The Hot List Of Drum Solo Milestones
Even though drum solos have long the butt of smarmy jokes, the history of drum soloing is rich and lined with important milestones. Here are some classic drum solos that we believe helped elevate the medium from being a mere craft to an art form.
Best Solo Of All Time
Elvin Jones on “A Love Supreme, Pt. 3: Pursuance” from A Love Supreme (1964) by John Coltrane. Jones’ frenetic attack takes drum soloing beyond an exhibition of chops and speed and into texture and color.
Most Melodic Drum Solo
Joe Morello on “Take Five” from Time Out (1955) by Dave Brubeck Quartet. By using space between notes, Morello exploits his open drum sounds to weave musical themes in 5/4 — a revelation in its time.
Most Technically Dazzling Drum Solo
Billy Cobham on “Stratus” from Spectrum (1973) by Billy Cobham. All of the fiery elements that elevated Cobham to legendary status with Mahavishnu Orchestra in the ’70s are refined to perfection here.
Most Out-Of-Control Solo
Keith Moon on "My Generation" from The Who Sings My Generation (1964) by The Who. What else did you expect? Moon goes bonkers playing wild triplet figures at the end of The Who's first big U.S. single.
Best Solo Over A Vamp
Steve Gadd on “Aja” from Aja (1977) by Steely Dan. By allotting equal weight to his sticks and pedals, Gadd makes a linear solo statement that follows form without risking a single extra note.
Most Overrated Drum Solo
Ron Wilson on “Wipe Out” from Wipe Out (1963) by The Surfaris. It doesn’t take much skill to play this piece of surf rock history, though “Wipe Out” could also fall under the “Most Influential Solo” category.
Most Complicated Drum Solo
Terry Bozzio on “The Black Page” from Make A Jazz Noise Here (1991) by Frank Zappa. The composer wrote this solo piece as a challenge to Bozzio. In essence, the title says it all — loads of inexplicable notes.
Most Compositional Drum Solo
Neil Peart on “O Baterista” from Rush In Rio (2003) by Rush. Nominated for a “Best Instrumental” Grammy in 2004, this live cut exemplifies Peart’s methodical approach to crafting solos.
Most Indulgent Drum Solo
Tommy Lee in a rotating cage during Mötley Crüe’s Dr. Feelgood tour. It inspired legions of headbangers to flash the devil’s horn sign as Lee sailed overhead, but it also signified a low point of rock drum soloing.
Fastest Drum Solo
Buddy Rich on “Machine” from Big Swing Face (1967) by Buddy Rich. In truth, this category could go to any one of dozens of Rich solos that take technique into the stratosphere, and defy physical limitations.
Best Rock Drum Solo
John Bonham on “Moby Dick” from Led Zeppelin II (1969) by Led Zeppelin. The absolute epitome of the Bonzo style, Bonham thrashes triplet figures around his kit and invents the heavy metal drum solo.
Best Jazz Drum Solo
Buddy Rich on “Channel One Suite” from Mercy, Mercy (1968) by Buddy Rich. This Don Menza arrangement reveals the remarkable big band jazz drummer at his most explosive peak of soloing prowess.
Most Original Drum Solo
Mitch Mitchell on “Voodoo Chile” from Electric Ladyland (1968) by Jimi Hendrix Experience. Okay, lots of jazz drummers already used a free soloing approach, but when Mitchell did it here, rock drumming changed forever.
Solo That Didn’t Stand The Test Of Time
Ron Bushy on “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” from In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (1968) by Iron Butterfly. Considered a rite of passage for ’60s drummers, Bushy’s solo sounds simplistic and overwrought by today’s standards.
Most Influential Drum Solo
Gene Krupa on “Sing, Sing, Sing” from Sing, Sing, Sing (1935) by Benny Goodman. Where it all began. Between Krupa’s tribal tom work and his magnetic stage presence, the solo became every drummer’s showcase.
This is our list, but we are fully aware that you have your own preferences. Please tell us about your favorite drum solos in the comments section below.