet, but the book is very informative about the dealings of Motown and how Jame's life unfolded. Of course, every gear hog wants to know about what equipment techniques are used, and there's some of that in there, too. It's a shame that another talented individual came to an untimely death due to inner demons that cause them to self-destruct.
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on September 2, 2017
cool book with bassist histories and sheet music
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