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Keith Cronin presents:

Drum Licks from HELL

I created this page several years ago, and have been delighted to see how popular it became. This page represents a brief attempt at amassing a collection of "drum licks from Hell" - those jaw-dropping, how the hell did he DO that licks, as played by some of my favorite drummers.

My goal here was to expose more drummers to some amazing playing that might not be well-known or readily available; hence, you'll see no clips from well-known or currently popular recordings, or drumming chestnuts like Steve Gadd's 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, or Alex Van Halen's Hot for Teacher, etc. Some of these are from obscure or out-of-print recordings, but they're all worthy of listening and study. Enjoy!

Don't forget to check out my Drum Grooves of Doom page!



Now, on to the licks!

Click on the CD cover photos to listen.



Toto - Jeff Porcaro, drums Here's the first one, from the late, great Jeff Porcaro. It's from a song called How Many Times, from an obscure Toto CD called Kingdom of Desire.

Jeff was a very humble guy, frequently saying things like I have no chops, or my time sucks. I think this track proves him wrong.

Missing Persons - Terry Bozzio, drums Next we have Terry Bozzio, with a brief solo from the Missing Persons song Windows, from their first CD, Spring Session M (also found on their greatest hits CD).

It took me ages to figure this one out, particularly the sick-puppy flam lick.

Rosco Martinez - Vinnie Colaiuta, drums Here's Vinnie Colaiuta, playing on Florida guitarist/singer Rosco Martinez' self-named CD, on a song called Neon Moonlight.

All I can say is ouch!

Rickie Lee Jones - Steve Gadd, drums Ahhh - the Master. Steve Gadd. This lick probably inspired both Porcaro and Vinnie. And about a million other drummers.

I still remember the first time I heard Chuck E's in Love, from Rickie Lee Jones' first CD. Gadd's playing was (and is) the epitome of finesse.

