Super-Talented Musicians & The Albums They Played (Almost) Every Instrument On
These musicians make up for the miming and backing tracks used by some performers... they use their multiple talents to play all the instruments in their tracks, self produce, and get their records together. These are a few that have earned their title as professional artists.
Paul McCartney McCartney’s first solo record, simply titled McCartney, was recorded during the mixing of the final Beatles studio record, Let It Be. The Beatles bassist notoriously played and recorded all the instruments on his debut record - apart from a minor vocal contribution from his wife Linda. The album was recorded secretly from his band members at McCartney’s home, as well as Abbey Road studios under a pseudonym and was released in April 1970.
Stevie Wonder Stevie Wonder is notorious for his multi-instrumental talents, a well-known fact being that he played all of the instruments on the recording of his phenomenally successful ‘Superstition’. Wonder is credited on an assortment of his records as having played drums, bass, piano, keyboards, synthesizer and guitar - which probably has something to do with bringing that funk to every instrument in the inimitable way that only Stevie Wonder can.
Justin Vernon A common misconception going around is that Bon Iver’s breakthrough For Emma, Forever Ago was performed and recorded by Vernon entirely solo. Partly true, in fact, while Vernon did indeed perform and record an album entirely on his own and released it, For Emma… was then re-recorded and overdubbed and re-released. It’s this version (featuring other musicians alongside Vernon), which led to Bon Iver’s international success. Still, Vernon earns his place as a DIY success story, even if the album you’re hearing isn’t solely him.
Jack White Jack White is known for his talents on a variety of instruments, having been responsible for guitars and keyboards in The White Stripes, axe in The Raconteurs and drums in The Dead Weather. For his first solo record, Blunderbuss, White took it upon himself to perform all of the instruments in the recording of the album. Taking the hands on approach to every element of his LP, including the use of his own studio and label, Third Man Records to record and release the album.
Gotye Wally De Backer, aka Gotye, is credited with performing vocals, drums, guitar, percussion, keyboards, synthesizers and all manner of home-made loops on both his 2006 LP Like Drawing Blood and his hugely successful follow-up Making Mirrors in 2011. De Backer also plays drums in The Basics and has affirmed himself as one of the most talented multi-instrumentalists roaming around, having been compared to the likes of Phil Collins and Sting, but don’t hold that against him!
Julian Casablancas Credited as being chiefly responsible for the songwriting of The Strokes’ first three LPs- in 2009, Casablancas released his first solo record Phrazes For The Young, on which he is credited for all songwriting duties. He also played all the instruments on the album, with just a handful of session musicians filling minor roles on an assortment of tracks on the record such as ‘4 Chords of the Apocalypse’ and ‘Left and Right in the Dark’.
Prince On 1999, the momentous record from the ‘artist formerly known as now known as’, apart from an assortment of session vocalists; Prince is credited as playing all instruments, all vocals and is responsible for most song credits. Despite the blockbuster success of its predecessor, Purple Rain, Prince’s notorious pursuit of perfection led him to forgo his band ‘The Revolution’ for the making of 1999, - taking total control of the music to ensure it lived up to his own high standards.
Kevin Parker Although Kevin Parker’s band Tame Impala features an array of musicians, with a core duo of three having since been expanded to five in the live setting; both of the group’s records are attributed to Parker. With an almost prodigious studio mind, he handles most of the instrumentation during the recording process, as well as the production side of the band’s output: debut Innerspeaker and the forthcoming Lonerism.
David Bowie Bowie is famous for his multi-instrumental capabilities, which helped define him as a genre bending, multi-faceted artist. Bowie also affords himself credit for playing “all instruments” of many of his records and singles, including arguably his most well recognised single, 1974’s ‘Rebel Rebel’ on which Bowie is responsible for guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals and keyboards.
Opossom New Zealander Kody Nielson originally never intended to release his homemade recordings that eventually became his record Electric Hawaii, released earlier this year under the name Opossum. Nielson played all of the instruments and was responsible for all of the songwriting on the eclectic record, making it himself as a DIY project in his bedroom.
