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-ten bassists. Considering that 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 slap-style without every note hitting like a backhand to the nose. Recently, he's made his living on the jam-band circuit, but the versatile virtuoso headlined Lollapalooza at the peak of grunge, downtuned until his strings scraped the ground at Ozzfest and lent apocalyptic intensity to Tom Waits' "Earth Died Screaming." The Big Eyeball in the Sky
, his most recent release under the colorful moniker Colonel Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains, strays from his "Thai Noodles" ode to just plain noodling, but at least these esoteric epics err on the side of ambition. Live, Claypool's silly-walk struts and rubber-wristed technique are so watchable that the set list becomes secondary.