So I see that I am not the only one who has been listening to Simon a whole lot recently.
Firstly, Gary I hear you about Simon's recent sound. But I also feel that same way about many people's recent recorded sounds. Don't you think that it could be due to the fact that recordings are (now) done so quickly and without a great deal of care to sounds. I just think that the "art" of recording (in general) is starting to become a lost art. Things are done so quickly, there is no time allowed to really tweek, shape, and refine sounds. Our culture has no patience, attention span, appreciation for detail etc. etc. etc... (But I digress.)
Yes I agree Simon's time is remarkable, but I really appreciate how he constructs his "parts." I have been listening to a lot of the solo Townshend (genius) stuff as well ("Empty Glass," "All The Best Cowboys," "White City") and really dig the way Simon orchestrates his grooves and fills. His "parts" really become part of the fabric of the tune. Now granted, he has many sounds to choose from, but I really feel like he uses that big kit to perfection, and he uses all of his note and sound choices wonderfully! Playing open handed also helps, and because of that, I started experimenting with open handed playing several years back, and for the process of orchestrating parts, it's a really helpful tool-approach.
As an aside, I also feel like I am the only one who LOVES that live Who stuff with Simon (the "Join Together" CD, and the DVD from the same tour.) There is also a great video of Simon with Townshend on the Deep End Tour. (ESSENTIAL!!!)
I also have a new-found and HUGE (!!!) respect for how Simon smoothes out tough music as well. I'll explain. Steve Smith was here a few weeks ago, and he brought a bunch of the Hiromi charts to teach me. So we read through all of her tunes with the charts. Simon just glides through so many difficult passages of her music, that you almost don't realize that something "odd" just passed. And isn't that the idea after all (to make music sound as natural and smooth as possible.) I'll also mention that the new Hiromi CD (not sure if it's out yet) is KILLING!!!!
I also encourage anyone to also check out how lightly Simon hits, he is really a master of touch and letting the drums and the mics do the work. I saw a Toto show from about 3 feet away from him a few years back, and I was amazed! And since someone mentioned the most recent Toto DVD, I'll also throw in a STRONG vote for the previous DVD "Live In Amsterdam." (I like it much more than the "Falling In Between" DVD.)
And since someone brought up Mark Brzsecki (or however you spell it.) What ever happened to him. I have always REALLY dug his playing!!!