1. 157 Riverside Avenue, live on REO Speedwagon Live: You Get What You Play For and also available on The Essential REO Speedwagon.
OK, as a lad I did not know anything about Regis Philbin. So in the middle of this song when Kevin Cronin applauds bassist Greg Philbin's solo by saying, "Whooooooo - hooo! Yeah -- that bass sounds good to me! That's Regis on the bass gee-tar!" I thought to myself, humpf -- weird nickname. But now I know. Hey, seriously, how often do you hear a bass solo? This one's a winner. I play it often and it never gets tired. Great song with a great solo by Philbin.
2. Boogie Oogie Oogie by A Taste of Honey.
Yeah, how's that for a genre transition? From 70's rock to disco. This one gets going right away. I wish I could somehow type this beat -- it's very infectious. The version of the song on my iPod is 6:25 long -- I'm pretty sure it's an album cut or some sort of remix. It's not the radio version, that I do know. This tune also has a bass solo -- "Listen to my bass pla-yaaaaa". Yeah, you know what I'm saying.
3. Paradise City by Guns 'N' Roses, available on Appetite For Destruction.
Just go to the 4:47 mark of the song -- the coda, baby. Man, bassist Duff McKagen just pounds on the strings! This part of the song, all two minutes of it, sounds like an improvised jam -- fast-paced, savage. The best part for me is of course Slash's quick finger work, but McKagen's bassline really moves it along. Great ending -- one of the best ever to any song.
4. YYZ and Tom Sawyer by Rush, both available on Moving Pictures and the greatest hits album Chronicles.
OK, so this is two songs in one. But can you get enough of Geddy Lee's basswork? That answer is unequivocally "no". Either of these songs is a tour de force not only for Lee, but for the other two fellows, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer/lyricist Neal Peart. Like any Rush song, Lee's bass is the underlying current over which everything else flows. Peart's drums attack the ear at one level while Lee's bass rumbles below the surface. Somewhere in between is Lifeson's guitar work. YYZ is a particular showcase for Lee -- at times it's the lead instrument in the song. Check these out.
5. Any Duran Duran song with John Taylor on bass.
Yeah, that narrows it down. Even if we just look at the hits from the band -- Planet Earth, Girls on Film, Hungry Like a Wolf, Rio, etc. -- all feature Taylor's foundational playing. These songs are special to me for several reasons: the music from my high school/college years is especially meaningful, Duran Duran dominated MTV in the early years (when it actually was "Music" Television), and Taylor's playing was really the first time I noticed that the bass guitar was an instrument that changed throughout the song and not just some static element with which one could measure foot-tapping. I don't know in the whole scheme of pop music how talented John Taylor is, but he has a place of significance for me.
Honorable Mention: The Age of Aquarius (Let the Sunshine In) by the Fifth Dimension.
Can't beat a little hippie soul music to top this one off. As a little kid when this was getting radio play I just thought it was a catchy tune. It actually wasn't until a few months ago when listening on my iPod -- where the sound is much more intimate and rich than on a conventional stereo (no matter how good) that I picked up on the bass playing. The second half of the song, beginning at around the 2:17 mark begins to showcase the bass guitar -- sadly, I was unable to locate the name of the player. But at any rate, good stuff from the Woodstock era.