Monday, June 27, 2011

The Top Instrumentals of the Rock Era, Part 1

You will find several lists of the top instrumentals so this one is far from being the only one.  I tried to base it on what the public thinks, leaving my personal bias out of it.  For it doesn't matter what a so-called "expert" or professional in the music business thinks.  History will always record what the public favors.

So I base a good deal of this list on chart performance at the time, single and album sales to this point in history, and how the song holds up today.  I have put a considerable amount of time and effort into coming up with this list.  Although I believe it contains The Top 100 Instrumentals of the Rock Era*, it doesn't start getting great until the top 85 or so.  

What is great about instrumentals is that the songwriter is free to focus solely on the music.  Artists today have gotten away from that--when you strip the song from its jive and 21st century sound effects, all you have is the music.  By listening to these instrumentals, hopefully we'll get back to what matters when composing a song. 

 Of course, I do realize that beginning in the 1980's, we as a society began cutting music programs to the bone so really we have only ourselves to blame for the poor quality of "music" these days.  I know my own knowledge of music (I play the saxophone, clarinet and have played piano since age 5 and was in a group of 12 that was selected to sing at our church's world conference in Portland, Oregon and then toured throughout the country...) would not have been as great were it not for music education in the schools.  I hope we can get back to providing more funds for that, to stimulate our children's interest in music.

Getting back to the other "lists" you may see on the web.  They are great, but what is a music site without music?!  Thus, you actually get to hear the songs that are in the list.  Many I was not familiar with until I started researching for this special.

For navigation, the song titles are below the embedded YouTube video.  For ease of use and listening to the songs, I will separate it into 10 sections of 10 songs each.  The next 10 songs will be featured on the blog June 30.  I strongly recommend playing each song in order--with any luck (if I've done my homework (and I have!)), each one should sound better than the last.  At least that's the goal.


100.      "Tijuana Taxi" by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass

"Tijuana Taxi" was used in an animated short film that won an Academy Award. It is one of the lead tracks from the album Going Places, which was #1 for six weeks and remained on the album chart for 164 weeks, one of the longest-running albums of all-time.

Born to a tailor who had emigrated from Russia and his California-born wife, Alpert became one of the most loved and influential people in the history of the music business. Among the many artists that Alpert signed to his independent A&M label, the Carpenters, Supertramp, Janet Jackson, Carole King, Peter Frampton, Styx, Bryan Adams, the Police and Amy Grant. "I have never to this day met two finer gentlemen,” said A&M artist Sting in 2006, inducting Alpert and A&M partner Jerry Moss into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

99.      "Yellow Bird" by Arthur Lymon Group

Lymon met pianist Martin Denny in 1954 and was invited to play in his band.  Their hit "Quiet Village" reached #4 in 1959  The popularity of that song generated a craze for all things Hawai'ian.  Later that year, Lymon split from the group to perform on his own and he became a regular ad New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel in Honolulu.  Every Friday and Saturday night, he would play to locals and tourists in the 1970's, 80's and 90's. Lymonalso played at Don the Beachcomber's Polynesian Village, the Shell Bar, the Waialae Country Club and the Canoe House at the Ilikai Hotel at Waikiki Beach. 

"Yellow Bird" went up against song like "Tossin' and Turnin'" by Bobby Lewis, "Quarter To Three" by Gary "U.S." Bonds, "Raindrops" from Dee Clark and another of The Top 100 Instrumentals*, "Last Night" by the Mar-Keys and still reached #4.

98.      "One Mint Julep" by Ray Charles

A Mint Julep is a drink of bourbon, sugar and cracked ice.  It is served with a sprig of mint and popular at horse races, especially the Kentucky Derby.  The Clovers originally did the song and it was also recorded by Duane Eddy, Sarah Vaughan, the Ventures, King Curtis and Count Basie.  But Charles had the biggest hit with it.  

Rudy Toombs wrote the song and it reached #8 for Charles in March of 1961.

