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A basic, though unspoken, motivation for rock critics and historians following the progressive rock (i.e., non-R&B) model in recent years is that there, writing, performing, and producing tend to merge as roles occupied, in whole or substantial part, by single individuals. Since so much criticism revolves around implications of intention, it's extraordinarily useful to have writer and performer (and perhaps producer as well) wrapped up in one person.

But that approach doesn't streamline the facts; it steamrollers them. Unromantic as it may be to say so, most great recordings aren't just the work of individuals, no matter how they're credited. Making music is most often the product of intense collaborations, in which powerful personalities play leadership roles but can't hog all the action. James Brown, the archetypal domineering record creator, relied heavily on syncing his skills with those of a series of extremely accomplished bands. Bob Dylan, rock's first arty loner, indisputably made his greatest records working with bands. David Bowie, the prototype of the progressive rock Genius, might one day see his recording quality graphed precisely on the basis of how well the strengths and weaknesses of collaborators like Tony Visconti, Nile Rodger