Songs of Fascination 3: Bill Meyers "Heartland" from the album "Images"

  • Posted on: 1 January 2016
  • By: sheldonkreger

Songs of Fascination Series

This series is an exploration of songs which at once caught my attention, and never let go. These are the songs I listen to on repeat; that I tear apart phrase by phrase; that I memorize line by line. If you are curious about my taste in music, this is the series you are looking for.

The Song

We need some context about Bill Meyers to begin to appreciate Images as a work of art. Simply take a look at his credits on AllMusic and your jaw will hit the floor. Meyers has produced, performed, composed, and arranged for artists from Michael Jackson to Louis Armstrong. If one were to make a list of the most prolific musicians of our time, Meyers would be a top contender. So, when a musician of this caliber leads a solo project, an acute listener knows that it must be taken seriously.

Recorded in 1986, Images features an absolutely insane lineup of LA's top session players. I'm not going to list them here, because you really ought to check out the full list. On this album, Meyers puts this crew to work. The compositions feature common progressive tricks like time signature changes, syncopated rhythm and drum phrases, vamps, and extended solos. However, even to the trained ear, you REALLY have to pay close attention to catch everything that is going on, because the songs sound so fluid and natural, you'd never even notice the time signature changes without trying pretty hard.

Another great feature of this album is the arrangements. Since the album features horn and string sections in addition to a core jazz/fusion lineup, it sounds reminiscent of a movie soundtrack. The songs are not only complex in terms of rhythm, they are rich in harmonies between seemingly countless instruments. The entire album feels like one composition from beginning to end. The recording is absolutely incredible, with each instrument easily distinguished in the mix, but with a pleasant balance and full clarity of the harmonic details. The tones chosen by the musicians really bring out the best of what was happening during the 80s.

"Heartland" is the opening song of Images. It embodies all of the characteristics I've been discussing, and it was one of the songs I decided to learn in 2015. Unfortunately, I don't have the skill to arrange this monster for a band, so I can't really do any recording - and I don't have permission to do so anyway. But, I did push through it on the drums and I learned a lot along the way. Tearing it apart and really analyzing it in detail only deepened my appreciation for Meyers.

Vinnie Colaiuta