Monday, March 8, 2010

Mad About Music Monday - Top 10 Instrumental Songs

With only spotty write-ups lately we're hoping to slowly get the ball rolling by getting back into our regular spots at least on a semi-weekly basis. There may be more hiccups in our schedule on the horizon as we attempt to relocate the headquarters of Expect Odd Things to both a new state and its own domain. That said let's move on to today's order of business. We're back to talking music after taking three months off.

Today's entry is all about the best instrumental songs ever. We'll take a look at the top 10 instrumental songs in every genre of music. Want thrash metal, latin, jazz, 80's or oldies all in one place? Then this is the list for you. To set some criteria of how we figured out our top ten we followed these rules:

No themes from movies or television are allowed. (Love Theme, Peter Gunn theme, Guns of Navarone, TSOP)
Not a single word may be said during the whole song. (Reel Big Fish's 241, Tequila, Wipe Out, The Hustle, Daft Punk's Musique)
Lyrics may not exist for the song upon recording. (Jeff Beck's A Day in the Life, SRV's Little Wing, Sing Sing Sing)
No overly campy songs featured prevalently in media. (Dueling Banjos, Star Wars Cantina, The Entertainer, Soul Bossa Nova)
Cannot predominantly feature a solo as the majority of the song. (Moby Dick, Eruption, I Know You're Here)

With those criteria I took out many songs that I would have more than loved to include. Edgar Winter Group's Frankenstein was an 11th hour omission after I realized that it serves as the pseudo-theme to Wayne's World 2. In fact, this IS how I know and love the song. I can't help but hear the intro to that song and see the Paramount Picture stars falling into alignment. Even more interesting is our 12th hour omission Jessica by the Allman Brothers Band. It was firmly secured in our #3 spot until while preparing its blip of info I realized once again that it serves as a theme to the BBC car show Top Gear. Other songs left to hang out and dry were covers of songs with lyrics. I am a mad-crazy fan of songs of this nature and is almost completely why I love modern jazz music because they are different renditions of songs we already know and love. The ska classic Guns of Navarone had to be left out because upon further research I found out it was a cover, a theme and had lyrics from the movie of the same name starring Gregory Peck.

So with my back to the wall I had to reach out for some help on some of these. These people are thanked by name where necessary. Many of the suggestions I received were suggestions for any song by several artists. I would have gladly have taken suggestions had I actually heard those songs and listened to the those artists. Many of them have sparked my interests and I'll likely be getting into their albums in the coming months. Those artists include: Godspeed You Black Emperor, Russian Circles, Charles Mingus, Ratatat, and embarrasingly Frank Zappa. However none of those artists appear here, maybe in the likely rebuttal coming from fellow EOT author Mike D.

Please take some time to review our Top 10 Instrumental Songs:

#10: Daft Punk - Verdis Quo

The French techno duo well known for their transcendent house music teamed up with a Japanese anime studio to create "Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5olar 5ystem". Their 2001 album "Discovery" serves as the movies soundtrack and provides a one of a kind melding that can only be matched by coupling Pink Floyd's 1973 "Dark Side of the Moon" album and the 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz to create the well-known "Dark Side of Oz." (Although, as Kydo Coyote once stated, Trent Reznor's 1999 album "The Fragile" pairs just as well with David Fincher's film of the same year Fight Club.) Here is the eleventh  instrumental track on that album teamed with Toei Animation and Leiji Matsumoto's anime. Thanks to Christian for waking me back up to this instant classic.

#9: Joe Satriani - Surfing with the Alien

A previously mentioned I had some last minute omissions and I had to race to fill them. I realized this jewel upon further research and I'm quite shocked that no one mentioned it. After some re-structuring of the countdown order, here is the likely on of the most overlooked guitarist by the mainstream media, Joe Satriani and his 1989 song from the album of the same name, "Surfing with the Alien." This footage is taken from his 2006 DVD "Satriani Live!" recorded at two concerts in Anaheim, California in early 2006.

#8: Hugh Masekela - Grazing in the Grass

If the name Hugh Masekela sounds familiar that's because you likely know his son Sal who is a notable ESPN analyst for action sports. However this isn't the countdown for best X Games reporter. Hugh, his father and famed trumpeter released this song on his 1968 album "The Promise of the Future" and is one of the very few instrumental tracks ever to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It's noted for its heavy feature of the cowbell, I think Christopher Walken would be more than proud, to say the least.