Blues Brothers - Steve Jordan, drums One of my favorite drummers is Steve Jordan. On the live Blues Brothers CD Made In America, he defines what a good sideman should be - punchy, solid, and tasty, and with the backbeat of doom. Here's a rare drum solo by Steve from the last track on this CD, Going Back to Miami.
Gino Vannelli - Mark Craney, drums The late Mark Craney first came to my attention with his playing on Appaloosa, the opening track on Gino Vannelli's Brother to Brother. I'd include the whole song here if I had room - it's a veritable dictionary of great fusion grooves and fills. But this one on Feel Like Flying was always the most baffling to me. It's beautiful, but what the hell is he doing?
Stanley Clarke - Steve Gadd, drums This is a long one (4.5 MB), but it's worth it - it was literally a life-changer for me. This is the first example of the drumming of Steve Gadd I ever heard, and to this day I think it's some of his best. From Stanley Clarke's Journey to Love, this is a part of Concerto for Jazz/Rock Orchestra. I'd never heard ghost notes like THIS, and the precision of his left-hand triplets on the snare towards the end of the clip is just unbelievable.
Bill Stewart - drums Bill Stewart is rapidly becoming one of my favorite jazz drummers. This solo from Dewey Said, off his solo CD Think Before You Think shows how musical he is, in addition to having probably the nicest touch I've heard on a snare drum since Philly Joe. Check out the free-form crush rolls around the kit at the end - nice!
John Patitucci - Vinnie Colaiuta, drums Vinnie Colaiuta does some sick things with a Reggae groove on John Patitucci's Kingston Blues, from his excellent On The Corner CD. This disc also features some incredible drumming by Dave Weckl, Al Foster, and Alex Acuna.
Maynard Ferguson - Dan D'Imperio, drums Here's an oldie but a goodie: Danny D'Imperio's solo on the late, great Maynard Ferguson's version of Livin' for the City, from his Chameleon CD. I was very influenced by big band drummers, and this was the first time I had heard "artificial" note groupings like the 4:3 groupings Dan uses in the third and fourth bar of his solo. The drum sounds are a little dated now, but the coolness of the lick remains. Plus, I just love the way Danny kicks the band!
Journey - Steve Smith, drums Here's another 4:3 lick - a much faster one from Steve Smith, from the days when his drumming with Journey was defining what "arena rock" was supposed to sound like. The song is Separate Ways, from Journey's Frontiers CD. There are more cool fills later in the song, but this one was the most evil.
Bill Stewart - drums Bill Stewart again - just a quick example of how he combines his snare chops with some tasty independence, from I'm Getting Sentimental Over You, from the same solo CD. Many drummers inflict their independence (hard-won from studying the Chapin book) on music, whereas Bill uses it to actually support and complement the soloist. Nice one-handed crushes toward the end of the clip, while keeping the ride going.
John Patitucci - Dave Weckl, drums Dave Weckl plays some serious stuff on Wind Sprint, from the first solo CD from John Patitucci. Like the other Patitucci disc mentioned on this page, this CD features a LOT of great drumming, including Peter Erskine and Vinnie Colaiuta. It's worth hunting for!
Marty Friedman - Deen Castronovo, drums. Click links to right. Deen Castronovo: If they've heard of him at all, most people only know him for his drumming in Bad English and now Journey. But this guy is proof that there's more to life than just Peart and Portnoy. I'm including a bunch of clips of Deen, because for sheer percussive testosterone, I've never heard anybody that can touch this guy! Check out these excerpts from Marty Friedman's solo CD Dragon's Kiss:
Cacophony - Deen Castronovo, drums. Click links to right. More brutal drumming from Deen Castronovo, in these excerpts from the Marty Friedman/Jason Becker Cacophony CD Go Off!:
Al Jarreau - Steve Gadd, drums We're In This Love Together from Al Jarreau's Breakin' Away CD features a classic Steve Gadd lick, based on the Chuck E's in Love lick, but with a twist. At a session I did with Tris Imboden, Tris showed me how to do the one-handed cross-stick flams that had always baffled me. With the tip of the stick held against the head of the snare, bring the butt of the stick down on the rim of the first rack tom, then rapidly dropping onto the snare rim for a flam effect. Slick! This whole CD is great, featuring awesome drumming from Gadd and Porcaro.
Robbie Robertson - Manu Katché, drums Robbie Robertson's first solo CD featured one of the cooler linear grooves I've heard in a while, played by Manu Katché on a song called Somewhere Down the Crazy River. This hard-to-find CD also features great drumming by U2's Larry Mullen, Jr. and Terry Bozzio - a pretty diverse spectrum of drummers!
Medeski Martin & Wood - Billy Martin, drums While this clip from Billy Martin's drum intro to Latin Shuffle is not jaw-droppingly hard, it's very clever. I dig the way he shifts smoothly from 6/8 to 4/4, morphing two fairly traditional jazz beats into a combination I've never heard before. The song is from Medeski Martin and Wood's CD Combustication.
Joe Satriani - Manu Katché, drums Here's another clip of Manu Katché, in a brief solo from a song called If from Joe Satriani's self-named CD. You can hear shouts of approval in the background - a nice touch, and well-deserved.

This clip was sent in by a listener named Thrak - thanks for the suggestion!

