Ten Instrumentals

Every Friday, the Guardian Arts blog has a feature Readers recommend. This week’s subject is Instrumentals

As an antidote to RR’s bias towards lyrics and lyricists would like you to consider instrumentals. Although he also tells me that preference will be given to artists usually better known for their vocals, so maybe it’s not that much of an antidote. Anyway, some rules: when he says instrumentals, he means no vocals whatsoever. No wordless wailing, no whispering, no ululating, no yodelling. And no sampled voices. Also, no classical music: the field is too big, the list too small.

It’s a good one for an unrepentant prog-rock fan like me. Here’s the ten I came up with:

  • Mostly Autumn – ‘Out of the Inn’ and ‘Distant Trains’. The former starts out as a flute-driven folk-rock jig, then turns into a headbanging guitar rocker half way through. Always been a live favourite; it rips up the place whenever they play it. The latter is a moody atmospheric piece based around a drum loop, but too much rock guitar to be filed under ‘ambient’. Was another live favourite when they used to play it back when Iain Jennings was still in the band; still appears in the live set from time to time from Iain’s new band Breathing Space. (There’s a live version on Breathing Space’s myspace page)
  • Edgar Winter – ‘Frankenstein’. Featuring a young Ronnie Montrose on guitar with that killer opening riff. Alan Freeman used to use bits of this as jingles in his evening rock shows.
  • Rainbow – ‘Weiss Heim’ and ‘Snowman’. The former is a the superbly atmospheric B-side to the single ‘All Night Long’. And yes, the latter is a cover of that Christmas song, only with Fender Stratocaster instead of Aled Jones, which I rate as a considerable improvement.
  • Frank Zappa – ‘Peaches en Regalia’. He’s recorded a lot of jazz-rock instrumentals over the years; this is one of his best-known, and most accessible.
  • Genesis – ‘Hairless Heart’. The better of the two instrumentals from “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”. Due to it’s resemblance to some of his later solo material, I’m guessing it’s a Steve Hackett composition.
  • Rush – ‘La Villa Strangiato’ and ‘YYZ’. The former, subtitled ‘An exercise in self-indulgence’, does what it says on the tin, but it’s just brilliant. It may be little more than an extended jam, but it works. The latter, with the rhythm based on the morse code for the call sign of Toronto airport, is just as good. These two are ideal for people that can’t listen to Rush because they can’t stand Geddy Lee’s voice.
  • Jon Lord – ‘Bach onto This’. A rock version of J.S.Bach’s toccata and fugue in A minor, played on the mighty Hammond.

Now, where did I put all those Shrapnel Records instrumental shred-metal albums from the mid-80s?

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