10 Slickest Songs In Rock Music

Slickest Rock Songs

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Our 10 Slickest Songs in Rock Music looks at a particular period in classic rock history when slick rock music became popular among a certain segment of music fans. It wasn’t the point that it was slick, but rather the fact that some great artists were delivering music that became labeled or at least thought of as slick. It just could not be denied. The term slick was used to define bands that were adding specific elements of jazz and R&B to their music. Additionally, the music was also performed by certain groups of studio musicians like Larry Carlton, Steve Gadd, Jeff Pocaro, Steve Lukather and many others that offered superb musician skills to the artist they were hired to work with. Some of them would form their own groups like Toto.

The slick sound stretched beyond just a cult audience into substantial commercial success. As popular music history shows, when a specific formula works well and achieves mass success, everyone else will follow that lead. We made a rule that we would allow only one song per group because otherwise, our list would be filled with all Steely Dan songs.

# 10 – You Belong To Me – Carly Simon

We open our 10 Slickest Songs In Rock Music list with the luscious song entitled “You Belong To Me.” While some music fans may prefer the Doobie Brothers’ brilliant version of the song, I have always steered a little closer to the Carly Simon version.  This is a slick as it gets which is a term or at least a an explanation we hope to try to avoid the rest of the way because we could probably apply to every song on this list. But oh baby, just listen to this groove.

The song was released on the album entitled Boys in the Trees.  It was the first single released from the album. The album was released in 1978  The song was a hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 peaking at number six. It was produced by Arif Mardin, who was a notable figure known for his work with a range of artists, from Aretha Franklin to the Bee Gees. Adding to the song’s slickness was a group of musicians, including Richard Tee on Fender Rhodes, Cornell Dupree, and Eric Gale on electric guitars, Gordon Edwards on bass, Steve Gadd on drums, David Sanborn performing the alto saxophone solo, and James Taylor providing backing vocals.

# 9 –  Year Of The Cat – Al Stewart

Just the sound of Al Stewart’s voice defines the concept of slickness. Man this dude was cool, and I don’t think he was even trying to be cool. As most fans who are familiar with the song already know, the tune “Year Of The Cat” opens up with a dynamic very smooth and slick piano introduction. The slickness continues on with the groovy bass line and drum beat that’s just incredibly captivating. Do you remember how big this song was in 1976?

“Year Of The Cat” debuted as a UK single in July 1976 and later in the US in October of the same year. Serving as the namesake for his 1976 album, the song was laid down at Abbey Road Studios in London in January 1976, with Alan Parsons at the engineering helm. It reached its peak chart position at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 during the weeks of March 5 and March 12 in 1977.

# 8 – So Into You – Atlanta Rhythm Section

In the number eight spot on our 10 Slickest Songs In Rock Music list, we present the song “So Into You” by the Atlanta Rhythm Section. Now you know this one had to be on the list. From the song’s intro through the verse to that marvelous cool chorus, this was one of those songs you could never get tired of, which seems to be one of the features of these slick songs we put on this list.

“So Into You” was released in 1977  as the lead single off their sixth studio album, A Rock and Roll Alternative. The track enjoyed significant success, particularly in Canada, where it soared to the number two spot. The song also fared well in the United States, reaching number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 and securing a top-five placement for two consecutive weeks on the Cash Box chart.

# 7 – I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On – Robert Palmer

While Al Stewart may not have been trying to be cool, Robert Palmer most definitely was. I mean why else was he dressed like that. And of course he was very successful in being cool. He may have been the coolest-looking rock and roll singer in history. He was almost like a hip singer who would have fit in well with the rat pack of Sinatra and Martin and Lewis. Robert Palmer always stood out in rock music. He had a pretty unique style. It was interesting when he joined forces with Andy Taylor to form Power Station in the ’80s. Even with that group, he maintained his slickness. Nonetheless, if we look back at his solo work this one was definitely his slickest tune.

