Wednesday Question: Best Instrumental Album

Name the finest vocals-free effort of all time...

Ultimate Guitar

For this week's traditional Wednesday Question, we'd like to kindly ask you folks to focus on all those top-notch records that are free of vocals, and answer this little thing right here:

What's the greatest instrumental album of all time?

THE RULES - post only one suggestion per comment after checking that your favorite wasn't already nominated (Ctrl+F and all).Multiple nominations of one album create heavy confusion, since on one hand it's unfair to the given effort to take into consideration only the most upvoted nomination, but seeing that multiple nominations allow one user to give two or more votes to the same record, it's also unfair to other nominees not to discard it.

Finally, vote up the ideas you support and vote down the ones you dislike. We'll sum up your votes by Friday and bring you another UG top list. Show us what you got now!

448 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Also, "Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven". You really have to take the whole thing in at once to get it, but damn is it ever fantastic.
    Their best album and definitely one of the best instrumental albums out there! Props for mentioning it.
    Still always an amazing experience whenever I get the time to sit through the thing start to finish.
    "They don't sleep anymore on the beach..." Sleep is just one of the most beautiful songs ever, period.
    Kind of Blue by Miles Davis
    This. This album should be in every music fan and musician's collection period, and listened to regularly by anyone who composes their own songs. #1 Instrumental album here, IMO.
    Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells He was only 19 when he recorded it and he plays nearly everything on it too.
    Tubular Bells must be a winner. This album changed music back in 70s and Mike was only a teenager when he was writing it. Great artist.
    It was also the first album released by Virgin Records, kicking off one of the biggest record labels of all time.
    Bedside Shred
    Another one that technically does have "vocals", even if they're only caveman-style grunting. Actually kinda sounds like early death metal. Amazing that he recorded this at 19, and how it goes from the Exorcist theme to pastoral folk odyssey to strat-smashing crunchathon.
    There are two bits of the tracks with words (first side where he introduces the instruments and second track with some satanic sounding mumbling) but I came here to nominate this!
    Frank Zappa - Jazz From Hell
    I got to see Zappa once and it was that Jazz From Hell tour. He didn't even play he just conducted the band. It was epic.
    "Night School" is such a slick tune. And "St. Etienne" comes from a performance one of my favourite Zappa tunes ("Drowning Witch"), so that should get it an upvote. "Hot Rats" is almost entirely instrumental and I think it should count. Same with "The Yellow Shark" and "Civilization Phaze III". And if you haven't checked out "Dance Me This" yet, you should. It's kind of a halfway point between this and "Civilization".
    I would've gone with Hot Rats, which is one of my favorite Zappa albums, but "Willie the Pimp" features vocals, so I wasn't sure it counted. I haven't heard about "Dance Me This" before though, so thanks for the recommendation!
    Explosions in the Sky - The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place
    Underrated nomination - EITS have so many great records, especially The Earth and "Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever" are absolutely masterpieces, particularly "Greet Death", "The Moon Is Down", and my personal favorite "With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept". Though they've a bit formulaic recently, their previous records still kick ass.
    Bedside Shred
    Great record, I just personally prefer Birds of Fire.
    Bedside Shred
    Birds of Fire is indeed great, probably just as good, but Flame has "You Know You Know" and "Meeting of the Spirits", otherworldly.
    "Meeting of the Spirits" is outstanding, but after many listens i have to rank Birds of Fire higher. This record is just more polished and overall better imho.
    oh oh - JACO PASTORIUS - Jaco Pastorius. there's one song with vocals tho
    I came here looking for this. Portrait of Tracy has got to be one of the most beautiful compositions ever.
    Elegant Gypsy by Al Di Meola
    I was just about to nominate this, it's unbelievable that such a massively influential album has got very few votes.
    Plini - The End Of Everything
    Plini deserves far more attention than he gets, the guy is such a monster musician and one of the most tasteful guitarists I've ever heard.
    I was thinking of Plini, but this is an EP, and they said album ! So I'd say : Plini - Trilogy (the album is composed of the 3 EP he had before : Other things, Sweet Nothings, and The End Of Everything)
    Camel - Music Inspired By the Snow Goose
    This requires more upvotes. Not my favourite Camel record, but definitely nice to see them get some love.
    Also, is there any love for Amon Tobin? His album "Permutation" is really perfect instrumental record!..
    i can't believe i literally had to scroll to the bottom to find amon tobin, i fucking love him.
    Steve Vai - Passion & Warfare
    Absolutely iconic album that already has its 25th anniversary this year and still holds up after all this time as being a sonic masterpiece.
    Agreed. There are spoken words though, hope that doesn't rule the album out. Awesome album.
    Most of my picks are up here already, but I'd love to see CHON's Grow get some love.
    John Petrucci - Suspended Animation
    Ole' Nessie
    I can't believe this isn't listed yet, but Dick Dale and his early surf albums were both groundbreaking and great to listen to! I can't help but think of some metal bands that have surely been influenced by his playing
    Bedside Shred
    Chon's Grow actually has a couple tracks with vocals, which is a shame because those vocals are the single low point of the album.
    Intervals - The Shape of Colour (Edit: sorry for the duplicate--someone posted it as I was posting this...but here's a link to the album)
    NEU! - "NEU!" Maybe of of the best krautrock recordings
    Buckethead - Giant Robot
    It should be top instrumental albums excluding buckethead. Although I expect UG to do what they did with the fictional bands the other week and just give a slot for all buckethead albums because that many have been nominated
    I'm gonna go with the obvious Buckethead - Colma edit: shit, it's already buried in the comments
    Joe Satriani - Crystal Planet. Surfing was fun and iconic and everything, but I think this is the album that best displays what Satch is musically capable of when he keeps his chops in check. It's got great hooks throughout and every track is just beautiful.
    This album has pretty much always been my favorite instrumental. The songs actually revolve more around decent songwritting instead of doing flashy shit 60% of the time.
    I really can't think of an album where joe does flashy shit all the time, or even 60%. that's why he's one of the greatest guitarrists and managed to break through the mainstream. of course, he plays fast sometimes and can shred, but nothing in the likes of Malmsteen IMO
    Haven't listened to all his stuff. I remember he did more shreddy stuff at some point? I might be wrong. Anyway, i always liked Joe, he's perhaps not a better guitarist than say: Steve Vai, but he is the better composer imo.
    Well, he always had some fast songs and passages on his albuns and songs, but most of his material is melody oriented. And I agree. in terms of songwriting he's better than vai. both are amazing but I can listen to Joe all day.
    Good choice, even when I think his guitar sound on "Strange beautiful Music" was the best ever been recorded.
    Animals as Leaders - Animals as Leaders
    Came here just to upvote this. To me, this album is every bit as important to guitar-based instrumental music as Steve Vai's and Joe Satriani's works, and pretty much kicked off a new era of shred. And before anyone comes in saying I'm wrong, Steve Vai himself acknowledged this in a Guitar World interview a few years back (where he appeared with Tosin on the cover).
    I agree completely. I was looking for this album so that I could upvote it. When I first heard the album, I was blown away. It's so completely unlike anything I had heard up to that point and it's still great to listen to.
    My Favorite Things - John Coltrane
    Amazing album but I'm downvoting, because I know if this makes the list, UG is gonna make some corny pun about this album being "among UG users' FAVORITE things" and I really just can't take that at this point in my life.