Buddy Rich Okay, we all know Buddy Rich was incredible, but I wanted to feature a couple things he played that absolutely killed me, which some of you may not have heard. This first one is a ripping snare lick that totally raises the intensity of the song Machine, from the Buddy Rich Collection CD. This is my favorite BR disc - while it doesn't contain the classics we all know like West Side Story or Channel One Suite, it does contain some great big band arrangements, with Buddy kicking the band like nobody else could!
Tony Williams, drums. Click links to right. Here are a series of licks featuring Tony Williams, from the classic CD Tony Williams Lifetime - The Collection. Hell, the whole CD qualifies for posting here, but since I don't have room, here are a few choice excerpts:
Karizma - Vinnie Colaiuta, drums Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Check out the similarity between this snare lick by Vinnie Colaiuta to the accented snare roll Tony plays in Fred, above. Vinnie's added some left-hand accents, but the vibe is very similar. This is from Aliens (Ripped My Face Off), off the Karizma CD Document, another CD that is basically a dictionary of outrageous drumming.
Billy Sheehan and Talas - Mark Miller, drums Here's a drummer I wish more people knew about: Mark Miller from Talas, the band from Buffalo that spawned bass virtuoso Billy Sheehan. While their music wasn't always memorable, there was no question that these guys could play. Miller distinguished himself from many metal drummers of the era with lots of Tony-like flam licks, not common in this genre of music. Here's an example, at the end of a song called Do You Feel Any Better, a live track from this Billy Sheehan retrospective called The Talas Years. The flammed snare lick at the end, based on a 5-note grouping, is pretty slick.
Elvis wasn't King - Buddy was Buddy again, this time in a rare demonstration of his awareness of the less is more principle. Listen to the four incredibly placed snare shots he uses to kick the band on the shout chorus. It's not quite dotted eighths; it's not quite half-time triplets - it's just the perfect setup for the horn figure. I've played this song (Basically Blues, from the Buddy Rich Collection CD) in a big band, and I've NEVER pulled off this deceptively simple lick just right!
Tony MacAlpine - Deen Castronovo, drums This drum intro to The King's Cup is the first thing I ever heard Deen Castronovo play. It made me run out to the record store and see what else I could find with him on it. This cut is from the Tony MacAlpine CD Maximum Security. For my tastes, a little bit of MacAlpine goes a long way, but the drumming is terrific!
John Patitucci - Peter Erskine, drums Peter Erskine was one of my earliest influences - I saw him when he was still in his teens, playing with Stan Kenton, and I attended Indiana University shortly after he left. Here he is proving that you can play with a light touch and still absolutely SHRED, on a song called Searching, Finding, from John Patitucci's first solo CD.
Focus - proving yodeling can be fun. And now for something completely different. In 1973 this weird song with yodeling and flute solos came out, called Hocus Pocus, from a group called Focus. Here's a clip of most of the many drum breaks that drummer Pierre Van der Linden takes in the song. The fourth drum break is particularly noteworthy - it was my first exposure to the fast hand-to-foot licks most of us now associate with drummers like Tony Williams or Tommy Campbell. Thanks to Mike LaBelle for tracking down the full-length version of this song - the one sold on most CDs is an edited version that doesn't have all the cool licks!
Nik Kershaw - Vinnie Colaiuta, drums Here's another sick-puppy lick from the evil genius of Vinnie Colaiuta. From an incredibly hard to find Nik Kershaw CD called The Works, check out this fill from the song Don't Ask Me. Further proof that nobody's mind works quite like Vinnie's.
Gino Vannelli - Mark Craney, drums Here's another clip featuring Mark Craney, trading licks with bassist Jimmy Haslip on the title cut from Gino Vannelli's Brother to Brother CD. Thanks to Chris Brady for reminding me about this great track - this whole disc features some terrific playing, and is still a gas to listen to, even after (gulp) twenty-five years!
Ari Hoenig, drums Jeez, where do these guys keep coming from? I first learned about Ari Hoenig on the Cymbalholic forum, where I was blown away by his melodic approach to drums. This guy takes the concept of melodic drumming to a whole new level, playing many jazz tunes verbatim on a simple 4-piece kit. Here's Ari playing the Charlie Parker classic, Confirmation from his solo CD Time Travels. But lest you think he's some novelty solo drummer, check out his playing with other jazz groups - he's a beast! In particular I recommend the Jean Michel Pilc CD Welcome Home.
Tom Scott - Vinnie Colaiuta, drums Early in his session career, Vinnie Colaiuta cut a cool record with Tom Scott called Desire. Here are four excerpts from a funk tune called Stride, where Vinnie punctuates the song with some slick, creative drum breaks. Also check out the lick at the end, a blast of 32nd notes grouped in tens - very Gary Chaffee! Thanks to Mark Moralez for suggesting this - we've both slaved over that third lick with the pyscho triplets!
Boz Scaggs - Jeff Porcaro, drums Here's a rare drum solo from Jeff Porcaro. It's yet another example of the more aggressive side of Jeff's playing, which was just starting to surface before his life was tragically cut short. From the Boz Scaggs CD Other Roads, this excerpt from a song called I Don't Hear You shows that for a little guy, Jeff had a VERY big sound. Thanks again to Chris Brady for pointing this one out!
Led Zeppelin - John Bonham, drums Okay, as much as I love the sophisticated, complex drumming of guys like Colaiuta, Gadd, and Bozzio, there is still NO drum lick that gets my blood pumping like this one from the late great John Bonham. From Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy, this fill from D'yer Mak'er gets my vote as the Ultimate Manly Drum Fill of All Time. I freakin' LOVE this fill, from the slick rolling grace notes on the snare, to the perfectly timed hihat bark at its climax!

Obviously, this collection is far from complete, but I hope you enjoy it.


Happy drumming!

Keith Cronin



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