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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Six Best Bass Lines Of All Time

Posted By on Tue, Mar 6, 2012 at 10:14 AM

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3. Miles Davis -- "So What"
Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis is the most successful jazz album that is undeniably a jazz album (and not, say, a Kenny G Christmas record). The closest thing it has to a hit single is "So What," which is built from an upright bass melody from Paul Chambers. It's a limber line for such an unwieldy instrument, and the horn section of Miles, Coltrane and Cannonball cleverly respond with two notes as if responding, "So what?" Miles is synonymous with cool (hence the disturbing "If peeing your pants is cool, consider me Miles Davis" joke from Billy Madison that you didn't fully get when you saw that movie at age thirteen). Much of "So What"'s coolness is Chambers, who opts out of soloing when his turn rolls around. He just walks the bass for a few measures and then kicks back into the melody. And the horns respond cheekily, "So what?"

2. Pink Floyd -- "Money"
If this was a list of "Best Songs In 7/4" this would be No. 1. It's not. Bass in under-appreciated in Pink Floyd's catalog. Imagine "Another Brick in the Wall" or "Echoes" without that undercurrent. You can't imagine "Money" without bass because it wouldn't even exist.

1. Jackson 5 -- "I Want You Back"
"I Want You Back" doesn't just have the greatest bass line ever, it has the two best bass lines -- the intro/verse and the chorus could have been spread into two songs. Thankfully, they were not. The song's greatness is not because of those little Jackson kids or their controlling father. It's because of the Motown production team the Corporation, who wrote the track and assembled one of the most feel-good grooves ever. Drums in one ear, congas in the other and that triumphant bass dead center. It's not so much a walking bass line as a hopping bass line, jumping playfully until it circles back to the tonic. The tension and release is phenomenal, especially considering it never leaves the key. It's so powerful that little Michael's vocals sound like a countermelody. Maybe Fender should have stopped making electric basses after this recording, knowing that the instrument has peaked. But then how would you be able to play along at home?

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