an image, when javascript is unavailable

Yacht Rock: Album Guide

By David Browne

David Browne

Summer’s here and time is right for dancing … on the deck of a large nautical vessel. During the late Seventies and early Eighties, the radio was dominated by silver-tongued white-dude crooners with names like Rupert and Gerry, emoting over balmy R&B beats, swaying saxes, and dishwasher-clean arrangements. Though it didn’t have a name, the genre — soft rock you could dance to — was dismissed by serious rock fans as fluffy and lame. But thanks to a web series in the mid-2000s, the style — belatedly named “ yacht rock ” — has since spawned a satellite-radio channel, tribute bands, and a Weezer cover of Toto’s “Africa.” Is the modern love of the music ironic or sincere? Hard to say, yet there’s no denying yacht rock is a legit sound with a vibe all its own that produced a surprising amount of enduring music perfectly at home in summer. (John Mayer even tips his own sailor’s hat to the genre on his new “Last Train Home” single, and even the aqua-blue cover of his upcoming Sob Rock album.) The resumption of the Doobie Brothers’ 50th anniversary tour, postponed last year due to COVID-19 but scheduled to restart in August, is the cherry atop the Pina colada.

Boz Scaggs, Silk Degrees (1976)

Before yacht rock was an identifiable genre, Scaggs (no fan of the term, as he told Rolling Stone in 2018) set the standard for what was to come: sharp-dressed white soul, burnished ballads that evoked wine with a quiet dinner, and splashes of Me Decade decadence (the narrator of the pumped “Lido Shuffle” is setting up one more score before leaving the country). Add in the Philly Soul homage “What Can I Say,” the burbling life-on-the-streets homage “Lowdown,” and the lush sway of “Georgia,” and Silk Degrees , internationally or not, set a new high bar for Seventies smoothness.

Steely Dan, Aja (1977)

The sophisticated high-water mark of yacht, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker’s masterpiece is the midway point between jazz and pop, with tricky tempo shifts, interlocking horn and keyboard parts, and pristine solos. Not settling for easygoing period clichés, these love songs, so to speak, are populated by a sleazy movie director (the gorgeous rush of “Peg”), a loser who still hopes to be a jazzman even if the odds are against him (the heart-tugging “Deacon Blues”), and a guy whose nodding-out girlfriend is probably a junkie (“Black Cow”). The most subversive cruise you’ll ever take.

The Doobie Brothers, Minute by Minute (1978)

The Doobies got their start as a biker-y boogie band, but they smoothed things out for Minute by Minute . Highlighted by “What a Fool Believes,” the unstoppable Michael McDonald-Kenny Loggins co-write, the LP piles on romantic turmoil, falsetto harmonies, and plenty of spongy electric piano. But it also proves how much personality and muscle the Doobies could bring to what could be a generic sound. McDonald’s husky, sensitive-guy delivery shrouds the unexpectedly bitter title song (“You will stay just to watch me, darlin’/Wilt away on lies from you”)  and honoring their biker roots, “Don’t Stop to Watch the Wheels” is about taking a lady friend for a ride on your hog.

Editor’s picks

Every awful thing trump has promised to do in a second term, the 250 greatest guitarists of all time, the 500 greatest albums of all time, the 50 worst decisions in movie history.

Further Listening

Seals & crofts, get closer (1976).

The Dylan-goes-electric moment of yacht, “Get Closer” validated the idea that folkie singer-songwriters could put aside their guitars (and mandolin), tap into their R&B side and cross over in ways they never imagined. In addition to the surprising seductiveness of the title hit, Get Closer has plenty of yacht-rock pleasures. In “Goodbye Old Buddies,” the narrator informs his pals that he can’t hang out anymore now that he’s met “a certain young lady,” but in the next song, “Baby Blue,” another woman is told, “There’s an old friend in me/Tellin’ me I gotta be free.” A good captain follows the tide where it takes him.

Christopher Cross, Christopher Cross  (1979)

Cross’ debut swept the 1981 Grammys for a reason: It’s that rare yacht-rock album that’s graceful, earnest, and utterly lacking in smarm. Songs like the politely seductive “Say You’ll Be Mine” and the forlorn “Never Be the Same” have an elegant pop classicism, and the yacht anthem “Sailing” could be called a powered-down ballad. Fueled by a McDonald cameo expertly parodied on SCTV , the propulsive “Ride Like the Wind” sneaks raw outlaw lyrics (“Lived nine lives/Gunned down ten”) into its breezy groove, perfecting the short-lived gangster-yacht subgenre.

Rupert Holmes, Partners in Crime (1979)

The album that made Holmes a soft-rock star is known for “Escape (The Piña Colada Song),” which sports a made-for-karaoke chorus and a plot twist worthy of a wide-collar O. Henry. But what distinguishes the album is the Steely Dan-level musicianship and Holmes’ ambitious story songs, each sung with Manilow-esque exuberance. The title track equates a hooker and her john to co-workers at a department store, “Lunch Hour” ventures into afternoon-delight territory, and “Answering Machine” finds a conflicted couple trading messages but continually being cut off by those old-school devices.

Steely Dan, Gaucho (1980)

The Dan’s last studio album before a lengthy hiatus doesn’t have the consistency of Aja, but Gaucho cleverly matches their most vacuum-sealed music with their most sordid and pathetic cast of characters. A seedy older guy tries to pick up younger women in “Hey Nineteen,” another loser goes in search of a ménage à trois in “Babylon Sisters,” a coke dealer delivers to a basketball star in “Glamour Profession,” and the narrator of “Time Out of Mind” just wants another heroin high. It’s the dark side of the yacht.

Going Deeper

Michael mcdonald, if that’s what it takes  (1982).

Imagine a Doobie Brothers album entirely comprised of McDonald songs and shorn of pesky guitar solos or Patrick Simmons rockers, and you have a sense of McDonald’s first and best post-Doobs album. If That’s What it Takes builds on the approach he nailed on “What a Fool Believes” but amps up the sullen-R&B side of Mac’s music. His brooding remake of Lieber and Stoller’s “I Keep Forgettin’” is peak McDonald and the title track approaches the propulsion of Christopher Cross’ “Ride Like the Wind.” With his sad-sack intensity, McDonald sounds like guy at a seaside resort chewing over his mistakes and regrets – with, naturally, the aid of an electric piano.

Related Stories

Yacht rock babylon, official tracklist for celine dion documentary offers glimpse into singer's recent struggles.

Kenny Loggins, Keep the Fire (1979)

Loggins’ journey from granola folk rocker to pleasure-boat captain embodies the way rock grew more polished as the Seventies wore on. Anchored by the percolating-coffeemaker rhythms and modestly aggro delivery of “This Is It,” another McDonald collaboration, Keep the Fire sets Loggins’ feathery voice to smooth-jazz saxes and R&B beats, and Michael Jackson harmonies beef up the soul quotient in “Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong.” The secret highlight is “Will It Last,” one of the sneakiest yacht tracks ever, fading to a finish after four minutes, then revving back up with some sweet George Harrison-style slide guitar.

Dr. Hook, Sometimes You Win  (1979)

Earlier in the Seventies, these jokesters established themselves with novelty hits like “The Cover of ‘Rolling Stone,’’ but they soon paddled over to unabashed disco-yacht. Sometimes You Win features three of their oiliest ear worms: “Sexy Eyes,” “When You’re in Love with a Beautiful Woman” and “Better Love Next Time,” all oozing suburban pickup bars and the somewhat desperate dudes who hang out there. The album, alas, does not include “Sharing the Night Together,” recently reborn by way of its sardonic use in last year’s Breaking Bad spinoff El Camino .

Carly Simon, Boys in the Trees  (1978)

As a trailblazing female singer-songwriter, Simon was already a star by the time yacht launched. Boys in the Trees features her beguiling contribution to the genre, “You Belong to Me,” a collaboration with the ubiquitous Michael McDonald. The Doobies cut it first, but Simon’s version adds an air of yearning and hushed desperation that makes it definitive. The album also packs in a yacht-soul cover of James Taylor’s “One Man Woman” and a “lullaby for a wide-eyed guy” called “Tranquillo (Melt My Heart),” all proving that men didn’t have a stranglehold on this style.

Anchors Aweigh

More smooth hits for your next high-seas adventure.

“BREEZIN’”

George Benson, 1976

The guitarist and Jehovah’s Witness made the leap from midlevel jazz act to crossover pop star with a windswept instrumental that conveys the yacht spirit as much as any vocal performance.

“WHATCHA GONNA DO?”

Pablo Cruise, 1976

Carefree bounce from a San Francisco band with the best name ever for a soft-rock act — named, fittingly, after a chill Colorado buddy.

“BAKER STREET”

Gerry Rafferty, 1978

Rafferty brought a deep sense of lonely-walk-by-the-bay melancholy to this epic retelling of a night on the town, in which Raphael Ravenscroft’s immortal sax awakens Rafferty from his morning-after hangover.

“REMINISCING”

Little River Band, 1978

The Aussie soft rockers delivered a slurpy valentine sung in the voice of an old man looking back on his “lifetime plan” with his wife. Innovative twist: flugelhorn solo instead of sax.

“WHENEVER I CALL YOU ‘FRIEND’ ”

Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nicks, 1978

After its ethereal intro, this rare genre duet grows friskier with each verse, with both Loggins and Nicks getting more audibly caught up in the groove — and the idea of “sweet love showing us a heavenly light.”

“LOTTA LOVE”

Nicolette Larson, 1978

Neil Young’s sad-boy shuffle is transformed into a luscious slice of lounge pop by the late Larson. Adding an extra layer of poignancy, she was in a relationship with Young around that time.

“STEAL AWAY”

Robbie Dupree, 1980

Is it real, or is it McDonald? Actually, it’s the best Doobies knockoff — a rinky-dink (but ingratiating) distant cousin to “What a Fool Believes” that almost inspired McDonald to take legal action.

“TAKE IT EASY”

Archie James Cavanaugh, 1980

Cult rarity by the late Alaskan singer-songwriter that crams in everything you’d want in a yacht song: disco-leaning bass, smooth-jazz guitar, sax, and a lyric that lives up to its title even more than the same-titled Eagles song.

“BIGGEST PART OF ME”

Ambrosia, 1980

Ditching the prog-classical leanings of earlier albums, this trio headed straight for the middle of the waterway with this Doobies-lite smash. Bonus points for lyrics that reference a “lazy river.”

“I CAN’T GO FOR THAT (NO CAN DO)”

Daryl Hall and John Oates, 1981

The once unstoppable blue-eyed soul duo were never pure yacht, but the easy-rolling beats and shiny sax in this Number One hit got close. Hall adds sexual tension by never specifying exactly what he can’t go for.

“COOL NIGHT”

Paul Davis, 1981

The Mississippi crooner-songwriter gives a master class on how to heat up a stalled romance: Pick a brisk evening, invite a female acquaintance over, and suggest . . . lighting a fire.

“KEY LARGO”

Bertie Higgins, 1981

Yacht’s very own novelty hit is corny but deserves props for quoting from not one but two Humphrey Bogart films ( Key Largo and Casablanca ).

“AFRICA”

The same year that members of Toto did session work on Michael Jackson’s Thriller, they released the Mount Kilimanjaro of late-yacht hits.

“SOUTHERN CROSS”

Crosby, Stills, and Nash, 1982

The combustible trio’s gusty contribution to the genre has choppy-water rhythms and enough nautical terminology for a sailing manual.

Kanye West’s Ex-Assistant Accuses Him of Sexual Harassment, Masturbating in Front of Her

  • By Charisma Madarang

Kim Petras Reframes Meaning of 'Accept Yourself' in Touching Pride Message

  • For the Dolls
  • By Tomás Mier

Brother Marquis, Pioneering Rapper 2 Live Crew, Dead at 58

Sean kingston booked into florida jail, held on $100,000 bond.

  • Behind Bars

The Boy in Ariana Grande's 'The Boy Is Mine' Video Is Hers — But Is He Also Penn Badgley?

  • The Stars, They Aligned
  • By Larisha Paul

Most Popular

Actor mamie laverock is 'doing well' and 'out of her big surgeries' after falling five stories from balcony, ‘furiosa’ box office puts brakes on george miller’s next ‘mad max’ movie, monet painting at the musée d’orsay vandalized by climate activist, tom cruise allegedly thinks this single, oscar-winning actress could be his ‘perfect match’, you might also like, crowded house’s neil finn on how a stint with fleetwood mac led to revitalizing his own band: ‘i realized that we had a flag that you can follow’, exclusive: tiktok star monet mcmichael enters her ‘rose era’ with snif fragrance collaboration, the best yoga mats for any practice, according to instructors, how ‘eric’ created its 7-foot-tall titular monster, former msg exec lustgarten to lead hudson yards experiences.

Rolling Stone is a part of Penske Media Corporation. © 2024 Rolling Stone, LLC. All rights reserved.

Verify it's you

Please log in.

Referral code for up to $80 off applied at checkout

The 10 Best Yacht Rock Albums To Own On Vinyl

Climb aboard for the smoothest records you'll ever own.

In 2006, a group of buddies produced a series of short videos called “Yacht Rock.” The videos defined yacht rock as a genre of smooth music, born out of Southern California between 1976 and 1984, and featuring exceptional musicianship with roots in R&B, jazz and folk rock. Its stars: Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Toto and Steely Dan.

The last 11 years have tested the genre’s buoyancy. Since 2006, yacht rock has been co-opted by Big Radio, whose yacht playlists include flimsy AM gold like Bertie Higgins and California corporate rock like the Eagles. Luckily the originators of the term, through their podcast Beyond Yacht Rock, have helped to set the parameters of the genre.

Good yacht rock is frequently credited to many of the same names: established players like multi-instrumentalist Jay Graydon, producer David Foster, percussionist Victor Feldman, and hard-working-studio-band-turned-80s-superstars Toto. And it’s heavier on R&B and jazz than folk rock, incorporating the work of Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson and others.

With that, here are the 10 best yacht rock albums to start your collection - or, shall I say, to christen your vessel.

Shop Till You Drop

Record reviews.

the best yacht rock albums

Toto: Toto IV (1982, Columbia)

The album that shot Toto into superstardom is a perfect primer for the yacht rock sound. “Rosanna,” with drummer Jeff Porcaro’s iconic shuffle technique, makes multiple left turns, a crucial component of most yacht songs. You’ll know this album for “Rosanna” and No. 1 smash “Africa,” but the slow groove of “Waiting For Your Love” shows the band’s ability to dip into soul and R&B, a trait that helped them on cuts like “Human Nature” and “The Lady in My Life” off another yacht rock album, Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Toto could also bring the heat with mid-tempo stunners like “Make Believe” and “Good For You.” A deep listen of Toto IV reveals a group of professionals rarely wasting notes.

the best yacht rock albums

Boz Scaggs: Silk Degrees (1976, CBS)

If yacht rock is a marriage of jazz, R&B and singer-songwriter folk rock, Boz Scaggs’ breakout Silk Degrees is one of the earliest attempts at matrimony. Boz employed David Paich, David Hungate and Jeff and Joe Porcaro for the album, and their work here would set a template for the Toto sound (combine “Lowdown” and “Lido Shuffle” and you get something near “Rosanna”). There’s a few too many strings here, Boz gets a little too lyrical (Yacht Rock isn’t necessarily a lyricist’s genre) and the bass is so up front that it can feel like disco. But if you want to know the roots of yacht rock, Silk Degrees is a good choice.

the best yacht rock albums

Michael McDonald: If That’s What it Takes (1982, Warner Bros.)

Two crucial instruments in yacht rock: the Fender Rhodes keyboard and McDonald’s husky, blue-eyed soul tenor. If That’s What it Takes, McDonald’s solo debut after leaving the Doobie Brothers, has plenty of both. “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)” is essential yacht, a chill-out anthem featuring half of Toto, who also appear on the ballad “That’s Why” and slightly discofied “No Such Luck.” McDonald’s buddy Loggins co-writes “I Gotta Try,” one of many yacht anthems about fools looking to change their luck. And make no mistake: McDonald is the poster boy for fools constantly searching for small victories.

the best yacht rock albums

Kenny Loggins: High Adventure (1982, Columbia)

Loggins isn’t always yacht rock. Sometimes, like on High Adventure, he’s far too tender (“The More We Try”) or he’s far too heavy (“Swear Your Love”). But there’s a lot of yacht rock range on this enormously fun album, from the Latin-tinged “Heartlight” to the gritty “If It’s Not What You’re Looking For.” Then there’s Loggins’ version of “I Gotta Try” and, finally, a quintessential yacht rock hit, “Heart to Heart.” Loggins is a little lighter and slightly more soulful on his 1979 album Keep the Fire, which includes the stunning “This Is It.” He’s certainly an essential artist in the yacht canon, but always step lightly with Loggins. The guy is a chameleon.

the best yacht rock albums

Dane Donohue: Dane Donohue (1978, Columbia)

There are countless yacht rock albums either lost in bargain bins or available only as imports, from the 1980 self-titled album by Airplay (listen to the quintessential “Nothin’ You Can Do About It”) to 1978’s Blue Virgin Isles by Swedish singer Ted Gardestad. Dane Donohue’s 1978 self-titled debut is another, featuring Graydon, Feldman, members of Toto and Los Angeles studio professionals like Larry Carlton, Jai Winding and Steve Gadd. “Can’t Be Seen” has a distinct yacht sound, as does the crisp “Woman,” which features backing vocals from J.D. Souther and Stevie Nicks. You’ll tell quickly that Donohue is a third-rate vocal talent for the genre (McDonald or, say, Al Jarreau would elevate these tracks), but the point is the smooth, polished sound. Yacht rock is a player’s genre.

the best yacht rock albums

Steely Dan: Aja (1978, ABC)

Steely Dan’s importance to yacht rock can’t be overstated. They introduced the world to McDonald (“Any World [That I’m Welcome To]” off Katy Lied ) and curated an inner circle of studio professionals versed in jazz, R&B and soul, who would later perfect the yacht sound. Arguably the Dan is smoothest on the 1980 smash Gaucho , but Aja finds Walter Becker and Donald Fagen comfortably hitting a middle-ground stride. You’ve probably heard much of the album already, from the slithering journey of “Deacon Blues” to the percolating “Peg,” but what’s amazing about Aja is its ability to position Steely Dan as a mainstream hit factory while remaining expansive and adventurous (the title track, “I Got the News”).

the best yacht rock albums

Patti Austin: Every Home Should Have One (1981, Qwest)

Yacht rock is popularly considered a white man’s genre, but its roots are in the R&B and jazz that manifest itself as yacht soul on outstanding albums like Austin’s Every Home Should Have One. Examples? “Do You Love Me?” sounds awfully like Loggins’ “I Gotta Try.” And one could imagine McDonald singing “The Way I Feel.” “Love Me to Death” could have been a Michael Jackson outtake, or it’s just a rewrite of “Off the Wall.” The album’s high point is the slow burn “Baby, Come to Me,” which includes James Ingram’s smooth delivery, plus Toto’s Lukather on guitar and Foster on synthesizer. Check George Benson’s Give Me the Night and the Pointer Sisters’ Special Things for more examples of yacht soul.

the best yacht rock albums

Al Jarreau: Breakin’ Away (1981, Warner Bros.)

If there’s an album that showcases the yacht rock sound at its cleanest, Breakin’ Away may take the trophy. All of the pertinent studio personnel is on the album, from Toto to Graydon - who’s on as producer - laying down an adventurous, crisp template for Jarreau ( R.I.P .) to deliver his sharp, joyous tenor, complete with plenty of scatting. “We’re In This Love Together” and the title track (with Earth, Wind & Fire horns, a Graydon specialty) are mid-tempo yacht rock beauties. Elsewhere Jarreau experiments with jazzier flavors, but the musicianship is still top-notch. Check out Jarreau’s Jarreau from 1982 as another prime yacht rock attempt; both are albums you’ll want to spin on a bright summer morning.

the best yacht rock albums

Pages: Pages (1981, Capitol)

Before Richard Page and Steve George formed half of mid-1980s MTV stars Mr. Mister, their buttery voices were integral components of the yacht rock sound, contributing backing vocals on countless tracks. Their 1981 self-titled release (they also released a self-titled album in 1978 that’s more funkified) is pure yacht. Graydon produced half of the album, and Jeff Porcaro shows up frequently behind the kit. The flip-side of the album is more adventurous, but side A is pound-for-pound the best example of the genre you’ll find on vinyl, and one of the best finds of the sound (Pages’ previous Future Street is a little more proggy but still a treat). Seize Pages and you’ll soon find yourself on some roof deck singing along with Page and George.

the best yacht rock albums

Christopher Cross: Christopher Cross (1979, Warner Bros.)

