Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

There is a scene in "Annie Hall" (oddly, it is not among the memorable quotes on IMDB) where the Tony Roberts character talks about "The Academy of the Over-Rated". It's a funny notion, and the idea is that he and Annie talk about the over-rated as a way of exalting themselves over the likes of cats like Gustav Mahler (the only member I can recall at the moment). The over-rated will always be with us, as will the Top Ten list, but today, riding back from court, I got to thinking about the under-rated. "Deep Tracks" is what inspired me-- XM Satellite Radio's AOR station does a pretty good job of playing less familiar cuts by familiar bands, and stuff by acts that I was never all that familiar with in the first place. In the latter category there are quite a few things that are of only minor interest to me-- I never need to hear more by Cactus, for example; but sometimes I catch something by someone who has been left behind and forgotten. When that happens I wonder why they never quite got their due, and I think an Academy of the Under-Rated is beginning to form somewhere on a side street in my mind.

Three candidates, for now. The first, I'm afraid, is almost certain to open me to ridicule and abuse, but that's part of what Outside Counsel's mission is. I give you Blue Öyster Cult.

I'll wait. No, laugh away, I've got time. I can't say that I was a BOC fan when they were big-- actually, I thought they were kind of a joke, like KISS. The fact is, though, that this was a band that had all of the requisites of greatness. They were proficient on their axes, they wrote good songs-- as I see it, the knock of the Cult is two-pronged. They are about as Long Island as it is possible to be, and most of their best songs sound like they are about the sort of thing people talk about when they are totally baked. (Scroll down here for a funny "Don't Fear the Reaper" anecdote that doesn't really help me make my point, but that I like anyway.)

I got another one for you: The Guess Who. Reading Neil Young's biography a couple of years ago one of the things that struck me was the tremendous influence Young said that Randy Bachman had on him. Well, why not? Randy Bachman is a terrific guitarist. The Guess Who had a ton of great material. What's the knock on them? Too Canadian? I could happily go the rest of my life without hearing "American Woman" again, but is that enough reason to send the Guess Who down the memory hole?

One more: the Miles Davis band that recorded "Seven Steps to Heaven". Dig this line-up: * Miles Davis - Trumpet
* George Coleman - Tenor Saxophone
* Victor Feldman - Piano (April session)
* Herbie Hancock - Piano (May session)
* Ron Carter - Double bass
* Frank Butler - Drums (April session)
* Tony Williams - Drums (May session)

You see the problem right away. Williams came in for Butler, and Hancock came in for Feldman, then Coleman is left hanging out there, until Wayne Shorter takes over on sax and completes what is generally known as the "Second Great Miles Davis Quintet." Well, the "First Great Miles Davis Quintet" was a tough act to follow, but the Seven Steps to Heaven band was mighty fine, and has been overlooked because it has been over-shadowed.

Nominations are open.

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