Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street is often regarded as the greatest saxophone solos of all time, yet there are many other neglected numbers whose use of the sax illuminates the song from mediocrity to greatness. These numbers feature the eclectic instrument—mostly near the end—to show just exactly why the saxophone is such a versatile, expressive instrument. And with the latest Record Store Day set to take place in Sydney this Saturday, it seems like a good chance to revisit some gems. As Quarterflash lead singer Rindy Ross stated, the saxophone is an extension of the voice…
Year of the Cat—A little-known poignant song from the 80s, this track by Al Stewart has a tremendously rhythmic saxophone solo nearer to the end by saxophone player Phil Kenzie, and is almost heartbreaking in its intensity.
Year of the Cat, 1976
Whole of the Moon—Perhaps my favourite song of all time, this one hit wonder by The Waterboys, their most famous song, features a great saxophone solo near the end by Anthony Thistlethwaite
This is the Sea, 1985
Anywhere I lay my head—Perhaps the most well-known song of his, Tom Waits’ Anywhere I lay my head features a great jaunty, pseudo-jazz tune just when it sounds as though the song has finished. Arno Hecht and Crispin Cioe are the saxophone players for this number.
Rain Dogs, 1985
Changing of the Guards—My favourite Dylan song, due to the fantastic combination of lyrics and saxophone riff in between the verses. The saxophone is subtle and short-lived, but completely lifts the song. Pure poetry.
Never tear us apart—This one is featured often in ‘best sax solo’ lists, though evidently this is due to the fact that it is a truly great number. Originally composed in the style of Fats Domino, the arragnement was changed though Kirk Pengilly’s ‘cathartic’ saxophone solo, which again appears near the end, makes the song legendary. It was also played while Michael Hutchence’s coffin was being carried out of St. Andrews Cathedral in 1997.
Never tear us apart, 1988
One Year of Love—Featured on Queen’s A Kind of Magic album, band member John Deacon decided to substitute the guitar with the saxophone, played by Steve Gregory. The song appeared briefly in the film Highlander before fading into relative obscurity. Though the solo is short-lived it gives an edge to the song.
A Kind of Magic, 1986
Misterioso—No ‘saxophone solo’ list would be complete without my favourite sax player, jazz great Sonny Rollins, who builds up the suspense in this number before blasting out a great sax solo that would go great with the ending of a black and white film. Originally a Thelonious Monk composition, this number appears with Horace Silver and Monk on Sonny Rollins, Vol. 2, a Blue Note Record.
Sonny Rollins, Vol. 2, 1957
Shine on you crazy diamond—This epic song by Pink Floyd, split up into nine parts, features a saxophone solo in Part V, delivering the haunting sound the band is known for. The work takes commitment but is worth it. It was first performed live for the band’s 1974 French tour before being recorded for their Wish you were here album in ’75.
Wish you were here, 1975
Modern Love—Ever the musical chameleon, David Bowie’s Modern Love features Robert Aaron’s up-beat saxophone riff that was then played live by Lenny Pickett.
Let’s Dance, 1983
Living in America—While It’s a Man’s World was described as having a great degree of chauvinism, this number from funk master and Godfather of Soul, James Brown, delivers sharp patriotism. Yet when listening to the sound of the sax and rhythm you cannot help but be sold.
Living in America, 1985
Long as I can see the Light– Creedence Clearwater Revival’s John Fogerty plays a great solo in this number featured on their Cosmo’s Factory album from 1970. A great addition to CCR’s oeuvre.
Cosmo’s Factory, 1970