With all the years that I've been managing the Sea of Tranquility site, meeting folks at live concerts, and conversing with fans of our YouTube show, I can't tell you how many times I've been asked the question "so, who are your all-time favorite bands?". It's a tough question, as I've got LOTS of favorite acts, but I also have so many favorites who have been special to me at various times in my life and not as much in others. I figured it would be kind of fun to really sit down and think about this, and put some of my choices in writing. Keep in mind this list is not meant to be in any order, but I will tell you the top of the list is pretty much very concrete and not up for any debate.
OK, these guys have always been in my top 3 of 5 since I was a youngster of around 13 or so, and believe it or not my first ever DP album purchase was the 'Deepest Purple' compilation (I COULD NOT resist that glorious cover with all the purple colors, purple Stratocaster, and nice selection of songs), followed very closely by 'Made in Japan', 'Made in Europe', 'Machine Head', 'Fireball', 'In Rock', 'Burn', and well, you know the rest. To this day 'In Rock' is perhaps my favorite album of all time, one of the heaviest albums of that time period, and a blazing example of Ian Gillan's mercurial voice, Ritchie Blackmore's unique & virtuoso guitar skills, Jon Lord's wild Hammond organ, Ian Paice's nimble yet thunderous drumming, and Roger Glover's heavy bottom end bass. The fact that the band are still going strong all these years later has won my respect over countless times. Basically, I love every era of this band.
Sabbath for many years were my absolute number 1 band, and honestly, I've never worshipped a band as much as I did for them from about 1979 till the early '90s. All those original albums with Ozzy, the first 2 with Dio, and Gillan's only appearance on 'Born Again' will forever be cemented in my life, and it was Sabbath who got me into much heavier music, heavier than KISS, who, at the time, were my 'main band' until I heard 'Paranoid' for the first time. Over the years Purple has eclipsed them for me ever so slightly, but I still love this band to death, and always will.
You'll start to see a pattern here, as many of these bands at the top of my list are forever intertwined. David Coverdale is one of my all-time favorite vocalists, and I have a huge love for every Whitesnake album, whether it be the bluesy early ones, the more metallic '80s records, or the very strong more recent material. Some great guitar players have come from this band, and it's been just quality stuff all the way. To this day, the 1987 self-titled album is one of my all-time favorites.
Naturally, you knew this was coming, right? Another band that's basically 'all in the family' seeing as Blackmore was my favorite guitar player, I was instantly attracted to what he was doing here. 'Rising' is another of my personal all-time favorites, and one of Ronnie James Dio's best performances. I even really like the Joe Lynn Turner era, but it's those first three with Dio that are the pinnacle.
I'm a complete sucker for hard rock guitars and raging Hammond organ, and Heep were one of the best ever. Part heavy rock, party prog, part boogie, with a dash of psychedelia, these guys clicked with me from a very early age and I still love 'em to this day. Another band still working hard and creating great new original music.
'Images and Words' grabbed me back in the early '90s and I never looked back, though I still remember the day I heard some of 'When Dream and Day Unite' from a Long Island friend and was like 'who is that???'. For a prog & metal fan, this was the perfect meeting of the two styles, and I've now seen DT live more than any other band, basically every tour they have done, sometimes multiple times per tour.
Death metal & prog together? It was a statement I had to investigate, and instantly fell in love with these Swedes. Though I REALLY love their more extreme metal material, I have to say I've grown quite fond of their move into pure '70s styled prog & hard rock and if they stay that way forever, I'm more than ok with it.
'Lights Out' was the first UFO LP I purchased, and for a good solid year I almost couldn't listen to anything else, except for the follow up 'Obsession' which I liked even more. Michael Schenker has since been one of my favorite players, and the band, whether he was in the line-up or not, have always cranked out top notch hard rock.
I remember the days when the words Symphony X were discussed, and it was always about this great new NJ band whose albums you could only get as expensive imports and who combined the complex prog of Dream Theater with a healthy dose of Malmsteen inspired power metal. Man, how far these guys have come! Basically, they have never released a bad album, and really have made a name for themselves, releasing epic albums that just keep getting better and better, touring the world and becoming a mainstay on the Nuclear Blast label. Nice guys too!
Perhaps my favorite prog band, their early '70s material with Peter Gabriel as well as their first few with Phil Collins fronting the band are timeless classics in my opinion. I can still listen to 'Nursery Crymes', 'Foxtrot', 'Selling England By the Pound', 'The Lamb...', 'Trick of the Tail', 'Duke', and 'Wind and Wuthering' and get the chills as if it was the first time I have heard them.
Incredible, incredible band, who were years ahead of their time. Not for everyone, GG's music was complex, combined medieval, folk, hard rock, classic, and chamber music for a new form of progressive rock, rich in counterpoint and layered vocal harmonies. I still regular have to pick my jaw off the floor when listening to their classic albums.
