50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2

5th Nov 2009 | 15:38

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Steve Smith
Onstage with Journey's Steve Perry in Quebec, 1981

Following the 50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1, here, as promised, is the second half. These are the top 25 sticksmen to ever grace a throne - compiled by our friends at Rhythm Magazine but chosen by the all-voting, all-drumming and all-opinionated readers.

So, if you missed part 1, start here. If not, sit back, pick up a stick to twirl (or hit yourself with, if you don’t agree with the order - hey, it’s reader-voted, remember!?) and scroll through to find the very greatest. First up at 25: Journey’s Steve Smith…

Why is he great?

From filling arenas with Journey, Steve Smith has become a connoisseur and collector of global grooves on Vitalization, with his fusion band Vital Information.

You say:

“Steve Smith’s DVDs demonstrate that he is a drum scholar of the highest order, while his ability to play pop, rock, jazz and fusion make him the perfect all-rounder.” (Frank Drew, Stockport)

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Recommended listening

Steve Smith – Drum Set Technique / History Of The U.S. Beat (DVD)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Jojo Mayer
With NERVE

Why is he great?

His crazy drum’n’bass beatz used to be ‘prohibited’, but thanks to his world-conquering Secret Weapons… tuition DVD, we can all have a go.

You say:

“He is innovative, a great teacher, has a great groove and has inspired me to play the drums.” (Sean White, Reading)

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Recommended listening

Jojo Mayer - Secret Weapons For The Modern Drummer (DVD) (2007)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Chris Adler
... and a double kick setup

Why is he great?

Lamb Of God define modern heavy metal, and Adler’s work behind the kit on their hardhitting last album Wrath is one of their major assets.

You say:

“He has great power and speed, and can come up with incredibly technical double bass patterns.” (Richard Youngs, Lowestoft)

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Recommended listening

Lamb Of God - Wrath (2009)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Vinnie Colaiuta
At Rhode Island's JVC Jazz Festival

Why is he great?

Proved, over a stunning career, he can do everything from groundbreaking rock (Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage) to sublime pop (Sting’s Ten Summoner’s Tales). And do it exceptionally well.

You say:

“The most complete, versatile drummer ever. No other drummer plays with the same passion, commitment and energy as Vinnie. He’s still raising the bar!” (Andie Laidlaw, Huddersfield)

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Recommended listening

Frank Zappa - Joe's Garage: Acts I, II & III (1979)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Steve Gadd
"Feeling" the kit

Why is he great?

Suffused with that indefinable but essential quality of “feel”, session legend Gadd has lent his magic touch to albums by the likes of Paul Simon, Steely Dan and Eric Clapton.

You say:

“The master. ‘Late In the Evening’ and ‘50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’. Need I say more? Oh, okay then: ‘Aja’…” (Greg Phipps, Newbury)

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Recommended listening

Paul Simon - Still Crazy After All These Years (1975)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Phil Collins
Drumming at 2007's VH1 Rock Honors gig in Las Vegas

Why is he great?

Yeah, we know. but on early Genesis LPs like The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Collins was dazzling even by prog standards.

You say:

“Knows how to play the arse off a top fusion tune and play straight eights solidly. And always did the right thing for the music, even when the songs were shit!” (Nigel Powell, Abingdon)

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Recommended listening

Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Lars Ulrich
On the opening day of the 33rd Roskilde Festival, 2003

Why is he great?

You’ll find tighter technicians, but benchmarks like Master Of Puppets are built on chemistry, controlled by the fast-talking Dane.

You say:

“Lars plays what he feels and doesn’t just stick to one beat in a song. You can feel the energy in his drumming whatever Metallica song you listen to.” (Beckie Weare, Kent)

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Recommended listening

Metallica – Master Of Puppets (1986)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Nicko McBrain
At the Guitar Center Drum Off, Hollywood

Why is he great?

Replacing Clive Burr was a tough ask, but McBrain helped take Iron Maiden to new heights, peaking with the fantastic Seventh Son of A Seventh Son.

You say:

“His super fast right foot never goes out of time and the way he tunes his drums is so unique, I’ve never heard drums sound so great!” (Brandon Bolt, Newton Abbot)

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Recommended listening

Iron Maiden - Seventh Son of A Seventh Son (1988)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Ian Paice
With Deep Purple at the Rock Oz'Arenes festival, 2003

Why is he great?

Paicey’s playing on Deep Purple’s Made In Japan combined heavy rock with finesse, control and dynamics in abundance - still one of the greatest live album performances in rock.

