For Your Favorite Bass Player’s Christmas List

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I know I’m everyone’s favorite, but I have everything on this list, so feel free to pass it on. This is a list of what I consider to be the records that most influenced me as a bass player. Some of them rank up there with the greatest bass records of all time. Others were just big influences on me.

Be sure to shop now for Christmas and give the gift of bass. These are listed in no particular order.

Artist: Jaco Pastorius
Record: self-titled
Bassist: Jaco Pastorius

One of the great bassists of all time and an absolute legend, this first record is absolutely phenomenal. If, as a bass player, you don’t freak at least a little over Jaco’s version of the Charlie Parker classic “Donna Lee,” check your pulse.

Artist: Tower of Power
Record: Live and in Living Color
Bassist: Francis “Rocco” Prestia

Rocco is the king of the fingerstyle funk bass. His sixteenth notes on What is Hip make my hand sore just listening. For those of you who remember actual vinyl, the last song on the CD is like 27 minutes long and took up the entire B-side of the album. Playing like that for 27 minutes??? Yeowch!

Artist: Marvin Gaye
Record: What’s Goin’ On
Bassist: James Jamerson

The father of R&B bass, Jamerson was just a remarkable player. The documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown rammed that home when they talked about how he recorded the song What’s Goin’ On drunk, with on finger on his right hand while laying flat on his back after a gig. Most guys can barely play that song with three fingers, completely sober and sitting at attention.

Artist: Various
Record: Atlantic Rhythm and Blues Boxed Set – 1967-1969
Bassist: Donald “Duck” Dunn

With all due respect to Jamerson, Dunn was my favorite R&B player mainly because I loved the Muscle Shoals sound more than Motown. This disc includes cuts by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding among others.

Artist: Sly and the Family Stone
Record: The Essential Sly and the Family Stone
Bassist: Larry Graham

A true pioneer of the funk bass, Graham essentially invented slapping and popping. And, while he did use it with Sly, the grooves are mainly fingerstyle and funky as hell.

Artist: The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Record: Axis Bold as Love
Bassist: Noel Redding

Definitely my favorite Hendrix record and Redding was a big reason. Redding was such a gifted player switching easily from funk to rock to blues.

Artist: Albert Collins
Record: Frozen Alive
Bassist: Johnny B. Gayden

I’ve never been a big fan of the blues but I love Albert Collins particularly because of Gayden. The live solo on Cold Cuts from this record has always left me slack-jawed.

Artist: Jaco Pastorius
Record: self-titled
Bassist: Jaco Pastorius

Artist: The Beatles
Record: Abbey Road
Bassist: Paul McCartney

The bass part from something is just classic Paul. He made playing melodic bass lines in pop songs an artform.

Artist: Led Zeppelin
Record: Houses of the Holy
Bassist: John Paul Jones

Jones ranks right up there as one of the biggest influences on me partly because of his playing and partly because of the band. There are tons of records to choose from, but this is my favorite if for no other reason than the bass part in The Song Remains the Same. He and Bonham are the gold standard for rock rhythm sections to this day.

Artist: Rush
Record: Exit Stage Left
Bassist: Geddy Lee

How can a rock bassist make up a great bass record list without Geddy? What I love about him was not just his technique but the fact that he really understood what rock bass was all about and wasn’t afraid to make that bass growl.

Artist: David Lee Roth
Record: Eat ’em and Smile
Bassist: Billy Sheehan

There are quite a few classic Sheehan recordings I could’ve chosen from Tony MacAlpine’s Edge of Insanity to his work with Talas. But, I love this record because it shows Sheehan at his best – technical and gifted, but restrained enough to be in the groove. In many ways, he understands and embodies the best of the great rock bassists from Jack Bruce to John Entwhistle.

Artist: Blue Murder
Record: self-titled
Bassist: Tony Franklin

Franklin was the first guy I really heard playing hard rock music on a fretless. He got his start in 80’s pop band Kajagoogoo and played with Paul Rogers and Jimmy Page in The Firm. Blue Murder was his one-record stint with the band that included former Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy guitarist, John Sykes. Franklin is all over the place with his awesome fretless tone and shows that it can cut through a wall of guitars.

Artist: Journey
Record: Escape
Bassist: Ross Vallory

The thing I love about Vallory is that his tone cut right through the band but wasn’t obnoxious or obtrusive. He knew what to play and when and managed to sneak in some of the coolest parts you’ll hear in pop music.

