1. Mahavishnu Orchestra, “You Know You Know”
In high school I thought the only good guitarists were the ones that played fast metal licks. My dad proved me wrong when he put on a vinyl copy of John McLaughlin’s “The Inner Mounting.” The whole album is just incredible, but “You Know You Know” has some great imagery and features the group’s more mellow side. Also, Billy Cobham’s drumming is insane.
2. The Band, “The Weight”
My dad would always play this song on his guitar when I was little, and when I was in eighth grade, I saw “The Last Waltz” for the first time. Ever since then I’ve been a huge fan of The Band. I was also sort of named after one of the characters in this song — it came on when my parents were deciding what to name me.
3. Baroness, “Swollen and Halo”
This band is amazing, I haven’t heard another metal group with guitar tones like they use. If you haven’t listened to their “Blue Record,” you’re definitely missing out. Each of the instrumentalists blend perfectly as a group and the band does a great job in writing some really fun and varied pieces.
4. Philip Glass, “Koyaanisqatsi”
Most people I talk to absolutely despise minimalism. I would agree that most of it is fairly boring, but there are a lot of hidden gems within the genre. I find this composition to be very expressive. If you have time, watch the film it accompanies for the full effect.
5. Jethro Tull, “Cross-Eyed Mary”
I saw Jethro Tull this last summer. I’m not going to lie, they were pretty bad, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are one of the most creative and underrated bands of all time, and I’m not saying that just because they are a rock band with a flute. They have a completely unique sound and wrote some amazing material. “Cross-Eyed Mary” really shows how they were influenced by older styles of instrumental music and blended it with rock.
6. The Mars Volta, “Cygnus…Vismund Cygnus”
This band rules. “Cygnus” is stereotypical of the Mars Volta repertoire — it contains some crafty polyrhythms interwoven with some Santana-inspired guitar riffs and what could be the highest male voice progressive rock has ever seen. The Mars Volta is easily one of my favorite bands. Be on the lookout for their new album coming this spring.
7. McCoy Tyner, “Atlantis”
I remember hearing this track a few times before I got into jazz and wondering why anyone would listen to it. Seeing Tyner live changed my view on jazz completely. Aside from being one of the greatest jazz pianists alive, he really does an amazing job with drawing in the listener and positing some fantastic imagery.
8. Van Morrison, “Wild Night”
This song pretty much speaks for itself. Even though you can only manage to understand maybe half of what Van Morrison is saying, he never fails to entertain.
9. The Smashing Pumpkins, “Bring the Light”
I probably listened to this song a few hundred times while in London my junior year of high school. The Smashing Pumpkins have been one of my favorites since I was little. Although none of their other material has stood up to Siamese Dream, I absolutely love “Bring the Light.” To me it evokes a real sense of closure and serenity. Also, Jimmy Chamberlain is my favorite drummer.
10. Wilco, “Side with the Seeds”
I hated Wilco’s “Sky Blue Sky” the first time I heard it, but it’s now one of my favorite albums. “Side with the Seeds” epitomizes what I love about Wilco — they’re all virtuosos but tend to lay back and focus on the music. The guitar solo at the end of this track blew my mind the first time I heard it. I would recommend listening to the whole album; the drum solo finale is sensational.