You say:

“Ian Paice is the best drummer by a country mile - either live or in the studio, whether with Deep Purple, Whitesnake or PAL. He also has an excellent sense of humour!” (Gerald Clarke, Thornbury)

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Recommended listening

Deep Purple - Made In Japan (1972)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Danny Carey
A big fan of that occult symbol

Why is he great?

With the occult symbols on his kit, Tool sticksman Carey is impossible to figure out - like their music. Play Lateralus and you’ll see.

You say:

“Fast, groovy, technically thrilling, experimental and inspirational. Carey’s in a league of his own.” (James Emmott, Tenterden)

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Recommended listening

Tool - Lateralus (2001)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Ringo Starr
On location in the middle of Salisbury Plain, 1965

Why is he great?

Not so much playing for the song as being part of it, Ringo’s beats were integral to The Beatles’ music, particularly on the White Album.

You say:

“Because he plays what’s perfect for the song, and there’s no greater ability for a drummer to master. Long may he shine!” (Bob Green, Macclesfield)

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Recommended listening

The Beatles – The Beatles (White Album) (1968)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Ginger Baker
With Cream at Madison Square Garden, 1968 (from L-R: Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton)

Why is he great?

Baker’s light-footed technique kept Cream’s live jams from going sour, but it’s the sprawling solo spot in Toad, from 1966’s Fresh Cream, that will be his legacy.

You say:

“Where Ginger went, others followed. One of the first rockers to use double bass drums and play drum solos. Toad still blows me away.” (Martin West, Norwich)

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Recommended listening

Cream - Fresh Cream (1966)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Dave Weckl
...showing "dazzling proficiency", as usual

Why is he great?

Dave Weckl’s work with Chick Corea has cemented his place in fusion lore, while Multiplicity shows Weckl blending his dazzling proficiency with a funky sensibility.

You say:

“Dave Weckl’s amazing perfectionism inspired me so much as a kid that I ended up becoming a full-time drummer. To this day, there is no mistaking a Dave Weckl drum solo.” (Jean Van Wyngaardt, London)

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Recommended listening

Dave Weckl Band - Multiplicity (2005)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV (MP3) | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Stewart Copeland
With The Police (the toms read: 'f*ck off you c*nt'... how RUDE)

Why is he great?

Bringing reggae and jazz influences into the post-punk and new wave era, Copeland’s syncopated genius was exemplified on The Police’s breakthrough, Reggatta De Blanc.

You say:

“He establishes a rhythmic structure in every song that never collapses. His tuning’s spot on, his snare ‘snap’ unmistakable. Also, importantly, he knows when not to play.” (Jay McBeth, Coppell)

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Recommended listening

The Police - Reggatta De Blanc (1979)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Joey Jordison
With Slipknot touring All Hope Is Gone in Sacramento, 2009

Why is he great?

If the Slipknot man’s phenomenally evil beats weren’t enough (check their self-titled debut album or All Hope Is Gone for evidence), live Jordison does a solo on a revolving pentagram for good measure.

You say:

“Most drummers stick to typical rock beats, but Joey really mixes things up, does some sick fills, and his solos speak for themselves.” (Joe Ridler, Halifax)

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Recommended listening

Slipknot - All Hope Is Gone (2008)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Travis Barker
The Blink-182 drummer shows off his tats in Detroit, 2006

Why is he great?

Influenced by marching bands, jazz and hip-hop, Barker’s energy and versatility transformed Blink-182 when he joined them on the Enema Of The State album.

You say:

“He is just phenomenal to listen to. His timing and his rhythms leave me in awe!” (Maria Poland, Aberdeen)

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Recommended listening

Blink-182 - Enema Of The State (1999)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Thomas Lang
In Mannheim, 2005

Why is he great?

A successful career playing pop sessions was not enough for Lang, who raised the bar for insane chops with his clinics, DVDs and his album The Mediator.

You say:

“I saw a Thomas Lang clinic recently and was blown away by his speed, agility and control. He makes one man sound like an ensemble!” (Adam Stevens, Troon)

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Recommended listening

Thomas Lang - The Mediator (1996)
Buy here: Amazon

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Mitch Mitchell
Performing with the Jimi Hendrix Experience circa 1968

Why is he great?

While Hendrix revolutionised the guitar, Mitchell shredded the drum rulebook, lighting up 1967’s Are You Experienced with his explosive technique on Fire.

You say:

“The geezer rocks out big time and if he hadn’t been doing what he did, Hendrix wouldn’t have had the juju to get his axe on!” (Lex King, London)

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Recommended listening

Jimi Hendrix - Are You Experienced (1967)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Dave Grohl
Onstage with Foo Fighters at the 2009 Lowlands Music Festival, Netherlands

Why is he great?

