The 5 Most Talented Bands in Rock History

Obviously this is hella subjective, but it’s not a topic that I feel gets discussed a lot. People often talk about the “best” bands which is even more subjective, but I wanted to take a look at the raw talent each band showcases.

5.) Eagles:  I view the Eagles as probably the most underrated bands of all time. They had multiple singers, multiple songwriters, multiple historically good guitarists, a great drummer that could sing as well, and some of the best vocal harmonies in the business. Not to mention they penned “Hotel California” which has gone down as one of the best rock songs of all time. No one will convince me that Don Henley and Glenn Frey weren’t two of the best songwriters in rock history, which is the bump that gets them onto this list. Instrumentally, I don’t know that there’s one person that stands out above the rest because they’re all just phenomenally talented. This clip of the end of Hotel California which you’ve all heard a million times really showcases the entire band’s skillsets. Not only is Don Henley doing some serious drum work while singing, not only is their bassist (they’ve had a few and I’m not sure which era this is from) doing some seriously impressive rhythm work, but Don Felder and Joe Walsh are just going at it. It’s not an impossible solo like some of the rest of the people on this list have. But it’s a beautiful solo that does showcase a fair amount of skill, especially playing together. The band as a whole here is what really rises above. They function together in such a seamless way, like their harmony in Hole In the World showcases. I can’t point to any one thing about the Eagles and say “that’s why they’re one of the most talented bands ever,” but I think their cohesion as a band is among the best we’ve ever seen, which is remarkable given their messy breakup.

4.) Rush: Any time you have possibly the best bassist in rock history in Geddy Lee and again arguably the best drummer in rock history in Neil Peart and a criminally underrated guitarist in Alex Lifeson, you have to be in the discussion as one of the most talented bands in rock history. I admittedly don’t know Rush that well, but I know them well enough to put them on this list. It’s not everyday you hear bass work like Geddy Lee cranks out which is on clear display in this mind-boggling bass solo oh and not to mention the iconic bass on YYZ which is perhaps even more mind-boggling than the minute long solo. Add to that his work on the keyboards and vocals with his high and distinctive voice and you’re looking at one of the most talented frontmen in rock. Then take in the brilliance of Neil Peart on this drum solo from his appearance with David Letterman and tell me he’s not one of the best drummers ever, period. He’s so good he get’s bored with just having one drum set and surrounds himself with percussion. The drum set itself is iconic and there’s probably not a whole lot of people in the world who would even be able to play that to its full potential. And like I said Alex Lifeson is criminally underrated. Typically he plays in the shadow of the monsters he performs with but dude can hold it down on guitar. I think what’s most impressive to me with Lifeson isn’t necessarily blistering solos, but the way he glues the band together with hook after hook after hook. He holds rush down in a way that usually only a bassist can do, but he takes the mantle and his ability to write memorable riffs is up there with the best of them. With a lesser guitarist, or with one with a bigger ego, Rush may never have worked like it did. The perfect example of this is in Limelight, where he plays beautiful rhythm guitar between Peart’s dizzying drums and Lee’s fantastic bass and keyboard work. It’s the restrained but perfectly placed guitar work that holds that song together and gives it the extra element that makes it such a great song. And Lifeson does this in almost every song. Sure he has a solo in the song, but even then he’s writing to the song, playing to its already existent strengths. And in case you think he doesn’t often have those blistering solos because he can’t do them, here’s some proof that you’d be just flat out wrong with that position. Lifeson can shred with the best of them, but what he has more than that ability is the ability to know when and where to place those solos, not obstructing the song to showcase his talents, but adding to the song in just the way it needs. When you look at this trio on paper, it’s hard to argue that they’re not one of the most talented rock bands of all time. The fact that they’re only #4 here is just a testament to the bands to come.

