Thursday, March 27, 2008

Best Bass Riffs Ever: Top 20

Photo by Andrew Kepert

As a follow up to my post of two days ago, I've been thinking more about bass riff and below offer all time top 20. I came up with the ranking by dumping candidates from my iTunes list in a folder and selecting them on the basis of the number of plays. Hardly scientific or objective but hey...

A few other caveats should be stated.

The list contains some jazz and classical selections. I've put these at the end of the popular music section. Their ranking is semi-arbitary doesn't reflect the greatness of the music. Thanks everybody for your suggestions -apologies if your choices are not included.

Some songs have a great riff but the music is less impressive.

Other choices have a less defined riff but contain either a great bass line or an outstanding solo.

In other cases the riff is not solely bass but is joined in unison by the lead instrument (usually guitar). Several well known riffs were excluded because they had little bass involvement.

No apologies are made for the vintage nature of these tunes: they reflect the vintage nature of the author.

That said, here we go, David Letterman style, in reverse order:

Classical and Jazz

20. So What: Miles Davis
Another song in the simple but effective category.

Symphony #3, Op. 36, "Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs”: Henryk Gorecki
The slow bass build up is simply amazing. A true riff that is goose bump-inducing.

could only find this music being performed as a soundtrack to the 90s film, Fearless. To make matters worse it's dubbed in Spanish and in this clip the really deep bass is missing. But the poignancy of the music shines through.

18. Smokey Embrace: Barbara Thompson’s Paraphernalia
The most evocative jazz tango ever.

Smokey Embrace is #3 in this selection. Jon Hiseman counts in the 5/4 beat with great precision.

17. Haitian Fight Song: Charles Mingus

Unfortunately I cannot find a clip of Mingus' band playing this song however the Newton High School Jazz Orchestra do a great substitute. The bass player is astonishingly good. However if you really can go without an in-you-face solo by the Great Man himself, click here.

16. Symphony No. 5 In C Minor, Op.67: Beethoven
Surely a candidate for the best riff in the history of music.

Popular Music

15. Money: Pink Floyd
Very effective riff although not my favourite PF song.

14. Barracuda: Heart
I’ve got to get a Seattle band in here somewhere.

13. I'm Free: The Who
Yay! Let’s hear it for John “The Ox” Entwistle. Love it!

12. Whole Lotta Love: Led Zeppelin
Possibly the best known heavy intro riff of all time.

11. Psycho Killer: Talking Heads
Rhythmic rather than riffing bass but still excellent.

10. Smoke on the Water: Deep Purple
It’s all been said before!

9. Hey Joe: Jimi Hendrix
Not really a riff but Noel Redding’s walking bass line in the middle 8 is superb.

8. Heartbreaker: Pat Benatar
Simple and effective.

7. Blood And Roses: The Smithereens
A sleeper: does anyone except me remember this lot?

6. Eight Miles High: The Byrds
Another 60s classic.

5. Message In A Bottle: The Police
One of the catchiest riffs of all time.

4. 25 or 6 to 4: Chicago
Great 60s classic.

3. Had To Cry Today: Blind Faith
Superb playing by the late Ric Grech.

2. The Chain: Fleetwood Mac
What more can we say about this one (take note BBC)?

1. Bourée: Jethro Tull
JT swiped this from Bach; the bass solo is simply terrific.

PS I don't know how this happened but somehow I omitted Cream's Sunshine of Your Love. Its position in the list is of no consequence but it should be in there somewhere.

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