If the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame held open voting, all-star-game-style, to determine the best players at every instrumental position, Les Claypool would rank among the top 10 bassists. Since his most popular group, Primus, wouldn't crack a list of music history's 500 most notable bands, Claypool's lofty esteem is even more impressive. His burbling tone and playful experimentation enable him to play his bass slap-style, without every note hitting like a backhand to the nose.
Recently, Claypool's made his living on the jam-band circuit, but the versatile virtuoso has dabbled in almost every genre. With Primus, he co-headlined Lollapalooza at the peak of grunge. At Ozzfest, he downtuned until his strings scraped the ground, playing the type of death-driven funk that Vincent Price rapped about in "Thriller." Solo, he lent apocalyptic intensity to Tom Waits' "Earth Died Screaming" and frenetic whimsy to the South Park theme song. The Big Eyeball in the Sky, his most recent release under the colorful moniker Colonel Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains, ranges from the endearingly quirky ode "Thai Noodles" to just plain noodling. Live, though, Claypool's silly strut and rubber-wristed techniques are so compellingly watchable that the setlist becomes secondary.