Artist: Paul Young
Record: Greatest Hits
Bassist: Pino Palladino

Pino is a long-time British session player who has worked with everyone from Pete Townsend and Tears for Fears to Oleta Adams and Simon Phillips. He now has assumed the bass chair with the Who since the demise of Entwistle. His work with Paul Young is some of the finest fretless work you’ll hear anywhere, particularly songs like the hit “Everytime You Go Away” and the funk song, “Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down.”

Artist: Duran Duran
Record: Rio
Bassist: John Taylor

People laugh when I say this until I play them the title cut and point out the incredibly funky bassline coming through the mix. Taylor made this band go and kept them funky despite the typical 80’s synchopation.

Note…my wife suggested I also mention that John should be ranked as second cutest bassist of all time behind yours truly. 😀

Artist: Sting
Record: Dream of the Blue Turtles
Bassist: Darryl Jones

Seeing and hearing Bring on the Night along with this record forever altered my perception of music. I realized with hearing this that you didn’t have to have loud guitars to rock like a m*ther f*cker. Up until this point, I mainly listened to rock and thank God I found this. Jones is brilliant here just like he was with Miles Davis, John Scofield and the Rolling Stones.

Artist: Steely Dan
Record: Aja
Bassist: Chuck Rainey

The combination of Rainey and drummer Steve Gadd is just beyond crazy. Rainey locks in tight to the grooves and wildly jazzy chord progressions. His work on other Steely Dan records like Pretzel Logic should not be discounted, but Aja is the quintessential SD record and Rainey is a big part of it.

Artist: Santana
Record: Sacred Fire Live
Bassist: Myron Dove

Really where I learned how to play Latin music in a rock context. Dove is tremendous as he moves easily from Latin to rock to funk to blues to reggae. As usual, the whole thing is propelled by Santana’s guitar and the killer work of his two long-time percussionists.

Artist: Ruben Blades Y Son de Solar
Record: Live
Bassist: Mike Vinas

Yes, Ruben Blades the actor. In his native Central America, it is pronounced “BLAH-dace,” but that is splitting hairs. He is to salsa what Sting is to pop and this live disc is full of great Latin grooves performed solidly by Vinas.

Artist: Al Di Meols
Record: Elegant Gypsy
Bassist: Anthony Jackson

Di Meola was the first guy I ever heard do super fast rock guitar mixed with jazz. Gypsy was a crazy record with flamenco, calypso, Brazilian bossa nova and jazz influences mixed with rock and fusion. Jackson is a monster playing mostly with a pick to cut through the raucous guitar work. The unison guitar and bass lines on “Race with the Devil Down a Spanish Highway” are simply ridiculous.

Artist: Steve Morse
Record: The Introduction
Bassist: Jerry Peek

Morse, a veteran of the southern rock/fusion outfit the Dixie Dregs, stepped onto the solo guitar scene with this record. Peek, a guy who went from unknown to semi-known back to obscurity as quickly as he came, played his ass off on this one. Morse would go on to work with bass phenom Steve Bailey and play in Kansas and Deep Purple. Peek, uh, at press time I think he is living in Atlanta, Georgia?

Artist: Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
Record: Flight of the Cosmic Hippo
Bassist: Victor Wooten

This was the first record I heard with Wooten on it. I’m still trying to remember what happened after I blacked out. The guy is, quite simply, one of the most jaw-droppingly amazing bass players ever to grace this planet. He is alien-like in his skill level and this album is no exception. His solo on the remake of The Beatles’ classic “Michelle,” is a wild mix of flawless technique and extreme creativity on his fretless.

Artist: Michael Manring
Record: Drastic Measures
Bassist: Michael Manring

Manring is a terrific fretless player with a very unique voice on the instrument. He has that Jaco-esque feel in places (see “Red Right Returning”) but manages to bring in a very different style at every turn. His solo on Gizmo is still one of my favorite moments for solo bass on any record.

Artist: Joe Satriani
Record: Flying in a Blue Dream
Bassist: Stuard Hamm

I saw Satch at a club in Houston in 1990 and had only heard a few songs with Hamm – namely, “Blue Powder,” a song he did with Steve Vai that ended up on a promotional pull-out record in Guitar Player magazine. When I saw him at this show, I was blown away. While I admire the stuff he has done with Vai and as a solo artist, Blue Dream is still a favorite because it is reminicent of that live show where he and drummer Jonathan Mover really groove together. I have a bootleg of that show on a cassette. It still sounds killer.

So, that’s the list. Enjoy!

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