It is always very difficult to make rankings, lists, or selections of records, songs, musicians or bands in an absolute manner. It is an exercise that is often impossible and always useless. Personally I have never loved reading the periodical rankings drawn up by professional journalists about the best record ever, the best guitarist of the millennium; are rankings that leave the time they find, because if it is true that there may be a more or less objective measure of judgment in establishing who actually changed the world of music or the way of playing a certain instrument, it is also true that in front of to certain jobs or musicians of undisputed caliber, in the end it is always the personal taste or liking that make the needle of the scales hang. He will never get out of it.
So mine does not want to be a ranking, but a collection limited to 10 jobs (very few compared to those I could mention) that have changed the way I listen, create, think of music. They are not in order of importance but, with a certain tolerance that is lost in the memory of my memories, of time.
To this collection of 10 albums, I allowed myself the luxury of adding, betraying the title of the article, a single song that probably gave a significant start to my passion for music.
Enjoy the reading.
Bicycle Race | Queen
Yes, if the memory does not fail me, I think it was one of the very first records I bought, or rather, that I asked to buy from my parents. I was about 12 years old and after a first approach quite distracted listening to music, I think this single released in 1978, I was a bit ‘woken up by that numbness and sonorous innocence in which I found myself. I found the song absolutely in line with my twelve-year-old experience (I had a Saltafoss bicycle, very popular in Italy), and it was at the same time a song that contained sound pearls and dazzling harmonic solutions. The funny thing is that then, in the course of my musical history, I have never heard much of Queen again!
Freddie Mercury – lead and backing vocals, piano, bicycle bells
Brian May – electric guitar, backing vocals, bicycle bells
Roger Taylor – drums, backing vocals, bicycle bells
John Deacon – bass guitar, bicycle bells
Made In Japan | Deep Purple
Surely the first real record that changed my way of enjoying music. A masterpiece of power, quality, and beauty that have made this record the sacred Grail of rock. The band in its best training, with Gillian on vocals and Roger Glover on bass, I consider the author of one of the most beautiful and exciting entries in the electric bass line in the history of rock: the beginning of Smoke On The Water, with percussive line in distortion that starts from low E and invests you as a truck.
Among other things, as you might easily think, my favorite track of the album was not really the trademark of the band, but it was “Lazy”, a song of 10 minutes and pass where Jon Lord gave the best of himself with the ‘Hammond. I remember that at that time, in eighth grade, I always used the walkman on my head and the concert cassette perpetually inside!
Ritchie Blackmore – electric guitar
Ian Gillan – voice
Roger Glover – electric bass
Jon Lord – organ, keyboards
Ian Paice – drums
Troubadour | J.J. Cale
A discovery that changes the course of your musical growth. I “met”, as often happens, J.J. quite randomly during a study vacation in England, in Brighton. A guy who used to attend to the same course was going around with a big portable stereo (as it was used in the 80s) and, among the tapes he used to play during his lunch break at the park, he also had this album. I was struck by its simplicity and beauty. The figure of J.J. Cale has always been combined with that of the more famous Eric Clapton, because the english guitarist, during his career, reinterpreted several passages of the america songwriter, among which the famous “Cocaine” that thanks to the English bluesman, became a global success also for the unknown American bluesman. J.J. Cale has accompanied me throughout his life and even today in his songs I always discover something new and inspiring.
