Long Players Tune in to Classic Rock

By JOHN GEROME
The Associated Press
Thursday, April 12, 2007; 5:53 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- We all have a soft spot for the music of our youth, but few take it as far as the Long Players.

Every few months, this group of busy Nashville session musicians gets together to perform a classic rock album _ in its entirety _ at a local venue.

Last month, it was Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited." In December, Van Morrison's "Moondance." Before that, the Beatles' "Meet the Beatles."

The members are all big-time players _ Gary Tallent is bassist in Bruce Springsteen's E. Street Band, John Deaderick a keyboardist for the Dixie Chicks and Michael McDonald _ but they manage to squeeze in the Long Players shows between their regular gigs.

Named for the vinyl LPs they love, the Long Players have re-created everything from the Rolling Stones' "Let it Bleed" to Elvis Costello's "My Aim is True" since forming in 2004.

"There are other bands that do this kind of thing," said founding member Bill Lloyd. "But the difference with us is that we keep it in the community and get guest stars to be part of it. That gives it a different spin and keeps it from being a karaoke night."

That's easier to do in Nashville, where you can barely swing a guitar without hitting a talented musician or singer.

A different guest singer joins the band for most every song. Southside Johnny did the Stones' "You Got the Silver," Marshall Crenshaw the Beatles' "And Your Bird Can Sing," and Alison Moorer sang Neil Young's "Oh, Lonesome Me."

Sometimes, someone from the original recording will sit in.

For "Highway 61 Revisited," Al Kooper came down from Boston to replay the signature organ riff on "Like a Rolling Stone," one of the great songs in rock history.

Kooper, who once lived in Nashville, has a lengthy rock resume. He founded the group Blood, Sweat & Tears, produced the first three Lynyrd Skynyrd albums and played keyboards on "You Can't Always Get What You Want" by the Rolling Stones.

"When Bill (Lloyd) told me about it in the beginning I was kicking myself that he didn't do that when I was still in town," Kooper said.

"I only have one more Dylan album I think where I played on the whole album, which is `New Morning.' But then we were thinking we could do some Lynyrd Skynyrd albums, and that would really be fun."

During the "Highway 61 Revisited" show, Kooper sat hunched over the organ in dark sunglasses. A tall guy in the audience with spiky black hair kept shouting along to the cryptic lyrics.

"You've been with the professors, and they've all liked your looks. With great lawyers, you have discussed lepers and crooks," he yelled during "Ballad of a Thin Man."

The Long Players choose the albums in more or less democratic fashion. The only caveat is that everyone has to agree; no one is forced to play something they don't want to.

"The newest records we've done so far were from 1978," said Lloyd, a solo artist who was half of the former hit country duo Foster and Lloyd. "We've not been able to squeak into the '80s as of yet. I think culturally there was such a glut of what's considered classics in that time period. Given the age we all are _ the median age is the late 40s _ we're still kind of stuck in the music of our teens."

The members are all friends who started performing together at an annual John Lennon tribute concert to raise money for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. They're also avid record collectors who spin vinyl into the wee hours. It didn't take long for the idea to take hold.

Besides Tallent, Deaderick and Lloyd, the members are guitarist Steve Allen of the former new wave band 20/20 and drummer Steve Ebe of the early '90s pop group Human Radio.

Each is expected to learn his part on his own, and they usually meet for only two rehearsals before the show.

For something more ambitious, like the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," they will call in a string section or horn players to augment the sound.

Even a seasoned musician like Lloyd says he learns something from each album.

Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Cosmo's Factory" had jarring time shifts, and the Pretenders' debut record contained deceptively tricky rhythms and guitar lines, he said.

"It's a great education," agreed Deaderick, who at 36 is the youngest Long Player. "I'm playing records that I didn't necessarily grow up listening to, and I'm playing them with guys who did grow up listening to them. So I'm learning from the record and from the guys in the band."

Ten percent of the proceeds from each performance go to charity. For the "Highway 61 Revisited" show, the money went to Doctors Without Borders.

"We want it to be something we enjoy doing," Lloyd said. "We don't make a lot of money doing it, so we're largely doing it for the love and the experience."

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Bill Lloyd's site for The Long Players: http://www.billlloydmusic.com/

© 2007 The Associated Press