Trent Reznor Best known for his industrial rock baby Nine Inch Nails; Reznor founded the band in 1988 and writes, records and produces all the outfit’s music. Without Reznor there is no Nine Inch Nails, it’s that simple. The process generally revolves around Reznor recording an album and employing musicians to fit the live setting. When you think of the influence NIN has had and its output, Reznor certainly fits into the category of musical freak.
Ben Folds (Rockin’ The Suburbs) On Rockin' The Suburbs, Folds' solo debut and his first record post-Ben Folds Five breakup was recorded solo. While there was some help from others, these were merely flourishes on top of what he had already laid down. Namely, piano, vocals, drums, bass and guitar are all credited to Folds. Considering he had left behind musicians that would have otherwise filled the void, why wouldn’t you just get it done yourself?
Sufjan Stevens Guitar, drums, banjo, xylophone, oboe, Mr Stevens has got all of these in his repertoire. On his first solo effort A Sun Came, released in 2000, Stevens played an unfathomable fourteen instruments. This crazy multi-instrumentalist has continued in that vein for the majority of his records, bringing in musicians for extra touches but taking the lion’s share of the instrumental duties. Is he musical? Yeah, just a little.
Moby First he learnt classical guitar, then piano and drums. Why stop at classical guitar, when you can learn everything else and never have to rely on anyone but yourself. Richard Hall, more famously known as Moby, first cracked international mainstream success with his fifth studio album Play in 1999. Despite being mostly known for his electronic music, any live performance will show you he’s a talented musician as well as composer.
Stephen Stills (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) Stephen Stills is best known for his work with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. He’s also an accomplished solo artist that often played the majority of the instrumentation on his solo records. Considering the era he was recording in, he didn’t shy away from inviting friends along. While an incredibly accomplished guitarist in his own right, if Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton offered to play on your record, as they did on his first self titled solo effort, it’s fair to say they might get a look in, and if they play the guitar then why not jump on piano or drums instead.
Beck It seems this man’s talent knows no bounds. One of those musicians who could only record the instruments himself, otherwise he wouldn’t get what he wants. While Beck still uses plenty of other musicians to deliver his sound, the majority of the instrumentation comes down to his own talents. For his break out mainstream record Odelay, Beck played some 12 instruments, and worked with The Dust Brothers to achieve an even bigger production sound, like being a one-mand band wasn’t enough!
Dave Grohl Rock n Roll’s nice guy was always going to make the list. Yes, he drummed in one of the most influential bands of the 90s and now he fronts one of the biggest bands in the world. But after the death of Kurt Cobain, Grohl recorded all the instruments himself for the debut Foo Fighters album recorded in Seattle. Grohl recorded under the pseudonym to hide his identity and originally only distributed the record on cassette to a number of personal friends. If anything, the Nirvana drummer used the recording process to help get through the grief of Cobain's suicide.
Kaki King In 2006 Kaki King made the Rolling Stone list of “The New Guitar Gods”, she was the only female on the list and also the youngest. She’s also proficient on the drums, piano and an incredible singer. As well as being an amazingly talented musician she’s also been nominated for a Golden Globe Best Original Score for “Into The Wild” alongside Eddie Vedder and Michael Brook. So she shreds like nobody’s business and writes a cracking tune, one of those individuals that never stops impressing.
Peaches If you’ve ever seen Peaches live it’s likely that you would remember it. Canadian Merrill Beth Nisker doesn’t mind getting in your face and putting on a hell of a live show, her lyrics are sexually explicit yet isn’t afraid to dabble in the mainstream with a few pop collaborations. Peaches produces and records all of her albums herself, which is probably for the best - would you want to get in the way of her music? Let the talented lady do what she wants.
Sally Seltmann This Australian songwriter is most recently known for her work in folk trio Seeker Lover Keeper - alongside the like-minded Sarah Blasko and Holly Throsby - but her other notable claim to fame is co-writing the very recognizable ‘1234’ performed by Feist. Considering she also performed in her own right under the name New Buffalo, it should probably come as no surprise that Seltmann recorded, performed and produced her debut album The Last Beautiful Day all by lonesome.
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