Critics may scoff at Cross’ self-titled debut, a massive success that won five Grammys and scored four top-20 hits, but the album is impeccably performed and produced. Nearly everyone involved on the album is a yacht rock mainstay, from producer Michael Omartian down to the usual suspects, Graydon, Feldman and McDonald, who contributes those iconic backing vocals in “Ride Like the Wind.” “Never Be the Same” and “Say You’ll Be Mine” are both solid mid-tempo hits for the era. And then there’s “Sailing.” It’s actually a sonic outlier for the yacht rock genre, heavy on acoustic guitar and strings. But its message fits the genre (a fool searching for inner peace), and yeah, it’s still undeniably smooth.

  • the 10 best

Profile Picture of Timothy Malcolm

Timothy Malcolm can be found in a variety of publications across the New York metropolitan area. His writing can also be found there. He enjoys guessing No. 1 hits of the 1980s, visiting breweries, trying any beverage once, watching baseball and hiking for long distances across the Hudson Valley and Catskills of New York.

Join the Club!

Records of the Month VMP Store Exclusives Pre-Orders Ready to Ship Vinyl Me, Parton

R&B / Hip-Hop Soul Rock Jazz Country

Collections

Best Sellers Bundles Anthology $30 & Under Represses

${ product.title }

${ product.vendor }, quality music. delivered to your inbox..

Sign up to receive new vinyl release notifications, curated playlists, Magazine articles, and more.

Shopping Cart

Exclusive 15% off for teachers , students , military members , healthcare professionals & first responders – get verified.

  • ${ option.name }: ${ option.value }

Your cart is currently empty.

Similar Records

Other customers bought.

Shipping & taxes calculated at checkout

${ accountModal.title }

Referral discount will be applied at checkout

Join the club

Select a location.

  • United States
  • International

Choose a Term

Commit longer and save. Or, choose Monthly for no commitment. We’ll never renew your membership without contacting you first. You can change your Track or Swap your future monthly records.

Shipping begins in April. Sign up today to secure your spot on this once-in-a-lifetime musical journey. Start your subscription with "${chargebee.selectedPlan.product.title}".

Start your subscription with "${chargebee.selectedplan.product.title}"..

Available in Limited Engagements of 3, 6, or 12 month terms. Commit longer to save. This Limited Subscription Track will end after 12 months and you will no longer be charged.

This Limited Subscription Track will end in March 2024 and you will no longer be charged. Commit longer and save. Start with this month's Dolly Parton Record, with the option to include catch-up records from the previous months upon signup.

Forgot password?

Create An Account

Create a free VMP account to save this product to your wishlist.

Already have an Account? Sign In

Unsupported Browser

Your web browser appears to be outdated. Our website may not look and function quite right in it.

Please consider updating your browser to enjoy an optimal experience.

Make Your Order a Gift

Want to send this order as a gift? Enter their shipping information, plus an optional note (that will be included in their box) and we’ll take care of the rest. Note: On the next screens, you will be directed to still enter your own shipping information for billing and account purposes, but the order will still ship to your recipient.

Sign Up To Be Notified

by will be the Record of the Month. Enter your email to be notified when this album launches.

Join Waitlist

This product is currently unavailable. We'll add you to the waitlist and notify you if it becomes available.

A beginner’s guide to yacht rock in five essential albums

Yacht rock, soft rock – call it what you will. Here are five brilliant albums that define the genre in all its bearded, Hawaiian shirted glory

Segments of five classic yacht rock album covers

Was there really ever a genre called yacht rock ? Prior to the 2005 online comedy series of the same name, what we now know of as yacht rock was simply soft rock, largely of the 1970s variety, but occasionally dipping into the 80s as well. It was music that was smooth, slick and did little to challenge the listener in the way that heavy metal or punk rock would. Yet  sold in the multi-millions, made superstars of its creators, and was beloved by industry professionals for the stellar musicianship and high production values. And above all, it was detested by the critics.

Today, yacht rock is the ultimate guilty pleasure genre. Its patron saints - almost exclusively men, generally bearded – never appeared on posters that graced adolescents’ walls. Yet bands and artists such as The Doobie Brothers , Loggins & Messina and Christopher Cross made sweet, soulful music featuring some of the finest musicians of the era and sounding so, so perfect in the process.

Unlike prog, hair metal or krautrock, the boundaries of what constitutes yacht rock are blurred. There’s little to link the jazzy noodlings of Steely Dan , Boz Scaggs’ smooth pop and the later, 80s pop-rock of Hall & Oates beyond the fact that the various members of Toto appeared on many of these albums, making them kind of a yacht rock mafia.

Yacht rock, soft rock, call it what you will: the men who made it are laughing all the way to the bank in their Hawaiian shirts and well-sculpted facial hair while the rest of us celebrate their music in all its frictionless glory. Critics be damned, these are the five essential yacht rock albums for those who want to plunge into the genre.

Metal Hammer line break

Loggins & Messina - Full Sail (1973)

Kenny Loggins was a boyish-looking yet handsomely bearded fellow with a penchant for country-esque ballads. Jim Messina had been in Buffalo Springfield and country rockers Poco . The pair teamed up to record some of Loggins’ material and ended up becoming an unlikely success story, notching up hits with  1971 single The House At Pooh Corner and the following year’s Your Mama Don’t Dance , later covered by hair metallers Poison.

But 1973’s Full Sail was their apex. Featuring the ultimate yacht rock album cover (two men, one yacht), the album itself contains everything from the calypso frivolity of Lahaina , and the smooth jazz of Travellin’ Blues to the joyously upbeat My Music and hit ballad Watching The River Run . This is yacht rock’s ground zero. Boys, what did you unleash?

Boz Scaggs - Silk Degrees (1976)

An early member of the Steve Miller Band , guitarist and vocalist Boz Scaggs’ solo career had begun 1969. But nothing had clicked with the record buying public until he hooked up with David Paich, Jeff Porcaro and David Hungate, all of whom were on the verge of forming Toto , and recorded his seventh solo album, Silk Degrees . A masterful mix of smooth pop and slick ballads, it spawned hits in the shape of It’s Over , Lowdown , We’re All Alone (made famous by Rita Coolidge) and the pulsating Lido Shuffle , a bona fide dancefloor filler.

Classic Rock Newsletter

Sign up below to get the latest from Classic Rock, plus exclusive special offers, direct to your inbox!

Steely Dan - Aja (1977)

Arguments rage as to whether these protagonists of achingly cool and clever jazz rock belong in the yacht rock genre, but hey, if the people who made the Yacht Rock online series say the are, who are we to argue?

Their sixth album, Aja , saw Walter Becker and Donald Fagan stretching out into longer form pieces of music that were funkier and jazzier than they’d ever been before, capping it off with one of the most pristine production jobs ever – such were their levels of perfectionism that six crack session guitarists tried and failed to lay down the guitar solo on Peg to their satisfaction (it was the seventh, Jay Graydon, who nailed it). Bonus yacht rock points: auxiliary Dan backing vocalist/keyboard player Michael McDonald was also a member of The Doobie Brothers.

The Doobie Brothers – Minute By Minute (1978)

In 1974, Steely Dan guitarist Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter moved across to hugely successful blues rockers The Doobie Brothers on a free transfer. The following year, he suggested recruiting Dan backing singer/pianist Michael McDonald as a replacement for the Doobies’ ailing guitarist/vocalist Tom Johnstone.

With his blue-eyed soul croon and knack for writing uptempo R&B-infused songs, McDonald helped nudge the band towards smoother waters. By 1978’s Minute By Minute , they had fully transformed from moustachioed chooglers into yacht rock kingpins. The album’s blend of soft rock and R&B reached its apotheosis on the majestic What A Fool Believes – co-written with Kenny Loggins, naturally – which ultimately helped turn McDonald into a bigger star than the band. For the record, the singer’s 1986 Sweet Freedom compilation is also yacht rock gold.

Christopher Cross - Christopher Cross (1979)

When Christopher Cross released his self-titled debut album in December 1979, no-one knew who he was. A year later, he’d racked up four Top 20 hits and swept the boards at the Grammy Awards.

It’s not hard to see why: Cross’ spectacular voice was matched by the brilliance of his songs. Everyone knows Ride Like The Wind , featuring that Michael McDonald fella on backing vocals, but it was the mellower Sailing that hit the No. 1 spot ( Ride… only managed No. 2). A year later Cross’ theme to the movie Arthur won him and co-writer Burt Bacharach an Oscar.

Cross was no slouch as a musician either: Steely Dan had asked him to play on their albums and he even filled in for a sick Ritchie Blackmore at a Deep Purple US show back in 1970.

Writer and broadcaster Jerry Ewing is the Editor of Prog Magazine which he founded for Future Publishing in 2009. He grew up in Sydney and began his writing career in London for Metal Forces magazine in 1989. He has since written for Metal Hammer, Maxim, Vox, Stuff and Bizarre magazines, among others. He created and edited Classic Rock Magazine for Dennis Publishing in 1998 and is the author of a variety of books on both music and sport, including Wonderous Stories; A Journey Through The Landscape Of Progressive Rock.

“There are certain names that I so deeply wish were on the guestlist tonight, but we lost them too early.” Watch Eddie Vedder perform a hauntingly beautiful version of Nine Inch Nails' Hurt for 18,000 Pearl Jam fans and lost friends in Seattle

"I must really be a witch...so rabies shots for the next two weeks": Watch The Pretty Reckless' Taylor Momsen get bitten by a bat onstage

"The Superstition tour is heading your way." Soulfly announce summer tour of the UK and Europe

Most Popular

the best yacht rock albums

  • Fogerty, Thorogood Kick Off Tour
  • Biggest Single-Act Rock Concerts
  • Zappa Bandmate Ed Mann Dies
  • The Worst Classic Rock Songs
  • Top 35 Harmonica Songs
  • Steve Miller Praises Eminem Song

Ultimate Classic Rock

Top 50 Yacht Rock Songs

Yacht rock was one of the most commercially successful genres to emerge from the '70s and yet has managed to evade concise definition since its inception. For many listeners, it boils down to a feeling or mood that cannot be found in other kinds of music: Simply put, you know it when you hear it.

Some agreed-upon elements are crucial to yacht rock. One is its fluidity, with more emphasis on a catchy, easy-feeling melody than on beat or rhythm. Another is a generally lighthearted attitude in the lyrics. Think Seals & Crofts ' "Summer Breeze," Christopher Cross ' "Ride Like the Wind" or Bill Withers ' "Just the Two of Us." Yes, as its label suggests, music that would fit perfectly being played from the deck of a luxurious boat on the high seas.

But even these roughly outlined "rules" can be flouted and still considered yacht rock. Plenty of bands that are typically deemed "nyacht" rock have made their attempts at the genre: Crosby, Stills & Nash got a bit nautical with "Southern Cross," leading with their famed tightly knit harmonies, and Fleetwood Mac also entered yacht rock territory with "Dreams" – which, although lyrically dour, offers a sense of melody in line with yacht rock.

Given its undefined parameters, the genre has become one of music's most expansive corners. From No. 1 hits to deeper-cut gems, we've compiled a list of 50 Top Yacht Rock Songs to set sail to below.

50. "Thunder Island," Jay Ferguson (1978)

Younger generations might be more apt to recognize Jay Ferguson from his score for NBC's The Office , where he also portrayed the guitarist in Kevin Malone's band Scrantonicity. But Ferguson's musical roots go back to the '60s band Spirit; he was also in a group with one of the future members of Firefall, signaling a '70s-era shift toward yacht rock and "Thunder Island." The once-ubiquitous single began its steady ascent in October 1977 before reaching the Top 10 in April of the following year. Producer Bill Szymczyk helped it get there by bringing in his buddy Joe Walsh for a soaring turn on the slide. The best showing Ferguson had after this, however, was the quickly forgotten 1979 Top 40 hit "Shakedown Cruise." (Nick DeRiso)

49. "Southern Cross," Crosby, Stills & Nash (1982)

CSN's "Southern Cross" was an example of a more literal interpretation of yacht rock, one in which leftover material was revitalized by Stephen Stills . He sped up the tempo of a song titled " Seven League Boots " originally penned by brothers Rick and Michael Curtis, then laid in new lyrics about, yes, an actual boat ride. "I rewrote a new set of words and added a different chorus, a story about a long boat trip I took after my divorce," Stills said in the liner notes  to 1991's CSN box. "It's about using the power of the universe to heal your wounds." The music video for the song, which went into heavy rotation on MTV, also prominently displayed the band members aboard a large vessel. (Allison Rapp)

48. "Jackie Blue," the Ozark Mountain Daredevils (1974)

Drummer Larry Lee only had a rough idea of what he wanted to do with "Jackie Blue," originally naming it after a bartending dope pusher. For a long time, the Ozark Mountain Daredevils' best-known single remained an instrumental with the place-keeper lyric, " Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh Jackie Blue. He was dada, and dada doo. He did this, he did that ... ." Producer Glyn Johns, who loved the track, made a key suggestion – and everything finally snapped into place: "No, no, no, mate," Johns told them. "Jackie Blue has to be a girl." They "knocked some new lyrics out in about 30 minutes," Lee said in It Shined: The Saga of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils . "[From] some drugged-out guy, we changed Jackie into a reclusive girl." She'd go all the way to No. 3. (DeRiso)

47. "Sailing," Christopher Cross (1979)

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more quintessential yacht rock song than “Sailing.” The second single (and first chart-topper) off Christopher Cross’ 1979 self-titled debut offers an intoxicating combination of dreamy strings, singsong vocals and shimmering, open-tuned guitar arpeggios that pay deference to Cross’ songwriting idol, Joni Mitchell . “These tunings, like Joni used to say, they get you in this sort of trance,” Cross told Songfacts in 2013. “The chorus just sort of came out. … So I got up and wandered around the apartment just thinking, ‘Wow, that's pretty fuckin' great.’” Grammy voters agreed: “Sailing” won Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Arrangement at the 1981 awards. (Bryan Rolli)

46. "Just the Two of Us," Bill Withers and Grover Washington Jr. (1980)

A collaboration between singer Bill Withers and saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. resulted in the sleek "Just the Two of Us." When first approached with the song, Withers insisted on reworking the lyrics. "I'm a little snobbish about words," he said in 2004 . "I said, 'Yeah, if you'll let me go in and try to dress these words up a little bit.' Everybody that knows me is kind of used to me that way. I probably threw in the stuff like the crystal raindrops. The 'Just the Two of Us' thing was already written. It was trying to put a tuxedo on it." The track was completed with some peppy backing vocals and a subtle slap bass part. (Rapp)

45. "Sara Smile," Daryl Hall & John Oates (1975)

It doesn't get much smoother than "Sara Smile," Daryl Hall & John Oates ' first Top 10 hit in the U.S. The song was written for Sara Allen, Hall's longtime girlfriend, whom he had met when she was working as a flight attendant. His lead vocal, which was recorded live, is clear as a bell on top of a velvety bass line and polished backing vocals that nodded to the group's R&B influences. “It was a song that came completely out of my heart," Hall said in 2018 . "It was a postcard. It’s short and sweet and to the point." Hall and Allen stayed together for almost 30 years before breaking up in 2001. (Rapp)

44. "Rosanna," Toto (1982)

One of the most identifiable hits of 1982 was written by Toto co-founder David Paich – but wasn't about Rosanna Arquette, as some people have claimed, even though keyboardist Steve Porcaro was dating the actress at the time. The backbeat laid down by drummer Jeff Porcaro – a "half-time shuffle" similar to what John Bonham played on " Fool in the Rain " – propels the track, while vocal harmonies and emphatic brass sections add further layers. The result is an infectious and uplifting groove – yacht rock at its finest. (Corey Irwin)

43. "Diamond Girl," Seals & Crofts (1973)

Seals & Crofts were soft-rock stylists with imagination, dolling up their saccharine melodies with enough musical intrigue to survive beyond the seemingly obvious shelf life. Granted, the lyrics to “Diamond Girl,” one of the duo’s three No. 6 hits, are as sterile as a surgery-operating room, built on pseudo-romantic nothing-isms ( “Now that I’ve found you, it’s around you that I am” — what a perfectly natural phrase!). But boy, oh boy does that groove sound luxurious beaming out of a hi-fi system, with every nuance — those stacked backing vocals, that snapping piano — presented in full analog glory. (Ryan Reed)

42. "What You Won't Do for Love," Bobby Caldwell (1978)

Smooth. From the opening horn riffs and the soulful keyboard to the funk bass and the velvety vocals of Bobby Caldwell, everything about “What You Won’t Do for Love” is smooth. Released in September 1978, the track peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and went on to become the biggest hit of Caldwell’s career. It was later given a second life after being sampled for rapper 2Pac's posthumously released 1998 hit single “Do for Love.” (Irwin)

41. "We Just Disagree," Dave Mason (1977)

Dave Mason's ace in the hole on the No. 12 smash "We Just Disagree" was Jim Krueger, who composed the track, shared the harmony vocal and played that lovely guitar figure. "It was a song that when he sang it to me, it was like, 'Yeah, that's the song,'" Mason told Greg Prato in 2014. "Just him and a guitar, which is usually how I judge whether I'm going to do something. If it holds up like that, I'll put the rest of the icing on it." Unfortunately, the multitalented Krueger died of pancreatic cancer at age 43. By then, Mason had disappeared from the top of the charts, never getting higher than No. 39 again. (DeRiso)

40. "Crazy Love," Poco (1978)

Rusty Young was paneling a wall when inspiration struck. He'd long toiled in the shadow of Stephen Stills , Richie Furay and Neil Young , serving in an instrumentalist role with Buffalo Springfield and then Poco . "Crazy Love" was his breakout moment, and he knew it. Rusty Young presented the song before he'd even finished the lyric, but his Poco bandmates loved the way the stopgap words harmonized. "I told the others, 'Don't worry about the ' ooh, ooh, ahhhh haaa ' part. I can find words for that," Young told the St. Louis Dispatch in 2013. "And they said, 'Don't do that. That's the way it's supposed to be.'" It was: Young's first big vocal became his group's only Top 20 hit. (DeRiso)

39. "Suspicions," Eddie Rabbitt (1979)

Eddie Rabbitt 's move from country to crossover stardom was hurtled along by "Suspicions," as a song about a cuckold's worry rose to the Top 20 on both the pop and adult-contemporary charts. Behind the scenes, there was an even clearer connection to yacht rock: Co-writer Even Stevens said Toto's David Hungate played bass on the date. As important as it was for his career, Rabbitt later admitted that he scratched out "Suspicions" in a matter of minutes, while on a lunch break in the studio on the last day of recording his fifth album at Wally Heider's Los Angeles studio. "Sometimes," Rabbitt told the Associated Press in 1985, "the words just fall out of my mouth." (DeRiso)

38. "Moonlight Feels Right," Starbuck (1976)

No sound in rock history is more yacht friendly than Bruce Blackman’s laugh: hilarious, arbitrary, smug, speckled with vocal fry, arriving just before each chorus of Starbuck’s signature tune. Why is this human being laughing? Shrug. Guess the glow of night will do that to you. Then again, this is one of the more strange hits of the '70s — soft-pop hooks frolicking among waves of marimba and synthesizers that could have been plucked from a classic prog epic. “ The eastern moon looks ready for a wet kiss ,” Blackman croons, “ to make the tide rise again .” It’s a lunar make-out session, baby. (Reed)

37. "Same Old Lang Syne," Dan Fogelberg (1981)

