When it comes to blues rock, certain iconic tunes immediately spring to mind — Cream’s “Crossroads,” Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Texas Flood,” or ZZ Top’s La Grange”, for example.
These and many other classics have rightfully earned their place in the pantheon of blues rock music and are unlikely to ever fade from mankind. However, it’s time to shine a spotlight on the underappreciated compositions that deserve more recognition. Welcome to our list of 10 underrated blues rock songs.
Our compilation partially delves beyond the established blues rock artists and explores tracks from acts not commonly associated with the genre. You’ll also find a few deep cuts from celebrated blues rock acts that may have slipped through the cracks of recognition as well as underrated masterpieces from artists that deserve more praise.
With that being said, this list is by no means exhaustive. We invite you, fellow blues rock fans, to contribute your own suggestions in the comments below.
10. “Here Again” – Rush
Canadian progressive act Rush is undoubtedly among the greatest rock bands of all time. While the trio is notorious for highly complex and often extended compositions featuring elements of jazz, metal and classical, their underrated self-titled debut album (1974) is contrastingly rooted in the more primal heavy blues sound of the likes of early Led Zeppelin and Cream.
Being the only album in the band’s catalog not to include iconic drummer Neil Peart, Rush is more known for featuring the group’s very first hit in the enormous blue-collar anthem “Working Man”. However, the record also features a number of underrated cuts such as the bluesy ballad-like number “Here Again”.
Cemented in John Rutsey’s competent, steady drumming and the muscular coils of Geddy Lee’s bass, the song truly shines by means of Lee’s inspired vocals and guitarist Alex Lifeson’s penetrating, emotional lead work. While Rush never really returned to producing blues-based rock, “Here Again” remains a strong, if relatively underappreciated, contribution to the genre.
9. “Dying Inside” – Saint Vitus
Originally from L.A, Saint Vitus are known for being pioneering icons of the American doom metal scene. Despite being pretty much underrated outside doom/stoner listening circles, the group remains a force, churning out crushingly heavy, power chord-based thunder since releasing their self-titled debut album in 1984.
Seemingly inspired by Black Sabbath’s early albums and the psychedelic acid blues of the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Blue Cheer, Vitus and their bluesy, bottom-end sound and raw, street-level lyricism ooze with the type of relatable working-class appeal that most metal acts lack. “Dying Inside”, in a way, epitomizes their style.
Originally appearing on the quintessential album Born Too Late (1986), “Dying Inside” is a blues-based, riff-driven monster that progresses menacingly at a slow pace, made all the more haunting by guitarist Dave Chandler’s hazy, feedback-laden lead break and vocalist Scott Weinrich’s tortured performance. Also including apparently autobiographical lyrics which deal with alcohol addiction and depression, “Dying Inside” is metal at its bluesiest and most honest.
8. “High Cost Of Loving” – BBM (Baker, Bruce, Moore)
The short-lived supergroup BBM consisted of three legendary blues rock musicians in Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce and Gary Moore. One should do without a proper introduction to Gary Moore, one of the genre’s premier guitarists, and iconic former Cream members Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker.
Despite the trio’s enormous reputation, their solitary full-length effort Around The Next Dream (1994) is both underrated and relatively unknown. Its low-profile status aside, the album is excellent, boasting a number of inspired cuts such as the incendiary version of Albert King’s “High Cost Of Loving.”
Flawlessly rooted in Baker’s virtuosic drumming and Buce’s monster bass lines, “High Cost Of Loving” has Moore in fine form — as always — ripping through with both potency and taste while Baker provides the vocals — his rugged, expressive voice as strong as ever.
7. “Crying In The Rain” – Whitesnake (Original Version)
There are few hard rock acts as memorable as Whitesnake. The English group, led by former Deep Purple vocalist David Coverdale, is responsible for some of the ’80s most enduring glam metal anthems such as “Love Ain’t No Stranger”, “Here I Go Again” and especially “Is This Love”.
While no one can deny the drawing power and sheer quality of the group’s glam phase, many still prefer their earlier, more underrated material, which is more grounded and blues-based. A good representation of that era is certainly the original version of “Crying In The Rain”.
A gargantuan riff-based number originally appearing on Saints and Sinners (1982), “Crying In The Rain” features Coverdale’s melancholic yet powerful vocals and guitarist Bernie Marden’s stirring leads cutting through the song’s notably bluesy mid-section. In comparison to its 1987 heavy metal-infused counterpart, this version is a more soulful outing and arguably more of a match to the heartbreak-filled lyrics.
6. “Moonshine” – Free
The phenomenal English band Free is considered to be underrated, with most of their output sitting in the shadow of their anthemic mega-hit “All Right Now”.
Much of this underappreciated material is found on Tons of Sobs (1969), the band’s debut full-length effort. Being also the bluesiest album in their catalog, the record features enormous tracks such as the gothic heavy blues cut “Moonshine”.
