Monday, May 2, 2011

My Favorite Bass Players

I had a long weekend so I was not able to post anything. Since I talk about drummers I thought I would switch it up and discuss my favorite bass players since they are the other half of the rhythm section. There are so many to choose from and the ones listed are purely my opinion (obviously). So let's get right to it.

Geezer Butler, Black Sabbath
I have made no secret of my love for Black Sabbath and a huge part of their sound (besides Iommi's mega-riffs) if the bass tones from Geezer. Geezer made Toni sound better by complimenting his riff through the use of harmonic notes and even full chords on the base. He played much more melodic than many of the bass played of the time and I love it.
Songs to hear:
  1. Fairies Wear Boots
  2. After Forever
  3. The Writ
  4. Hand of Doom
  5. Killing Yourself to Live

Geddy Lee, Rush
This is a no-brainer. Geddy not only has the chops on the bass but he can sing while he plays those chops. Like Neil Peart, Geddy spawned generations of bass players that were not content to just stick to the bottom and play a simple backbeat. Geddy was playing up and down the entire neck of the bass and even soloing in some song. Truly one of the best rock bass players of all time.
Songs to hear:
  1. Xanadu (duh)
  2. La Villa Strangiato
  3. Red Barchetta
  4. Marathon
  5. Too many more to list

Chris Squire, Yes
Like Geezer, Chris Squire is the definition of a melodic bass player. Being in a progressive juggernaut like Yes allowed Chris to truly explore what a bass could do and be an active part of the melody. Chris is a master at playing harmonic melodies and even lead parts. The difference between him and Geddy, Chris uses a pick. I always thought Chris had a great voice as well.
Songs to hear:
  1. Close to the Edge
  2. The Ritual
  3. Awaken
  4. On The Silent Wings of Freedom
Steve Harris, Iron Maiden
Wow. That was all I could say when I had 2nd row for Iron Maiden on the Fear of the Dark Tour. You can't help but stare at Steve Harris' fingers. He is so fast and has the gallop beat down to a science. There are many times when both guitar players and Steve are all playing the same notes. Steve can nail down the back beat but also turn on the fingers to do a lead just like a guitar player. Simply amazing.
Songs to hear:
  1. Run to the Hills
  2. Powerslave
  3. Invaders
  4. 22 Acacia Avenue
  5. Alexander the Great

John Paul Jones, Led Zeppelin
While he may be the silent member of the best band ever, he is also a phenomenal bass player. He is so versatile and could melody as well as stay in the groove. He played with and without a pick and oh yeah, played keyboard as well. Always in the background, even on stage, he kept the songs chugging along when Page was soloing.

Songs to hear:
  1. How Many More Times (my all time favorite LZ song)
  2. Whole Lotta Love (duh)
  3. The Wanton Song
  4. The Song Remains the Same
  5. Achilles Last Stand
John Entwistle, The Who
While the rest of the band was a bit sloppy in their playing as a whole, John was refined and could fly around the bass. He also perfect the four finger technique where he could hit many notes in a short period of time. I always loved the tone of his bass as well. He fit in perfectly with The Who but also kept the songs grounded. I was sad the day I heard he passed away. He was rock royalty in my book.
Songs to hear:
  1. We Don't Get Fooled Again
  2. Can You See the Real Me
  3. My Generation
  4. Bargain
  5. Sparks
John Myung, Dream Theater
My biggest complaint about Dream Theater is that John Myung is way too far back in the mix. The guy is an amazing bass player but it is hard to hear him. There are several theories as to why this is. I am not going into that here. I have seen him live several times and I can attest to his fluid fingers and amazing technique.
Songs to hear:
  1. Metropolis Part 1
  2. Lifting Shadows off a Dream
  3. In the Name of God
  4. The Dance of Eternity
  5. Octavarium

Notable Mentions (great players, just not as into these as the others)
  1. Victor Wooten (Bela Fleck)
  2. Jaco Pastorious (Weather Report, Solo)
  3. Tony Levin (King Crimson, LTE)
  4. Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, etc.)
  5. Les Claypool (Primus)
  6. Justin Chancellor (Tool)
  7. Paul McCartney (The Beatles)


  1. Excellent list! I couldn't agree more with some of your Notable mentions-- Victor Wooten, Jaco Pastorious, Tony Levin, Billy Sheehan! Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

    One of my favorites-- and this will likely surprise you somewhat-- Peter Cetera. Granted he essentially stopped playing bass after he left Chicago his chops on Chicago's first few albums are undeniable. When Rhino started remixing, remastering and re-releasing a lot of the old Chicago material the re-releases brought Cetera's bass playing closer to the front of the mix (especially on Chicago V). I know Chicago is known more for their horns but their rhythm section (Terry Kath, Peter Cetera, and Danny Seraphine) was just as notable-- if not moreso. While the horns were unique to Chicago. The chops of the horn players are somewhat debatable whereas the chops of the rhythm section are undeniable. Terry Kath had a way of playing both lead and rhythm guitar simultaneously that boggles the mind.

