Friday, December 11, 2009

5 Bass Guitars to Love

Hey, foundation lovers! Back with another music post. Reminder -- I know absolutely nothing technical about music. Can't read it, I don't play -- nada. But man, I just love it! Today we'll take a look at five songs (plus one honorable mention), in no particular order, that I just love due to the bass playing.

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.


Edo Bosnar said...

I have to de-lurk here (absolutely FANTASTIC blog by the way) to express my utter SHOCK and DISMAY that your great bassist list does not include Chris Squire of Yes fame. Actually, I'm not all that upset - it's a pretty good list, and it's nice to see the often overlooked (& overshadowed by Peart and Lifeson) Geddy Lee get some credit. As for Squire, if you're not familiar with his work, check out some Yes samples on YouTube - he really took bass-playing to a new level.

Doug said...

Edo --

Thanks for stepping into the light! :)

As soon as you mentioned Chris Squire, even the hits Roundabout and I've Seen All Good People leapt immediately to mind. An omission on my part to be sure. Great suggestion!

Hope to hear from you again --


Edo Bosnar said...

Now that I've de-lurked, you'll probably never get me to shut up. Intersting that you mentioned Roundabout - that's the first Yes song I remember hearing on the radio when I was a wee lad. The Fragile album it's on is still my all-time favorite by Yes, and it's also a great showcase for Squire's talent.

david_b said...

I'd chime in with McCartney.. Back in the 'day (1963/64 anyone..?), band members were not really 'known' for their roles (who was billed as 'bass guitarist' for the Beach Boys or Buddy Holly's band?). The Fabs were the first to bring wide-spread attention to roles of guitarists, and thanks to the insistence of Lennon to EMI producers, Macca's bass FINALLY was brought more to the forefront around late '65, so by the time 'Paperback Writer/Rain' came out, the bass playing on a 45 release was FRONT and CENTER.

Other than the Motown releases, you never had the bass so far out in front of the mix, so I nominate Revolver, Pepper, and the fore-mentioned 'Paperback Writer' for your consideration..

Lennon even called him 'probably the best bass player in the world' if that adds any merit.

Horace said...

You want a song with a sick ass bass line?

Listen to "The Real Me" by The Who.

John Entwistle - greatest bass guitarist ever.

Ron said...

Regarding the bass player on the age of aquarius.... Maybe Wilbur Bascomb ?

Look up this video on the collaboration with Hair's Galt Macdermot and decide from there.

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