J.J. Cale – electric guitar, bass, vocals
Reggie Young – solo electric guitar
Kenny Buttrey – drums
Disraeli Gears | Cream
Probably, always in my humble opinion, the most innovative, powerful and technical power trio of all time in rock. I believe that with this record my interest in music has been started and not only enjoyed. I can say with absolute certainty that Jack Bruce, along with Donald “Duck” Dunn (later bassist Eric Clapton), were the 2 bassists who first made me understand and appreciate the importance of electric bass in a band. I remember that until that moment my interest was battery-oriented, that even today I listen with particular attention in a band, and that for obvious logistical and acoustic reasons (playing it in an apartment was not thinkable) I was not allowed to buy and learn to play. Returning to the disc, it is a virtually perfect record, where the trio Ginger Baker (drums), Eric Clapton (guitar) and Jack Bruce (electric bass) are extraordinarily impeccable. This record is so beautiful that it is difficult to choose a single song. But I would say that as a bassist, Sunshine Of Your Love stands out on all. Pastorius himself, years later, claimed that Jack Bruce’s bass line in this song was absolutely brilliant and incredible. And if he said it …
Eric Clapton – guitars, voice
Jack Bruce – bass guitar, voice
Ginger Baker – drums
John Barleycorn Must Die | Traffic
Another perfect record. Another perfect band, captained by the undisputed genius of Steve Winwood on keyboards. The same who took part in another band, both historical and short-lived, along with Eric Clapton, in the period just before the constitution of the Traffic: the Blind Faith.
The Traffic are a mix of jazz, pop, rock, typically English blues that are the natural link between the British rock of the late 60s and the first prog-rock that was born in those years on the island. It is no coincidence that, in my historical process of musical enrichment, soon after the Traffic come the King Crimson and the Emerson Lake & Palmer. It was a natural evolution. In this record is really difficult to choose only one song as well, but I think Glad is the most representative track of the band of that period. An instrumental piece, in certain moments jazz, in certain rock, in others almost esoteric and psychedelic.
Steve Winwood – keyboards, guitars, assorted instruments and solo voice
Jim Capaldi – drums and vocals
Chris Wood – flute, saxophones
Beat | King Crimson
One of the bands I’ve ever loved the most in my life and I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing live. The King Crimson is one of those bands that do not belong to a specific style. Putting them into a space by putting a gender label would be a big mistake. King Crimson plays the King Crimson genre. I believe that few bands in the world can boast this privilege. Robert Fripp and his companions, in their long career and frequent change of attitude, have maintained an unmistakable and inimitable style. This album, released in June 1982 and probably one of the least known and successful of the band, was for me the beginning of the exploration of music that was no longer just blues-rock, but that also ranged in jazz, in research and in the vanguard. Not surprisingly, coinciding with my 16 years and my passion for the literary production of the American Beat Generation, this album is entirely dedicated to the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of the book of Jack Kerouac “On The Road”. References to the book are evident in the titles and in some texts.
Book with algide sounds, with a masterful Adrian Belew on guitar and vocals and a Tony Levin on bass and Chapman Stick absolutely unconventional. A record that I love in a visceral way.
Adrian Belew – guitar, main voice
Robert Fripp – guitar, organ, Frippertronics
Tony Levin – Chapman Stick, bass, support voice
Bill Bruford – drums
Tarkus | Emerson, Lake & Palmer
I think Tarkus is the most beautiful album of the ELP and in general of the first Prog-Rock. In 1971, the band’s second album, Tarkus is a mix of classical music, rock, blues and electric jazz. Completely instrumental, schizophrenic and technically complex songs alternate with ballads accompanied by the soothing voice of Greg Lake. A concept album, a theme so dear to this kind of music, tells the imaginary story of “Tarkus”, a sort of half-animal and half-machine armadillo. The most visionary instrumental pieces are interposed to those sung, in which the texts underline the human weakness and its degradation, always accompanied by a desire for destruction and death in the name of peace. A complex album, almost 40 minutes of stratospheric music, which in some songs can also be ironic and irreverent (Jeremy Bender and the impromptu and improvised Are You Ready Eddie ?, recorded live with a text totally invented on the fly by Keith Emerson).
