Ariel, could you please give me examples of exceptional playing by Burton. I have never heard any. From what I've heard he couldn't shine Entwistle's shoes. I'll keep an open mind but he doesn't impress me at all.
Sure thing friend.
Exhibit A: Anesthesiahttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iOmo0ZuyNk
A fully distorted bass solo that incorporates wah, artificial harmonics, and a classical compositional approach.
Exhibit B: Call of Ktulu (bass track boosted)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HHIclVldKk
Note that the bass is distorted throughout the song, and the freaky monster sounds are Burton using effects. You have to listen closely but he does multiple brief solos as well, including one at the very end. Also note the multiple approaches he takes to his playing in this song, in some cases even using distortion+effects bass for sound effects. I am fairly certain the distortion was partially used to help convey the atmosphere of the Lovecraft piece this song is inspired by/meant to convey the atmosphere of, and I suspect that the monster sounds are supposed to be Ktulu himself (!)
(In other news after reading the titular Lovecraft story I consider this Metallica's masterpiece, how it fits the mood of the story so well, like a tone poem. It's an artistic masterpiece (and the Lovecraft story even more so!))
Exhibit C: Orion (bass track boosted)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4mb_BnKP1A
Whole intro (aside from drums) again bass with effects, in this case some kind of combination of a loop pedal, mild distortion, and wah I think. Main part of song has traditional Burton distorted playing (he basically always played using distortion). "Chorus" (you'll know it when it hits, three-chord guitar motif), distorted bass high on the fretboard holding the main melody with guitar chords underneath (!). Note Burton's phrasing during 'verse' section, he always phrases different notes differently for emphasis in his work in general (best and most subtle and sophisticated phrasing I'm aware of among bass players probably).
Interlude here is the famous Burton Baroque style playing under guitar chords part (this whole section, including the guitar, was written by Burton), with endless and imaginative variations in what the bass is doing. No distortion on bass here. Again this is basically a tone poem in the 19th century sense of the term, it's music meant to convey an atmosphere/scene, in this case outer space (hence the title "Orion"). This whole interlude is one of the most famous and acclaimed bass parts in rock history, by the way, at least among young people. Note the way the bass subtly takes over and starts carrying what is now the main melody, with the guitar chords going into the background, in the ending stretch of this interlude.
Post-interlude has a guitar solo and then distorted and in parts double-tracked (harmony) bass solo. I didn't realize this was a bass solo until I read it online years after I'd first heard the album. Final guitar solo and fadeout
Exhibit D: Damage Inc. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbLMrce7 ... re=related
This is actually the next song on the Master of Puppets album after Orion (and the final song). You only need to listen to the intro here, which is actually multitracked (harmonized parts) bass through an octaver and sustainer so it's high pitched. More wah use, subtle here though.
That's all for now, but I'd be happy to post more if anyone wants. Cheers. PS Burton's playing was also consistently incredibly expressive, rich and imaginative in Metallica's more 'normal' songs too (see Sanitarium, Fade to Black, Battery, Master of Puppets, The Four Horsemen for evidence!) Cheers