“Same Old Lang Syne” is a masterclass in economic storytelling, and its tragedy is in the things both protagonists leave unsaid. Dan Fogelberg weaves a devastating tale of two former lovers who run into each other at a grocery store on Christmas Eve and spend the rest of the night catching up and reminiscing. Their circumstances have changed — he’s a disillusioned professional musician, she’s stuck in an unhappy marriage — but their love for each other is still palpable if only they could overcome their fears and say it out loud. They don’t, of course, and when Fogelberg bids his high-school flame adieu, he’s left with only his bittersweet memories and gnawing sense of unfulfillment to keep him warm on that snowy (and later rainy) December night. (Rolli)

36. "Eye in the Sky," the Alan Parsons Project (1982)

Few songs strike a chord with both prog nerds and soft-rock enthusiasts, but the Alan Parsons Project's “Eye in the Sky” belongs to that exclusive club. The arrangement is all smooth contours and pillowy textures: By the time Eric Woolfson reaches the chorus, shyly emoting about romantic deception over a bed of Wurlitzer keys and palm-muted riffs, the effect is like falling slow motion down a waterfall onto a memory foam mattress. But there’s artfulness here, too, from Ian Bairnson’s seductive guitar solo to the titular phrase conjuring some kind of god-like omniscience. (Reed)

35. "Somebody's Baby," Jackson Browne (1982)

Jackson Browne 's highest-charting single, and his last Top 10 hit, was originally tucked away on the soundtrack for the 1982 teen comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High . That placed Browne, one of the most earnest of singer-songwriters, firmly out of his element. "It was not typical of what Jackson writes at all, that song," co-composer Danny Kortchmar told Songfacts in 2013. "But because it was for this movie, he changed his general approach and came up with this fantastic song." Still unsure of how it would fit in, Browne refused to place "Somebody's Baby" on his next proper album – something he'd later come to regret . Lawyers in Love broke a string of consecutive multiplatinum releases dating back to 1976. (DeRiso)

34. "Still the One," Orleans (1976)

Part of yacht rock’s charm is being many things but only to a small degree. Songs can be jazzy, but not experimental. Brass sections are great but don’t get too funky. And the songs should rock, but not rock . In that mold comes Orleans’ 1976 hit “Still the One.” On top of a chugging groove, frontman John Hall sings about a romance that continues to stand the test of time. This love isn’t the white-hot flame that leaves passionate lovers burned – more like a soft, medium-level heat that keeps things comfortably warm. The tune is inoffensive, catchy and fun, aka yacht-rock gold. (Irwin)

33. "New Frontier," Donald Fagen (1982)

In which an awkward young man attempts to spark a Cold War-era fling — then, hopefully, a longer, post-apocalyptic relationship — via bomb shelter bunker, chatting up a “big blond” with starlet looks and a soft spot for Dave Brubeck. Few songwriters could pull off a lyrical concept so specific, and almost no one but Donald Fagen could render it catchy. “New Frontier,” a signature solo cut from the Steely Dan maestro, builds the sleek jazz-funk of Gaucho into a more digital-sounding landscape, with Fagen stacking precise vocal harmonies over synth buzz and bent-note guitar leads. (Reed)

32. "Sail On, Sailor," the Beach Boys (1973)

The Beach Boys were reworking a new album when Van Dyke Parks handed them this updated version of an unfinished Brian Wilson song. All that was left was to hand the mic over to Blondie Chaplin for his greatest-ever Beach Boys moment. They released "Sail On, Sailor" twice, however, and this yearning groover somehow barely cracked the Top 50. Chaplin was soon out of the band, too. It's a shame. "Sail On, Sailor" remains the best example of how the Beach Boys' elemental style might have kept growing. Instead, Chaplin went on to collaborate with the Band , Gene Clark of the  Byrds  and the Rolling Stones – while the Beach Boys settled into a lengthy tenure as a jukebox band. (DeRiso)

31. "Time Passages," Al Stewart (1978)

Al Stewart followed up the first hit single of his decade-long career – 1976's "Year of the Cat" – with a more streamlined take two years later. "Time Passages" bears a similar structure to the earlier track, including a Phil Kenzie sax solo and production by Alan Parsons. While both songs' respective album and single versions coincidentally run the same time, the 1978 hit's narrative wasn't as convoluted and fit more squarely into pop radio playlists. "Time Passages" became Stewart's highest-charting single, reaching No. 7 – while "Year of the Cat" had stalled at No. 8. (Michael Gallucci)

30. "I Go Crazy," Paul Davis (1977)

Paul Davis looked like he belonged in the Allman Brothers Band , but his soft, soulful voice took him in a different direction. The slow-burning nature of his breakthrough single "I Go Crazy" was reflected in its chart performance: For years the song held the record for the most weeks spent on the chart, peaking at No. 7 during its 40-week run. Davis, who died in 2008, took five more songs into the Top 40 after 1977, but "I Go Crazy" is his masterpiece – a wistful and melancholic look back at lost love backed by spare, brokenhearted verses. (Gallucci)

29. "Biggest Part of Me," Ambrosia (1980)

Songwriter David Pack taped the original demo of this song on a reel-to-reel when everyone else was running late, finishing just in time: "I was waiting for my family to get in the car so I could go to a Fourth of July celebration in Malibu," he told the Tennessean in 2014. "I turned off my machine [and] heard the car horn honking for me." Still, Pack was worried that the hastily written first verse – which rhymed " arisin ,'" " horizon " and " realizin '" – might come off a little corny. So he followed the time-honored yacht-rock tradition of calling in Michael McDonald to sing heartfelt background vocals. Result: a Top 5 hit on both the pop and adult-contemporary charts. (DeRiso)

28. "Africa," Toto (1982)

Remove the cover versions, the nostalgia sheen and its overuse in TV and films, and you’re left with what makes “Africa” great: one of the best earworm choruses in music history. Never mind that the band is made up of white guys from Los Angeles who'd never visited the titular continent. Verses about Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti paint a picture so vivid that listeners are swept away. From the soaring vocals to the stirring synth line, every element of the song works perfectly. There’s a reason generations of music fans continue to proudly bless the rains. (Irwin)

27. "Hello It's Me," Todd Rundgren (1972)

“Hello It’s Me” is the first song Todd Rundgren ever wrote, recorded by his band Nazz and released in 1968. He quickened the tempo, spruced up the instrumentation and delivered a more urgent vocal for this 1972 solo rendition (which became a Top 5 U.S. hit), but the bones of the tune remain the same. “Hello It’s Me” is a wistful, bittersweet song about the dissolution of a relationship between two people who still very much love and respect each other a clear-eyed breakup ballad lacking the guile, cynicism and zaniness of Rundgren’s later work. “The reason those [early] songs succeeded was because of their derivative nature,” Rundgren told Guitar World in 2021. “They plugged so easily into audience expectations. They’re easily absorbed.” That may be so, but there’s still no denying the airtight hooks and melancholy beauty of “Hello It’s Me.” (Rolli)

26. "Smoke From a Distant Fire," the Sanford/Townsend Band (1977)

There are other artists who better define yacht rock - Michael McDonald, Steely Dan, Christopher Cross - but few songs rival the Sanford/Townsend Band's "Smoke From a Distant Fire" as a more representative genre track. (It was a Top 10 hit in the summer of 1977. The duo never had another charting single.) From the vaguely swinging rhythm and roaring saxophone riff to the light percussion rolls and risk-free vocals (that nod heavily to Daryl Hall and John Oates' blue-eyed soul), "Smoke" may be the most definitive yacht rock song ever recorded. We may even go as far as to say it's ground zero. (Gallucci)

25. "Dream Weaver," Gary Wright (1975)

Unlike many other songs on our list, “Dream Weaver” lacks lush instrumentation. Aside from Gary Wright’s vocals and keyboard parts, the only added layer is the drumming of Jim Keltner. But while the track may not have guitars, bass or horns, it certainly has plenty of vibes. Inspired by the writings of Paramahansa Yogananda – which Wright was turned on to by George Harrison – “Dream Weaver” boasts a celestial aura that helped the song peak at No. 2 in 1976. (Irwin)

24. "Reminiscing," Little River Band (1978)

The third time was the charm with Little River Band 's highest-charting single in the U.S. Guitarist Graeham Goble wrote "Reminiscing" for singer Glenn Shorrock with a certain keyboardist in mind. Unfortunately, they weren't able to schedule a session with Peter Jones, who'd played an important role in Little River Band's first-ever charting U.S. single, 1976's "It's a Long Way There ." They tried it anyway but didn't care for the track. They tried again, with the same results. "The band was losing interest in the song," Goble later told Chuck Miller . "Just before the album was finished, Peter Jones came back into town, [and] the band and I had an argument because I wanted to give 'Reminiscing' a third chance." This time they nailed it. (DeRiso)

23. "Heart Hotels," Dan Fogelberg (1979)

Ironically enough, this song about debilitating loneliness arrived on an album in which Dan Fogelberg played almost all of the instruments himself. A key concession to the outside world became the most distinctive musical element on "Heart Hotels," as well-known saxophonist Tom Scott took a turn on the Lyricon – a pre-MIDI electronic wind instrument invented just a few years earlier. As for the meaning of sad songs like these, the late Fogelberg once said : "I feel experiences deeply, and I have an outlet, a place where I can translate those feelings. A lot of people go to psychoanalysts. I write songs." (DeRiso)

22. "Year of the Cat," Al Stewart (1976)

Just about every instrument imaginable can be heard in Al Stewart's "Year of the Cat." What begins with an elegant piano intro winds its way through a string section and a sultry sax solo, then to a passionate few moments with a Spanish acoustic guitar. The sax solo, often a hallmark of yacht-rock songs, was not Stewart's idea. Producer Alan Parsons suggested it at the last minute, and Stewart thought it was the "worst idea I'd ever heard. I said, 'Alan, there aren’t any saxophones in folk-rock. Folk-rock is about guitars. Sax is a jazz instrument,'" Stewart said in 2021 . Multiple lengthy instrumental segments bring the song to nearly seven minutes, yet each seems to blend into the next like a carefully arranged orchestra. (Rapp)

21. "How Long," Ace (1974)

How long does it take to top the charts? For the Paul Carrack-fronted Ace: 45 years . "I wrote the lyric on the bus going to my future mother-in-law's," he later told Gary James . "I wrote it on the back of that bus ticket. That's my excuse for there only being one verse." Ace released "How Long" in 1975, reaching No. 3, then Carrack moved on to stints with Squeeze and Mike and the Mechanics . Finally, in 2020, "How Long" rose two spots higher, hitting No. 1 on Billboard's rock digital song sales chart after being featured in an Amazon Prime advertisement titled "Binge Cheat." (DeRiso)

20. "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)," Looking Glass (1972)

Like "Summer Breeze" (found later in our list of Top 50 Yacht Rock Songs), Looking Glass' tale of an alluring barmaid in a busy harbor town pre-dates the classic yacht-rock era. Consider acts like Seals & Crofts and these one-hit wonders pioneers of the genre. Ironically, the effortless-sounding "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" was quite difficult to complete. "We recorded 'Brandy' two or three different times with various producers before we got it right," Looking Glass' principal songwriter Elliot Lurie told the Tennessean in 2016. The chart-topping results became so popular so fast, however, that Barry Manilow had to change the title of a new song he was working on to " Mandy ." (DeRiso)

19. "I Can't Tell You Why," Eagles (1979)

Timothy B. Schmit joined just in time to watch the  Eagles disintegrate. But things couldn't have started in a better place for the former Poco member. He arrived with the makings of his first showcase moment with the group, an unfinished scrap that would become the No. 8 hit "I Can't Tell You Why." For a moment, often-contentious band members rallied around the outsider. Don Henley and Glenn Frey both made key contributions, as Eagles completed the initial song on what would become 1979's The Long Run . Schmit felt like he had a reason to be optimistic. Instead, Eagles released the LP and then promptly split up. (DeRiso)

18. "Sentimental Lady," Bob Welch (1977)

Bob Welch  first recorded "Sentimental Lady" in 1972 as a member of Fleetwood Mac . Five years later, after separating from a band that had gone on to way bigger things , Welch revisited one of his best songs and got two former bandmates who appeared on the original version – Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie – to help out (new Mac member Lindsey Buckingham also makes an appearance). This is the better version, warmer and more inviting, and it reached the Top 10. (Gallucci)

17. "So Into You," Atlanta Rhythm Section (1976)

Atlanta Rhythm Section is often wrongly categorized as a Southern rock band, simply because of their roots in Doraville, Ga. Songs like the seductively layered "So Into You" illustrate how little they had in common with the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd . As renowned Muscle Shoals sessions ace David Hood once said, they're more like the " Steely Dan of the South ." Unfortunately, time hasn't been kind to the group. Two of this best-charting single's writers have since died , while keyboardist Dean Daughtry retired in 2019 as Atlanta Rhythm Section's last constant member. (DeRiso)

16. "Dreams," Fleetwood Mac (1977)

Stevie Nicks was trying to channel the heartbreak she endured after separating from Lindsey Buckingham into a song, but couldn't concentrate among the bustle of Fleetwood Mac's sessions for Rumours . "I was kind of wandering around the studio," she later told Yahoo! , "looking for somewhere I could curl up with my Fender Rhodes and my lyrics and a little cassette tape recorder." That's when she ran into a studio assistant who led her to a quieter, previously unseen area at Sausalito's Record Plant. The circular space was surrounded by keyboards and recording equipment, with a half-moon bed in black-and-red velvet to one side. She settled in, completing "Dreams" in less than half an hour, but not before asking the helpful aide one pressing question: "I said, 'What is this?' And he said, 'This is Sly Stone 's studio.'" (DeRiso)

15. "Minute by Minute," the Doobie Brothers (1978)

Michael McDonald was so unsure of this album that he nervously previewed it for a friend. "I mean, all the tunes have merit, but I don't know if they hang together as a record," McDonald later told UCR. "He looked at me and he said, 'This is a piece of shit.'" Record buyers disagreed, making Minute by Minute the Doobie Brothers' first chart-topping multiplatinum release. Such was the mania surrounding this satiny-smooth LP that the No. 14 hit title track lost out on song-of-the-year honors at the Grammys to "What a Fool Believes" (found later in our list of Top 50 Yacht Rock Songs) by the Doobie Brothers. (DeRiso)

14. "Lonely Boy," Andrew Gold (1976)

Andrew Gold’s only Top 10 U.S. hit is a story of parental neglect and simmering resentment, but those pitch-black details are easy to miss when couched inside such a deliciously upbeat melody. Gold chronicles the childhood of the titular lonely boy over a propulsive, syncopated piano figure, detailing the betrayal he felt when his parents presented him with a sister two years his junior. When he turns 18, the lonely boy ships off to college and leaves his family behind, while his sister gets married and has a son of her own — oblivious to the fact that she’s repeating the mistakes of her parents. Gold insisted “Lonely Boy” wasn’t autobiographical, despite the details in the song matching up with his own life. In any case, you can’t help but wonder what kind of imagination produces such dark, compelling fiction. (Rolli)

13. "Baby Come Back," Player (1977)

Liverpool native Peter Beckett moved to the States, originally to join a forgotten act called Skyband. By the time he regrouped to found Player with American J.C. Crowley, Beckett's wife had returned to England. Turns out Crowley was going through a breakup, too, and the Beckett-sung "Baby Come Back" was born. "So it was a genuine song, a genuine lyric – and I think that comes across in the song," Beckett said in The Yacht Rock Book . "That's why it was so popular." The demo earned Player a hastily signed record deal, meaning Beckett and Crowley had to assemble a band even as "Baby Come Back" rose to No. 1. Their debut album was released before Player had ever appeared in concert. (DeRiso)

12. "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight," England Dan & John Ford Coley (1976)

There aren't too many songs with choruses as big as the one England Dan & John Ford Coley pump into the key lines of their first Top 40 single. Getting there is half the fun: The conversational verses – " Hello, yeah, it's been a while / Not much, how 'bout you? / I'm not sure why I called / I guess I really just wanted to talk to you " – build into the superpowered come-on line " I'm not talking 'bout moving in ...  ." Their yacht-rock pedigree is strong: Dan Seals' older brother is Seals & Croft's Jim Seals. (Gallucci)

11. "Hey Nineteen," Steely Dan (1980)

At least on the surface, “Hey Nineteen” is one of Steely Dan’s least ambiguous songs: An over-the-hill guy makes one of history’s most cringe-worthy, creepiest pick-up attempts, reminiscing about his glory days in a fraternity and lamenting that his would-be companion doesn’t know who Aretha Franklin is. (The bridge is a bit tougher to crack. Is anyone sharing that “fine Colombian”?) But the words didn’t propel this Gaucho classic into Billboard's Top 10. Instead, that credit goes to the groove, anchored by Walter Becker ’s gently gliding bass guitar, Donald Fagen’s velvety electric piano and a chorus smoother than top-shelf Cuervo Gold. (Reed)

10. "Rich Girl," Daryl Hall & John Oates (1976)

It’s one of the most economical pop songs ever written: two A sections, two B sections (the second one extended), a fade-out vocal vamp. In and out. Wham, bam, boom. Perhaps that's why it’s easy to savor “Rich Girl” 12 times in a row during your morning commute, why hearing it just once on the radio is almost maddening. This blue-eyed-soul single, the duo’s first No. 1 hit, lashes out at a supposedly entitled heir to a fast-food chain. (The original lyric was the less-catchy “rich guy ”; that one change may have earned them millions.) But there’s nothing bitter about that groove, built on Hall’s electric piano stabs and staccato vocal hook. (Reed)

9. "Fooled Around and Fell in Love," Elvin Bishop (1975)

Elvin Bishop made his biggest pop-chart splash with "Fooled Around and Fell In Love," permanently changing the first line of his bio from a  former member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band to a solo star in his own right. There was only one problem: "The natural assumption was that it was Elvin Bishop who was singing,” singer  Mickey Thomas told the Tahoe Daily Tribune in 2007. Thomas later found even greater chart success with Starship alongside Donny Baldwin, who also played drums on Bishop's breakthrough single. "A lot of peers found out about me through that, and ultimately I did get credit for it," Thomas added. "It opened a lot of doors for me." (DeRiso)

8. "Baker Street," Gerry Rafferty (1978)

Gerry Rafferty already had a taste of success when his band Stealers Wheel hit the Top 10 with the Dylanesque "Stuck in the Middle With You" in 1973. His first solo album after the group's split, City to City , made it to No. 1 in 1978, thanks in great part to its hit single "Baker Street" (which spent six frustrating weeks at No. 2). The iconic saxophone riff by Raphael Ravenscroft gets much of the attention, but this single triumphs on many other levels. For six, mood-setting minutes Rafferty winds his way down "Baker Street" with a hopefulness rooted in eternal restlessness. (Gallucci)

7. "Dirty Work," Steely Dan (1972)

In just about three minutes, Steely Dan tells a soap-opera tale of an affair between a married woman and a man who is well aware he's being played but is too hopelessly hooked to end things. " When you need a bit of lovin' 'cause your man is out of town / That's the time you get me runnin' and you know I'll be around ," singer David Palmer sings in a surprisingly delicate tenor. A saxophone and flugelhorn part weeps underneath his lines. By the time the song is over, we can't help but feel sorry for the narrator who is, ostensibly, just as much part of the problem as he could be the solution. Not all yacht rock songs have happy endings. (Rapp)

6. "Ride Like the Wind," Christopher Cross (1979)

“Ride Like the Wind” is ostensibly a song about a tough-as-nails outlaw racing for the border of Mexico under cover of night, but there’s nothing remotely dangerous about Christopher Cross’ lithe tenor or the peppy piano riffs and horns propelling the tune. Those contradictions aren’t a detriment. This is cinematic, high-gloss pop-rock at its finest, bursting at the seams with hooks and elevated by Michael McDonald’s silky backing vocals. Cross nods to his Texas roots with a fiery guitar solo, blending hard rock and pop in a way that countless artists would replicate in the next decade. (Rolli)

5. "Summer Breeze," Seals & Crofts (1972)

