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The Roy Bittan Collection

 

 

There are few piano men in rock whose sound stands out — no matter how loud the drums, bass and guitars around it — as much as Roy Bittan’s. As a member of the E Street Band, his piano (and Clarence Clemons’ sax) was a defining ingredient in Bruce Springsteen’s sound — and when Springsteen dropped the E Street Band in 1989, Bittan was the one member he kept on board.

Bittan’s piano was similarly crucial to the sound of the recently late Jim Steinman, on Bat Out Of Hell and Total Eclipse Of The Heart and pretty much anything Steinman produced between 1977 and the mid-1990s.

Nicknamed “The Professor”, because he was the only member of the E Street Band to have a university degree, Bittan has made most profitable use of the Yamaha grand piano, whose clear sound cuts through the din of the other instruments — and drummers like Max Weinberg or Liberty De Vitto, who often sat behind Bittan, made such a noise, it required health and safety regulations.

As a member of the E Street band, Bittan contributed to Ronnie Spector’s version of Billy Joel’s Say Goodbye To Hollywood (so Weinberg took over the drums from De Vitto). It’s perhaps the perfect meeting point of the two New Jersey giants, whose careers for a long time rose and dipped more or less symmetrically: Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen. Most of the E Street Band also came together to give Garland Jeffreys that Springsteen sound on the 1981 LP Escape Artist, especially on R.O.C.K. and Jump Jump.

Another act dancing on the Springsteen timeline is Bob Seger; he, to, has benefitted from Bittan’s distinctive piano.

 

The E Street Band in 1980, with Roy Bittan (channeling Martin Scorsese) third from left.

 

Outside the E Street Band and Steinman circuits, Bittan has played with David Bowie, on the Station To Station and Scary Monsters albums (including Ashes To Ashes) and Dire Straits’ Making Movies albums, as well as with acts like Jackson Browne, Peter Gabriel, Ian Hunter, Stevie Nicks, Gary US Bonds, Chicago, Bon Jovi, Warren Zevon, Tracy Chapman, Donna Summer, Jeff Healy Band, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Nelly Furtado, and Lucinda Williams (whom he also produced), among others.

Bittan cut his teeth in the early 1970s with the rock band Tracks; a song from their rather good 1972 album Even A Broken Clock Is Right Twice A Day, their only LP, features here.

The Professor, who will turn 72 in July, has also served as a producer and accordion player for various artists. He has released only ever one solo album, a rather lovely, jazzy set of instrumentals titled Out Of The Box, issued in 2015. When the album was released, Bittan told Rolling Stone magazine about how he came to work with some of the acts mentioned above. ()

This mix provides a brief overview of the career of the genius piano player. If you are a CD-R length devotee, tracks 1-17 on this mix will fit on a standard disc. The rest are bonus tracks. The shebang includes home-ivorytinkled covers, and the text above in illustrated PDF format (for later reference). PW in comments.

1. Garland Jeffreys – R.O.C.K. (1981)
2. Jim Steinman – Stark Raving Love (1981)
3. Stevie Nicks – Edge Of Seventeen (1981)
4. Bruce Springsteen – Candy’s Room (live) (1981)
5. Bob Seger – Roll Me Away (1983)
6. Dire Straits – Tunnel Of Love (1980)
7. Warren Zevon – Reconsider Me (1987)
8. Jackson Browne – Your Bright Baby Blues (1976)
9. Tracks – Can I Leave You (1972)
10. Tracy Chapman – Bang Bang Bang 1992)
11. Lucinda Williams – Right In Time (1998)
12. Ian Hunter – Cleveland Rocks (1979)
13. David Bowie – Golden Years (1976)
14. Meat Loaf – Read ‘Em And Weep (1981)
15. Ronnie Spector & The E Street Band – Say Goodbye To Hollywood (1977)
16. Peter Gabriel – Mother Of Violence (1978)
17. Roy Bittan – Q’s Groove (2015)
Bonus Tracks:
Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart (1983)
Air Supply – Making Love Out Of Nothing At All (1983)
Barbra Streisand – Left In The Dark (1984)
Pandora’s Box – It’s All Coming Back To Me Now (1989)
Clarence Clemons – Something Always Happens (1987)
Herb Alpert – Cat Man Do (1987)

GET IT or HERE

Previous Session Musicians collection:
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 2
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 2
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 1
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 2
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 2
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 1
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 2
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 1
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 2
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 3
The Joe Osborne Collection
The Larry Carlton Collection
The Bobby Keys Collection
The Louis Johnson Collection
The Bobby Graham Collection
The Ringo Starr Collection

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  1. amdwhah
    May 20th, 2021 at 12:35 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. russell mercado
    May 21st, 2021 at 23:39 | #2

    thanks for your work on this. this will be an enjoyable listen.

  3. May 22nd, 2021 at 19:36 | #3

    Ah – my favourite pianist who isn’t also a frontman. Such a distinctive player. A great set of tunes, though I’d have found room for Seger’s The Fire Inside, because it’s always the tune I think of first when I think of Roy.

  4. Rhodb
    May 25th, 2021 at 00:45 | #4

    Great songs on this compilation great work

    Regards

    Rhodb

  5. Philip
    June 19th, 2021 at 16:24 | #5

    Brilliant mix, but I question if there’s any piano on the Lucinda Williams song. One can hear a bit of organ towards the end, but the rest of it seems to be guitar and drums.

  6. amdwhah
    June 20th, 2021 at 09:58 | #6

    Yeah, that is there more for Bittan’s production than key-hammering skills.

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