classic rock music


Top 10 Classic Rock Acoustic Songs


The Best Wooden Unplugged Songs by Electric Rock Bands




Top 10 Greatest Acoustic Songs by Electric Classic Rock Bands & Artists


by Jim Esposito


top 10 greatest acoustic songs from classic rock bands and artists


Rock ’n Roll is dominated by loud electric guitars. And we love ’em. Still, we appreciate when our favorite artists record softer, acoustic songs. Over the decades many of these have risen to the most Classic of Classic Rock.

As for paraments, this Top 10 looks at acoustic songs from electric artists. The likes of Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell and Jimmy Buffett are not here because they were basically folk and/or acoustic acts, even if they did play some electric guitar. Great songwriters, if we included those artists, they’d probably account for most of this Top 10.

10. "Midnight Rider"
Allman Brothers


Both this and “Revival” are two great acoustic based tunes from Idlewild South. Most consider Eat A Peach and/or Live at The Fillmore the Allmans’ best, but this album is great from first note to last. Just distressingly short. Even though their first LP did not sell well, word was out about the Allman Brothers, especially down South, based on their live performances.

Like many great tunes “Midnight Rider” was written quickly and almost seems to transcend the band’s other material. More country folk than one might expect from a Southern Blues-Rock Band, Gregg Allman wrote it, sings it, with his brother Duane on acoustic and a great lead guitar from Dicky Betts.

9. "Landslide"
Fleetwood Mac


“Rhiannon” broke the Buckingham/Nicks incarnation of The Mac in 1975. Looking back, we should really call it the Nicks and Buckingham incarnation, for though the album contained a lot of pleasant, listenable music, it was the two tracks by Stevie that elevated this record, and consequently the band, into the stratosphere. Lindsey and Christine McVie wrote some very nice songs for the album, but “Rhiannon” and “Landslide” are the jewels.

The latter is a simple tune, sweet finger-picked chords and Stevie’s enchanting, ethereal vocals. Lyrics are mesmerizing, wistful and longing, don’t totally connect, seem somehow poetic. Lindsey’s tasty lead guitar, when it comes in, blends so perfectly. “Landslide” is a song which transports you to another time and place. A place you like, don’t want to leave.

8. "I Am Yours" and/or "Thorn Tree In The Garden"
Derek & The Dominos


We could’ve used the Unplugged rendition of “Layla,” however, that’s a live track and we are restricting ourselves to studio cuts. (Otherwise we’d have to include Heart’s Unplugged version of “Alone.”) “I Am Yours” is a poem by 12th Century Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi that Eric Clapton put to music. Nizami’s masterwork “Layla and Majnun,” was an underlying creative influence for the album. “I Am Yours” is a lovely acoustic tune highlighted by Duane Allman’s understated (at least for him) slide guitar.

“Thorn Tree In The Garden” features one of the most heartfelt vocals you’ll ever hear by Bobby Whitlock, its writer. There are two delicately interwoven wooden guitars (Clapton and Whitlock) with Duane playing pretty much the same four note harmonic riff through the entire track.

It almost feels like these songs should be ranked higher in our list, until you try to decide which of the others should be moved down.

7. "Wild Horses"
Rolling Stones


The Stones have done some excellent acoustic tunes through their long and fabled history. Got a soft spot for “No Expectations,” the last song to which Brian Jones ever contributed. “Dead Flowers” is too country, and “Sweet Virginia” also merits consideration. But “Wild Horses” is better than those. Not to mention, it’s one of the few basically sweet songs the Stones have ever done. We did not think it was fair to consider anything from Stripped, since it’s basically an “Unplugged” album, but their rendition of “Wild Horses” off that record is superlative. Along with their acoustic take of “Let It Bleed.” Another song which might be as sweet as the Stones ever got.

6. "Night Moves"
Bob Seger


Backstage with Bob Seger in 1973, he picked up an acoustic guitar, started strumming chords, G to C with a little flourish through an F in between. A couple years later he released “Night Moves” – and there were those chords. To this day I wonder if he wrote it right in front of me, or if it was a concept he was already fooling with. (Chances are, probably the latter.) What a great tune. The part that slays us is the melancholy little bridge. “Started humming a song from 1962.” And, man! That was in ’76. Yes, Bob, it is funny how the night moves.

5. "Catch The Wind"


We realize we’re on shaky ground calling Donovan an “electric” artist, though he did record “Hurdy Gurdy Man” with Jimmy Page, Allan Holdsworth, John Paul Jones and (by some accounts) John Bonham, a pinnacle of 60’s psychedelia. “Catch The Wind” is simply too divine to leave off this list. A testament to Flower Power, it’s got everything: the innocence, the longing, the imagery. And, of course, the sly sex.

4. "Into The Mystic"
Van Morrison


Talk about a song that just sends you, “Into The Mystic” was the other highlight off Van Morrison’s landmark 1971 album Moondance. Haunting and ethereal, three dimensional poetry, this is a tune wherein all stars align: the music, the lyrics, the performance, the production. Despite the nautical imagery you know there’s so much more going on in here. Some feel it centers around a spiritual quest, a magical transformation. Van once explained “Into The Mystic” was about being one with the universe. Not much to pack into a 3:25 minute track.