Jim Seals and Dash Crofts were childhood friends in Texas, but the mellow grandeur of "Summer Breeze" makes it clear that they always belonged in '70s-era Southern California. "We operate on a different level," Seals once said , sounding like nothing if not a Laurel Canyon native. "We try to create images, impressions and trains of thought in the minds of our listeners." This song's fluttering curtains, welcoming domesticity and sweet jasmine certainly meet that standard. For some reason, however, they released this gem in August 1972 – as the season faded into fall. Perhaps that's why "Summer Breeze" somehow never got past No. 6 on the pop chart. (DeRiso)

4. "Lowdown," Boz Scaggs (1976)

As you throw on your shades and rev the motor, the only thing hotter than the afternoon sun is David Hungate’s sweet slap-bass blasting from the tape deck. “This is the good life,” you say to no one in particular, casually tipping your baseball cap to the bikini-clad crew on the boat zooming by. Then you press “play” again. What else but Boz Scaggs ’ silky “Lowdown” could soundtrack such a moment in paradise? Everything about this tune, which cruised to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, is equally idyllic: Jeff Porcaro’s metronomic hi-hat pattern, David Paich’s jazzy keyboard vamp, the cool-guy croon of Scaggs — flexing about gossip and “schoolboy game.” You crack open another cold one — why not? And, well, you press play once more. (Reed)

3. "Lido Shuffle," Boz Scaggs (1976)

Scaggs' storied career began as a sideman with Steve Miller  and already included a scorching duet with Duane Allman . Co-writer David Paich would earn Grammy-winning stardom with songs like "Africa." Yet they resorted to theft when it came to this No. 11 smash. Well, in a manner of speaking: "'Lido' was a song that I'd been banging around, and I kind of stole – well, I didn't steal anything. I just took the idea of the shuffle," Scaggs told Songfacts in 2013. "There was a song that Fats Domino did called 'The Fat Man ' that had a kind of driving shuffle beat that I used to play on the piano, and I just started kind of singing along with it. Then I showed it to Paich, and he helped me fill it out." Then Paich took this track's bassist and drummer with him to form Toto. (DeRiso)

2. "Peg," Steely Dan (1977)

"Peg" is blessed with several yacht-rock hallmarks: a spot on Steely Dan's most Steely Dan-like album, Aja , an impeccable airtightness that falls somewhere between soft-pop and jazz and yacht rock's stalwart captain, Michael McDonald, at the helm. (He may be a mere backing singer here, but his one-note chorus chirps take the song to another level.) Like most Steely Dan tracks, this track's meaning is both cynical and impenetrable, and its legacy has only grown over the years – from hip-hop samples to faithful cover versions. (Gallucci)

1. "What a Fool Believes," the Doobie Brothers (1978)

Michael McDonald not only steered the Doobie Brothers in a new direction when he joined in 1975, but he also made them a commercial powerhouse with the 1978 album Minute by Minute . McDonald co-wrote "What a Fool Believes" – a No. 1 single; the album topped the chart, too – with Kenny Loggins and sang lead, effectively launching a genre in the process. The song's style was copied for the next couple of years (most shamelessly in Robbie Dupree's 1980 Top 10 "Steal Away"), and McDonald became the bearded face of yacht rock. (Gallucci)

Top 100 Classic Rock Artists

Gallery Credit: UCR Staff

More From Ultimate Classic Rock

Robin Trower Cancels US Tour Citing Health Issues

THE CURRENT YEAR

  • TCYSHOP.COM

TOP YACHT ROCK ALBUMS

The epicenter of yacht rock was the sound studios of LA, the time 1978-82, with some scant but notable ripples lapping out both forward and backward for a couple of years. This is the West Coast Sound , or West Coast AOR: the songs are smooth, shallow, melodic, with a high production value, and made for summer – especially if you’re a yuppie at the top of your game. They nearly always have electric piano right off the top, and a characteristic “ Doobie bounce ” rhythm.

Some of the key bands and artists include Steely Dan, Toto, The Doobie Brothers, Airplay, and Christopher Cross. There are a number of good notable protoyacht tracks from the mid-70s, such as England Dan & John Ford Coley’s “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight”; the few tracks from the mid to late 80s that still contain the same basic rhythm and feel are already postyacht.

Yacht rock was the brainchild of Hollywood writer J. D. Ryznar . Ryznar – along with pals Hunter Stair, Dave Lyons, and Steve Huey – created the Yacht Rock series in the early oughts, debuting during the June 2005 Channel 101 film festival in LA.

Ryznar and company pinpointed a certain era and vein of American soft rock – or “adult-oriented rock” – recorded by experienced studio musicians, mostly based in LA, and very much associated with singer-songwriters Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. The series was a fictionalized account of those musicians, and it ended up becoming the most important look at American soft rock ever made.

After the success of their series, Ryznar and friends popularized yacht rock with a podcast , which eventually led to the format (or bastardizations of such) being picked up on satellite radio and other streaming technologies , as well as DJ’ed in nightclubs everywhere.

It should be noted that yacht rock is not a genre, and was not contemporaneous with the music it describes. Yacht rock is a format – exactly like “classic rock” and other traditional radio formats. And just like classic rock, yacht rock as a designation applied to a set of music of the past is not a fad and will remain a useful categorization for as long as people are interested in that period of music.

Endless lists have been compiled of “yacht rock songs,” some even possibly canonical , but there have been almost no yacht rock album guides. So, we’ve decided to create one.

Not every song on every one of these albums will be 100% marina-certified yacht rock – for instance, there are definite yacht rock tracks on Michael Jackson’s Thriller . Essential yacht rock , even. But that doesn’t mean that “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” are yacht rock. They’re nyacht , and have absolutely no place in a proper “yacht rock” mix. (That fact shouldn’t stop you from playing those songs on your slip in Marina Del Rey, of course.)

Then, there’s also dark yacht , coined and conceived by journalist and actress Katie Puckrik . She felt that Joni Mitchell had “unintentially” created this new format with the title track of her 1975 album, The Hissing of Summer Lawns. We agree, and feel the suburban anguish and yuppie misery is as strong as what might be found in a Don DeLillo novel. To Pickrik’s discovery we add several of our own, including Valerie Carter’s albums of the era. We’ve identified those dark yacht albums in this list as such.

Airplay, Airplay (1980)

Alessi, Alessi (1976), Driftin’ (1978), Long Time Friends (1982)

Peter Allen, Bi-Coastal (1980)

Ambrosia, One Eighty (1980), Road Island (1982)

Paul Anka, Walk A Fine Line (1983)

Patti Austin, Every Home Should Have One (1981)

George Benson, Give Me The Night (1980), The George Benson Collection (1981), In Your Eyes (1983)

The Brecker Brothers, Detente (1980)

Byrne & Barnes, An Eye For An Eye (1981)

Bobby Caldwell, Cat In The Hat (1980)

Valerie Carter, Just A Stone’s Throw Away (1977), Wild Child (1977) (Dark Yacht)

Bill Champlin, Single (1978), Runaway (1981)

Kerry Chater, Love On A Shoestring (1978)

Paul Clark, Drawn To The Light (1982)

Christopher Cross, Christopher Cross (1979), Another Page (1982)

Dane Donohue, Dane Donohue (1978)

The Doobie Brothers, Minute By Minute (1978), One Step Closer (1980)

George Duke, Dream On (1982)

The Dukes, The Dukes Bugatti & Musker (1982)

Robbie Dupree, Robbie Dupree (1980), Street Corner Heroes (1981)

Exile, Don’t Leave Me This Way (1980)

Dwayne Ford, Needless Freaking (1981)

Randy Goodrum, Fool’s Paradise (1982)

Jimmy Hall, Touch You (1980)

Hall & Oates, Voices (1980)

Finis Henderson, Finis (1983)

Amy Holland, Amy Holland (1980)

Michael Jackson, Thriller (1982)

Al Jarreau, Breakin' Away (1981), Jarreau (1983)

Quincy Jones, The Dude (1981)

Marc Jordan, Mannequin (1978), Blue Desert (1979), A Hole In The Wall (1983)

Karizma, Dream Come True (1983)

Steve Kipner, Knock The Walls Down (1979)

Bill LaBounty, Rain In My Life (1979), Bill LaBounty (1982)

Larsen-Feiten Band, Larsen-Feiten Band (1980)

Nicolette Larson, Nicolette (1978), In The Nick Of Time (1979)

Larry Lee, Marooned (1982)

Kenny Loggins, Celebrate Me Home (1977), Keep The Fire (1979), High Adventure (1982)

Bobby Martin, Bobby Martin (1983)

Maxus, Maxus (1982)

Michael McDonald, If That’s What It Takes (1982)

Sérgio Mendes, Confetti (1984)

Joni Mitchell, The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975), Hejira (1976) (Dark Yacht)

Jaye P. Morgan, Jaye P. Morgan (1976) (Protoyacht)

Nielsen Pearson Band, Nielsen/Pearson (1980), Blind Luck (1983)

John O’Banion, John O’Banion (1981)

Orleans, Forever (1979)

Pablo Cruise, A Place In The Sun (1977), Worlds Away (1978), Reflector (1981)

Pages, Pages (1981)

Jim Photoglo, Fool In Love With You (1981)

Player, Player (1977)

Lionel Richie, Can’t Slow Down (1983)

Lee Ritenour, Rit (1981)

David Roberts, All Dressed Up (1982)

Diana Ross, Ross (1983)

Brenda Russell, Two Eyes (1983)

The Sanford-Townsend Band, Smoke From A Distant Fire (1977)

Boz Scaggs, Silk Degrees (1976), Middle Man (1980)

Tom Scott, Desire (1982)

Alan Sorrenti, L.A. & N.Y. (1981)

Steely Dan, The Royal Scam (1976), Aja (1977), Gold (Expanded Edition) (1978), Gaucho (1980)

Eric Tagg, Dreamwalkin' (1982)

Tavares, Supercharged (1980)

Toto, Toto (1978), Hydra (1979), Toto IV (1982)

Roger Voudouris, Radio Dream (1979)

Kelly Willard, Blame It On The One I Love (1978)

Stevie Woods, Take Me To Your Heaven (1981)

These albums are great on vinyl for home and hanging out, but for the car – or the yacht – we highly recommend them on what is probably the ideal yacht rock album format: cassette!

Michael Stutz

  • International edition
  • Australia edition
  • Europe edition

Toto; Joni Mitchell; Steely Dan.

I can go for that: five essential yacht rock classics

Katie Puckrick’s new TV doc reappraises the smooth, sad and seedy side of the maligned genre. Here she reveals the best tracks

  • Modern Toss on yacht rock

Christopher Cross: Ride Like the Wind (1979)

With its urgent pace and aim to “make it to the border of Mexico”, Cross sums up the exhilaration of escape so essential to yacht. The power of the genre lies in the longing, so it’s most effective when heard in a landlocked location a million miles away from the nearest marina. Since aspiration crosses class, it doesn’t matter whether one’s home turf is the country club or a trailer park: listening to this song has the same effect – it nurses that ache for freedom.

The Doobie Brothers: What a Fool Believes (1979)

A YR hallmark is “upbeat-downbeat”: an approach that folds life’s bittersweet complexities within happy-snappy musical flourishes. A great example of upbeat-downbeat is this Doobie Brothers classic, showcasing the misplaced optimism of a wounded romantic. Singer Michael McDonald is in full fuzzy-throated throttle. Those are his BVs on Ride Like the Wind, and on any number of Steely Dan tracks, including …

Steely Dan: Hey Nineteen (1980)

The frisson of yacht rock derives from its blend of bourgie feelgood bounce crossed with a shiver of thwarted desire. Steely Dan self-deprecatingly called their work “funked-up muzak” but, lyrically, there are none more acidic than these egghead jazzbos with tales of grown-up screw-ups. Thanks to LA’s session musician elite, Hey Nineteen is polished to a sheen, but the narrator’s regretful realisation that he is too old to mack on teenage girls makes for uneasy listening.

Joni Mitchell: The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975)

Generally, female musicians didn’t focus their talents on the yacht genre: its palette was too limiting for the era’s sophisticated female artists beyond a song or two. In 1975, Mitchell made what’s considered “accidental yacht rock”. This chilly saga of tarnished love concerns a woman trapped in a big house and a loveless marriage. Mitchell made the misery of rich people seem glamorous, creating “dark yacht” in the process.

Toto: Africa (1982)

By the time the 1980s rolled around, black musicians had reclaimed the surging soul and quiet storm of yacht that was rightfully theirs. Artists such as George Benson, Lionel Richie and Raydio raised the bar by turning this “funked-up muzak” into a dance party. Ironically, an anthem called Africa turned out to be helmed by a clump of the whitest dudes going. With its questing lyrics and triumphant chorus, it became a blockbuster smash for the ages, proving that yacht rock is for ever.

I Can Go for That: The Smooth World of Yacht Rock begins Friday 14 June, 9pm, BBC Four

  • Pop and rock
  • Joni Mitchell

More on this story

the best yacht rock albums

Is Big Little Lies selling us a version of consumer feminism that's too good to be true?

the best yacht rock albums

Muna on Harry Styles, imposter syndrome and Trump-baiting

the best yacht rock albums

Get Up, Stand Up Now: the show that questions the lack of diversity in art galleries

the best yacht rock albums

Is Loqueesha the worst film ever made?

the best yacht rock albums

Space oddities: why the Futurama reboot went from sci-fi to sci-why

the best yacht rock albums

Will Hollywood’s new youthifying tech keep old actors in work for ever?

Comments (…), most viewed.

Smooth Breakfast with Jenni Falconer 6am - 10am

Now Playing

Who's Got The Bacon? Howie B. Download 'Who's Got The Bacon?' on iTunes

The 20 greatest yacht rock songs ever, ranked

27 July 2022, 17:50

The greatest yacht rock songs ever

By Tom Eames

Facebook share

We can picture it now: lounging on a swish boat as it bobs along the water, sipping cocktails and improving our tan. Oh, and it's the 1980s.

There's only one style of music that goes with this image: Yacht rock.

What is Yacht Rock?

Also known as the West Coast Sound or adult-oriented rock, it's a style of soft rock from between the late 1970s and early 1980s that featured elements of smooth soul, smooth jazz, R&B, funk, rock and disco.

  • The 40 greatest disco songs ever, ranked
  • The 10 greatest and smoothest ever sax solos, ranked

Although its name has been used in a negative way, to us it's an amazing genre that makes us feel like we're in an episode of Miami Vice wearing shoulder pads and massive sunglasses.

Here are the very best songs that could be placed in this genre:

Player - 'Baby Come Back'

the best yacht rock albums

Player - Baby Come Back

Not the reggae classic of the same name, this 1977 track was Player's biggest hit.

After Player disbanded, singer Peter Beckett joined Australia's Little River Band, and he also wrote 'Twist of Fate' for Olivia Newton-John and 'After All This Time' for Kenny Rogers.

Steely Dan - 'FM'

the best yacht rock albums

It's tough just choosing one Steely Dan song for this list, but we've gone for this banger.

Used as the theme tune for the 1978 movie of the same name, the song is jazz-rock track, though its lyrics took a disapproving look at the genre as a whole, which was in total contrast to the film's celebration of it. Still, sounds great guys!

Bobby Goldsboro - 'Summer (The First Time)'

the best yacht rock albums

Bobby Goldsboro - Summer (The First Time)

A bit of a questionable subject matter, this ballad was about a 17-year-old boy’s first sexual experience with a 31-year-old woman at the beach.

But using a repeating piano riff, 12-string guitar, and an orchestral string arrangement, this song just screams yacht rock and all that is great about it.

Kenny Loggins - 'Heart to Heart'

the best yacht rock albums

Kenny Loggins - Heart To Heart (Official Music Video)

If Michael McDonald is the king of yacht rock, then Kenny Loggins is his trusted advisor and heir to the throne.

This track was co-written with Michael, and also features him on backing vocals. The song is about how most relationships do not stand the test of time, yet some are able to do so.

Airplay - 'Nothing You Can Do About It'

the best yacht rock albums

Nothin' You Can Do About It

You might not remember US band Airplay, but they did have their moment on the yacht.

Consisting of David Foster (who also co-wrote the Kenny Loggins song above), Jay Graydon and the brilliantly-named Tommy Funderburk, this tune was a cover of a Manhattan Transfer song, and was a minor hit in 1981.

Boz Scaggs - 'Lowdown'

the best yacht rock albums

Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (Official Audio)

We've moved slightly into smooth jazz territory with this track, which is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

The song was co-written by David Paich, who would go on to form Toto along with the song's keyboardist David Paich, session bassist David Hungate, and drummer Jeff Porcaro.

Steve Winwood - 'Valerie'

the best yacht rock albums

Steve Winwood - Valerie (Official Video)

This song is probably as far as you can get into pop rock without totally leaving the yacht rock dock.

Legendary singer-songwriter Winwood recorded this gong about a man reminiscing about a lost love he hopes to find again someday.

Eric Prydz later sampled it in 2004 for the house number one track ‘Call on Me’, and presented it to Winwood, who was so impressed he re-recorded the vocals to better fit the track.

Toto - 'Rosanna'

the best yacht rock albums

Toto - Rosanna (Official HD Video)

We almost picked 'Africa' , but we reckon this tune just about pips it in the yacht rock game.

Written by David Paich, he has said that the song is based on numerous girls he had known.

As a joke, the band members initially played along with the common assumption that the song was based on actress Rosanna Arquette, who was dating Toto keyboard player Steve Porcaro at the time and coincidentally had the same name.

Chicago - 'Hard to Say I'm Sorry'

the best yacht rock albums

Chicago - Hard To Say I'm Sorry (Official Music Video)

Chicago began moving away from their horn-driven soft rock sound with their early 1980s output, including this synthesizer-filled power ballad.

  • The 10 greatest Chicago songs, ranked

The album version segued into a more traditional Chicago upbeat track titled ‘Get Away’, but most radio stations at the time opted to fade out the song before it kicked in. Three members of Toto played on the track. Those guys are yacht rock kings!

Michael Jackson - 'Human Nature'

the best yacht rock albums

Michael Jackson - Human Nature (Audio)

A few non-rock artists almost made this list ( George Michael 's 'Careless Whisper' and Spandau Ballet 's 'True' are almost examples, but not quite), yet a big chunk of Thriller heavily relied on the yacht rock sound.

Michael Jackson proved just how popular the genre could get with several songs on the album, but 'Human Nature' is the finest example.

The Doobie Brothers - 'What a Fool Believes'

the best yacht rock albums

The Doobie Brothers - What A Fool Believes (Official Music Video)

Possibly THE ultimate yacht rock song on the rock end of the spectrum, and it's that man Michael McDonald.

Written by McDonald and Kenny Loggins, this was one of the few non-disco hits in America in the first eight months of 1979.

The song tells the story of a man who is reunited with an old love interest and attempts to rekindle a romantic relationship with her before discovering that one never really existed.

Michael Jackson once claimed he contributed at least one backing track to the original recording, but was not credited for having done so. This was later denied by the band.

Christopher Cross - 'Sailing'

the best yacht rock albums

Christopher Cross - Sailing (Official Audio)

We're not putting this in here just because it's called 'Sailing', it's also one of the ultimate examples of the genre.

Christopher Cross reached number one in the US in 1980, and VH1 later named it the most "softsational soft rock" song of all time.

Don Henley - 'The Boys of Summer'

the best yacht rock albums

The Boys Of Summer DON HENLEY(1984) OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO

Mike Campbell wrote the music to this track while working on Tom Petty’s Southern Accents album, but later gave it to Eagles singer Don Henley, who wrote the lyrics.

The song is about the passing of youth and entering middle age, and of a past relationship. It was covered twice in the early 2000s: as a trance track by DJ Sammy in 2002, and as a pop punk hit by The Ataris in 2003.

England Dan and John Cord Foley - 'I'd Really Love to See You Tonight'

the best yacht rock albums

England Dan & John Ford Coley - I'd Really Love To See You Tonight.avi

A big hit for this duo in 1976, it showcases the very best of the sock rock/AOR/yacht rock sound that the 1970s could offer.

