Cultural Bias No. 72: It’s Instrumental

Driving home from Rhode Island last weekend, XM satellite radio tuned to “Jessica” by the Allman Brothers, I cranked the volume for Greg Allman’s piano solo. It got me thinking about other great non-guitar instrumental solos. I thought I’d list some of my favorites (in no particular order) and I invite you to offer some of your own. Here goes:

  1. “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder. Stevie’s harmonica!!!
  2. “W.S. Walcott Medicine Show” by The Band. On the Rock of Ages version, Robbie Robertson notes, “The best horn men in New York: Howard Johnson, Snookie Young, Joe Farrell, Earl McIntyre, and J. B. Ferrin.”
  3. “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” by the Rolling Stones. The saxophone solo by session-man extraordinaire Bobby Keys.
  4. “The Sad Café” by The Eagles. David Sanborn’s concluding alto sax solo makes this song!
  5. “Whammer Jammer” by the J. Geils Band. Magic Dick’s harmonica solo made a lot of people want to play the harp.
  6. “Eyes of the World” by Grateful Dead. The version with Branford Marsalis on trumpet.
  7. “You Might Think” by the Cars. The opening keyboards of Greg Hawkes.
  8. “When the Music’s Over” by The Doors. Ray Manzarek’s opening organ rift.
  9. “That’s the Way of the World” by Earth, Wind & Fire. While the vocals may be best remembered, the lead-in keyboard synthesizer and horns combine to create what I believe is the most beautiful popular song of the 70s.
  10. “Magnet” by NRBQ. This list would not be complete without the piano and keyboards of Terry Adams.
  11. “Rollin’” by Randy Newman. Guarantee: Take a list of 100 Newman songs, pick one song blindfolded, and the piano will be awesome.
  12. “What’d I Say” by Ray Charles. Can’t leave out Brother Ray doing his thing on the 100 Series Wurlitzer Electric Piano.
  13. “Ain’t Gwine Whistle Dixie (Anymo’)” by Taj Mahal. Love those horns on the live version. (Howard Johnson credited again.)
  14. “Frank’s Wild Years” by Tom Waits. That organ!
  15. “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown. Ah, the sax of Maceo Parker on this and so many James Brown songs!

Send me yours, or comment below. (Message to Donny Mac: How about a sax solo from the Big Man, Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band?!?!?)