Sources: LA Weekly – Matt Wake| Edited By – All Things Michael


As any good music geek knows, YouTube is a treasure trove of isolated tracks — a single vocal or instrument lifted from a familiar song, sometimes from the master tapes, sometimes pulled out of the mix by an enterprising amateur sound engineer. It’s a fascinating, stark and entirely new context in which to hear a guitar solo, drum pattern or lead vocal that was heretofore as familiar as your couch. Sometimes the revelations are impressive. Sometimes less so.

A YouTube search for “isolated tracks” nets 35,700 results, including Sting’s “Message in a Bottle” bass, Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” vocals, Notorious B.I.G.’s “Machine Gun Funk” rap and a surprising amount of Dream Theater. So curating a list of the best-ever isolated tracks is a vast and somewhat impossible task. And here goes!

Van Halen, “Somebody Get Me a Doctor” guitar

You can assemble a respectable isolated tracks best-of list from Eddie Van Halen guitar parts alone. The easy choice — which we considered — is Eddie’s wildfire solo from Michael Jackson’s 1982 number-one hit “Beat It,” perhaps The Gloved One’s greatest single of all time. But those 32 seconds are burned into the DNA of virtually everyone who’s ever heard them. Guitar geeks and otherwise will hear “Somebody Get Me a Doctor” with fresher ears. From the first three aircraft-carrier-sized chords, Eddie’s wicked tone and vastly underrated rhythm playing is at the forefront. About 0:33 in, he begins a helicopter-blade rhythm. At 1:15, EVH starts another patterned accented with volume swells, which have the effect of sounding like time is being reversed. And then Eddie literally makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up with the first licks of his solo at 1:26.

The Jackson 5, “ABC” vocals

Michael Jackson was only around 11 years old when he cut this jaw-dropping performance. Yeah, the pre-puberty thing helped hit those helium-high notes, but what made Jackson such a musical phenom was the natural, worldly feel — at least a decade beyond his years — he brought to his singing at such an early age.

Whitney Houston, “How Will I Know” vocals

This isolated vocal almost sounds better than the entire mixed 1985 track from which it’s taken, which is marred by gaudy ’80s production. Houston’s pre-debauchery upper-register sparkles like church stained glass. She reportedly sang her own background vocals on “How Will I Know,” a George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam composition originally intended for Janet Jackson, forming an all-Whitney choir. Her melisma curves without detouring into Diva City. And check out the cloud-piercing climb beginning at 2:49.


See the full list here

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