in Top Ten

Man, this post required a lot of listening time.  As you’ve probably gathered, in response to Sean’s post last week of his favorite short songs, these are my favorite songs that push the 10-minute mark.  My criteria was basically that they all be rock songs, and I decided finally to include live songs, but they had to be the definitive version of the song, so sorry live version of “Freebird”.  I could’ve done the inverse of Sean’s writing style by writing multiple paragraphs for each song, but does anyone really want that?  I don’t.

10. Neil Young – “Cowgirl In The Sand”

When Neil Young gets together with Crazy Horse, these kind of long hazy jams just tend to happen.  It’s kind of cool how Young melds this sweet little love song with his murky guitar antics, which I’m usually game for.  Man, it’s been a while since I’ve listened to Neil Young.

9. Grateful Dead – “Alligator”

Speaking of artists I haven’t listened to in a while, here’s San Francisco’s premier band of jam-centric hippies.  This song is interesting because it’s sort of this half-live/half-studio production, complemented by this jazzy percussion breakdown in the middle.  Plus, it’s got maybe the greatest use of kazoo in any rock song ever.

8. Sufjan Stevens – “Impossible Soul”

I know Sean’s a big fan of this song, so I figured I’d give it some love.  At over 25 minutes, and dozens of changes in tempo and mood, this song is really quite a journey.  It’s so damn complex and layered that I’m not even sure how one would go about writing a song like this, but really it’s all about the “Boy We Can Do Much More Together” section.  That part is pretty sweet.

7. Funkadelic – “Maggot Brain”

I was fairly predisposed to not including lenghty instrumentals on this list, but “Maggot Brain” is different.  This is the sound of Eddie Hazel playing an electric guitar with about as much heartwrenching emotion as I’ve ever heard in a guitar solo.  Supposedly George Clinton told Hazel to play the solo as if his mama had just died, and I hate to say it, but there’s definitely a mournful quality to his playing.

6. Elton John – “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”

I tried to keep meddlies off this list, but I think “Funeral For A Friend” is such an integral build-up to “Love Lies Bleeding” that it’s hard to separate the two.  This is probably one of my favorite Elton John songs, and it’s a pretty brilliant example of the man’s ear for melody, all punched up with a synthy arena rock sound.

5. Pink Floyd – “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (I-IV)”

This song was supposedly written about former Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett, which I guess isn’t that surprising since it seems like half of Pink Floyd’s songs are about Syd Barrett.  When I hear this song it reminds me of another man that seemed to be bordering on insanity, my 8th grade science teacher, Mr. Dodge.  He used to always play this song in his class, and as far as I can remember, that was my first exposure to this wonderful 13 minute prog-rock odyssey.

4. Sigur Ros“Svefn-g-Englar”

I can’t really say I’ve ever been that into Sigur Ros, but something about this song really does it for me.  And like much of Sigur Ros’s best material, it’s hard to exactly put into words what exactly is so great about it.  It’s just a really fucking beautiful song that sounds otherworldly, and that’s about all I can say.

3. The Allman Brothers Band“Whipping Post”

Even though this is a live version, it’s nonetheless the definitive version of “Whipping Post”.  I mean the At Fillmore East version was featured on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs, not an easy feat for something so epic.   I remember mine and Nancy’s short-lived band Jack Be Quick covered this song live once, and we were exhausted after playing it for about 5 minutes.  Somehow the Allman’s are able to keep it up for 20, and all of those minutes are about as intense as blues rock jamming gets.

2. Bob Dylan – “Desolation Row”

As you’ve probably noticed, most of these songs rely on lengthy jam sections, but not this one.  “Desolation Row” is pretty much wall-to-wall lyrics, and Dylan uses basically all of the song’s 11 minutes to paint this very detailed picture of all these different characters and bizarre events that are unfolding.  It’s just an unbelievable document of Dylan’s incredible peak of creativity in the mid-sixties, and personally it’s up there as one of my favorite Dylan song.

1. Television – “Marquee Moon”

I’m not sure how many hours I’ve spent listening to “Marquee Moon”, but it’s got to be quite a few.  Television came out of that late ’70s New York punk scene where solos and jamming seemed to be blasphemous, so naturally Television’s first album has this 10-minute opus as it’s center piece.  Of course this isn’t just your typical blues-based classic rock solo, this is a song that incorporates jazz scales and complex key changes.  Basically the punch line is that you can accomplish a lot in ten minutes, and this song manages to sound unlike any other guitar jam I’ve ever heard.

  1. Oh man, respect. Forget writing about “Svefn-g-Englar,” it’s hard enough just spelling it.

  2. Well done and it’s much better list than I could’ve of thought up. Mine would probably look like this.

    10. Black Sabbath – Warning – 10:33
    9. Blind Faith – Do What You Like – 15:18
    8. Led Zeppelin – In My Time of Dying – 11:05
    7. Neil Young – Cowgirl in the Sand – 10:10
    6. CCR – I Heard it Through the Grapevine – 11:09
    5. Traffic – The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys – 11:44
    4. Pink Floyd – Pigs (Three Different Ones) – 11:25
    3. The Doors – When the Music’s Over – 10:59
    2. Can – Yoo Doo Right – 20:28
    1. The Mars Volta – L’Via L’Viaquez – 12:28

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