3.) The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Obviously it’s Jimi Hendrix’s guitar playing that gets the experience the nod here. I’m not even gonna link you to his work because (A) you should already know it, and (B) just google him (jk I’m still gonna link you some). In my eyes, he is far and away the best rock guitarist of all time. Not only could he solo like a motherfucker but his riffs and hooks were pretty much better than anybody else’s. “Purple Haze” and “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” are among the best riffs in rock history. See here you go, I am going to link you to his work because his reworking of the national anthem as a protest to the Vietnam War (in short, what I’ve heard is the dive bombs in the middle of the song symbolize actual bombs being dropped in vietnam, and some of his use of effects like the Uni-vibe symbolize machine gun fire) is one of the most powerful musical pieces of all time. But Let’s not sleep on some other aspects of The Experience. First of all his songwriting is incredibly powerful and probably the best to come out of the psychedelic movement. Songs like The Wind Cries Mary (apologies most of his music isn’t currently available on youtube) and “Manic Depression” showcase his vulnerability while songs like the “Purple Haze” go all out psychedelic. And while he wasn’t an exceptionally talented singer, he was a distinctive singer, and in rock, that’s almost better than being talented. Now of course one person doesn’t make up a band, and the other members of The Experience held their own next to a person many see as a music god now. Mitch Mitchell’s drum work on their cover of All Along the Watchtower is nothing short of incredible and really makes the song almost as much as Hendrix’s guitar does, which is impressive to say the least. And Noel Redding’s bass is showcased just as much on the same track. Mitch and Noel knew that their place was to hold down the rhythm section for Hendrix’s all time greatness on guitar and his distinctive vocals, and they did that without hesitation and they did it with brilliance. People will tell you it’s easy when you’re working with the best ever, it’s not. In fact it puts that much more pressure on you not to screw things up. You have to be talented, knowledgeable, confident, and be able to check your ego at the door. Hendrix couldn’t have found a better rhythm section.

2.) Led Zeppelin: I probably don’t have to explain why Led Zeppelin is on this list. It’s more of a question of where they would be on it rather than if they would be on it. But let’s get the formalities out of the way. Jimmy Page is one of the greatest guitarists of all time in case you needed a reminder, even if he stole songs from black artists (among other artists).  John Paul Jones is unequivocally one of the best bassists in any genre, period. Oh and he’s also quite a capable keyboardist. John Bonham was one of the best drummers of all time. And in this writer’s opinion, Robert Plant is one of the best vocalists in rock history. Probably second best if you ask me. So what gives? Why are they only second and not first? Well, there is the whole stealing songs issue which melted a lot of my good will toward them, then there’s some hollow lyricism, and I know I’m just nitpicking at this point but some of Page’s solos really break the flow of the songs. He can be kind of the anti-Alex Lifeson, in that, like in “Heartbreaker,” the whole song needs to stop for him to show everyone how good he is at guitar. Now, those are fairly minor details, but they’re enough, because the next band is practically flawless.

1.) Queen: Alright here it is, better than the rest, there’s no getting better than this. Freddie Mercury is unequivocally the best vocalist Rock has ever seen. Queen as a band are some of the best lyricists the genre has ever seen. Add onto that John Deacon’s inescapably catchy and sublime bass lines,  Roger Taylor’s impressive and perfectly delivered drumming, and Brian May’s uncanny ability to not play for 3/4 of a song and then bust out one of the most memorable solos in rock history, and you’ve got yourself a motherfucking band. And as the seasoning that makes the recipe so perfect, give me two more vocalists that are adept at harmony and Freddie on the keyboards and you’re about to go out of your mind with how talented this group was. It’s amazing that they were able to put all of it together without ego’s clashing, but that’s what makes them the best. Not only are they more talented than any other band, they’re unselfish. They were basically the Golden State Warriors of music before GS was even the team it is now. Brian May didn’t feel the need to fill up every song with his amazingly talented guitar, but he knew exactly when to strike and how to do it. Songs like Killer Queen show May’s subtle playing through most of the course of the song, allowing the piano to do most of the work as he rattles off licks here and there before ripping a killer (no pun intended) solo. Even with his solo he’s not just showing off like you know he could. He’s giving you exactly what the song needs when it needs it. The same song showcases John Deacon’s beauty on bass in a different way than with catchy hooks like he has in “Another One Bites the Dust” and “Under Pressure.” Which, by the way, when you’ve written two of the most iconic bass lines in the history of music, you know you’re goddamn good. Songs like Somebody to Love show us the band working in perfect harmony (pun intended) and clicking on all cylinders. That particular song specifically shows perhaps Freddie’s greatest gift of all: the ability to make the audience feel every single word he sings. You can’t listen to that song and not come away feeling that he’s absolutely desperate to find somebody to love. It oozes out of every note he sings. You even get that feeling from Brian May and Roger Taylor in the background. Of course the best argument for Queen’s greatness is Bohemian Rhapsody, arguably the best rock song ever written, and the most difficult to sing with two iconic guitar solos and an iconic piano piece. Bohemian Rhapsody is Queen’s mic drop.

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