# 6 – Takin’ It to the Streets – The Doobie Brothers

Landing in the number six spot on our 10 Slickest Songs In Rock Music list, we present the song “Takin’ It to the Streets” by The Doobie Brothers. This list would not be complete without at least one Michael McDonald vocal. While many fans prefer the pre-Michael McDonald years in The Doobie Brothers’ catalog, I’ve always felt that he brought such a more substantial element of rhythm and soul to the band. The group had a lot of hits with Michael McDonald on lead vocals. This is not one of the biggest but at least to me it was their best.

# 5 – How Much I Feel – Ambrosia

Ambrosia is one of the most interesting bands in classic rock history. Some of their earlier albums were progressive rock masterpieces. Yet they also had a knack for releasing huge hit singles that were as slick as it gets. These guys could play, they were brilliant musicians, and they wrote excellent stuff. Do you remember how big this song was during the summer of 1978?

“How Much I Feel”  was composed by David Pack. It was released on their album Life Beyond L.A. The song peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100. David Pack, contributed lead and backing vocals, played guitars, the acoustic piano, synthesizers, and handled string arrangements. Joe Puerta provided bass and backing vocals, while Burleigh Drummond was on drums, percussion, and also contributed backing vocals.

# 4 -What You Won’t Do For Love – Bobby Caldwell

Listen to those horns at the song’s start soaring over a river of soulful grooves to die for. The instrumental section alone is killer. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better the spectacular vocals of Bobby Caldwell come ripping into the tune leaving you breathless. The song was released on Bobby Caldwell’s debut album. It was issued in 1978. “What You Won’t Do for Love” became a huge hit breaking into the Billboard Hot 100 and peaking at number nine.

# 3 – Roseanna – Toto

Toto may very well be the slickest band in Rock and Roll history. It’s probably between them and Steely Dan. And like Steely Dan, it was challenging to pick one tune from the group to be represented on the slickest songs of rock music list. Nonetheless, after many careful deliberations, we decided that “Rosanna” would fit the bill quite nicely. Listen to that groove at the songs start that David Hungate on bass and Jeff Porcaro on drums, lay down. David Paich and Steve Porcaro start decorating the cake, setting it all up for Bobby Kimball and Steve Lukather to take it home, sharing lead vocals on the song. And of course don’t forget Lukather’s guitar work on the song to.

# 2 – Lowdown – Boz Scaggs

Boz Scaggs released one of the slickest albums in rock history when he released Silk Degrees in 1976. Even the album’s title sounds slick. While the album was filled with great tracks, “Lowdown” always stood out among all of them. It may well have featured pop music’s greatest drum and bass opening. You never get sick of listening to Jeff Porcaro and David Hungate’s astonishing groove they put together on bass and drums. Add in David Paich’s Fender Rhodes, and you have the future Toto setting the tone for a true rock classic. And of course the grand slam wasn’t hit until Boz Scaggs stepped up to the plate. It was game over for the competition at that point.

# 1 – Deacon Blues – Steely Dan

A now talk about competition. We close out our 10 Slickest Songs In Rock Music list with who else but Steely Dan. I think Steely Dan would win easily if we ever put together a list of the top 10 slickest bands in rock history. There were so many songs from the band’s catalog to choose from for this list. Albums like Gaucho, The Royal Scam and of course Aja stand as some of the most influential and brilliant albums ever released. It came down to a few select songs but in the end I always remember all my musician friends in ’70s and eighties talking about how Deacon Blues and Aja were their masterpieces. We all worked on breaking down the chord voicings they used, which was a lot of work. These guys were on an entire other level than everybody else. Only the best could work with them.

Walter Becker played bass, while Donald Fagen was on synthesizer and vocals. The guitar work was handled by Larry Carlton and Lee Ritenour, with Dean Parks on acoustic guitar. What a trio that was. Pete Christlieb added the tenor saxophone sounds, and Victor Feldman was on electric piano. Bernard “Pretty” Purdie took on the drums. Backup vocals were provided by Venetta Fields, Clydie King, and Sherlie Matthews.

10 Slickest Songs In Rock Music article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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