Many of the best ballads, in my opinion anyway, come from bands that play rock, hard rock, or heavy metal. I’m not sure what the scientific (or psychological) explanation for this might be, but here are 15 of my favourite ballads (and no, it wasn’t easy to pick just 15!) by rock- and metal bands. I’ll start off with some classics and finisht off the list with some stand-out newer tunes.
Love Hurts, by Nazareth
The quintessential “hurts so good” love-song as far as I’m concerned. It was written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, and was first recorded by The Everly Brothers in 1960. Nazareth’s version is flawless, and as an added bonus the video brings on some spectacular 70’s fashion.
Still In Love With You, by Thin Lizzy
This is one of my all-time favourite love songs, and as with so many Thin Lizzy songs, the best version comes from a live performance. This is from 1975, at the National Stadium in Dublin.
Night Comes Down, by Judas Priest
You might not think of ballads when you think of Judas Priest, but the band has several heart-wrenchers in their catalogue. For my money, ‘Night Comes Down’ from “Defenders of the Faith” is one of their best, and the live-version (from the album “Ram It Down”) is an absolute heart-breaker with Rob Halford giving a raw and stunning performance.
Piece Of My Heart, by Janis Joplin
Joplin always brings out the best when it comes to singing about heartbreak, and she is breathtaking here.
Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, Led Zeppelin
Yes, Robert Plant says “babe” and “baby” a whole lot of times on this tune, but it’s a classic for good reason. Superb track by the legends.
Love Bites, by Def Leppard
The 1980s was prime-time for ballads – especially power-ballads – and this one’s a kick-ass example of the genre. Fair warning: if this tune comes on when I’m in the car, I will crank it to 11, and you will be hearing it at the red light.
Still Loving You, by Scorpions
More 1980s ballady goodness, this one from the ballad-masters themselves: Scorpions. You can say what you like about the 80s fashion sense, but the vocals on this are out of this world.
Landslide, by Fleetwood Mac
This is one of Fleetwood Mac’s most beautiful tunes, and that’s saying something.
You Can’t Save Me, by Richie Kotzen
First time I listened to this track it knocked the wind out of me: I’m not sure I breathed once for the entire performance. Kotzen’s voice is so full of passion and pain, and this live version from 2015 is masterful.
For The Sun, by Monster Truck
This is an amazing tune by Monster Truck, taken from the album ‘Furiosity’. It’s awesome on the album, and it’s just as jaw-droppingly good live. If you want to read more about how this tune came together in the studio, read Jeremy Widerman’s wonderful in-depth interview with Tony Conley at Rock Guitar Daily With Tony Conley.
Ashamed, by Ragdoll
This was one of the two tunes that made me a fan of Ragdoll back in 2012. (The other one was ‘Tell Me’.) There’s a wonderful remastered version available too, but for sentimental reasons I’m posting the live-version that hooked me on this band.
Maybe You’re The One, by Trucker Diablo
Ooof. This one breaks my heart every time I listen to it. Beautiful video too by Trucker Diablo.
Jordan, by Rival Sons
Taken from the album “Head Down”, Jordan is a flat-out gorgeous, and piercingly soulful ballad: it’s a song that both breaks your heart and puts it back together again. Singer Jay Buchanan really shows his vocal talent here, and no matter how many versions I hear of this tune: studio, album, acoustic, whatever, it’s always beautiful.
Ghost, by Massive
Massive is a raw, rough, and raunchy crew that knows how to rock the hell out, but this track proves that they also know their way around a ballad. The album version is spectacular, but this acoustic live version acoustic is a stunner as well.
Bring You Back, by Chase The Ace
The video is brilliant (it was created by Kirsten Lepore: http://www.kirstenlepore.com), and Chase The Ace front-man Roi Vito Peleg is just perfect on this track.