Mondo Piano Ballad List
August 8, 2007 2:11 PM   Subscribe

What are your favorite rock/folk/alternative piano ballads?

There's a tribute to Princess Diana on TV right now with a David Bowie cover of 'Modern Love' that is just beautiful -- and it made me think I really want to pull together a cool list of touching/timeless piano ballads, but I need help from Ask-Metafilter-ers!!!

My wife bought me a piano for my birthday (yeah, wife!) and I'm trying to piece together a big list of want-to-have/get sheet music songs that I can start playing.

I grew up listening to the Beatles, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, Clapton, Doors, Ray Charles, Andrew Lloyd Webber, classical, jazz, standards -- a bunch of stuff. But honestly, I'm a bit burned out on the super-duper-popular ballads.

I tend to really like acoustic, folky-style ballads -- for piano or guitar. But what I'm trying to piece together is a list of thoughtful, emotional, timeless ballads that lend themselves to solo piano/voice.

I'm looking for any suggestions, links to lists, your favorites...

Here are some 'along the lines' of what I like...

- Hallelujah (buckley)
- Another Suitcase in Another Hall (Evita)
- My One and Only Love
- I Shall Be Released (young Joe Cocker version)
- Cantador (Like a Lover) [Tuck and Patti]

What are your favorite piano ballads?
posted by pallen123 to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Nightswimming by REM
posted by Bookhouse at 2:14 PM on August 8, 2007

Brick - Ben Folds Five
posted by gergtreble at 2:19 PM on August 8, 2007

Ben Folds - Lullaby
posted by bryanzera at 2:20 PM on August 8, 2007

Does the beginning of Guns N' Roses' November Rain count?
posted by spec80 at 2:25 PM on August 8, 2007

Anything by Ben Folds or Rufus Wainwright. I love piano rock too.
posted by k8t at 2:26 PM on August 8, 2007

Yeah, beginning for GNR November Rain definitely counts. I'll just play it over and over :)
posted by pallen123 at 2:33 PM on August 8, 2007

Joni Mitchell - River
Peter Gabriel - Here Comes The Flood
posted by Daily Alice at 2:38 PM on August 8, 2007

Howe Gelb — Lull (Some Piano)
posted by smich at 2:41 PM on August 8, 2007

Thirding the Ben Folds, specifically "Fred Jones Part 2".
posted by pdb at 3:08 PM on August 8, 2007

Not originally a piano ballad, but Emm Gryner's version of "Pour Some Sugar on Me" is truly wonderful.
posted by occhiblu at 3:15 PM on August 8, 2007

I used to sit around playing Goodnight Saigon by Billy Joel, which is a weird thing for a 12 year old girl to do on a summer's day.

How do you feel about Fiona Apple? Her album When The Pawn is basically a chapter-ballad. "I Know" is the one I would want to singe over and over.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:22 PM on August 8, 2007

singe? well, maybe, with my hot hot singing.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:22 PM on August 8, 2007

"Lose Again" and "Someone to Lay Down Beside Me" by Karla Bonoff might be things you'd like.

"I Can't Make You Love Me" by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin was a huge hit for Bonnie Raitt, but even she has trouble with the range and emotional content.
posted by paulsc at 3:39 PM on August 8, 2007

"Foolish Love" by Rufus Wainwright
posted by mikepop at 3:50 PM on August 8, 2007

People will suggest 2 million Tori Amos songs in due time, but I adore Scarlet's Walk - filmic, lyrical, haunting stuff. "A Sorta Fairytale" was the big single, but "Crazy" is more in the vein you're looking for.

Mark Eitzel's 60 Watt Silver Lining has some thoroughly complex, non-traditional storytelling and songwriting. It opens with a lovely piano-led cover of Carole King's "No Easy Way Down." For something decidedly more left-of-field, listen to "Some Bartenders Have The Gift of Pardon."

Joni Mitchell is an obvious choice, but in my opinion, the further you stray from her "super-duper-popular" stuff (and by that I specifically mean the radio singles like "Help Me"), the better she gets. Try "The Last Time I Saw Richard" from Blue, "Court & Spark" from that same album, "The Boho Dance" from Hissing of Summer Lawns, or "Lesson in Survival" from For the Roses.

I've not listened to anything recent of Rufus Wainwright's (I lost my taste for him rather quickly), but he has some beautiful items on his first few discs. The title track of "Poses" would seem to fit your bill.

Staying with the Canadian theme (and why not), k.d. lang did some gorgeous small-ensemble adaptations on her album Hymns of the 49th Parallel, including a gorgeous piano arrangement of Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush." Also lovely: her versions of Jane Siberry's "Love is Everything" and "The Valley."