3. "Helplessly Hoping"
Crosby, Stills & Nash


You can argue this might be the best song these guys ever did. Not just together – but EVER. Acoustic Rock doesn’t get any better. Another tune in which stars align. Sweet, enchanting chords, songwriter Stephen Stills finger-picking an acoustic. A cleverly alliterated lyric as two star-crossed lovers from a simpler time anguish through the gamut of emotions surrounding a secret rendezvous. CS&N’s harmonies are, of course, transcendental. Gotta love the arrangement of the chorus. Stills alone sings the first line: “They are one person.” Nash joins him for the second: “They are two alone.” Crosby comes in for the third, the three of them harmonizing: “They are three together…” Brilliant.

2. "Can't Find My Way Home"
Blind Faith


Released in 1969 this still ranks as one of the truly staggering achievements in Rock History. Written by Steve Winwood, it is a beautiful, beautiful song. Subsequent Box Sets have contained more electric renditions, and you can hear a tasty version on Clapton’s 1975 Live Album, E.C. Was Here. Poke around YouTube you can also find a great solo acoustic rendition performed by Steve Winwood.

1. "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You"
Led Zeppelin


Led Zeppelin exploded onto the scene with their debut album in 1969. Loud electric hard rock like “Dazed and Confused” and “Communication Breakdown” defined a genre which would soon be labeled Heavy Metal. Still, it was “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” which truly elevated the band into something special, showcasing how they interwove acoustic and electric guitars.

“Ramble On” off Led Zeppelin II, “Gallow’s Pole” from #3, and “Going to California” from their fourth certainly merit consideration under this criteria. But “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” was the first taste of that sound, and shall always be special because of it.

Near Misses, Close Calls, Honorable Mentions

Actually a dead-heat for #10 on this list, “Life By The Drop” was one of the last songs the late great Stevie Ray Vaughn ever recorded, the last song on his last album, The Sky Is Crying, a posthumous record of previously unreleased material assembled by his brother, Jimmy Vaughn. It was written by Doyle Bramhall (Sr., not to be confused with his son, II, who played with Clapton). A very good guitarist and blues rock artist in his own right (and worth checking out) Bramhall played in bands in Texas with Jimmy and Stevie Ray, wrote a couple songs Stevie Ray recorded.

The Sky Is Crying is known for Stevie Ray’s incredible instrumental of “Little Wing” and his Lonnie Mack tribute “Wham.” “Life By The Drop” is like the cherry on top of this album, simple enough blues with classic Stevie Ray flourishes and a resonating, heartfelt vocal.

“Desperado” by The Eagles is great, but it’s a piano song. A piano is technically an acoustic instrument, however (if you haven’t noticed) for this list we are heavily prejudiced toward guitars.

“Earth and Water Song” by Humble Pie. Off their self-titled third LP, written by Peter Frampton. Might’ve made the list on sheer beauty if more people had heard it, but it’s hard to rank ahead of classics everybody knows and loves.

Rod Stewart belongs on this list, but we could not pick out one particular track. There’s a number of songs off his first couple solo English “party” albums recorded with his mates that qualify as acoustic rock, from “Cut Across Shorty” and “Mandolin Wind” to his Dylan covers of “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” and “Mama You Been On My Mind.” Much of Rod’s material through these early LPs was acoustic based. We also love “Ooh La La,” though that’s The Faces, written by Ronnie Lane and Ronnie Wood, and sung by Wood.

“Made In The Shade” is a great acoustic number by Lynyrd Skynyrd. More acoustic blues, perhaps, but features one of the great Ronnie Van Zant lyrics: “You got it made in the shade, babe. Don’t let that tree fall down on you.”

“One Step Up” off Tunnel of Love might be as close as Bruce Springsteen ever got to an acoustic song. We don’t count Nebraska, since it’s so stark and depressing. The Boss was a great writer, and we’d love to include “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” but though it starts out kinda acoustic a lot of other instruments come in. Which is typical of Springsteen. Prowl around the internet, you can find a lot of great Unplugged renditions Springsteen performs of his songs.

Every Top 10 List must contain at least one selection that makes readers gasp: “You’ve gotta be kidding me!” Ours is “Dream Lover” by Ricky Nelson. Recorded in 1979 as part of his “Memphis Sessions” this is a wonderful take on the Bobby Darin oldie. Nelson never recovered from being a teenybop sensation and TV star in the ’50s, but tried to revive his career in the 70s as a Rockabilly artist. The Memphis Sessions included pleasant, though homogenized renditions of “Rave On,” “That’s All Right,” “It’s All Over Now,“ “Almost Saturday Night” and Buddy Holly’s “True Love Ways,” which some find ironic, since Ricky Nelson died in a plane crash in 1985.

And for all the Beatles and Pink Floyd fans who get upset whenever these bands are omitted from any Top 10 List we’ll acknowledge “I’ll Follow The Sun” and “Here Comes The Sun” could have easily been included. For those who are further incensed these are George Harrison tunes, not Lennon and McCartney then we’ll cite “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.” The Beatles were great writers, but they stand alone. Hardly seems fair to include them in this list.

As for the Floydians - we know “Wish You Were Here” starts with a wooden guitar. But then the whole band comes in. Love this song. But “acoustic”? No. Not really.’/p>

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