The following list is of my top 5 favourite bass players. They have in some way influenced my style or bass sound over the years.
5) Flea – Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Flea may not have the most obvious influence on my playing but he is one my favourite bass players and is one of the best players of any genre. If you listen carefully you can hear Flea’s influence in some of my bass lines. Admittedly I don’t slap but that’s not his only method, besides who’s to say I won’t slap in a future song…
If you’ve only heard Red Hot Chili Pepper’s output since 2000 and think they are a bit bland or tame then go check out their 80s or early 90s albums. In those days they got pretty close to Funk Metal or at the very least had a punk edge. Back on those albums Flea could slap his bass with ferocious speed!
Song: ‘Naked in the Rain‘. Check out the bass solo in the middle!
4) Steve Harris – Iron Maiden
Iron Maiden are one of my favourite bands both live and on record. Despite Bruce Dickinson being the face of Iron Maiden, Steve IS Maiden. He has been the driving force of the band from day one, not only musically but also in pushing them to such huge heights. His sound may be a little clunky for some but you always know it’s Steve playing. He is so prominent, can pack both a punch and also manages to supply the technical wizardry. Even with 3 guitarists to contend with now the bass still stands out clearly against the rest of the music.
Song: ‘Phantom of the Opera‘. One of the first songs I learn to play on bass. This shows off Steve’s technical wizardry at it’s best and demonstrates how he can easily keep up with the guitarists. This is amazing work considering it’s their first album!
3) Geezer Butler – Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath are the reason why most bands in Hard Rock and Metal exist. Geezer Butler is a massive part of the Sabbath sound. Tony Iommi may have provided the riffs but Geezer Butler and Bill Ward were the back bone. I love his sound, it’s varied a lot since the early days but has always been prominent and never drowned out by the guitar. The newest album ‘13‘ is a great come back for Ozzy-era Sabbath and probably has my favourite Geezer Butler sound. It has plenty of low end mixed with a good level of mid punch. His style is so free and flowing that he always manages to keep the music going even when Iommi holds back. His solo backings are almost as ear catching as the guitar solos themselves.
Song: ‘NIB‘. The bass solo intro to the song with that snarly distortion is brilliant. The song itself has a great example of Geezer’s free flowing bass style, smoothly gliding across all the strings.
2) Rex Brown – Pantera, Down & Kill Devil Hill
Rex Brown has probably had the biggest influence on my sound and has a fair bit to answer for in my style too. His bass sound has the low end but also plenty of mid and high which gives a thump, punch and a snarl. He manages to get his bass sound through an incredibly thick guitar sound and it gave Pantera and Down (the two albums he’s on – ‘II’ and ‘Over the Under‘) such a massive sound. He may not be the most technical player out of these 5 but he still has some very impressive technical chops and manages to keep up with some amazing guitarists. As well as Pantera and Down he has more recently recorded an album with his new band Kill Devil Hill, who are definitely worth checking out. I never got to see Pantera so if I was a given a time machine then I would definitely go and see mid 90s Pantera live, on my way to see number 1 on my list!
Songs: Pantera – ‘Revolution is My Name‘. For the heavier side of Rex. The bass under the solo is almost a solo itself!
Down – ‘Lies, I don’t know what they say but…‘. For a more chilled and free flowing side to Rex.
1) Cliff Burton – Metallica
It could only be one player for me. Sadly Cliff Burton was killed a year before I was born so seeing Metallica in ’85/’86 would have been priority number 1 for me. I have downloaded several live sets and I own ‘Cliff ‘em All’ on DVD, I just wish I could have been there! His live sound was amazing, chunky as hell but most importantly PROMINENT. The bass levels on the 3 Metallica albums he is on (arguably the 3 best) have him criminally low in the mix. I would love to hear remixed and re-mastered versions of Metallica’s first 4 albums (including the non-existent bass sound of ‘…And Justice for All’ album with Cliff’s replacement Jason Newsted) with the bass given the much higher volume level it deserves.
Not only was Cliff a bass playing genius he was also a master musician. He brought so much musicality to ‘Ride the Lightening‘ and ‘Master of Puppets‘ that I don’t think the other 3 players would have been capable of without his influence. From what I’ve read he even helped write some of Kirk’s solos on those albums.
Song: No choice for me other than ‘Orion‘.
This song got me into Metal music in the first place. It is a beautiful song that features not only one of Cliff’s rare stand out bass sections on record but also a bass solo that duets with Kirk’s guitar solo. It took me years to realise that it was a bass solo as it sounds so much like a lead guitar solo just played on the lower strings.
Hope you found that interesting. Feel free to respond with your thoughts and opinions. Vaughan has previously written his top 5 if you missed it so keep an eye out for Wilkes top 5 next.