Underachieving Teams, Albums, Performances

This post my start out about sports but it ties into music and most endeavors in life.

I have to go back about eight months to May of 2014. I first wrote down these thoughts the day of game 7 of the NHL Eastern Conference Semi Finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers.

If you follow the NHL, which is my favorite sports league and in my humble opinion one of the last “real” sports leagues left, you will remember that the Penguins had built a three to one lead in the series and then blew it.  So the game that night was a winner take all game seven.

The problem that I had with the Penguins in that series, in that year’s playoffs and over the last five years of playoff appearances was their constant underachieving.

Each year they would tear up the regular season finishing as one of the top teams in the entire league and each year they have a disappointing playoff appearance.  They certainly did not live up to the expectations of a premiere franchise.  Each year struggling to beat the lower seeded teams and then being manhandled by the upper level seeds.

The Penguins have the top talent in the world.  They have the horses and yet manage to underwhelm the fans and opposition.  Why is this?  What is stopping them from playing as a team where everyone is contributing making the whole greater than the sum of its parts?  Who’s fault is it?

I would start with the general manager and the head coach.

The players need to execute and they certainly have the skills to execute what is required of them.

The general manager and the coach know or they better know what they want to see from the players.  They need to make the personnel moves and changes to accomplish these desired results.

The coaches needs to be able to communicate to all the players the desired results and get them to buy into the system and the expectations.  How they get them to do that is up to the coach.  It’s one of the special talents that makes them either a mediocre coach, a good coach, or a great coach.  But it’s the coach’s job to get them there.

This is how I see a band and a recording.

I see the producer as the coach.  They need to have a clear vision of the end product.  They have to get the right personnel and then communicate their vision to them so they buy in.  They have to know how to bring out the best in everyone.

The musicians have to be like the players.  Functioning as a team and everyone in tune(mentally) with each other.  Everyone seeing the vision of the end product and doing their part to support the vision,

Each musician is concerned that his part is the best it can be and makes sure it fits the system.  They make sure it supports the other players and the end product.

I have some albums were all these pieces were not in place.  These are albums that were recorded at state of the art facilities and had top name players.  But the producer must not of had a vision of the end product or if they did they didn’t communicate it or they settled for less than their expectations.

The albums although technically sound are flat.  They have no energy.  Nothing jumps out and grabs you.  Some songs start out promising and just go nowhere.  In fact when the songs start to fade out you think wait a minute it not time to fade out this song hasn’t gone anywhere.

It sounds phoned in, like the players came in read the charts, played the charts and got their check before moving on to another project.  In this case the whole was less than the sum of its parts.

I have also witness this type of performance on TV.

It was on a show recorded in Nashville.

The show was a tribute to George Jones.  The stage band had to be made up of top studio musicians.

The band’s performance was of course technically spot on.  I’m sure every note on the chart was played to perfection but the arrangements and performance was so bland, on the verge of the Lawrence Welk show.  I might even say that Lawrence Welk’s orchestra may have had more energy than these guys did on this night.

Here was an ensemble of top musicians and ho hum.

It takes talent, coaching and a common vision to become an entity, a special entity.

It’s the difference between a recording that’s eliminated in the first round or a record that wins the cup.

By the way you may already know the Penguins lost game seven and were once again eliminated early in the playoffs.  The ownership fired the general manager, the coaching staff and traded or let go a number of players, some of them high profile players.

We’ll see what the new producer can do.

© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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