Dan Seals is the younger brother of Jim Seals of Seals and Crofts fame. Which leads to...

Seals & Crofts - 'Summer Breeze'

the best yacht rock albums

Summer Breeze - Seals & Croft #1 Hit(1972)

Before The Isley Brothers recorded a slick cover, 'Summer Breeze' was an irresistible folk pop song by Seals & Crofts.

While mostly a folk song, its summer vibes and gorgeous melody make for a perfect yacht rock number.

Christopher Cross - 'Ride Like the Wind'

the best yacht rock albums

Ride Like The Wind Promo Video 1980 Christopher Cross

If Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins are in charge of the yacht rock ship, then Christopher Cross has to be captain, right? Cabin boy? Something anyway.

The singer was arguably the biggest success story of the relatively short-lived yacht rock era, and this one still sounds incredible.

Eagles - 'I Can't Tell You Why'

the best yacht rock albums

The eagles - I can't tell you why (AUDIO VINYL)

Many Eagles tunes could be classed as yacht rock, but we reckon their finest example comes from this track from their The Long Run album in 1979.

Don Henley described the song as "straight Al Green", and that Glenn Frey, an R&B fan, was responsible for the R&B feel of the song. Frey said to co-writer Timothy B Schmit: "You could sing like Smokey Robinson . Let’s not do a Richie Furay, Poco-sounding song. Let’s do an R&B song."

Gerry Rafferty - 'Baker Street'

the best yacht rock albums

Gerry Rafferty - Baker Street (Official Video)

Gerry Rafferty probably didn't realise he was creating one of the greatest yacht rock songs of all time when he wrote this, but boy did he.

  • The Story of... 'Baker Street'

With the right blend of rock and pop and the use of the iconic saxophone solo, you can't not call this yacht rock at its finest.

Michael McDonald - 'Sweet Freedom'

the best yacht rock albums

Michael McDonald - Sweet Freedom (1986)

If you wanted to name the king of yacht rock, you'd have to pick Michael McDonald . He could sing the phone book and it would sound silky smooth.

Possibly his greatest solo tune, it was used in the movie  Running Scared , and its music video featured actors Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines.

Hall & Oates - 'I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)'

the best yacht rock albums

Daryl Hall & John Oates - I Can't Go For That (No Can Do) (Official Video)

This duo knew how to make catchy hit after catchy hit. This R&B-tinged pop tune was co-written with Sara Allen (also the influence for their song 'Sara Smile').

  • Hall and Oates' 10 best songs, ranked

John Oates has said that the song is actually about the music business. "That song is really about not being pushed around by big labels, managers, and agents and being told what to do, and being true to yourself creatively."

Not only was the song sampled in De La Soul's 'Say No Go' and Simply Red 's 'Home', but Michael Jackson also admitted that he lifted the bass line for 'Billie Jean'!

More Song Lists

See more More Song Lists

Lenny Kravitz's 10 greatest songs, ranked

Duran duran's 10 greatest songs ever, ranked.

Duran Duran

Coldplay's 20 greatest ever songs, ranked

Reba mcentire's 15 best songs ever, ranked, abba's 20 greatest ever songs, ranked, more features.

See more More Features

How Duran Duran's Simon Le Bon nearly sabotaged Wham!'s final ever concert

George Michael

What happened to Gotye? Inside the pop titan's shock disappearance

Ub40's best music videos: robin campbell and jimmy brown break down band's biggest hits, bee gees: when barry and robin gibb sang moving 'to love somebody' for first time after maurice's death, the tragic story of how brian wilson's career was almost destroyed by a rogue doctor, smooth playlists, smooth's all time top 500, smooth soul, smooth country hot hits, smooth chill concentration, smooth podcast picks, they don't teach this at school with myleene klass, take that: this life, runpod with jenni falconer, the news agents.

Spotify is currently not available in your country.

Follow us online to find out when we launch., spotify gives you instant access to millions of songs – from old favorites to the latest hits. just hit play to stream anything you like..

the best yacht rock albums

Listen everywhere

Spotify works on your computer, mobile, tablet and TV.

the best yacht rock albums

Unlimited, ad-free music

No ads. No interruptions. Just music.

the best yacht rock albums

Download music & listen offline

Keep playing, even when you don't have a connection.

the best yacht rock albums

Premium sounds better

Get ready for incredible sound quality.

The 25 Best Yacht Rock Songs Of All Time

Yacht Rock isn’t exactly a genre. It’s more a state of mind. It is the musical equivalent of a mid-afternoon mimosa nap in some nautical location—a cool breeze of lite-FM confection with the substance of a romance novel and the machismo of a Burt Reynolds mustache comb.

But what exactly is Yacht Rock?

Yacht Rock is ‘70s soft schlock about boats, love affairs, and one-night stands.

Typified by artists like Christopher Cross, Rupert Holmes, and Pablo Cruise, Yacht Rock is not only easy to mock, but it’s also deserving of the abuse. There’s a sensitive 70s male brand of chauvinism that permeates this material—like somehow because you could schnarf an 8-ball of cocaine and sail a boat into the sunset, your indulgences and marital infidelity were actually kind of sexy. Cheap pickup lines and beardly come-ons abound.

And yet, this stuff is irresistible on a slow summer day. It reeks of sunshine and laziness, and couldn’t we all use a little of both?

These are the 25 Best Yacht Rock Songs, in order. Zero suspense. (Sorry if that’s less fun for you).

If you would like to learn more about Yacht Rock without getting a sailing license, read on…

What are the qualifications for inclusion on our list?

So Yacht Rock refers to a type of soft rock, right? But there’s a ton of soft rock out there that doesn’t fit the bill. There’s no room on my boat for Barry Manilow. At the Copa? Sure. But not so much on my boat. So what makes a great yacht rock song exactly?

Ideally, one or more of these themes will be present:

  • Finding the love of your life;
  • Having a memorable one-night stand; or 
  • Doing something nautical.

These features pretty much capture everything that’s great about this milieu. But there’s also an important cheese factor at play here. While Steely Dan, Hall & Oates, CSN, and the Doobie Brothers all made songs that might qualify for inclusion here, the artists themselves are–let’s just say it–too good to be considered Yacht Rock.

We’ll make sure to include them in our deluxe playlist at the article’s conclusion.

But in order for a song to be considered for our list, it must be at least slightly embarrassing. Case in point, the top song on our list…

1. “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes

“The Pina Colada Song” is arguably the most perfect embodiment of yacht rock, fulfilling, as it does, all three of the qualifications cited above. Holmes sings about making love in the dunes, attempts to cheat on his wife, then ultimately, rediscovers that his “old lady” is actually the love he’s been searching for all along. That’s the holy trinity of Yacht Rock themes, all wrapped up in a breezy story of casual adultery. And at the turn of a new decade, listeners were feeling it. Released as a single in 1979, “Escape” stood at the top of the charts during the last week of the year. Falling to #2 in the new year, it returned to the top spot in the second week of 1980. This made it the first song to top the charts in two separate, consecutive decades. Fun fact: Rupert Holmes never drank a Pina Colada in his life. He just thought the lyric sounded right. Hard to argue that point.

2. “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl) by The Looking Glass

Formed at Rutgers University in 1969, Looking Glass topped the charts in 1972 with the tale of a lovelorn barmaid in a harbor town haunted by lonely sailors. It would be the band’s only hit. Lead singer Elliot Lurie would go on to a brief solo career before becoming head of the music department for the 20th Century Fox movie studio in the ’80s and ’90s. That means he was the musical supervisor for the soundtrack to Night at the Roxbury . Do with that information what you will. And with respect to “Brandy,” see the film Guardians of the Galaxy 2 for Kurt Russell’s surprisingly detailed treatise on its lyrical genius.

3. “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts

The title track from the soft-rock duo’s breakout 1972 record, “Summer Breeze” is an incurable earworm, a bittersweet twilight dream that captures everything that’s right about Lite FM. From an album inhabited by Wrecking Crew vets and studio aces, “Summer Breeze” curls like smoke drifting lazily through an open window.

4. “Africa” by Toto

Toto singer David Paich had never been to Africa. The melody and refrain for this #1 hit from 1982 came to him fully formed as he watched a late night documentary about the plight of those living on the African continent. The lyrics touch on missionary work and describe the landscape as inspired by images from National Geographic , according to Paich’s own recollection. Putting aside its self-aware inauthenticity, “Africa” is an infectious, 8x platinum AOR monster.

5. “Reminiscing: by Little River Band

Released in the summer of 1978 and reaching up to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, “Reminiscing” was guitarist Graeham Goble ‘s nostalgic take on the swing band era. Not only is it the only Australian song ever to reach five million radio plays in the U.S., but rumor is that it was among the late John Lennon’s favorite songs.

6. “Drift Away” by Dobie Gray

Recorded originally by a country-swamp rocker named Jeffrey Kurtz, Dobie’s 1973 cover became his biggest hit, reaching #5 on the charts. Though not explicitly nautical, “Drift Away” captures the distinct sensation of cruising at sunset.

7. “Love Will Find a Way” by Pablo Cruise

Pablo Cruise may have the most “yachty” of all band names on our list. And “Love Will Find a Way” is sort of the musical equivalent of a ketch skipping along a glassy surface on a crisp summer dawn. Pablo Cruise was formed in San Francisco by expats from various mildly successful bands including Stoneground and It’s a Beautiful Day. And there is a certain slick professionalism to the proceedings here. Of course, Pablo Cruise was never a critic’s darling. Homer Simpson once accurately classified them as wuss rock. Still, they perfectly captured the white-folks-vacationing-in-the-Caribbean energy that was all the rage at the time. Love found a way to reach #6 on the Billboard charts, remaining in constant radio rotation during the red-hot summer of ’78.

8. “Ride Captain Ride” by Blues Image

Blues Image emerged from South Florida in the late ’60s and served as the house band for Miami’s vaunted Thee Image music venue upon its inception in 1968. This gave Blues Image the opportunity to open for ascendant headliners like Cream and the Grateful Dead. The association landed them a contract Atco Records. Their sophomore record Open yielded their one and only hit, a #4 in 1970 about a bunch of men who disappear into the mists of the San Francisco Bay in search of a hippie utopia.

9. “Eye in the Sky” by The Alan Parsons Project

This #3 hit from 1982 has nothing to do with sailing. But it’s infectiously smooth production sheen, layered synth, and dreamy vocals make it a perfect Lite FM gem–one cut from the stone that gave us yacht rock. The “Project” was actually a British duo–studio wizard Alan Parsons and singer Eric Woolfson. The title track from their sixth studio album is also their very best recording. It’s also often paired with the instrumental lead-in “Sirius,” a song famous in its own right for blaring over unnumbered sporting arena PA systems. If that tune doesn’t make you think of Michael Jordan, you probably didn’t live through the late 80s.

10. “Miracles” by Jefferson Starship

Marty Balin was a pioneer of the San Francisco scene, founding Jefferson Airplane in 1965 as the house band for his own legendary club–The Matrix. But in 1971, deeply shaken by the death of Janis Joplin, Balin quit his own band. Four years later, he was invited to rejoin his old mates on the already-launched Starship. He immediately contributed what would become the biggest hit by any Jeffersonian vessel. “Miracles” reached #3 in 1975. Gorgeous, elegant, and open, this is a complete anomaly in the Airplane-Starship catalogue. Listen closely for the NSFW lyrics that have often flown under the radar of some adorably innocent censors.

11. “Sad Eyes” by Robert John

In 1972, Robert John had a #3 hit with his cover of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” And yet, just before recording “Sad Eyes”, the Brooklyn-born singer was employed as a construction worker in Long Branch, New Jersey. By the summer of ’79, he would have a #1 hit. In fact, the charting success of “Sad Eyes” was part of a cultural backlash against the reign of disco. A wave of pop hits swept on to the charts, including this slick soft rock throwback. With his sweet falsetto and doo wop sensibility, Robert John knocked The Knack’s “My Sharona” from its 6-week stand atop the charts.

12. “Magnet and Steel” by Walter Egan

Before launching headlong into his music career, Walter Egan was one of the very first students to earn a fine arts degree from Georgetown, where he studied sculpture. The subject would figure into his biggest hit, a #8 easy listening smash from 1978. Featured on his second solo record, “Magnet and Steel” enjoys the presence of some heavy friends. Lindsey Buckingham produced, played guitar and sang backup harmonies with Stevie Nicks. By most accounts, Nicks was also a primary source of inspiration for the song.

13. “Lido Shuffle” by Boz Scaggs

Of course, not all yacht rock songs are about sailing on boats. Some are about missing boats. Boz Scaggs looks dejected on the cover of 1977’s Silk Degrees , but things turned out pretty well for him. This bouncy #11 hit is a classic rock mainstay today. The band you hear backing Boz–David Paich, Jeff Porcaro, and David Hungate–would go on to form the nucleus of Toto that very same year. Toto, as it happens, is essentially a recurring theme of the genre. Before rising to massive success in their own right, the members of Toto absolutely permeated rock radio in the 70s, laying down studio tracks with Steely Dan, Seals and Crofts, Michael McDonald, and more.

14. “What You Won’t Do for Love” by Bobby Caldwell

This smooth-as-silk tune reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 upon its 1978 release. It also reached #6 on the Hot Selling Soul Singles Chart. This is significant only because of Caldwell’s complexion. He was a white man signed to TK Records, a label most closely associated with disco acts like KC and the Sunshine Band. Catering to a largely Black audience, the label went to minor lengths to hide their new singer’s identity–dig the silhouetted figure on the cover of his own debut. Suffice it to say, once Caldwell hit the road, audiences discovered he was white. By then, they were already hooked on this perfect groove, which you might also recognize as a sample in 2Pac’s posthumous 1998 release, “Do For Love.”

15. “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)” by Michael McDonald

Technically, Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’” is an adaptation of an earlier tune by the same name. In fact, the original “I Keep Forgettin” was conceived by the legendary songwriting duo Leiber and Stoller–best known for iconic staples like “Hound Dog”, “Kansas City”, “Poison Ivy” and much much more. The original recording is by Chuck Jackson and dates to 1962. But McDonald’s 1982 take is definitive. If that wasn’t already true upon its release and #4 peak position on the charts, certainly Warren G. and Nate Dogg cemented its status when they sampled McDonald on “Regulate”. Get the whole history on that brilliant 1994 time capsule here .

Oh and by the way, this tune also features most of the guys from Toto. I know, right? These dudes were everywhere.

16. “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty

To the casual listener, Gerry Rafferty’s name may sound vaguely familiar. Indeed, you may remember hearing it uttered in passing in the film Reservoir Dogs . In a key scene, the DJ (deadpan comedian Steven Wright) mentions that Rafferty formed half the duo known as Stealers Wheel, which recorded a “Dylanesque, pop, bubble-gum favorite from April of 1974” called “Stuck in the Middle With You.” In the same scene, Mr. Blonde (portrayed with sadistic glee by Michael Madsen), slices off a policeman’s ear. At any rate, this is a totally different song, and is actually Rafferty’s biggest hit. “Baker Street” is a tune that reeks of late nights, cocaine, and regret. Peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, “Baker Street” soared on wings of the decade’s most memorable sax riff. Raphael Ravenscroft’s performance would, in fact, lead to a mainstream revitalization of interest in the saxophone writ large.

17. “Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang” by Silver

There are several interesting things about Silver that have almost nothing to do with this song. First, bass guitarist and singer Tom Leadon was both the brother of Bernie Leadon from the Eagles and a member of Tom Petty’s pre-fame band, Mudcrutch. Second, the band’s keyboardist was Brent Mydland, who would go on to become the Grateful Dead’s longest tenured piano guy. Third, Silver put out their only record in 1976, and future Saturday Night Live standout Phil Harman designed the cover art. With all of that said, Arista executives felt that their first album lacked a single so they had country songwriter Rick Giles cook up this ridiculous, gooey concoction that I kind of love. Let’s say this one falls into the “so bad it’s good” category. Anyway, the song peaked at #16 on the charts. The band broke up in ’78, leading Mydland to accept the deadliest job in rock music. He defied the odds by playing with the Grateful Dead until an accidental drug overdose claimed his life in 1990.

18. “Biggest Part of Me” by Ambrosia

I admit, I’m kind of hard-pressed to make Ambrosia interesting. In fact, they were extremely prolific, and earned high regard in early ’70s prog rock circles. And in the 1990s, lead singer David Pack would actually be the musical director for both of Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration concerts. But this Southern California combo is much better known to mainstream audiences for their top-down, hair-blowing-in-the-wind soft rock from the decade in between. Peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1980, “Biggest Part of Me” is the group’s best-known tune–a seafoamy bit of blue-eyed soul served over a raw bar of smooth jazz and lite funk.

19. “Baby Come Back” by Player

Player released their self-titled debut album in 1977 and immediately shot up to #1 with “Baby Come Back.” Bandmates Peter Beckett and J.C. Crowley had both recently broken up with their girlfriends. They channeled their shared angst into this composition, a self-sorry guilty pleasure featuring former Steppenwolf member Wayne Cook on keys. Granted, Steppenwolf’s edgy disposition is nowhere to be found on this record, but it is pretty infectious in a late-summer-night, slightly-buzzed, clenched-fist sort of way. Player endured various lineup changes, but never returned to the heights of their first hit.

20. “On and On” by Stephen Bishop

Remember that scene in National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) where there’s this dude in a turtleneck singing a super cloying folks song before John Belushi mercifully snatches away his guitar and smashes it to smithereens? That guy was Stephen Bishop, who was actually in the middle of enjoying considerable success with his 1976 debut album, Careless . “On and On” was the album’s biggest hit, a vaguely Caribbean soft-rocker that reached #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in ’77. The gentle electric riffs you hear there are supplied by guitarist Andrew Gold–who wrote the theme song for the Golden Girls . (I freakin’ know you’re singing it right now).

21. “Chevy Van” by Sammy Johns

The classic tale of boy-meets-girls, bangs-her-in-his-van, and brags-to-his-buds, all with backing from the world famous Wrecking Crew studio team. In 1975, a lot of people super related to it. It sold over a million copies and reach #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. I can’t tell you this song is good. But I also can’t tell you I don’t like it.

22. “You Are the Woman” by Firefall

Firefall’s lead guitarist Jock Bartley perfectly captures this song’s impact, calling the band’s biggest hit “a singing version of [a] Hallmark card.” That feels right. The second single from Firefall’s 1976 self-titled debut was only a regional hit at first. But it was driven all the way to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 on the strength of radio requests. As Bartley explained, “Every female between the ages of 18 and 24 wanted to be the woman portrayed in the song, and that caused their boyfriends and spouses to call radio stations and subsequently flood the airwaves with dedications of the song and the sentiment.”

23. “Sailing” by Christopher Cross

Arguably, “Sailing” is the single most emblematic song of the Yacht Rock genre. Its thematic relevance requires no explanation. But it’s worth noting that the song is inspired by true events. During a tough time in his youth, Cross was befriended by Al Glasscock. Serving as something of an older brother to Cross, Glasscock would take him sailing. He recalls in his biggest hit that this was a time of escape from the harsh realities of his real life. In 1979, Cross released his self-titled debut. In early 1980, “Sailing” became a #1 hit, landing Cross a hat-trick of Grammys–including recognition as best new artist. Though Cross and Glasscock would lose touch for more than 20 years, they were reunited during a 1995 episode of The Howard Stern Show . Cross subsequently mailed a copy of his platinum record to Glasscock.

24. “Steal Away” by Robbie Dupree

Apparently, this song was perceived as so blatant a ripoff of Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins’ “What a Fool Believes” that legal action was actually threatened. It never formulated. Instead, Robbie Dupree landed a #6 Billboard Hot 100 hit with the lead single from his self-titled 1980 debut. Critics hated it, but it was a dominant presence in the summer of 1980. It even earned Dupree a Grammy nomination for best new artist. He ultimately lost to the man just above–Christopher Cross.

