Monday, May 24, 2010

Guitar Solos

This came up while the family was chowing on some burgers and corn on the cob out on the deck yesterday. Wife had the Eagles playing in the background, and I commented that I thought “Hotel California” could be in my top-10 list of greatest guitar solos. (Yes, I’m aware that’s actually two guitarists soloing, Joe Walsh and Don Felder.)

How to flesh out that list?

Wow – I’m flashing back to my early twenties, late nights with lots of beer and other mind-altering stuff swimming in my blood. Red bulb screwed into the light socket. Me and a bunch of other guys and girlfriends throwing out names and songs into the air to mix with the aromatic and acrobatic curls of nicotine smoke.

Anway, this is as good a list as any, I think, of LE’s top-10 bestest guitar solos. There’s no way in heck that this is objective; I can’t even come up with an objective standard for my own picks. The list probably is different from what I’d pick a year ago and different from what I’ll settle on next year. Also, I’ve probably listened to ten thousand songs over the years, so I’m sure there are some tunes and guitarists I’m forgetting.

What makes a good guitar solo? It doesn’t have to be technically proficient. It doesn’t have to be a million notes shredded into a ninety-second section of power chord riffs. But it should be more than casual jamming in the pentatonic scale. The best quality of a superior guitar solo is two-fold: it takes the song to another level, and it has to bring some emotion out in the listener. Some of these songs I’ve heard a few hundred times, so the effect has worn down. But when I first heard it, chills ran up and down my spine.

So, in no particular order, how about …

Neil Schon, “Stone in Love”
Jimi Hendrix, “Little Miss Strange”
David Gilmour, “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2”
Jimmy Page, “Heartbreaker”
Angus Young, “Ride On”
Ty Tabor, “It’s Love”
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”
Tony Iommi, “War Pigs”
Alex Lifeson, “Xanadu”
Iron Maiden guitarists, “Flash of the Blade”
Steve Howe, “Starship Trooper”
Blind Lemon Flemstein, “Will and Won’t Care”

Yes, I know that’s twelve.

There should be a Billy Corgan in there, an Eddie Van Halen, a Randy Rhodes, something by Joe Walsh, maybe sumthin’ by the Foo Fighters, or Nirvana. I like the Zakk Wylde solo in Ozzy’s “No More Tears.” I like Vivian Campbell’s solo in Dio’s “Last in Line.” Also, Dave Gilmour’s chordal solo at the end of “Sheep” is very pleasing.

I want some Pete Townshend, but he’s not really a guitar soloer in the traditional sense. Brian May from Queen needs to be represented somehow, too. Not a big Rolling Stones fan, but surely something from the Mick Taylor era should be in there, no? Was a huge fan of Alice In Chains, surely I could think of a worthy addition by those boys. Eric Clapton? Jeff Beck? Al DiMeola (I actually highly recommend “Midnight Tango”).

See, it’s a tough list to make. I’m not even satisfied with the list I have, save for that last entry, perhaps. Oh well. Time to mentally leave 1991 and get back to the present. More important than being a guitar hero, I have to register the Little One for the town’s summer rec program and Sunday School for September …


Anonymous said...

Ok. I don't have the technical chops nor the range that you have LE. BUT... I have always thought the best solo of all time is David Gilmour - Comfortably Numb. And from a little different genre (Southern Rock) - Hughie Thomason from The Outlaws on Green Grass and High Tides (although the whole song is essentially a an instrumental piece). Give me some time. I'll think of some others.


LE said...

Well slap my forehead! Completely forgot the entire southern rock ouevre. I just listened to GGHT on youtube a few weeks' back, too.

Agree with Comfortably Numb. That song has a chillingly melodic middle solo and a completely devastating ending solo. Gilmour is probably the most underrated of the great soloists.

Anonymous said...

Showing my age here. The Outlaws appeared at Giant Stadium as the 3rd of 4 acts about 25 years ago. Poco, Todd Rundgrun and the headline act, Boston. I was there. The Outlaws played their customary 25 minute version of Green Grass and High Tides. Now it poured (and I mean poured) ALL DAY. The rain stopped and the sun came out for a 20 minute period all day. Can you guess when? That's right. Smack dab in the middle of GGHT. The rain commenced as Boston came on stage. The review of the concert in the paper the next day focused on this little weather phenomenon.


LE said...

I think I heard that story before ... ;^)

That being said, Boston is a dual-guitar-solo-afficianado's dream. "Peace of Mind" is the best solo from that pair of guitarists I would say.

Anonymous said...

There's one Pink Floyd song I think should be mentioned. From Animals, Dogs. The first solo, a very quick agressive solo even mean sets the angry mood for the album but also a second solo uses some very artistic harmonix where Gilmour really shows his emotion through guitar. Also his verses very depressing gives you a heavy feeling.


LE said...

Gilmour is God.

(Metaphorically speaking, of course.)

"Animals" is one of the great underrated albums of all time.