An ominous, pensive slow-tempo number, Moonshine is built around a colossal Paul Kossoff riff, with Andy Fraser’s enormous-sounding bass and Simon Kirke’s heavy-handed drumming adding further weight to the proceedings. And while Kossoff’s mid-song soloing is also splendid, It’s vocalist Paul Rodgers who really takes the spotlight — “no sunshine in my weary eyes, now that she’s gone” — he sings, delivering the tale of a grieving man with sinister aplomb.
5. ‘The Devil Must Be Laughing” – John Mayall feat. Joe Walsh
Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist John Mayall, The Godfather of The British Blues, is a crucial figure in the development of blues rock, being responsible, among other accomplishments, for launching the career of musicians of the caliber of Eric Clapton and Peter Green.
Even though Mayall’s stature in the genre is undeniable, his more recent output has been flying a bit under the radar. The full-length Talk About That (2017) falls under this category. A strong album overall, Talk About That ultimately peaks with the gothic slow-burning cut “The Devil Must Be Laughing”.
Drenched in robust organ work, the song features the flaming lead assault of the legendary Joe Walsh (James Gang, The Eagles), which reaches its climax in a simply extraordinary extended final solo. Lyrically, it’s clever, vivid war-torn commentary, cutting even deeper thanks to Mayall’s gripping vocal performance.
4. “Then Came The Last Days Of May” – Blue Öyster Cult
American hard rockers Blue Oyster Cult are one of the most unique acts in the genre, often blending their heavy rock attack with pop hooks and cerebral, academic-like lyrics.
However, for all their might and songwriting genius, many consider the band to be underrated, with their brilliant work often being reduced merely to “Don’t Fear The Reaper” or “Burnin’ For You”.
A good example of their underrated material is “Then Came The Last Day of May”, a bluesy number originally appearing on the group’s self-titled debut album (1972). A breezy, laidback affair, “Then Came The Last Days Of May” is a vehicle for the excellent and tasteful lead guitar work of Bhuck Dharma, with the guitarist also providing an evocative vocal performance to further enhance the proceedings.
Lyrically, it tells the tale of an illegal substance exchange involving three college students going tragically wrong. While it’s a more mundane topic than is common for the band, it’s certainly delivered in an equally superb fashion.
3. “Lucy Blues” – Uriah Heep
Uriah Heep is a top contender to be the most underappreciated rock band ever. Crucial in the development of hard rock, progressive rock and heavy metal, the English band never quite reached the popularity and widespread success of peers Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, despite possessing similar appeal and quality.
While never really a blues-focused group, Uriah Heep’s excursions into the genre have been superb for the most part. Take, for example, the deep cut “Lucy Blues”, originally appearing on the band’s debut album Very ‘Eavy …Very ‘Umble (1970)
A gorgeous slow-tempo blues number, “Lucy Blues” thrives via Ken Hensley’s superb organ work and powerhouse vocalist David Byron’s stellar performance, in which he restrains his operatic antics in favor of a more grounded yet equally gripping approach. Lyrics-wise, it’s the century-old tale of love lost, but so brilliantly executed that one cannot help to be moved.
2. “Searching For Love” – Doyle Bramhall II feat. Norah Jones
While perhaps more famous for his work with Roger Waters and Eric Clapton, Doyle Bramhall II is much more than just a sideman. The Texas native is a supremely talented guitarist/multi-instrumentalist with an ear for killer hooks.
An example of his underrated talents is the elegant, contemplative ballad “Searching For Love”. Appearing on Shades (2018), Bramhall’s most recent album, the song is a duet with the acclaimed jazz/pop vocalist Norah Jones.
Structured around exquisite piano and guitar progressions, “Searching For Love” features the perfectly harmonized vocals of Bramhall and Jones, a sublime chorus, and delightful, breathtaking lead guitar work. As far as pop-tinged blues songs go, “Searching for Love” is among the very best. How it doesn’t have at least a dozen million views yet remains a mystery to be solved.
1. “I’m Gonna Crawl” – Led Zeppelin
The word “underrated” for the most part does not really fit Led Zeppelin, arguably the biggest rock band of all time.
With that being said, there is a certain hostility among fans and critics alike towards In Through The Out Door (1979), the band’s final studio album (Coda aside), with many considering the record to be their weakest by far. Still, many (this author included) are quite fond of the album’s use of synths and overall progressive feel and actually find it underrated.
While it certainly lacks the hard rock onslaught and the inspired folky excursions of the band’s early material, In Through the Out Door still manages to include some classy cuts such as the samba/latin-flavored “Fool In The Rain”, the gorgeous synth-led ballad “All My Love” and especially the luxurious slow blues “I’m Gonna Crawl”.
Drenched in the exquisite and rich layers of John Paul Jones synths, “I’m Gonna Crawl” advances propelled by John Bonham’s groove-heavy drumming and features an inspired, piercing Jimmy Page solo mid-song. However, the song is ultimately a platform for some of Robert Plant’s finest vocals, with the vocalist delivering a larger-than-life, soul-pouring performance.