Grohl’s powerhouse performances on Nirvana’s Nevermind and Queens Of The Stone Age’s Songs For The Deaf are benchmarks of modern rock drumming.

You say:

“Everything he plays just suits the song. Nothing he could add or take out would make it better. His sense of dynamics is unmatched.” (Stephen Leacock, Belfast)

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Recommended listening

Nirvana - Nevermind (1991)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
Chad Smith
Drumming with supergroup Chickenfoot in New York, 2009

Why is he great?

The irrepressible Chili Pepper hit paydirt with 1991’s funk-rock classic Blood Sugar Sex Magik and has been giving back to the drum community ever since.

You say:

“Chad is a great, powerful drummer. My number one inspiration for playing drums, his feel for the groove is second to none and some of his chops are just out of this world.” (Jack Johnson, South Shields)

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Recommended listening

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
5th place...
...Mike Portnoy! Live in New York with Dream Theater, 2009

Why is he great?

The most technically accomplished drummer in the world? Quite possibly - Portnoy’s band Dream Theater define modern prog on albums like Train Of Thought.

You say:

“A drummer, writer and co-producer, he plays from the heart and for the mind. He is the most perfect combination of technique and passion I have ever come across.” (Oliver Brenig-Jones, Ipswich)

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Recommended listening

Dream Theater - Train Of Thought (2003)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
4th place...
...Neil Peart! Onstage in Las Vegas with Rush after a five-year hiatus in 2002

Why is he great?

A master craftsman, Peart’s articulate and meticulously-composed drum parts on Rush’s Moving Pictures and Permanent Waves are the high watermark of prog rock.

You say:

“Neil combines the best of technical drum wizardry, great sounding drums and the ability to lay down a rhythmic foundation for two hyper-technical guitarists. The whole package.” (Kyle Miller, Amarillo)

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Recommended listening

Rush - Moving pictures (1981)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
3rd place...
...Keith Moon! Performing Tommy with The Who in New York, 1970

Why is he great?

Powerhouse of The Who and everyone’s favourite Mod, Keith Moon was also a fine player with a well developed, personal sound and style. Tony Williams greatly admired Moon’s sense of freedom and dynamic attack, heard at its most joyful on Who hit ‘My Generation’ and throughout their classic rock opera Tommy.

You say:

“Personality, originality and genius fills. Keith Moon had it all, which is what makes him my favourite drummer of all time.” (Martyn Guy, Selby)

“Keith Moon’s playing was the purest expression of drumming I’ve ever heard.” (Alan Robertson, Glasgow)

“He was the original rock drummer, who opened the floodgates for the tidal wave of famous awe-inspiring drummers out there today. Thank you Keith.” (Gareth Aston, Northwich)

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Recommended listening

The Who - Tommy (1969)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
2nd place...
...Buddy Rich! Performing some jazz at the 1969 Royal Command Performance in London

Why is he great?

There’s a reason why Buddy is known as ‘the world’s greatest drummer’. A flawless technique, drive and phenomenal speed, developed over a lifetime with big bands from Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey to his own orchestras, made rich the idol of jazz and rock drummers. His 1966 album Swinging New band displays rich at his best.

You say:

“His technical facility and musicality are still unsurpassed, perhaps for all time? The ferocity of his swing drumming demonstrates that, born a generation or so later, he would have dominated rock, maybe even metal.” (Graham Lightfoot, Hednesford)

“He brought the drummer up front to be recognised as a musician, not just a time-keeper.” (Joseph Bellave, Rochester)

“Buddy was the most inventive, controlled powerhouse drummer ever. Great speed, fluidity, touch and showmanship. The boss.” (Arthur Pilkington, Walsall)

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Recommended listening

Buddy Rich - Strike It, Rich! (box set)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2
1st place...
...John Bonham! Bonzo onstage with Led Zeppelin sans proper drum kit circa 1970

Why is he great?

A Buddy Rich fan, Bonham would have been proud to beat BR in a popularity poll. Rock’s greatest drummer and the backbone of Led Zeppelin, he’s inspired generation after generation of players. His dynamic attack and monster sound are best heard on Zeppelin classics When The Levee Breaks and Kashmir.

You say:

“this guy defined rock music, and whilst I don’t think he is technically or musically the best drummer, he was the one that made every single teenager want to be a drummer and for that reason alone he is my Number One.” (Rob Baker, Hertford)

“he has had the greatest influence on me personally and combined immense talent, creativity, taste and, most of all, swing – the thing that sets him apart.” (Kieran Forde, Chepstow)

“He was the greatest. he changed the way drums were played. he did for drums what hendrix did for guitar.” (Ian Fereday, Surrey)

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Recommended listening

Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

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For the best in everything drum related, check out Rhythm Magazine.

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