Keith Emerson – keys
Greg Lake – bass guitar, voice, guitars
Carl Palmer – drums, percussions
Wish You Were Here | Pink Floyd
With this album begins my bassist “career”. To make me discover the Pink Floyd was just the guitarist of my first rock-blues band, Francesco Boschetto. Guitarist with whom then over the years shared several musical experiences that led us to fusion and jazz. A partnership that lasted for several years until our streets separated for work reasons. Surely this record was not the first I bought Pink Floyd (I think it was the classic The Dark Side Of The Moon), but it was definitely the one that fascinated me most with Meddle, purchased later. Listening to Pink Floyd coincides with my passage from the classic blues of Eric Clapton and J.J. Cale to the prog-rock played. I remember that in that year I bought one of the first Ibanez 5-string basses, recovering the money working in a factory during the summer. I think it was 1986. Bass that lasted very little, because in a short time I abandoned the genre to get closer to jazz-fusion and returning to a classic 4 string: to be exact a fretless 4 string, that is without the keys, because that year I was struck by what was my greatest love for the rest of my life. Imagine who, for a bassist, is not difficult. You will find out in the next record.
Returning to Wish You Were here, partly dedicated to the abandonment of the band and its consequent self-destruction of the first guitarist Syd Barret, this is an album that I consider a beauty hardly equaled. Of all the band’s, certainly my favorite, in terms of complete work.
Roger Waters – voice, bass guitar, guitars, VCS3
David Gilmour -voice, guitars, keys, bass guitar, lap steel guitar, VCS3
Richard Wright – tkeys, voice, VCS3, ARP String Ensemble Synth, Minimoog, clavinet, electric and acoustic piano
Nick Mason – drums, percussions
Dick Parry – sax on Shine On You Crazy Diamond
Roy Harper – voice on Have a Cigar
Stéphane Grappelli – violin on Wish You Were Here
Venetta Fields – vocals
Carlena Williams – vocals
Jaco Pastorius | Jaco Pastorius
The electrocution on the road to Damascus, or for jazz, in this case. This record and in particular Jaco, represent for me the alpha and omega of my musical journey. The discovery of Jaco is quite unique: it is thanks to my bass teacher at the time, the great Gianfranco Clerici, who during one of the electric bass lessons at the historical “Free Sound” rehearsal room in Via Washington in Milan, at my request to explore the world of fusion and jazz, I submitted a book of theory on the instrument with the cover of a strange character with long hair and psychedelic look. My answer was: – I would like to play Jazz, not rock! I remember looking at me with a mixed look of compassion and mercy for what I had just said and reassured me with one word: – Trust me!
From that moment there was only him, Jaco, his Fender Jazz Bass strictly 4 strings and without keys.
A lot of things or not at all can be said about Jaco, because it would be in any case simplistic. It remains in my opinion the last great and unique innovator of its instrument and beyond. To put it briefly, there was the bass before Jaco and then there is the bass after Jaco. As two worlds understand the instrument in a completely different way that they have in the year zero as a common point.
Listening to his way of playing and his music is like traveling to infinity: you never stop learning and discovering new harmonic and rhythmic solutions. To describe it is impossible, it is necessary to listen to it.
Who would like to deepen by reading his extraordinary as tragic life, I recommend the book written by Bill Milkowski which remains the only faithful biographical testimony of this immense musician.
Of this wonderful album it is difficult to choose just one piece, but I would say that Continuum is very explanatory of the particularity of his music and the innovative interpretation of his instrument.
Jaco Pastorius – electric bass (tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 and 11)
Don Alias – conga (1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 10 and 11), bells (3), bongo (4), percussion (6), okonkoko iya (7) and afuche (7)
Randy Brecker – trumpet (2)
Ron Tooley – trumpet (2)
Peter Graves – bass trombone (2)
David Sanborn – alto saxophone (2)
Michael Brecker – tenor saxophone (2)
Howard Johnson – baritone saxophone (2)
Herbie Hancock – clavinet (2), Fender Rhodes (2, 3, 6 and 11) and piano (4, 8, 9 and 10)
Narada Michael Walden – battery (2)
Sam Moore – voice (2)
Dave Pratter – voice (2)
Alex Darqui – Fender Rhodes (3)
Lenny White – drums (3, 6, 8, 10 and 11)
Bobby Economou – drums (4)
Heavy Weather | Weather report
Who does not remember the spot from the Ramazzotti commercial of the “Milan to drink”? Nobody, I think (in Italy, obviously). Everyone knows that advertising and its music very well. Well, that song is just the Weather Report: Birdland. Song that gave the band a worldwide success and a record collection for a fusion album. His sales were at the levels of a pop record of the time: 300,000 copies immediately after publication.