How can this list not have Rush? These guys were a mainstay of my childhood, and I regularly listen to them today. Though I really enjoyed the hell out of 'Hemisphere', '2112' , 'All the Worlds a Stage', 'Permanent Waves', and 'A Farewell to Kings' , it was 'Moving Pictures' that got me completely gaga over this band. They are also another group who has continued to release strong new material over the years and never slowing down, and still a potent live act.
Though it's debatable as to who the first 'extreme' band I was exposed to was, Death was for sure the band I took to the most in the late '80s when things were turning mighty heavy. Celtic Frost, Venom, Slayer, Possessed...sure, but Death really threw me for a loop, and I still love listening to them. Chuck was another musical genius taken from us way too soon. 'Scream Bloody Gore'...man, was that a kick in the teeth!
Regardless of what I think of them now, I HAVE to include Metallica on here somewhere, basically for the 'Kill 'Em All' period through 'And Justice For All', which at the time, they rivaled Black Sabbath as my favorite band. I was completely nuts for these guys, and it wasn't until after the 'Black' album, and those horrible 'Load' releases that I fell off the Metallica bus. Some fond memories though.
Best American prog band, hands down. All those '70s albums are near perfect masterpieces, and another example of a legacy band still killing it live and on album with new material. As much as I liked them back in the day, I appreciate them even more today.
Another band I really liked a lot back when I was younger, but my appreciation for them has grown immensely in recent years. Hard rock, prog, pop, these guys did it all, and their latest 'The Mission' is a glorious throwback to their classic period.
One of my first 'guitar heroes', his mid- '70s 'Live' album is what inspired me to want to play guitar, and I worship the man to this day.
Another band I've seen many, many times, and loved from the first time I heard, ironically, the 'Drama' album. Easily one of the best prog bands ever, they have for years sat at or near the top of my favorite genre acts. 'Close to the Edge' is a perennial pick for me!
Though I got into these guys somewhat late (early '90s), since then, I just can't get enough of their blend of blues, folk, hard rock, classical, and progressive rock. Is there anything more unique than Ian Anderson's flute matched up with Martin Barre's lethal guitar work? Not in my view!
The first band I ever got into that made me want to buy albums instead of '45s, and the first 'heavy' band I gravitated towards. First up was 'Destroyer' and then 'KISS Alive', and it was 5 or so years of KISS hysteria after that, not to be broken up until I discovered Sabbath's 'Paranoid' album as the '70s wound down.
Paul McCartney & Wings
Another early favorite that still resonates with me today. I used to get into discussion with my father all the time as to who were better, The Beatles or Wings...he liked the former, I always liked the latter more, and still do.
No list here can be without the might 'ooo', who captivated me right around the time that Keith Moon died and I haven't looked back since.
The Rolling Stones
Interesting story is I HATED this band when I was a kid, and it wasn't until I reached 40 or so that I really began to appreciate all I had missed over the years. These guys to me where the best British Invasion band, even though The Who and The Beatles I'm quite fond of as well.
My list would not be complete with this British juggernaut, who I never quite loved as much as Sabbath, Purple, and Heep early on, but they rank right up there now, if a tad below. All those albums up to an including 'Presence' are just drop dead killers, and these guys were the epitome of 'rock stars'.
Still going strong and kicking ass! First time I heard 'Killers' I was hooked, and there's been no looking back except for those few years when Bruce left and Blaze took over. One of the most hugely innovating and influential metal acts ever!
The same can be said for the mighty Priest, who were easily in my top 5 favorite bands growing up. Those '70s albums are hard to top, and the early '80s albums were in regular rotation for me for years. And their most recent album was SO strong, can't wait to hear the next one!
Blue Oyster Cult
Forget 'Don't Fear the Reaper', which is a great song but clearly not their best by a longshot, this is a band that has a rich history of quality hard rock. Though I hold those '70s albums quite dear, their '80s output is quite strong as well. I remember fondly their tour with Uriah Heep in 1983, a killer double bill that will forever be one of my favorites.
Grand Funk Railroad
Lastly, a band that is just so damn fun, who could rock as hard as anyone but also crank out some grooving funk as well as a catchy pop tune. With one of the best frontmen in the business in Mark Farner, GFR owned the early '70s, and their music still holds up today.
There are many others, too numerous to mention, but a quick rundown of just some of them: Queen, The Allman Brothers Band, Thin Lizzy, Humble Pie, Doobie Brothers, Budgie, Dio, Elton John, David Bowie, Jeff Beck, Scorpions, Wishbone Ash, Jimi Hendrix, Cactus, Savatage, Saxon, Lynyrd Skynyrd, King Crimson, Triumph, Borknagar, Testament, Marillion, Enslaved, Blackfoot, Chicago, Journey, Amorphis, Spock's Beard, Toto, Iced Earth, Primal Fear, Eagles, ELO, Frank Zappa, Frank Marino, Helloween, Free, Bad Company, Fates Warning, ELP, Megadeth, Queensryche, Exodus, the list goes on and on and I apologize for those I've forgotten here. I think you get the picture!