#7: Cannonball Adderley - Mercy Mercy Mercy

Many of you may recognize the melody of this song as the 1967 version by the Buckinghams, but it was released one year earlier for Adderley's 1966 "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at the Club" album. I love this song so much it was featured at my wedding as a post-ceremony, pre-reception song to get everyone transitioned from sappy weepy to party mode. Please enjoy the original, complete with hoots and hollers from the live crowd 'at the club.'

#6: Pink Floyd - Marooned

Off of Floyd's 1994 album "The Division Bell," Marooned won the band a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental at the 1995 awards. The song is also featured on their 'best of' album "Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd" where it was shortened to only 2 minutes. One can almost feel the cry and whine of the guitar inside you as David Gilmour wails away. The song has only been played three times live, twice in 1994 in Oslo, Norway and once more ten years later at the Strat Pack concert celebrating 50 years of the Fender Stratocaster guitar.


#5: Rodrigo y Gabriela - Buster Voodoo

This Mexican acoustic instrumental group plays out of Dublin, Ireland where they've began to receive international recognition. They met in a thrash metal group and have similar fingering techniques to that of both metal and spanish guitar styles. (But don't call them flamenco!) Here is their second song from their concept album "11:11". The album is constructed around 11 artists that have influenced them and each track is a nod to each individual artist. Buster Voodoo is tip of the hat to guitar legend Jimi Hendrix. Here they are performing Buster Voodoo on KEXP-FM in Seattle, the broadcast network for the University of Washington.

#4: Booker T. & the MG's - Green Onions

Fans of the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon show would note that Booker T. Jones was sitting with the house band The Roots on Wednesday and Thursday last week. For this reason and the many artists that sit in with them from time to time is why The Roots are truly the greatest band in late night. It was this appearance of them playing Green Onions on the show that made me think of this countdown. Now that I'm done yapping, we'll move on to one of the classic riffs in Rock n' Roll, and it comes care of an organ (not a guitar!) tickled by the hands of Booker T. Jones leader of Booker T. & the MG's. Their 1962 song comes from the album of the same name and hit as high as #3 on the pop charts.

#3: Santana - Samba Pa Ti

Samba Para Ti is one song that assisted in the deciphering of criteria to use for this list. It, like Mercy Mercy Mercy and our #1 song, later had lyrics written for the song but at the time of their original recording they were completely instrumental. Guitar virtuoso Carlos Santana recorded this song with his band in 1970 for their second album "Abraxas." Translated from Spanish to English it means "Samba for you,"  here is Carlos Santana's samba for you, Samba Pa Ti.

#2: Metallica - Orion

I must be completely honest, this one was tough for me. I originally wanted to place Metallica's Call to Ktulu here, especially since it received a Best Rock Instrumental Grammy for it's appearance on their 1999 album, "S&M". However, while playing my Guitar Hero: Metallica game and having completed and unlocked Orion on the game a special feature was released. It was bootleg video from a 2006 concert at Rock am Ring in the Nürburgring race track in Germany. It was the first time EVER that Metallica had played the song in its entirety live in the 20 year history of the song. Thanks for the reinforced support from Spence and Scott. Here is that footage and the first time that Orion had ever been played in full. (The aforementioned acoustic instrumental duo Rodrigo y Gabriela do an amazing cover of this song on their self-titled 2006 album.)

#1: Dave Brubeck Quartet - Take Five

One of this past year's Kennedy Center Honors recipients Dave Brubeck and his quartet created what I believe is the single greatest instrumental and quite possibly the single greatest jazz song ever. Written by musical parter alto saxophonist Paul Desmond in 1959, this timeless song has been re-recorded by countless jazz musicians including Quincy Jones and George Benson. Al Jarreau covered it later with the lyrics that Brubeck and his wife wrote in 1961. Upon Desmond's death he left the royalties of the song to the American Red Cross which has receives around $100,000 per year from that. What song on this countdown can make that claim? Here is the Dave Brubeck Quartet performing their song live in 1961 on the first ever television jazz show Ralph Gleason's Jazz Casual.

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