But who was on the electric bass, recently replaced in place of Alphonso Johnson? HIM. Jaco Pastorius, among other authors of 2 tracks of the album: Havona and TeenTown.
I omit the anecdote about how Jaco Pastorius became part of the band because he deserves a separate article that is almost surreal. I advise you to explore the topic, which is well described in the biographical book of Jaco.
If the Weather Report had been until then a major reference point in the fusion music scene, with Jaco they became THE reference point and the maximum expression of the modern fusion that could conquer from the finest palates to the less prepared and unaware of the existence of this kind of music. Jaco’s Weather Report introduced LA Fusion to the whole world, raising the average musical level of an entire era.
Listened to today, this 1977 album sounds like it was just recorded. I do not think there is another Fusion record that flights at the same level. I, and not only me, continue to consider it the cornerstone of this kind. Among all the songs, and here you are really spoiled for choice, pesco Havona. A bit ‘because I’m biased (written by Jaco), a little’ because it is the one that I like most ever, but especially because in this song focuses the essence of their music, where each instrument has a fundamental role and nobody is supportive: listen carefully to the harmonic and rhythmic fabric of Jaco during the piece and the lyricism alternated with the power in his solo. At the limits of the human.
This is a record that should not be missing in any home.
Alejandro “Alex” Acuña – percussion, conga, drums
Manolo Badrena – percussion, conga, timbales, voice
Jaco Pastorius – bass, mandolin, drums, voice
Wayne Shorter – saxophone
Joe Zawinul – synthesizer, bass, guitar, piano, electric piano, drums, keyboard, vocals
Man Child | Herbie Hancock
Last but not least, as the Americans would say: last, but not what is worth less. Herbie Hancock, best known in Jaco’s debut album (we always come back there), I had discovered years before in his classical jazz period together with Miles Davis first and then with his quartet.
That Herbie Hancock had never impressed me so much, enthusiasm and love at first “ear” instead of being born later when he began his period of experimental jazz, electric, funk and so on and so forth.
The record that made him more famous in this area was undoubtedly Herbie Hancock Headhunters and perhaps Thrust. 2 masterpieces that marked the beginning of the true jazz-funk band and probably its trademark. Among all these albums of the mid-’70s I am however fond of Man Child that with the opening song really struck me: Hang UpYour Hang Ups. I think one of the most beautiful funk-jazz tracks together with the famous Chameleon (by Herbie Hancock Headhunters).
Since many years I consider him my fav keyboard player and musician for my compositions. Always ahead, looking for new sounds, new expressive methods. I recommend to those interested, his official autobiography, very well told and compelling.
Herbie Hancock – synthesizer, acoustic piano, electric piano, ARP Odyssey, ARP Pro Soloist, Oberheim 4 Voice, Fender Rhodes, clavinet
Wayne Shorter – alto and soprano saxophones
Jay DaVersa, Bud Brisbois – trumpet
Bennie Maupin – bass clarinet, alto flute, saxello, bass flute, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, percussion
Dick “Slide” Hyde – tuba and bass trombone
Garnett Brown – trombone
Ernie Watts, Jim Horn – flute and saxophone
Dewayne McKnight, David T. Walker – electric guitar
Wah Wah Watson – synthesizer, voice bag, electric guitar
Henry E. Davis, Paul Jackson, Louis Johnson – electric bass
Harvey Mason, James Gadson, Mike Clark – drums
Stevie Wonder – harmonica (#5)
Bill Summers – percussion