For Valentine’s Day we offer our unique list of Top 9 rock ballads chosen from the classic rock era, ranging from the late 1960s until the late 1990s.
#9. “Change the World” by Eric Clapton (1996)
Even though Eric Clapton has a much more popular ballad, “Wonderful Tonight”, which is played at weddings and dances throughout the land, we chose another song from latter in Clapton’s career. “Change The World” was written by the Nashville team of Tommy Sims, Wayne Kirkpatrick, and Gordon Kennedy in the early 1990s, the song was originally intended for Garth Brooks. Clapton was later introduced to the tune and adapted it as an acoustic blues recording for the soundtrack to the 1996 film Phenomenon.
Listen to “Change the World” by Eric Clapton:
#8. “Time In a Bottle” by Jim Croce (1972)
When Jim Croce released his 1972 debut album You Don’t Mess Around with Jim, the ballad “Time in a Bottle” was not intended as a single release. However when Croce was killed in a plane crash a year later, this tune about love, mortality, and the wish to have more time gave it more resonance and a vast increase in airplay. As a result, “Time In a Bottle” became Croce’s second and final #1 hit in January 1974.
Listen to “Time In a Bottle” by Jim Croce:
#7. “Help Me” by Joni Mitchell (1974)
“Help Me” is a jazz-infused love song which was composed, performed and produced by Joni Mitchell on her album Court and Spark. The song was recorded with an all-star Los Angeles jazz recording band and features a complex and unique arrangement while remaining accessible to the listening audience. It went on to become Mitchell’s biggest hit single, peaking in the Top Ten during the summer of 1974.
Listen to “Help Me” by Joni Mitchell:
#6. “I Love You” by Climax Blues Band (1980)
Released on the first day of the decade, Climax Blues Band’s soulful slow rocker “I Love You” set a nice template for future power ballads of the 1980s, complete with a soaring guitar lead to set the mood. This song was written by bassist Derek Holt and peaked in the Top 20 on the pop charts as this long time blues outfit started to move towards more mainstream music.
Listen to “I Love You” by Climax Blues Band:
#5. “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel (1986)
“In Your Eyes” is built on a methodical percussive set performed by African musicians backing up Peter Gabriel’s simple chord structure and melody. Although it was not originally released as a single in 1986, it found strong radio airplay and a second life after being featured three years later in the film Say Anything.
Listen to “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel:
#4. “Just You n’ Me” by Chicago (1973)
For a band which would become synonymous with love songs a decade later, 1973’s “Just You n’ Me” may have been one of the first musical diversions away from their signature prog/rock/funk. The second single from Chicago VI, this subtle, brass infused ballad was written by trombonist James Pankow, features vocals by bassist Peter Cetera and reached #4 on the U.S. pop charts.
Listen to “Just You and Me” by Chicago:
#3. “Something” by The Beatles (1969)
George Harrison’s “Something” from the Beatles’ Abbey Road was his first hit single as a composer when it topped the charts. More importantly, the song showcases all four Beatles at their musical best from Harrison’s signature guitar riff to John Lennon’s inventive keyboard playing to Paul McCartney’s complex but fitting bass line to complement Ringo Starr’s fantastic drum fills.
Listen to “Something” by The Beatles:
#2. “We’re All Alone” by Rita Coolidge
Originally written and recorded by Boz Scaggs, the late seventies ballad “We’re All Alone” found its true voice with Rita Coolidge when she recorded it for her album Anytime…Anywhere at the suggestion of record executive Jerry Moss. The result was a beautiful recording that became a worldwide Top 10 hit for Coolidge.
Listen to “We’re All Alone” by Rita Coolidge:
#1. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli (1967)
Topping our list is the 1967 “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli. Although the song was co-written by fellow Four Seasons’ member Bob Gaudio, it was released as a solo single by Valli and became his first hit outside the group. The genius of this song is in the composition and dynamics as it subtly moves from the tender verses to the explosive chorus with a catchy horn section acting as a creative transition to bridge the gap.
Listen to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli:
Here are a few more ballads which we considered but barely missed making this Top 9 list:
“Faithfully” by Journey (1983)
“I Do” by Lisa Loeb (1997)
“If” by Bread
“Final Eyes” by Yes (1988)
“Head Over Feet”
“Thank You” by Led Zeppelin (1969)
With this subjective list we’ve doubtlessly left out scores of artists who may have deserved consideration for this list. Please give us your comments below and tell us where you agree and disagree.
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