25. “This is It” by Kenny Loggins

You didn’t think we’d get through this whole list without an actual Kenny Loggins tune. This song has the perfect pedigree, teaming Loggins and Michael McDonald on a 1979 composition that became the lead single off of Kenny Loggins’ Keep the Fire. Coming on the tail end of the ’70s, “This is It” felt positively omnipresent in the ’80s. I may be biased here. I grew up in Philadelphia, where a local television show by the same name adopted “This is It” as its theme song. But then, it did also reach #11 on the Billboard Hot 100.

And in that spirit…this is it, the end of our list.

But as usual, here’s a bonus playlist–an expanded voyage through the breezy, AOR waters of the mid-’70s to early ’80s.

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this Page
  • Share on Pinterest
  • Share on Reddit
  • Share on Tumblr
  • Share on Pocket
  • Share on SMS

the best yacht rock albums

Built To Spill "Keep It Like a Secret" - Retrospective Review

the best yacht rock albums

Wolf Parade "Apologies to the Queen Mary" - Retrospective Review

the best yacht rock albums

The Housemartins "London 0 Hull 4" - Retrospective Review

the best yacht rock albums

The Libertines "All Quiet On the Eastern Esplanade" - Review

Franz Ferdinand "Franz Ferdinand" - Twentieth Anniversary Review

Franz Ferdinand "Franz Ferdinand" - Twentieth Anniversary Review

Cage the Elephant "Out Loud & Neon Pill" - Single Review

Cage the Elephant "Out Loud & Neon Pill" - Single Review

the best yacht rock albums

The Decemberists "The King Is Dead" - Retrospective Review

the best yacht rock albums

Modest Mouse "Good News For People Who Love Bad News" - Twentieth Anniversary Review

the best yacht rock albums

The Vaccines "Pick-Up Full of Pink Carnations" - Review

the best yacht rock albums

Two Door Cinema Club "Tourist History" - Retrospective Review

  • John Robinson

Top 100 Greatest Yacht Rock Songs of All Time

Top 100 Greatest Yacht Rock Songs of All Time

Yacht Rock, a term that has steadily grown in popularity, refers to the smooth, groovy rock music of the '70s and '80s that has been popularized over the recent years. Initially categorized as soft rock or adult contemporary, Yacht Rock places a stronger emphasis on the groove rather than the lyrics, making it some of the easiest and catchiest easy listening music for many rock fans. Interestingly, nearly all Yacht Rock songs were created 35-40 years before the genre was officially recognized as its own distinct style, leaving room for interpretation about what exactly qualifies as Yacht Rock. For our criteria, we analyzed the entire catalog of Sirius XM Yacht Rock Radio alongside Spotify and Apple Music’s Yacht Rock playlists and ranked the songs accordingly. Each song included has been deemed Yacht Rock by at least one of these sources and was scored against all other entries. Some songs may rank higher in a broader rock or soft rock sphere, but here are what we have deemed to be the 100 Greatest Yacht Rock Songs of All Time complete with a playlist of all 100 Songs . For a broader list across at songs across the rock realm, be sure to check out the Top 200 Greatest Rock Songs of All Time .

1. What a Fool Believes - The Doobie Brothers

Deemed almost unanimously as the quintessential Yacht Rock tune by the few publications that have taken the time to dive into this same endeavor , What a Fool Believes  stands out as one of the grooviest rock tunes to ever achieve mainstream success. Featuring the quintessential Yacht Rock vocalist, Michael McDonald, the song topped charts across North America and became one of the most recognizable and frequently played songs of the '70s. Michael McDonald, who joined The Doobie Brothers in 1975, had become the band's primary vocalist by the release of Minute by Minute  in 1978, which houses What a Fool Believes . With this album marking a new sound for the band, especially following the temporary health-related departure of Tom Johnston, the band's new sound was polished to perfection, a dramatic shift from the Toulouse Street  sound of the early part of the decade. Nevertheless, What a Fool Believes  is a serious earworm, a critically "perfect" pop-rock song, if you will, and a song that reinvented The Doobie Brothers.

2. Peg   - Steely Dan

One of the most talented groups on our list, if not the most talented, Steely Dan transcended the typical confines of Yacht Rock during their initial ten-year run. Covering genres from Yacht Rock to jazz rock, progressive rock, and funk rock, Steely Dan captivated audiences uniquely throughout the '70s and early '80s. Walter Becker and Donald Fagen consistently collaborated with the world's finest studio musicians, producing albums of perfectionist caliber. Within the realm of Yacht Rock, Peg  takes their top spot, ranking just behind What a Fool Believes  in the genre. Once again, Michael McDonald provides backing vocals, harmonizing behind Donald Fagen and Paul Griffin. The silky smooth vocals paired with top-notch instrumentals make Peg  a standout track. Furthermore, Aja , the album that houses Peg , is one of the most impressive American albums of all time , beyond its Yacht Rock appeal.

3. Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)   - Looking Glass

Released in 1972, the one-hit wonder by Looking Glass, Brandy , established a much bigger name for itself than the band ever managed to achieve on its own. As one of the smoothest and catchiest songs of the ‘70s, Brandy  consistently appears on nearly every Yacht Rock, adult contemporary, or easy listening playlist available. The song tells a melancholic tale that is open to interpretation, though it is generally understood to describe an attractive bartender based in Northern New Jersey. Featuring catchy harmonies, clean soft guitar, and subtle horn use, what's not to love about this song?

4. Sailing   - Christopher Cross

If it were up to us at Melophobe, the "Yacht Rock Crown" would go to San Antonio’s own Christopher Cross. Although Cross really shined with just his first two studio albums before his later releases (post-1983) fell into obscurity, his early work still grabs all the attention. From his self-titled debut album, Sailing  stands out as a top ten hit that's the epitome of Yacht Rock. Interestingly, the term "yacht rock" itself is often linked right back to this song. His debut album is loaded with iconic tunes in this style, with Sailing  rightfully taking its place at the forefront.

5. Escape (The Pi ñ a Colada Song)  - Rupert Holmes

The second tune in our top ten that found its way onto one of the three Guardians of the Galaxy  soundtracks—as well as its original LP release—comes from yacht rock icon Rupert Holmes. Escape (The Piña Colada Song)  tells a story that feels more comical today than it might have in the ‘70s, describing a personal ad in search of a like-minded, carefree, fun-loving companion. Beyond the quirky lyrics, the sounds of crashing waves and clean guitars have turned the tune into a timeless earworm, cementing its status as a yacht rock masterpiece long before the term even existed. Guardians of the Galaxy  wasn't just a great series for action lovers; who would've guessed its soundtrack would become almost as iconic as the movies themselves?

6. Lowdown  - Boz Scaggs

Part of the same studio musician collective that worked with Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs hit major commercial success in 1976 with the release of his richly decorated album Silk Degrees . Boz Scaggs found success as one of the few artists to achieve substantial mainstream success in the jazz rock world aside from Steely Dan, with both artists utilizing many of the same studio musicians. Released from Silk Degrees , the standout yacht rock tune is Lowdown , a tightly produced masterpiece. Similar to Christopher Cross, Boz's peak in the mainstream was relatively brief, with his fame primarily anchored to Silk Degrees  and sporadic airplay of his other songs over about a decade.

7. Come and Get Your Love  - Redbone

Yet another tune from the Guardians of the Galaxy  soundtracks to make our top ten is Come and Get Your Love , released in 1975 by the swamp rock band Redbone. While often labeled as a one-hit-wonder, Redbone actually scored another American top 40 hit in 1971 and enjoyed scattered success in the R&B scene throughout the '70s. Come and Get Your Love  has since been celebrated as one of the greatest pop songs of the '70s and also managed to somewhat subtly tap into the disco craze of the era.

8. Margaritaville  - Jimmy Buffett

The question of whether Jimmy Buffett fits into the yacht rock category has stirred some debate lately, with the answer remaining somewhat unclear since the term itself is still relatively new. Most agree that Buffett's music is in a category of its own, but there are still those who argue that his unique sound has a place within yacht rock. Regardless, Margaritaville  and a few other Buffett tunes are staples on yacht rock radio stations, so we've deemed them eligible. Buffett's music embodies a carefree lifestyle that mirrors the feel and attitude of yacht rock. His iconic song Margaritaville  instantly puts listeners in a vacation mindset, a unique characteristic that has garnered it extensive praise and airplay over the years. The passing of Jimmy Buffett, an American legend, touched the hearts of many.

9. Africa  - Toto

The first track from the 1980s to make our top ten is Africa  from Toto's fourth album, aptly named Toto IV , released in 1982. Africa  topped the charts across North America and performed exceptionally well worldwide with its powerful chorus, extensive keyboard usage, and subtle guitar playing. Alongside Rosanna , also from Toto IV , Africa  has become a yacht rock staple, but it didn’t stop there—it transcended the genre to become one of the most iconic songs of the '80s. Today, it's still adored, nearing two billion streams on Spotify. The song has also become a favorite for covers, from bar bands to top-notch acts like Weezer.

10. Baby Come Back  - Player

Player carved out a slice of mainstream success in the late '70s, as soft rock began to resonate with those not taken by styles like punk rock and disco. Their biggest hit by far was the North American chart-topper Baby Come Back . Aside from being a soft rock staple, the song has also gained a new life as a meme across the internet. While yacht rock songs typically shy away from overly heartfelt or emotional lyrics, focusing more on the groove, Baby Come Back  manages to do both masterfully. The song blends notable emotional depth with an undeniably groovy beat, making it incredibly memorable—so much so that it's recognized by just about every American

11. Just the Two of Us  - Grover Washington Jr, Bill Withers

12. Southern Cross  - Crosby, Stills & Nash

13. Take it Easy  - Eagles

14. Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)  - Christopher Cross

15. Year of the Cat  - Al Stewart

16. Hey Nineteen  - Steely Dan

17. Still the One  - Orleans

18. Sharing the Night Together  - Dr. Hook

19. Sister Golden Hair  - America

20. Dreams  - Fleetwood Mac

21. Summer Breeze  - Seals & Croft

22. Guitar Man  - Bread

23. Thunder Island  - Jay Ferguson

24. Lido Shuffle  - Boz Scaggs

25. Give Me the Night  - George Benson

26. How Much I Feel  - Ambrosia

27. Reminiscing  - Little River Band

28. Doctor My Eyes  - Jackson Browne

29. Sara Smile  - Hall & Oates

30. Rosanna  - Toto

31. All Night Long (All Night)  - Lionel Richie

32. I.G.Y.  - Donald Fagan

33. Minute By Minute  - The Doobie Brothers

34. If You Leave Me Now  - Chicago

35. Time Out of Mind  - Steely Dan

36. Kokomo  - The Beach Boys

37. Eye in the Sky  - Alan Parsons Project

38. Sentimental Lady  - Bob Welch

39. Rich Girl  - Hall & Oates

40. What You Won't Do for Love  - Bobby Caldwell

41. Ride Like the Wind  - Christopher Cross

42. I'd Really Love to See You Tonight  - England Dan & John Ford Coley

43. Lovely Day  - Bill Withers

44. Graceland  - Paul Simon

45. Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes - Jimmy Buffett

46. Time Passages  - Al Stewart

47. One of These Nights  - Eagles

48. She's Gone  - Hall & Oates

49. Silly Love Songs  - Wings

50. Hold On  - Santana

51. Steal Away  - Robbie Dupree

52. Dance With Me  - Orleans

53. Listen to the Music  - The Doobie Brothers

54. How Long  - Ace

55. So Into You  - Atlanta Rhythm Section

56. Diamond Girl  - Seals & Croft

57. Lotta Love  - Nicolette Larson

58. We Just Disagree  - Dave Mason

59. Mexico  - James Taylor

60. Keep on Loving You  - REO Speedwagon

61. Baker Street  - Gerry Rafferty

62. Tender is the Night  - Jackson Browne

63. Love Will Find a Way  - Pablo Cruise

64. You Can Do Magic  - America

65. Key Largo  - Bertie Higgins

66. When You're In Love With a Beautiful Woman  - Dr. Hook

67. Dirty Work  - Steely Dan

68. All Out of Love  - Air Supply

69. I Saw the Light  - Todd Rundgren

70. Let Me Love You Tonight  - Pure Prairie League

71. I Love You  - Climax Blues Band

72. I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)  - Michael McDonald

73. This is It  - Kenny Loggins

74. The Things We Do For Love  - 10cc

75. Say You Love Me  - Fleetwood Mac

76. Biggest Part of Me  - Ambrosia

77. You're the Inspiration  - Chicago

78. Dream Weaver  - Gary Wright

79. Longer  - Dan Fogelberg

80. You Are  - Lionel Richie

81. Just a Song Before I Go  - Crosby, Stills & Nash

82. Right Down the Line  - Gerry Rafferty

83. New Frontier  - Donald Fagan

84. I Love a Rainy Night  - Eddie Rabbitt

85. Cool Night  - Paul Davis

86. Get Down On It  - Kool & The Gang

87. It's Raining Again - Supertramp

88. Vincent  - Don McLean

89. Crazy Love  - Poco

90. Spooky  - Atlanta Rhythm Section

91. Vienna  - Billy Joel

92. Cool Cat  - Queen

93. Nothing's Gonna Change My Love For You  - George Benson

94. Hypnotized  - Bob Welch (Also Released by Fleetwood Mac)

95. Casablanca  - Bertie Higgins

96. Think of Laura  - Christopher Cross

97. Fooled Around and Fell in Love  - Elvin Bishop

98. Private Eyes  - Hall & Oates

99. Lonesome Loser  - Little River Band

100. Moonlight Feels Right - Starbuck

All of the picks from this list have been compiled into a streamable Spotify Playlist below entitled Yacht Rock Top 100 .

Recent Posts

Top 200 Greatest Rock Songs Post 1960

Top 50 Greatest Singer-Songwriter Albums of All Time

Top 100 Greatest American Rock Artists of All Time

Listen Now on Spotify

2000's alternative & indie rock playlist cover 2.JPEG

50 Fantastic Long-form Rock Songs

the best yacht rock albums

Top 100 Greatest Pop-Punk Songs of All Time

the best yacht rock albums

Top 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time

the best yacht rock albums

Top 100 Greatest Alternative Rock Albums of the '90s

the best yacht rock albums

Top 15 Songs by Vampire Weekend

the best yacht rock albums

Top 100 Greatest Indie Rock Albums of 2000-2009

the best yacht rock albums

Top 100 Greatest American Albums of All Time

the best yacht rock albums

100 Underrated Indie Rock Songs

the best yacht rock albums

Top 100 Greatest Rock Vocalists of All Time

the best yacht rock albums

100 Greatest Alternative Albums

100 Gre atest Alternative Artists

100 Greatest Debut Alternative Albums

100 Greatest Indie Rock Albums

100 Greatest Indie Rock Artists

100 Greatest Indie Rock Songs

100 Greates t Indie Rock Songs Post 2000

100 Fantastic Indie Rock DEEP CUTS Post 2000

100 Greatest Alternative Rock Songs of the '90s

100 Greatest Rock Artists

100 Greatest Rock Albums

100 Greatest Rock Albums of the '70s

100 Most Influential Rock Albums

10 Iconic Ea rly Alternative Rock Songs

ANOTHER 10 Iconic Early Alternative Rock Songs

10 Fantastic Song Titles

Five Underrated Albums of the 2000's 

the best yacht rock albums

MusicInfluence.com

the best yacht rock albums

The 25 Best Yacht Rock Songs Of All Time

Yacht rock isn’t exactly a genre. it’s more a state of mind..

the best yacht rock albums

Yacht Rock is the musical equivalent of a mid-afternoon mimosa nap in a nautical location—a balmy lite-FM breeze with the substance of a romance novel and the machismo of a Burt Reynolds mustache comb.

But what exactly is Yacht Rock?

Yacht Rock is ‘70s soft schlock about boats, love affairs, and one-night stands.

Typified by artists like Christopher Cross, Rupert Holmes, and Pablo Cruise, Yacht Rock is not just easy to mock. It’s also deserving of the abuse. There’s a sensitive-male brand of chauvinism that permeates this material—like somehow because you could schnarf an 8-ball of cocaine and sail a boat into the sunset, your indulgences and marital infidelity were actually kind of sexy. Cheap pickup lines and beardly come-ons abound.

And yet, this stuff is irresistible on a slow summer day. It reeks of sunshine and laziness, and couldn’t we all use a little of both?

These are the 25 Best Yacht Rock Songs, in order. Zero suspense. (Sorry if that's less fun for you).

If you would like to learn more about Yacht Rock without getting a sailing license, read on...

The survival of high quality music writing depends on subscribers like you. For as little as $5 per month, you can fund a project dedicated entirely to the love of music (and receive access to special monthly features). Upgrade today and support an endangered species—the independent music writer.

What are the qualifications for inclusion on our list?

So Yacht Rock refers to a type of soft rock, right? But there’s a ton of soft rock out there that doesn’t fit the bill. There’s no room on my boat for Barry Manilow. At the Copa? Sure. But not so much on my boat. So what makes a great yacht rock song exactly?

Ideally, one or more of these themes will be present:

Finding the love of your life;

Having a memorable one-night stand; or 

These features pretty much capture everything that’s great about this milieu. But there's also an important cheese factor at play here. While Steely Dan, Hall & Oates, CSN, and the Doobie Brothers all made songs that might qualify for inclusion here, the artists themselves are--let's just say it--too good to be considered Yacht Rock.

We'll make sure to include them in our deluxe playlist at the article's conclusion.

But in order for a song to be considered for our list, it must be at least slightly embarrassing. Case in point, the top song on our list...

1. "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" by Rupert Holmes

"The Pina Colada Song" is arguably the most perfect embodiment of yacht rock, fulfilling, as it does, all three of the qualifications cited above. Holmes sings about making love in the dunes, attempts to cheat on his wife, then ultimately, rediscovers that his "old lady" is actually the love he's been searching for all along. That's the holy trinity of Yacht Rock themes, all wrapped up in a breezy story of casual adultery.

And at the turn of a new decade, listeners were feeling it. Released as a single in 1979, "Escape" stood at the top of the charts during the last week of the year. Falling to #2 in the new year, it returned to the top spot in the second week of 1980. This made it the first song to top the charts in two separate, consecutive decades. Fun fact: Rupert Holmes never drank a Pina Colada in his life. He just thought the lyric sounded right. Hard to argue that point.

2. "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) by The Looking Glass

Formed at Rutgers University in 1969, Looking Glass topped the charts in 1972 with the tale of a lovelorn barmaid in a harbor town haunted by lonely sailors. It would be the band's only hit. Lead singer Elliot Lurie would go on to a brief solo career before becoming head of the music department for the 20th Century Fox movie studio in the '80s and '90s.

That means he was the musical supervisor for the soundtrack to Night at the Roxbury . Do with that information what you will. And with respect to "Brandy," see the film Guardians of the Galaxy 2 for Kurt Russell's surprisingly detailed treatise on its lyrical genius.

3. "Summer Breeze" by Seals and Crofts

The title track from the soft-rock duo's breakout 1972 record, "Summer Breeze" is an incurable earworm, a bittersweet twilight dream that captures everything that's right about Lite FM. From an album inhabited by Wrecking Crew vets and studio aces, "Summer Breeze" curls like smoke drifting lazily through an open window.

4. "Africa" by Toto

Toto singer David Paich had never been to Africa. The melody and refrain for this #1 hit from 1982 came to him fully formed as he watched a late night documentary about the plight of the African continent. The lyrics touch on missionary work and describe the landscape, as inspired by images from National Geographic , according to Paich's own recollection. Putting aside its self-aware inauthenticity, "Africa" is an infectious, 8x platinum AOR monster.

5. "Reminiscing” by Little River Band

Released in the summer of 1978 and reaching up to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, "Reminiscing" was guitarist Graeham Goble 's nostalgic take on the swing band era. Not only is it the only Australian song ever to reach five million radio plays in the U.S., but rumor is that it was among the late John Lennon's favorite songs.

6. "Drift Away" by Dobie Gray

Originally recorded by a country-swamp rocker named Jeffrey Kurtz, Dobie's 1973 cover became his biggest hit, reaching #5 on the charts. Though not explicitly nautical, "Drift Away" captures the distinct sensation of cruising at sunset.