97.      "Spanish Flea" by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass

This song was used extensively by the television show "The Dating Game", played when prospective dates were introduced to the audience.  Julius Wechter wrote the song; Wechter was the marimba-playing leader of the Baja Marimba Band.  Wechter played Marimba for the group in most of their songs, including their first hit "The Lonely Bull".

"Spanish Flea" was one of the top songs on the album Going Places, which was #1 for six weeks and spent a highly impressive 48 weeks in the Top 10 and an incredible 164 weeks on the album chart.

96.      "The Happy Organ" by Dave "Baby" Cortez

Dave Cortez was touring with Little Anthony and the Imperials, making $200 a week when this song was released.  He had previously been in groups like the Pearls and the Valentines.  Released at the same time as "Kansas City" by Wilbert Harrison, "Dream Lover" by Bobby Darin and "Come Softly To Me" by the Fleetwoods, "The Happy Organ" still was the first rock instrumental to reach #1. 


95.  "Lily Was Here" by David Stewart and Candy Dulfer

Dulfer plays sax on the song; she is the daughter of Dutch sax legend Hans Dulfer.  Dulfer recorded and toured with Prince and played a big role in his hit "Partyman".  She also worked with Dave Gilmour and Van Morrison.  Stewart of course was in the popular 80's group the Eurythmics.

The song was from the Dutch movie Kassiere and is also featured during the closing credits of the 1991 movie "Mystery Date".  "Lily Was Here" became one of the top songs of the year in Holland, the success soon spread all across Europe and to the United States.  Dulfer received a recording contract with Arista Records based on her performance in the song.

94.      "Express" by B.T. Express

The group was originally named the Brooklyn Trucking Express.  Their sound caught the attention of music veteran Sid Maurer, who along with Epic A&R man Fred Frank, who were starting a new record label.  The group was quickly signed and began recording.  They are also known for their #1 hit "Do It ('Til You're Satisfied)".  This reached #4 on the popular chart, #1 on the Dance chart and topped one million in sales in 1975.

93.      "Theme From 'Love Story'" by Henry Mancini and His Orchestra

Mancini learned how to play several instruments at an early age and soon began to write arrangements.  He sent a few to the legendary Benny Goodman, who wrote the teenager back and encouraged him to pursue a career in music.  Mancini enrolled at the famous Julliard School of Music but his education was cut short by World War II.

After the war, Mancini was hired to play piano and arrange for Glenn Miller.  Eventually, Mancini was highly sought after for film scores and his music is famous in numerous motion pictures.  He was nominated for 18 Academy Awards (winning four) and 72 Grammy Awards (winning a record 18).  For the movie "Love Story", Mancini earned an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a Grammy for Original Score.

92.      "Morning Dance" by Spyro Gyra

The group formed in Buffalo as a jazz fusion group and became popular on the club scene. The group got their name from a paper that member Jay Beckenstein had written for a college biology class about the green algae spirogyra. An owner of a Buffalo club pressed Beckenstein for a name for the group so he could promote them. As a joke, Beckenstein said spirogyra. The owner misspelled the name on advertisements, but the name stuck. 

Gerardo Velez, who played with Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock and later for the group Chic, joined the band after their first album in 1977 and became known as "the dancing percussionist". Spyro Gyra hit #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1979; in fact "Morning Dance" was the #6 AC song for the year. The song established Spyro Gyra as a leader in jazz music; in fact their mix of jazz with elements of R&B and rock is credited with being influential in the smooth jazz genre.

91.    "Miami Vice Theme" from Jan Hammer

Jan Hammer was born in Czechoslovakia and was a member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, a jazz-rock group.  Hammer also played with Stanley Clarke among others and did an album with Neil Schon of Journey in the 1980's. 

Believe it or not, this was the last instrumental to hit #1--the quality of music has been that poor since 1985.  This song is the only instrumental theme for a television show to go to #1.     Hammer won Grammy Awards for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Instrumental Composition.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.