He's strictly a love/hate proposition (I think mostly because of his voice), but Antony & The Johnsons are tailor-made for moody piano balladry. "Bird Gerhl" and "Hope There's Someone" are the generally acknowledged instant classics, both found on his album I Am A Bird Now.

Aimee Mann wrote much of her latest album, The Forgotten Arm on piano, and mercifully it's some of her most graceful work as well. Try "That's How I Knew This Story Would Break My Heart" and "I Can't Help You Anymore."

The Cocteau Twins issued a gorgeous acoustic EP entitled Twinlights featuring heart-stopping renditions of four of their lovelier (and more intelligible) songs. Impossible to pick a favorite.

Elvis Costello has a small sheaf of brilliant piano ballads: "Favourite Hour," "Couldn't Call It Unexpected #4," "Shipbuilding," "Boy With A Problem," "Riot Act," "Motel Matches," "Either Side of the Same Town."

Sandy Denny is one of the most underrated balladeers of her (or any) time. Virtually everything in her catalogue was either written or well-adapted for piano. If you can lay hands on it, the Boxful of Treasures features a metric ton of simple and moving folk-derived songs. "Next Time Around," "The Music Weaver," "I'm A Dreamer," "Late November," "What Is True," "The North Star Grassman."

Nick Cave's The Boatman's Call has some beautiful balladeering on it. It's hard to pick favorites - it's a lovely song cycle.

There's a ravishing piano rendition of Seal's "Dreaming in Metaphors" on the B-side of the Prayer for the Dying single.

If you're really aiming for more middle-of-the-road type stuff, there's always Keane. :-)
posted by mykescipark at 4:06 PM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Konstantine by Something Corporate

(Andrew is a bit whiny, but I like it because there is just so much emotion in his voice)
posted by ThFullEffect at 4:08 PM on August 8, 2007

(BTW, that cover of Modern Love is by The Last Town Chorus from the album Wire Waltz. It's quite lovely, especially if you like steel guitar.)
posted by sugarfish at 4:13 PM on August 8, 2007

Regina Spektor is a really interesting singer/songwriter who seems to work mostly on the piano. I can't recommend anything specific because I'm not that familiar with her stuff, but what I've listened to was intriguing enough that I keep meaning to listen to more. I've found some live stuff on the web, so you might get lucky that way.
posted by OmieWise at 4:54 PM on August 8, 2007

Kate Bush - This Woman's Work (ignore cheesy video)

Antony & the Johnsons - Hope There's Someone
posted by Martin E. at 5:03 PM on August 8, 2007

androgenous by the replacements
posted by umbĂș at 6:01 PM on August 8, 2007

Fans of the piano in GnR's November Rain need to check out this live version (mp3) from the Live Era '87-'93 album.

The 3+ minute piano intro is practically a song unto itself, and the vocals don't come in until past the 4 minute mark. SWEET.
posted by kanuck at 9:38 PM on August 8, 2007

Style Council's "My Ever Changing Moods" (the version from Cafe Bleu, not the single).

Floyd Cramer, "Last Date."
posted by kirkaracha at 9:46 PM on August 8, 2007

"Gravity" by Sara Bareilles - well, hell, the whole "Little Voice" album is good, just not all ballads.

Charlotte Martin also has a number of lovely piano pieces, ballads and otherwise.
posted by angeline at 1:09 AM on August 9, 2007

Oh, and Chantal Kreviazuk has a lot of good piano work, as well.
posted by angeline at 1:13 AM on August 9, 2007

A new singer I just heard of, A Fine Frenzy, does nice ballad work with her trusty piano.

Also, Vanessa Carlton.
posted by santojulieta at 4:52 AM on August 9, 2007

You Had Time, by Ani DiFranco. She's known for her guitar playing and I don't know offhand if she's ever written anything else with a piano, but it's a great song that starts with a long, melancholy piano solo. "Touching" is a weird thing to say about an Ani song, but I think it applies, if you squint.
posted by clavicle at 8:26 AM on August 9, 2007

"Breaking us in two" among others by Joe Jackson. The Who's "This Song is Over", and maybe "Gettin in Tune", work surprising well for a tenor II and piano.
posted by klarck at 11:24 AM on August 9, 2007

I really like the cover of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" from Donnie Darko. Not the version with the drums, just the piano. I believe Gary Jules did the cover; I know for sure it's on the Donnie Darko score.
posted by lilac girl at 9:31 PM on August 9, 2007

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