Bass Heaven
by Tommy Burton

I am a bassist. I play bass in a band called Lately David. I never really considered myself a bassist, but I aspire to get better at it and I do practice it. I make this list not to appear as some sort of authority on the subject of bass playing, and the list is not meant to serve as a clinic, but the following is a list of albums where I particularly enjoy the bass playing. Maybe it’s simply the sound of the instrument, which may owe more to production and mix than technical playing. Some of the things on the list are obvious. Others not so. At any rate, I hope you enjoy it and maybe check out some of these titles.

As usual, with any of my lists, there is no ranking. My top ten favorite bass albums:

1. Get The Knack by The Knack. The playing is punchy and alive. I know that when we recorded our last album, I wanted the bass to sound like this. Don’t listen to what you’ve heard about this record; it’s a great power pop record from top to bottom.

2. Master Of Puppets by Metallica. If you put this album in a space capsule and attached a note saying "heavy metal," this record would perfectly represent that genre. It’s the consummate metal record. The thing that makes it stand out from others, though, is the bass playing. Cliff Burton was not the typical metal bassist. He had an ear for melody and lines countered the chunky riffs of the guitars. He was a very inventive player and this album is proof.

3. Travelers And Thieves by Blues Traveler. This was Blues Traveler’s second record, before "Hook" and "Runaround," before rock radio murdered these guys. The album is a bass player’s dream. The first track is called "Onslaught," if that isn’t enough. Sheehan is relentless throughout. I know it’s cliché, but we lost a great musician in him.

4. Look Sharp! by Joe Jackson. This one always makes the lists, but it really deserves it. Graham Maby defines what pop bass playing is all about in one record. He’s melodic and funky and always in the pocket. He never overpowers the songs themselves, which are great enough on their own. Definitely a lesson in what a bassist’s role is within a band.

5. Houses Of The Holy by Led Zeppelin. This is really for one song, "The Song Remains the Same," but that one is enough. Not that the rest of the album isn’t bad at all. It’s Zep, for crying out loud! John Paul Jones teaches us how to play bass in rock band.

6. Graceland by Paul Simon. No one should pick up a six string bass after hearing this. Lots of ethnic rhythms and great songs to boot. Listen to the solo in "You Can Call Me Al."

7. Ben Folds Five by Ben Folds Five. Robert Sledge is great. He plays bass as well as guitar with that distortion pedal. Any of the Five’s records will likely do, but this one has the best songs to me. Check out the DVD of their performance on Sessions for further proof of Sledge’s greatness. Again, I love that distortion.

8. Schmilsson by Nilsson. Well, again for one song, "Jump Into The Fire," but what a song. What bass player wouldn’t want to play that riff? Furthermore, what bassist wouldn’t want a solo where they get to de-tune? This record deserves its place on my list.

9. Quadrophenia by The Who. No bass list would be complete without an entry from the great John Entwistle. This is my favorite because the bass is so pure. It’s before John got crazy with the tones and he flat out played. "The Real Me" is the one, but there is not a weak bass track here. If he’s playing, it’s brilliant.

10. Tower Of Power by Tower of Power. Frank "Rocco" Prestia is the master of fingerstyle funk. Any TOP record would fit, but this one has "What Is Hip?" which is the fingerstyle song. Those sixteenth note runs are as solid as they come. Those fills are priceless.

There you go. Now, all you bassists and music lovers go do your homework.

Copyright © 24 Feb 2005 We Like Media.
You may email Tommy Burton.