Unsung Rock Hero: 10 Great Pino Palladino Basslines

pinopalladinoAs with all great Rock musicians, great bass players are distinguished by more than technical proficiency, they are set apart by a masterful feel for the music. These people have a special touch on the bass that simply can’t be taught. They can find a beat or a note or a run, sometimes even the smallest thing, that can ignite the rhythms of a song.

Pino Palladino is one of those guys. The 58-year-old Welshman hits a beautiful fat pocket, and due to his early days when he mastered the fretless bass, he is also known for his astonishing, serpentine solos. He is most famous for replacing John Entwhistle in The Who in 2002, and for being a founding member of the John Mayer Trio in 2005, but he has played with just about everybody at one time or another.

Here is a list of 10 great examples of his work. They’re not necessarily the most famous songs he’s played on, but songs where his talents really stand out, in chronological order.

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1. Paul Young – I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down (1982)

Palladino got his first big break playing with Gary Numan, but this track really made the Rock world stand up and take notice of his jaw-dropping virtuosity, never mind his mullet.

2. David Gilmour – Murder (1984)

Some Jaco Pastorius-like fretless licks at the beginning and some liquid lines near the end of this track showed why everybody wanted this guy on their albums

3. Kirsty MacColl – Walking Down Madison (1991)

A fantastic song, beautifully written and produced, that everyone should know. I always thought there was something relentless about it, I should have known it was Pino driving the bottom end, in addition to the searing guitars from Johnny Marr.

4. Erykah Badu – Penitentary Philosophy (2000)

Jump ahead to the new century, Pino puts the fretless aside and starts veering into funk and neo-soul territory, channeling Motown’s James Jamerson with a punchier kick to his lines. But to me this song just rocks.

5. John Mayer Trio – Who Do You Think I Was (2005)

A delicious power trio bassline of John Paul Jonesian dimensions. Drummer Steve Jordan is another unsung Rock hero, and together with Pino they elevated John Mayer from pop idol to legitimate rocker.

6. The Who – Fragments (2006)

Pino had to walk a fine line in joining The Who. He needed to play like John Entwhistle without mimicking him, while maintaining his own musical integrity. I think he pulled it off on one of the most under-rated and unlikely comeback albums in Rock history.

7. Jeff Beck — Star Cycle (2007)

Palladino has played on several albums by both Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, and when those old warhorses can both settle on the same bass player, he’s gotta be pretty damn good. Both Beck and Palladino take flight on this one.

8. Paul Simon – Outrageous (2007)

Steve Jordan said Pino’s got a “deep funk side” as well as a “melodic side”, which is what makes him so versatile. Check out in the latter part of the song how the bassline detours into gorgeous melodic phrases.

9. Robbie Robertson – How To Become Clairvoyant (2011)

It’s not just about rocking or funking it up, the test of a great bass player is their work on a slow boiler or ballad. This one shows Pino’s impeccable touch, accompanying Eric Clapton for the umpteenth time in his career, here on Robbie Robertson’s latest vanity project.

10. Nine Inch Nails – All Time Low (2013)

This one is like rhythm & blues gone insane. From the simplest to the most experimental music across genres, there’s nothing Pino Palladino can’t play and enhance. Trent Reznor called him “the best bass player alive today” and I’m not about to argue with that.

Other Artists Pino Palladino Has Played With Include:

Don Henley, Tears For Fears, Peter Gabriel, Elton John, Joan Armatrading, Phil Collins, Paul Rodgers, D’Angelo, Chaka Khan, B.B. King, Melissa Etheridge, Joe Walsh, J.J. Cale, The Herbaliser, Go West, Richard Ashcroft, Adele, Jools Holland, Michael McDonald, Chris de Burgh, Lou Gramm, Simon & Garfunkel, Mike + The Mechanics, Seal, Tony Banks, David Crosby, Bryan Ferry, Peter Cetera, Herbie Hancock, Phil Manzanera, Paul Carrack, Steve Hackett, The Bee Gees, The Waterboys, Gerry Rafferty, Rod Stewart, Edie Brickell, Morcheeba, Carly Simon, De La Soul, Earth Wind and Fire, Phoenix, Amos Lee, Elvis Costello, Luciano Pavarotti and Keith Richards.

Photo by kubacheck [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

6 comments to “Unsung Rock Hero: 10 Great Pino Palladino Basslines”
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  4. Palladino is great bassist, hands down, he is historical figure in bass playing, and luckily he has played with a lot of household names so contemporary pop-music and rock music has been benefiting a lot from his playing. In addition the bass playing – he is just a great musician.

    But in no means is he the best bass player alive or something like that – and he himself would probably agree on that.

    There are still lot of bass players, whose technical virtuosity is from another planet and who have reshaped the instrument and its usage a lot – guys such as Victor Wooten, Anthony Jackson, Steve Bailey, Dominic DiPiazza, Matthew Garrison – to name the most obvious ones. Maybe couple of ones more

    They do play jazz first and foremost, thus are they less known than Pino.

    • Thanks for the comment, Andri. I never said Pino was the best bass player alive, you are right, guys like Victor Wooten are amazing, and I would add Esperanza Spalding to the list too. But this is a Rock site and I would venture to say Palladino is one of the two or three best Rock bass players alive today.

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