7. "Love Will Find a Way" by Pablo Cruise

Pablo Cruise may have the most "yachty" of all band names on our list. And "Love Will Find a Way" is sort of the musical equivalent of a ketch skipping along a glassy surface on a crisp summer dawn. Pablo Cruise was formed in San Francisco by expats from various mildly successful bands including Stoneground and It's a Beautiful Day.

And there is a certain slick professionalism to the proceedings here. Of course, Pablo Cruise was never a critic's darling. Homer Simpson once accurately classified them as wuss rock. Still, they perfectly captured the white-folks-vacationing-in-the-Caribbean energy that was all the rage at the time. Love found a way to reach #6 on the Billboard charts, remaining in constant radio rotation during the red-hot summer of '78.

8. "Ride Captain Ride" by Blues Image

Blues Image emerged from South Florida in the late '60s and served as the house band for Miami's vaunted Thee Image music venue upon its inception in 1968. This gave Blues Image the opportunity to open for ascendant headliners like Cream and the Grateful Dead. The association landed them a contract with Atco Records. Their sophomore record, Open , yielded their one and only hit. The Blues Image reach #4 on the charts in 1970 with a tune about a bunch of men who disappear into the mists of the San Francisco Bay while searching for a hippie utopia.

9. "Eye in the Sky" by The Alan Parsons Project

This #3 hit from 1982 has nothing to do with sailing. But it's infectiously smooth production sheen, layered synth, and dreamy vocals make it a perfect Lite FM gem--one cut from the stone that gave us yacht rock. The "Project" was actually a British duo--studio wizard Alan Parsons and singer Eric Woolfson.

The title track from their sixth studio album is their very best recording. It's also often paired with the instrumental lead-in "Sirius," a song famous in its own right for blaring over unnumbered sporting arena PA systems.

If that tune doesn't make you think of Michael Jordan, you probably didn't live through the late 80s.

10. "Miracles" by Jefferson Starship

Marty Balin was a pioneer of the San Francisco scene, founding Jefferson Airplane in 1965 as the house band for his own legendary club--The Matrix. But in 1971, deeply shaken by the death of Janis Joplin, Balin quit his own band. Four years later, he was invited to rejoin his old mates on the already-launched Jefferson Starship.

He immediately contributed what would become the biggest hit by any Jeffersonian vessel. "Miracles" reached #3 in 1975. Gorgeous, elegant, and open, this is a complete anomaly in the Airplane-Starship catalogue. Listen closely for the NSFW lyrics that have often flown under the radar of some adorably innocent censors.

11. "Sad Eyes" by Robert John

In 1972, Robert John had a #3 hit with his cover of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." And yet, just before recording "Sad Eyes", the Brooklyn-born singer was employed as a construction worker in Long Branch, New Jersey.

In the summer of '79, he would again climb the charts, this time to the top spot. In fact, the charting success of "Sad Eyes" was part of a cultural backlash against the reign of disco. A wave of pop hits swept on to the charts, including this slick soft rock throwback. With his sweet falsetto and doo wop sensibility, Robert John knocked The Knack's "My Sharona" from its 6-week stand atop the charts.

12. "Magnet and Steel" by Walter Egan

Before launching headlong into his music career, Walter Egan was one of the very first students to earn a fine arts degree from Georgetown, where he studied sculpture. The subject would figure into his biggest hit, a #8 easy listening smash from 1978.

Featured on his second solo record, "Magnet and Steel" enjoys the presence of some heavy friends. Lindsey Buckingham produced, played guitar and sang backup harmonies with Stevie Nicks. By most accounts, Nicks was also a primary source of inspiration for the song.

13. "Lido Shuffle" by Boz Scaggs

Of course, not all yacht rock songs are about sailing on boats. Some are about missing boats. Boz Scaggs looks dejected on the cover of 1977's Silk Degrees , but things turned out pretty well for him. This bouncy #11 hit is a classic rock mainstay today.

The band you hear backing Boz--David Paich, Jeff Porcaro, and David Hungate--would go on to form the nucleus of Toto that very same year. Toto, as it happens, is essentially a recurring theme of the genre. Before rising to massive success in their own right, the members of Toto absolutely permeated rock radio in the 70s, laying down studio tracks with Steely Dan, Seals and Crofts, Michael McDonald, and more.

14. "What You Won't Do for Love" by Bobby Caldwell

This smooth-as-silk tune reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 upon its 1978 release. It also reached #6 on the Hot Selling Soul Singles Chart. This is significant only because of Caldwell's complexion. He was a white man signed to TK Records, a label most closely associated with disco acts like KC and the Sunshine Band.

Catering to a largely Black audience, the label went to minor lengths to hide their new singer's identity--dig the silhouetted figure on the cover of his own debut. Suffice it to say, once Caldwell hit the road, audiences discovered he was white. By then, they were already hooked on this perfect groove, which you might also recognize as a sample in 2Pac's posthumous 1998 release, "Do For Love."

15. "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)" by Michael McDonald

Technically, Michael McDonald's "I Keep Forgettin'" is an adaptation of an earlier tune by the same name. In fact, the original "I Keep Forgettin" was conceived by the legendary songwriting duo Leiber and Stoller--best known for iconic staples like "Hound Dog", "Kansas City", "Poison Ivy" and much, much more.

The original recording is by Chuck Jackson and dates to 1962. But McDonald's 1982 take is definitive. If that wasn't already true upon its release and #4 peak position on the charts, certainly Warren G. and Nate Dogg cemented its status when they sampled McDonald on "Regulate". Get the whole history on that brilliant 1994 time capsule here .

Oh and by the way, this tune also features most of the guys from Toto. I know, right? These dudes were everywhere.

16. "Baker Street" by Gerry Rafferty

To the casual listener, Gerry Rafferty's name should sound vaguely familiar. Indeed, you may remember hearing it uttered in passing in the film Reservoir Dogs . In a key scene, a radio DJ (deadpan comedian Steven Wright) mentions that Rafferty formed half the duo known as Stealers Wheel, which recorded a "Dylanesque, pop, bubble-gum favorite from April of 1974" called "Stuck in the Middle With You." In the same scene, Mr. Blonde (portrayed with sadistic glee by Michael Madsen), slices off a policeman's ear.

At any rate, this is a totally different song, and is actually Rafferty's biggest hit. "Baker Street" is a tune that reeks of late nights, cocaine, and regret. Peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, "Baker Street" soared on the wings of the decade's most memorable sax riff. Raphael Ravenscroft's performance would, in fact, lead to a mainstream revitalization of interest in the saxophone writ large.

17. "Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang" by Silver

There are several interesting things about Silver that have almost nothing to do with this song. First, bass guitarist and singer Tom Leadon was both the brother of Bernie Leadon from the Eagles and a member of Tom Petty's pre-fame band, Mudcrutch. Second, the band's keyboardist was Brent Mydland, who would go on to become the Grateful Dead's longest-tenured piano guy. Third, Silver put out their only record in 1976, and future Saturday Night Live standout Phil Harman designed the cover art.

With all of that said, Arista executives felt that their first album lacked a single so they had country songwriter Rick Giles cook up this ridiculous, gooey concoction that I kind of love. Let's say this one falls into the "so bad it's good" category. Anyway, the song peaked at #16 on the charts. The band broke up in '78, leading Mydland to accept the deadliest job in rock music. He defied the odds by playing with the Grateful Dead until an accidental drug overdose claimed his life in 1990.

18. "Biggest Part of Me" by Ambrosia

I admit, I'm kind of hard-pressed to make Ambrosia interesting. In fact, they were extremely prolific, and earned high regard in early '70s prog rock circles. And in the 1990s, lead singer David Pack would actually be the musical director for both of Bill Clinton's presidential inauguration concerts.

But this Southern California combo is much better known to mainstream audiences for their top-down, hair-blowing-in-the-wind soft rock from the decade in between. Peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1980, "Biggest Part of Me" is the group's best-known tune--a seafoamy bit of blue-eyed soul served over a raw bar of smooth jazz and lite funk.

19. "Baby Come Back" by Player

Player released their self-titled debut album in 1977 and immediately shot up to #1 with "Baby Come Back." Bandmates Peter Beckett and J.C. Crowley had both recently broken up with their girlfriends. They channeled their shared angst into this composition, a self-sorry guilty pleasure featuring former Steppenwolf member Wayne Cook on keys.

Granted, Steppenwolf's edgy disposition is nowhere to be found on this record, but it is pretty infectious in a late-summer-night, slightly-buzzed, clenched-fist sort of way. Player endured various lineup changes, but never returned to the heights of their first hit.

20. "On and On" by Stephen Bishop

Remember that scene in National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) where there's this dude in a turtleneck singing a super cloying folks song before John Belushi mercifully snatches away his guitar and smashes it to smithereens? That guy was Stephen Bishop, who was actually in the middle of enjoying considerable success with his 1976 debut album, Careless .

"On and On" was the album's biggest hit, a vaguely Caribbean soft-rocker that reached #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in '77. The gentle electric riffs you hear there are supplied by guitarist Andrew Gold--who wrote the theme song for the Golden Girls . (I freakin' know you're singing it right now).

21. "Chevy Van" by Sammy Johns

The classic tale of boy-meets-girls, bangs-her-in-his-van, and brags-to-his-buds, all with backing from the world famous Wrecking Crew studio team. In 1975, a lot of people super related to it. It sold over a million copies and reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. I can't tell you this song is good. But I also can't tell you I don't like it.

22. "You Are the Woman" by Firefall

Firefall's lead guitarist Jock Bartley perfectly captures this song's impact, calling the band's biggest hit "a singing version of [a] Hallmark card." That feels right. The second single from Firefall's 1976 self-titled debut was only a regional hit at first. But it was driven all the way to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 on the strength of radio requests.

As Bartley explained, "Every female between the ages of 18 and 24 wanted to be the woman portrayed in the song, and that caused their boyfriends and spouses to call radio stations and subsequently flood the airwaves with dedications of the song and the sentiment."

23. "Sailing" by Christopher Cross

Arguably, "Sailing" is the single most emblematic song of the Yacht Rock genre. Its thematic relevance requires no explanation. But it's worth noting that the song is inspired by true events. During a tough time in his youth, Cross was befriended by Al Glasscock. Serving as something of an older brother to Cross, Glasscock would take him sailing.

He recalls in his biggest hit that this was a time of escape from the harsh realities of his real life. In 1979, Cross released his self-titled debut. In early 1980, "Sailing" became a #1 hit, landing Cross a hat-trick of Grammys--including recognition as best new artist. Though Cross and Glasscock would lose touch for more than 20 years, they were reunited during a 1995 episode of The Howard Stern Show . Cross subsequently mailed a copy of his platinum record to Glasscock.

24. "Steal Away" by Robbie Dupree

Apparently, this song was perceived as so blatant a ripoff of Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins' "What a Fool Believes" that legal action was actually threatened.

It never formulated. Instead, Robbie Dupree landed a #6 Billboard Hot 100 hit with the lead single from his self-titled 1980 debut. Critics hated it, but it was a dominant presence in the summer of 1980. It even earned Dupree a Grammy nomination for best new artist. He ultimately lost to the man listed just above--Christopher Cross.

25. "This is It" by Kenny Loggins

You didn't think we'd get through this whole list without an actual Kenny Loggins tune. This song has the perfect pedigree, teaming Loggins and Michael McDonald on a 1979 composition that became the lead single off of Kenny Loggins' Keep the Fire.

Coming on the tail end of the '70s, "This is It" felt positively omnipresent in the '80s. I may be biased here. I grew up in Philadelphia, where a local television show by the same name adopted "This is It" as its theme song. But then, it did also reach #11 on the Billboard Hot 100.

And in that spirit...this is it, the end of our list.

But as usual, here's a bonus playlist--an expanded voyage through the breezy, AOR waters of the mid-'70s to early '80s.

the best yacht rock albums

Ready for more?

Bellevue University Logo

Summer is here and I love to celebrate this weather by sitting outside on my deck, reading and listening to music. I love to listen Yacht Rock and pretend that I am a millionaire sitting on a yacht in the Caribbean with no worries whatsoever.

But what is Yacht Rock? It is music from the 1970’s and early 1980’s that is a style of smooth, tuneful rock music that was particularly popular in America. Other names include easy listening and the music your dad listens to while he is mowing the lawn. Yacht Rock has glossy production, breezy vocals, and bouncy rhythms .  Popular artists of this genre include Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald (you will find his vocals on a lot of the songs in the following list), Steely Dan, Toto, and Hall and Oates.

I have always loved this type of music but I never knew there was a name for it until I was listening to Satellite Radio one summer and came up across the channel entitled “Yacht Rock” and was blown away. Currently, you can only listen to this channel through their app which is a bummer.

But do not despair because I have cultivated a list here for you listen and enjoy!

  • The entire Aja album by Steely Dan (one of my favorite albums of all time and it was nominated for a Grammy in 1978, losing to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors album).
  • Hey Nineteen by Steely Dan
  • Africa by Toto
  • Moonlight Feels Right by Starbuck
  • Suite Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby, Stills, and Nash (Written about Judy Collins )
  • What a Fool Believes by The Doobie Brothers
  • It Keeps You Running by The Doobie Brothers
  • Ventura Highway by America
  • Sister Golden Hair by America
  • You Can Do Magic by America
  • Sailing by Christopher Cross (or the better *NSYNC version )
  • Just the Two of Us by Bill Withers and Grover Washington Jr. (Popular on TikTok for a while)
  • Rosanna by Toto (Written about Rosanna Arquette )
  • Ride like the Wind by Christopher Cross ( Here is Rick Moranis of Ghostbuster and other 80’s movies impersonating Michael McDonald who did the backing vocals.)
  • Diamond Girl by Seals and Croft
  • Summer Breeze by Seals and Crofts
  • The entire Rumors album by Fleetwood Mac, especially Dreams and The Chain
  • You Can Call Me Al by Paul Simon
  • Still the One by the Orleans
  • Hello, It’s Me by Todd Rundgren
  • All of Hall Oates. Like their whole catalog.

Do you have any suggestions? Comment them below!

https://fineartamerica.com/featured/yacht-rock-party-boat-drinking-beach-design-deluxe-chimp.html

https://www.rollingstone.com/feature/sail-away-oral-history-of-yacht-rock-49343/

https://www.masterclass.com/articles/yacht-rock-guide

https://www.siriusxm.com/channels/yacht-rock-311

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lqzas2Xf32k

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkFBhZND8TU

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judy_Collins

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/best-yacht-rock-songs/

https://youtu.be/b0HzWMqLeiE

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Recent Posts

  • Don’t Vacation With Bed Bugs
  • National Photography Month
  • Celebrating National Get Caught Reading Month
  • Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat
  • All About Apps Spring 2024

Recent Comments

Review: ‘TL;DR’ a fun, free-wheeling and comic musical about queer iconography

Sophia Araujo-Johnson and Sara Porkalob in "TL;DR: Thelma Louise; Dyke Remix."

  • Show more sharing options
  • Copy Link URL Copied!

Ever since the first Pride march in June 1970, members of the LGBTQ community have found healing and community in seeing their once-secret inner lives reflected in those early marchers and, much later, in magazines, books and on television.

But it took a long time for LGBTQ stories to make their way into mainstream cinema, so lesbians looked for coded references in onscreen platonic relationships, like the ride-or-die BFFs in the 1991 movie “Thelma and Louise.”

That’s the idea behind EllaRose Chary and Brandon James Gwinn’s world premiere musical “TL;DR: Thelma Louise; Dyke Remix.” The funny, free-wheeling and high-energy 90-minute comedy is in its final week of performances at Diversionary Theatre, which is co-producing the piece with San Diego’s Moxie Theatre.

The musical begins where the movie ended, with outlaws Thelma and Louise driving a 1966 T-bird convertible off a cliff to certain death. But in the musical, they’re saved by a garage band made up of lesbian, trans and nonbinary members who insist that these two women educate themselves to become lesbian community icons. Yes, in “TL;DR” Thelma (or “T”) and Louise (“L”) do fall in love, but it’s complicated. They want to steer their own life and relationship path, not have others’ ideas forced upon them.

Director Sherri Eden Barber’s staging has a playful, anything-goes comic book look, with neon-lit art panels on the wall, animated cartoons of T and L, a giant inflatable unicorn and a dancing crab.

The cast of "TL;DR: Thelma Louise; Dyke Remix" at Diversionary Theatre.

Much of the humor in the show comes from the sendup of lesbian clichés (U-hauls, cats, Home Depot, etc.), particularly in the hilarious song “Boy Shorts” and the amusing Dykes Day magazine quiz. The score has three other standout numbers: “Stuck,” gorgeously sung by Sara Porkalob, who plays L; “Put Up a Fight,” a powerful solo by Sophia Araujo-Johnson, who plays T; and “Love Yourself,” a lovely ballad sung by Lyric Boothe, who plays the free-spirited band guitarist Marie.

Rounding out the cast are the endearingly goofy Steph Lehane as band drummer Cubby; Faith Carrion as the band’s impulsive lead singer Henrietta; and MG Green as the more serious bassist Blazer. Show musical director E. Renée Gamez serves as the band’s keyboardist.

As the grounded and seen-it-all L, Porkalob (seen last year at Diversionary in her solo play “Dragon Mama”) has great warmth and stage presence, and she shares great stage chemistry with Araujo-Johnson, whose sweet-natured T is more innocent and adventurous.

Yi-Chien Lee designed the scenery, Chanel Mahoney designed costumes, Colby Freel and Annelise Salazar co-designed lighting, Steven Leffue designed sound and the singularly named Sierra designed the cartoon animation.

For a new musical “TL;DR” is in very good shape, though it could use some tweaks.

The three “Vagilantes” superhero episodes add little to the story and slow down the action. The “sub” vs. “text” game show near the end felt repetitive following the quiz section. And several of the band’s rock songs sounded too much alike. I also found the show’s long and confusingly punctuated title a challenge. Still, “TL;DR” is witty, spunky, joyous and sweet, and I could see it having a future at theaters around the country.

‘TL;DR: Thelma Louise; Dyke Remix’

When: 7 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Blvd., University Heights

Tickets: $26.50-$71.50

Phone: (619) 220-0097

Online: diversionary.org

[email protected]

Get U-T Arts & Culture on Thursdays

A San Diego insider’s look at what talented artists are bringing to the stage, screen, galleries and more.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

the best yacht rock albums

More from this Author

Ṣọla Fadiran as Juicy, left, and Felicia Boswell as Tedra in The Old Globe's "Fat Ham."

Review: Old Globe’s ‘Fat Ham’ a hilarious and surprise-filled look at Black masculinity

May 31, 2024

Carne asada tacos at Frida's Taqueria in Vista.

San Diego Dining and Drinking

Once-sleepy Vista is gradually becoming a foodie destination

Dishes and Pali Wine Co. wines at Cellar Hand restaurant, which opens June 6 in Hillcrest.

The Dish: Cellar Hand leads list of five new restaurant openings this month

Del Mar, CA - May 29: Manual and Darack Chan work to install lights onto a food booth at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on Wednesday, May 29, 2024 in Del Mar, CA. (Meg McLaughlin / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

County Fair ready to ‘Go Retro’

May 29, 2024

Hodad's Guido Burger.

Looking for San Diego’s best burger? Here are 33 great local burgers to try

May 24, 2024

Brey Laqou, left, Jenna Pekny and Jaden Guerrero in OnStage Playhouse's "Devil in a Box."

Review: Onstage Playhouse’s surrealistic ‘Devil in a Box’ explores the roots of addiction

May 21, 2024

More in this section

A scene from the Broadway production of "Mrs. Doubtfire."

National tour of ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ musical makes first visit to San Diego next week

Choreographer Lorin Latarro promises dancing chefs, flamenco and ‘chickens falling from the sky’

Loud Fridge Theater Group presents "We Lovers."