    Anyway for Peter Cetera-- Songs to hear:
    1. State of the Union - Chicago V (1972)
    2. Dialogue Pts. 1 & 2 - Chicago V (1972)
    3. I'm a Man - Chicago Transit Authority (1969)
    4. Overnight Cafe - Chicago XIV (1980)
    5. In the Country - Chicago II (1970)

  2. Perplexio, I have to admit I don't know much by Chicago other than their hits. But I do love the song 25 or 6 to 4(?) That song is awesome. I like singing it on karaoke as well. Thanks for reply and I am glad you liked the list.

  3. Perplexio I do agree with you on this one about Chicago. Chicago is one of my favorite groups.

    Brett I do have to agree with you on the ones that you have mentioned too. They are all great bass players.

    Some of the really surprise me when they can play the instrument and sing. This really amazes me. Then what really amazes me is they play another instrument too. Like Geddy Lee with the keyboard.

  4. Brett - Chicago's first 4 studio albums (CTA, II, III, and V) are all excellent and I recommend them to any fan of prog as they are far more musically adventurous than material that came after. While there were flashes of brilliance on other albums after V there wasn't the consistency of quality.

    The first 3 albums are doubles and their 4th album was a quardruple LP live set. If you do the math in their first 5 years they released the equivalent of 10 albums worth of material! I think the drop in quality following their fifth album is due to burn out. No one can keep that pace up forever and maintain a high level of quality.

  5. Tender Heart Bear, I was forced to learn to sing and play at the same time and now I am glad I did. When I jam with my buddy, I do all the singing while playing drums. There are still plenty of songs that I can't do both but if nothing else it helps know where we are in the song.

    Perplexio, I will have to go and listen to some clips of their early stuff. Thanks for the info.

  6. Great list here Brett! I'm gonna have to agree with you on most of them.

    Other great bass players I'd like to add to the list:

    Berry Oakley-Allman Brothers Band
    Adam Clayton-U2
    Roger Waters-Pink Floyd
    Greg Lake-ELP
    Allen Woody-Gov't Mule
    Phil Lesh-Grateful Dead
    Roger Glover-Deep Purple
    Bob Daisley-Ozzy Osbourne
    Jimmy Bain-Rainbow/Dio

  7. I thought of a couple others I enjoy:

    Mike Rutherford - Genesis
    John Wetton - King Crimson, Uriah Heep, UK, Asia

  8. drewzepmeister, I thought about Roger Waters but Floyd was known more for their "sound" than any one musician in the band. But there are some great bass lines though. Roger Glover is another one I could have added. Deep Purple's Made In Japan played a hug role in my early musical career and there is some great bass on that album (still my favorite live album ever).

    Perplexio, two more great names. I am not a huge fan if King Crimson and only a recent new comer to old Genesis, so I do not have an opinion either way on those two. But I will listen more to the bass as I hear songs from them in the future.

  9. I'm really only a fan of King Crimson's material from 1969-1975. Of the 7 albums they released in that timeframe Wetton only played on 3 of them (Lark's Tongue in Aspic, Starless, and Red). Their first 2 albums had Greg Lake on bass & vocals. Then they had 1 with Gordon Haskell on vocals & bass (he seems to have dropped off the face of the earth after leaving KC) then they had 1 with Boz Burrell on vocals and bass (guitarist and KC founder Robert Fripp had to teach Burrell how to play bass). Burrell left KC to play bass for Bad Company and finally they ended up with John Wetton. Their best albums are the first 2 with Lake and the 3 with Wetton.

  10. The late Gary Thain of Uriah Heep was a brilliant player and quite underrated.
    This is a great blog,Brett,I've become a follower and I invite you to do the same at my blog, where I've responded to your excellent comments on the Animals.

  11. john, Thank you for the kind words. I have followed your blog (I actually added to my blog list but forgot to follow it, sorry). I don't know much by Uriah Heep other than East Livin' (which is a great tune). I hope you find my blog inviting. I really like the bands your talking about. I grew up on oldies so I know much of the stuff you mention even though they were before my time for the most part. Keep up the great work.