Entertainment

S.D. Arts & Culture Newsletter: San Diego’s 2024 Fringe festival winds down

This week, Sarah McLachlan, Byron Stamps’ Truth in Comedy, Mandy Patinkin, Sacra/Profana and more

May 30, 2024

The cast of North Coast Repertory Theatre's "Camelot."

North Coast Rep planning scaled-down but fully realized production of ‘Camelot’

Gregory Moss, who is directing the 1960 Lerner and Loewe musical, said audiences will feel intimately connected to the characters

FILE - Natalie Merchant performs at Cyndi Lauper's 8th Annual "Home for the Holidays" benefit concert in New York on Dec. 8, 2018. Merchant's latest album, "Keep Your Courage," releases on Friday. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

S.D. Arts & Culture Newsletter: Natalie Merchant to deliver more ‘Merch moments’ at Humphrey’s

This week, four shows to catch at the San Diego International Fringe Festival, a remount of the musical ‘Pásale Pásale’ and more

May 23, 2024

Johnisa Breault, center, leads a dance number in San Diego Musical Theatre's "Legally Blonde."

Review: San Diego Musical Theatre’s high-energy ‘Legally Blonde’ bubbles with fun

Leading the cast as Malibu sorority girl Elle Woods is local Filipino-American triple-threat Johnisa Breault

An archival photo of June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash

La Jolla Playhouse musical to tell the unvarnished story of country legends Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash

La Jolla Playhouse is producing the world premiere of ‘The Ballad of Johnny and June,’ which is co-written and directed by former Playhouse chief Des McAnuff

May 19, 2024

an image, when javascript is unavailable

Best of Cannes: 17 Must-See Movies From the 2024 Festival

Anora, The Substance, Emilia Pérez

Coming in to the 2024 Cannes Film Festival, three films loomed large: George Miller’s “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” Francis Ford Coppola’s “Megalopolis” and Kevin Costner’s “Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1.” To varying degrees, they all fell short of the impossibly high expectations cinephiles had put on them. Fortunately, the Cannes lineup boasted more than 120 other movies for critics to sink their teeth into, ranging from an ultra-bloody beauty-standard satire (“The Substance”) to Sean Baker’s Palme d’Or-winning whirlwind romance (“Anora”), in which an exotic dancer and a rich Russian playboy get hitched in Vegas. With a team of six critics on the ground, gorging on as many films as possible, Variety presents their favorite discoveries.

All We Imagine as Light

All We Imagine as Light

Indian director Payal Kapadia’s second feature is a wise, gently lambent portrait of two roommates, both Mumbai nurses, at different points in their romantic lives. Spanning the city and the seaside, an understated yet profound bond grows between them despite different ages and outlooks, and both actresses are outstanding. But it’s Kani Kusruti, playing the elderly woman facing the social and personal void left by her far-off husband, who is the breaking, mending heart of this dreamlike, daybreak-at-sunset movie. (Read the full review by Jessica Kiang .)

Anora

Director Sean Baker describes “Anora” as a Cinderella story, but that’s only true to the extent that his Walt Disney World-adjacent “The Florida Project” could be seen as a fairy tale. Baker’s subversively romantic, freewheeling sex farce makes “Pretty Woman” look like a Disney movie. “Anora” tells the story of how young people from different worlds fall in love, run into obstacles and deal with the consequences — except the couple in this case consists of a New York stripper (Mikey Madison) and the reckless son of a Russian oligarch (Mark Eydelshteyn). Baker isn’t coy — nor is he pervy — about the transactional sex between the two, presenting it without judgment. Following on the (knee-high boot) heels of four other films in which he centered the experience of sex workers, Baker brings the same seat-of-your-pants energy to “Anora” that he did to “Tangerine,” constantly switching up the film’s tone as the situation tornados out of control. (Read the full review by Peter Debruge .)

The Apprentice

“The Apprentice”

A spirited and entertaining docudrama about the years in which Donald Trump came to be Donald Trump. Ali Abbasi’s movie starts in 1973 and centers on the relationship between Trump (Sebastian Stan) and Roy Cohn (Jeremy Strong), the infamous lawyer and fixer who teaches Donald to play by his rules — which is to say, no rules. The first half is kind of a knockout. Yet as Trump passes through the looking glass of malevolence, becoming even worse than his mentor, the mystery of his transformation remains unsolved. (Read the full review by Owen Gleiberman.)

Black Dog

A smaller-scale project than his blockbusters “The Eight Hundred” and “The Sacrifice,” Guan Hu’s Un Certain Regard standout has the grandly cinematic vision to lend an intimate tale a gloriously epic, allegorical edge. Set in a dying town on the fringes of the Gobi, “Black Dog” has elements of the Western or a film noir, in which desperate, often criminal protagonists struggle to escape their seemingly foreordained fates. Except the femme fatale here is more a chien fatal . (Read the full review by Jessica Kiang.)

Caught by the Tides

Caught by the Tides

Loosely speaking a love story, Jia Zhangke’s mesmerizing film is perhaps the most definitive national portrait that modern China’s foremost cinematic chronicler has ever delivered. This is what it might look like if the eye of the storm of 21st century China’s many transformations could tell us what it saw … or could sing us, perhaps. For the most part, Jia’s masterfully poetic and pioneering fusion of the old and the new unfolds as a flowing series of extended montages with a musicality that is a splendid testament to the work of its three editors. Jia’s trademark fondness for the unexpected soundtrack cut finds its zenith here, as rave music, rock music, pop and dance anthems counterpoint the sometimes grim visuals. (Read the full review by Jessica Kiang.)

The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo

Last year, French distributor Pathé showed its post-pandemic commitment to the big-screen experience with a starry, two-part adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers.” By way of an encore, the studio tapped Dumas once again, condensing his 1,200-page revenge story into a sweeping three-hour epic. Featuring Pierre Niney (best known to Americans for “Yves Saint Laurent”) in the title role, the stunning adventure tale matches Hollywood in spectacle and panache. Had it been released in English a few decades earlier, “Count” would easily be competing for a best picture Oscar. — Peter Debruge

Eephus

In Carson Lund’s lovely little sundowner movie, a bunch of middle-aged casual baseball players use the excuse of the last game of the season — and perhaps ever — to fight the dying of the light. “Eephus” is not about rivalry as much as it’s about companionship. In a throwback version of the ’90s, it’s about making the Great American Pastime a vehicle for a togetherness these men crave but that American masculinity discourages them from articulating in any other way. (Read the full review by Jessica Kiang.)

Emilia Pérez

Emilia Perez

Like a rose blooming in a minefield, it’s a miracle that Jacques Audiard’s south-of-the-border pop opera exists. The director of “A Prophet” takes audiences into the realm of Mexican cartels, where a fearsome drug lord (Karla Sofía Gascón) wants out, not because he’s had a crisis of conscience but because he’s decided to embrace his true self … as a woman. The film asks: What if you took the poster boy for toxic masculinity and made them a woman, in a way that eclipsed the aggressive original persona? That this exhilarating Spanish-language musical works is a testament to leading lady Karla Sofía Gascón and the audacity of Audiard, who had the good sense to incorporate Gascón’s personal experience into the character. (Read the full review by Peter Debruge.)

Ernest Cole: Lost and Found

Ernest Cole: Lost and Found

Raoul Peck’s documentary about Ernest Cole, the South African photographer who chronicled the evils and everyday experiences of life under apartheid, could be considered a companion piece to “I Am Not Your Negro,” Peck’s lacerating portrait of James Baldwin. Cole’s photographs are vérité dioramas, psychological portraits of life inside a caste system. Moving to New York City in 1966, he published “House of Bondage,” the book that showed the world what apartheid looked like (it showed people what it  was ). Through it all, though, Cole himself remained an isolated figure, almost a ghost. Yet his photographs achieved something essential. By the end, when a cache of 60,000 of them is discovered in a bank in Stockholm, you can feel the ghost speaking to you. (Read the full review by Owen Gleiberman.)

The Girl With the Needle

The Girl With the Needle

Magnus von Horn’s extraordinary and upsetting film is loosely based on a true-life case from a pre-feminist age, though to detail its facts would be to interfere with the brooding, slow-coiling shock of the film’s own reveal. Suffice it to say that one earthly circle of hell keeps giving way to another. The extremity of suffering on display here makes for difficult viewing, scarcely leavened by the expressionistic beauty of its presentation. But von Horn’s film never plays as empty miserablism, in large part thanks to its grave understanding of the moral and spiritual reasoning behind unimaginable acts of violence. (Read the full review by Guy Lodge.)

Grand Tour

Our times are troubled, our burdens heavy, our passage through life often arduous and the bad kind of absurd. But for anyone feeling a pessimism creeping in like slow poison and taking the edge off any appetite for adventure, Portuguese singularity Miguel Gomes comes like a comet across the Cannes competition with an enchanting, enlivening, era-spanning, continent-crossing travelogue that runs the very serious risk of infecting you with the antidote: a potent dose of wanderlust for life. (Read the full review by Jessica Kiang.)

Kinds of Kindness

Kinds of Kindness

After achieving box office success and awards acclaim with “The Favourite” and “Poor Things,” Yorgos Lanthimos does a hard reset, reteaming with “Dogtooth” scribe Efthimis Filippou on several deadpan parodies of control and consent: in the workplace, in marriage, in religion — all realms where people relinquish their power to others. The anthology film finds Lanthimos taking a victory lap, with a killer cast (led by Jesse Plemons and Emma Stone) and the far richer resources of an American indie studio at his disposal. (Read the full review by Peter Debruge.)

On Becoming a Guinea Fowl

On Becoming a Guinea Fowl

A quivering collective fury scalds the silence in “I Am Not a Witch” director Rungano Nyoni‘s tremendous new film as a group of young women, nursing the scars of sexual abuse, chafe against the quiet complicity of family elders when their shared perpetrator drops dead. Blending molasses-dark comedy with searing poetic realism to capture contemporary Zambian society at a generational impasse between staunch tradition and social progress, this is palpably new, future-minded filmmaking, at once intrepidly daring and rigorously poised. (Read the full review by Guy Lodge.)

The Other Way Around

The Other Way Around

The dogged pursuit of the relationship unicorn that is the good break-up informs the wit and winking wisdom of this delightful showcase for Spanish director Jonás Trueba’s lithe, airy style. A hip, popular twosome decide to call it quits after 14 years, cuing a very funny yet properly grown-up portrait of the ideal couple trying to smoothe, and even to celebrate, their transition into ideal exes. It’s the celebration aspect that will prove their undoing. If the good breakup is rare, the joyous breakup is completely mythical. (Read the full review by Jessica Kiang.)

The Seed of the Sacred Fig

The Seed of the Sacred Fig

Director Mohammad Rasoulof responds to his own imprisonment in 2022 by examining Iranian tensions within the context of a Tehran household with two university-age daughters. For most of this slow-boiling, nearly three-hour movie, the main character is not the family’s patriarch (Misagh Zareh) but his rule-abiding wife, Najmeh (Soheila Golestani). Set against the Jina Revolution, this livid, thinking-person’s thriller depicts the germination of a new solidarity, which started with students but takes root once average citizens like Najmeh buy in. (Read the full review by Peter Debruge.)

The Substance

The Substance

Coralie Fargeat’s shocking and resonant feminist body-horror film has something primal to say. Elisabeth Sparkle (Demi Moore), a Hollywood actress-turned-aerobics-workout-host, gets fired from a TV network because she is now deemed too old. So she signs up for a sinister sci-fi body-enhancement program, and before long out pops her new self: a “perfect” specimen of sexy vibrant youthful womanhood named Sue, played by the crisply magnetic Margaret Qualley. Elisabeth now gets to “be” Sue every other week. It’s like “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” meets “Showgirls,” retold as a dream/nightmare of the trillion-dollar culture of cosmetic enhancement. Fargeat works in a wide-angle-lens, up-from-exploitation style that might be described as cartoon grindhouse Kubrick. Moore’s performance is nothing short of fearless, and the movie builds toward a climax that must be seen to be believed. It centers on a true monster , not just a mass of twisted flesh but a deformation of the spirit. (Read the full review by Owen Gleiberman.)

Wild Diamond

Wild Diamond

The new fame, the lusty fickle kind bred by social media, is the subject of Agathe Reidinger’s startlingly bold and true French drama. Liane (Malou Khebizi), a 19-year-old glam trainwreck, looks like Brigitte Bardot as a dysfunctional shopping-mall Barbie. When she gets her shot to join a reality show called “Miracle Island,” the film becomes the story of her life, and of the corrupt dreams we’re all being sold. Reidinger, in her first feature, works with a clear-eyed power worthy of Andrea Arnold. (Read the full review by Owen Gleiberman.)

More from Variety

Morgan spurlock, ‘super size me’ director, dies at 53, the 2024 summer movies most likely to be the hit ‘fall guy’ couldn’t, documentary community remembers morgan spurlock: ‘ahead of his time in so many ways’, revisit morgan spurlock’s oscar-nominated ‘super size me’ documentary where he ate mcdonald’s every day for a month, 2024 streaming hits point way to post-peak tv ip strategy, more from our brands, kim petras reframes meaning of ‘accept yourself’ in touching pride message, this lavish bay area estate built by married pizza moguls is up for grabs at $12.5 million, former msg exec lustgarten to lead hudson yards experiences, the best loofahs and body scrubbers, according to dermatologists, real housewives of new jersey cancels reunion for the first time — andy cohen explains why, verify it's you, please log in.

Quantcast

IMAGES

  1. The 10 Best Yacht Rock Albums To Own On Vinyl

    the best yacht rock albums

  2. AllMusic Loves Yacht Rock

    the best yacht rock albums

  3. The 10 Best Yacht Rock Albums To Own On Vinyl

    the best yacht rock albums

  4. The 10 Best Yacht Rock Albums To Own On Vinyl

    the best yacht rock albums

  5. The 10 Best Yacht Rock Albums To Own On Vinyl

    the best yacht rock albums

  6. The 10 Best Yacht Rock Albums To Own On Vinyl

    the best yacht rock albums

COMMENTS

  1. Yacht Rock: Album Guide

    Yacht Rock: Album Guide. From Steely Dan to Christopher Cross to Carly Simon, these smooth summer jams will take you away to where you're going to. Walter Becker, left, and Donald Fagen are Steely ...

  2. The 10 Best Yacht Rock Albums To Own On Vinyl

    In 2006, a group of buddies produced a series of short videos called "Yacht Rock." The videos defined yacht rock as a genre of smooth music, born out of Southern California between 1976 and 1984, and featuring exceptional musicianship with roots in R&B, jazz and folk rock. Its stars: Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Toto and Steely Dan. The last 11 years have tested the genre's buoyancy ...

  3. Rolling Stone's Best Yacht Rock Albums of All Time

    Rolling Stone's Best Yacht Rock Albums of All Time. View reviews, ratings, news & more regarding your favorite band.

  4. AllMusic's Best Yacht Rock Albums of All Time

    AllMusic's Best Yacht Rock Albums of All Time. View reviews, ratings, news & more regarding your favorite band.

  5. Yacht Rock: A Beginner's Guide In 5 albums

    A beginner's guide to yacht rock in five essential albums. By Jerry Ewing. ( Classic Rock ) published 1 July 2023. Yacht rock, soft rock - call it what you will. Here are five brilliant albums that define the genre in all its bearded, Hawaiian shirted glory. (Image credit: Columbia/Warner Bros/ABC)

  6. Top 50 Yacht Rock Songs

    A look at the very best silky smooth yacht rock songs.

  7. Best Yacht Rock albums of all time

    The greatest Yacht Rock albums of all time, as voted by RYM/Sonemic users

  8. The Best Yacht Rock Albums of All Time

    The Best Yacht Rock Albums of All Time. View reviews, ratings, news & more regarding your favorite band.

  9. Top Yacht Rock Albums

    Interested in yacht rock? We keep a fully stocked section of yacht rock in the store, and we've compiled this master list for your convenience.

  10. I can go for that: five essential yacht rock classics

    Steely Dan: Hey Nineteen (1980) The frisson of yacht rock derives from its blend of bourgie feelgood bounce crossed with a shiver of thwarted desire. Steely Dan self-deprecatingly called their ...

  11. 8 Essential Yacht Rock Albums

    8 Essential Yacht Rock Albums. Boz Scaggs Silk Degrees COLUMBIA, 1976 Leisure-suited hot-tub funk from the former Steve Miller Band guitarist and future restaurateur dancing the squeakiest-clean ...

  12. What Is 'Yacht Rock'? Plus 10 Essential Yacht Rock Albums

    Join Pete Pardo for a show all about that breezy pop rock music labeled 'yacht rock'. #yachtrock 💰Donate via Ko-Fi: https://ko-fi.com/peterpardosseaoftranqu...

  13. Best Yacht Rock albums of 2021

    The greatest Yacht Rock albums of 2021, as voted by RYM/Sonemic users

  14. YACHT ROCK

    An ever-expanding, official list of Yacht Rock songs, deemed Yacht Rock by the creators of the Yacht Rock web show. They coined and defined the term!

  15. The 20 greatest yacht rock songs ever, ranked

    A few non-rock artists almost made this list ( George Michael 's 'Careless Whisper' and Spandau Ballet 's 'True' are almost examples, but not quite), yet a big chunk of Thriller heavily relied on the yacht rock sound.

  16. Yacht Rock

    Yacht Rock - 100 Best Ever - Top Yacht Rock Songs · Playlist · 112 songs · 584 likes.

  17. Sailing: The Best Of Yacht Rock

    Sailing: The Best Of Yacht Rock is the ultimate #YachtRock playlist of the smoothest classic rock songs ever written.

  18. The 25 Best Yacht Rock Songs Of All Time

    If you don't love songs about boats, one-night stands, and breezy California nights, you've come to the wrong place. Yacht Rock embodies the singer-songwriter soft rock that dominated FM radio playlists in the '70s. Combine slick L.A. production, earnest singing, and a touch of lite-country songwriting, and chances are, you had a Top 40 hit. These are the best of them.

  19. Top 100 Greatest Yacht Rock Songs of All Time

    Furthermore, Aja, the album that houses Peg, is one of the most impressive American albums of all time, beyond its Yacht Rock appeal. 3. Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) - Looking Glass. Released in 1972, the one-hit wonder by Looking Glass, Brandy, established a much bigger name for itself than the band ever managed to achieve on its own.

  20. Best Yacht Rock albums of 2022

    The greatest Yacht Rock albums of 2022, as voted by RYM/Sonemic users

  21. The Best Yacht Rock Albums of All Time by User Score

    A look at the The Best Yacht Rock Albums of All Time by User Score. Rate your favorite albums to have your say in this list of the top user rated albums.

  22. Top 100 Yacht Rock Songs

    Top 100 Yacht Rock Songs. A new music service with official albums, singles, videos, remixes, live performances and more for Android, iOS and desktop.

  23. The 300 Greatest Albums of All Time

    For nearly 70 years, recorded music's canon has breathed life into every corner of humanity. Here is Paste's Greatest Albums of All Time list.

  24. The 25 Best Yacht Rock Songs Of All Time

    Yacht Rock is the musical equivalent of a mid-afternoon mimosa nap in a nautical location—a balmy lite-FM breeze with the substance of a romance novel and the machismo of a Burt Reynolds mustache comb.

  25. Freeman/Lozier Library

    But what is Yacht Rock? It is music from the 1970's and early 1980's that is a style of smooth, tuneful rock music that was particularly popular in America. Other names include easy listening and the music your dad listens to while he is mowing the lawn. Yacht Rock has glossy production, breezy vocals, and bouncy rhythms . Popular artists of this genre include Kenny Loggins, Michael ...

  26. Review: 'TL;DR' a fun, free-wheeling and comic musical about queer

    That's the idea behind EllaRose Chary and Brandon James Gwinn's world premiere musical "TL;DR: Thelma Louise; Dyke Remix." The funny, free-wheeling and high-energy 90-minute comedy is in ...

  27. Best Movies of the 2024 Cannes Film Festival

    Best of Cannes: 17 Must-See Movies From the 2024 Festival. Coming in to the 2024 Cannes Film Festival, three films loomed large: George Miller's "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga," Francis Ford ...