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Any Major Guitar Vol. 2

July 19th, 2018 3 comments

 

 

The second mix of great guitar bits that I really dig. As with Any Major Guitar Vol. 1, I make no claims of the featured tracks belonging in any hierarchy. It’s all entirely subjective, as it usually is in music.

As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, includes home-fendered covers, and all the Byoong text below in a handy PDF file. PW in comments.

1. Prince – Let’s Go Crazy (1984)
Byoong moment: 2:40. Prince was such a genius at so many things that his guitar beroics are easily forgotten. But just listen to tracks like When Doves Cry, Purple Rain, I Wanna Be Your Lover or his out-claptoning solo on a live cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps to know that he ranks among the great axemen.

2. Thin Lizzy – Whisky In The Jar (1971)
Byoong moment: 2:19. Before Gary Moore, there was Eric Bell in Thin Lizzy. It’s Bell’s guitar which turns this Irish folk-song into a rock classic, with that opening line, that guitar riff, and that minute-long solo that sounds thoroughly rock as well as faithful to the song’s Irish pipes.

3. Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel – Come Up And See Me (1977)
Byoong moment: 1:50. A false ending, with a rather long pause, then Jim Cregan‘s gorgeous flamenco acoustic solo kicks in. A story has it that the solo had been captured on tape during a soundcheck and later inserted by producer Alan Parsons later. A good story but probably not true.

4. Blondie – (I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear (1978)
Byoong moment: 1:18. The great musician in Blondie is drummer Clem Burke (just listen to him here), though they were all much more accomplished musicians than the punk label suggested. Chris Stein‘s guitar on Presence Dear shimmers and illuminates his girlfriend, Deborah Harry, much as it did on X-Offender, which was another contender.

5. The Smiths – This Charming Man (1984)
Byoong moment: 2:26. I have a theory that it wasn’t so much Morrissey’s lyrics that inspired a generation of alienated, misunderstood youths (many of the lyrics are embarrassingly bad, especially from a man who belittled others for writing “awful poetry”), but Johnny Marr‘s guitar which could steer your emotions, from uplifted to dejected (that whine on How Soon Is Now, which might have featured here). There are many Marr moments to pick from; I’ll land on the jolly line he plays at 2:26.

6. Aztec Camera – Oblivious (1983)
Byoong moment: 1:48. A perfect pop song with delightful little guitar arpeggios interspersed throughout, leading us to a joyous guitar solo by singer-songwriter Roddy Frame.

7. Colin Hay – Overkill (acoustic) (2003)
Byoong moment: 1:48. Here the singer of the Men At Work hit cools things down with a superb vocal performance. It’s the simple but lovely acoustic guitar solo, also by Colin Hay, that signals an increase in intensity.

8. John Mayer – Gravity (2006)
Byoong moment: 2:05. Put aside John Mayer‘s douchebag persona and you’ll find a very good guitarist. Often, there’s a lot of gurning self-indulgence in Mayer’s white bluesman’s guitar work, but sometimes he shows restraint and it is quite beautiful, as it is here.

9. Chris Isaak – Blue Hotel (1987)
Byoong moment: 1:52. The riff brings to mind the kind of Mexican border settings of shows like Breaking Bad, and James Calvin Wilsey‘s solo could soundtrack the gruesome but satisfactory killing in the desert of an evil drug kingpin. Wilsey also played the solo on Wicked Game, another contender for inclusion.

10. Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street (1977)
Byoong moment: 4:47. The obvious star of Baker Street (featured here in its LP version) is the late Raphael Ravenscroft’s alto sax, so the terrific guitar solo by Hugh Burns often is overlooked. Still, it inspired Slash’s solo for Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child o’ Mine. Hugh Burns’ other famous guitar performance was also on a song dominated by a saxophone: George Michael’s Careless Whispers (he also played on sax-less Faith and Father Figure).

11. Rod Stewart – Sailing (1975)
Byoong moment: 2:15. The first song I slow-danced to with a girl I liked, so the simple but lovely acoustic guitar intro still gives me butterflies; by the time of the guitar solo I’m as deeply in love as a 11-year-old can be. Both guitars are played by Muscle Shoals session man Pete Carr, who also might have featured for Bob Seger’s Against The Wind.

12. Santana – Samba Pa Ti (1970)
Byoong moments: 0:00. It’s all guitar here, starting with those mournful notes and becoming progressively more joyous. Carlos Santana gets great support from keyboardist and co-writer Gregg Rolie.

13. The Allman Brothers Band – Blue Sky (1972)
Byoong moments: 1:07 & 2:37. Two great solos for the price of one. First Duane Allman, in the last thing he played before his death in a motorcycle accident, lets his guitar sing. Then at 2:37 Dickey Betts gets his welcome turn. His distinctive guitar style has, by default, become synonymous with British small-world blokey bigotry through the instrumental Jessica, the theme of Top Gear.

14. The Doobie Brothers – China Grove (1973)
Byoong moment: 2:24. Tom Johnstone‘s guitar riff deserves an entry on its own — but then, if you are going down the Doobie route, Long Train Running would be your first stop. But no Doobies song has a solo quite as delicious as that by Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter.

15. Status Quo – Rockin’ All Over The World (1977)
Byoong moment: 0:55 & 2:38. It’s easy to laugh at Status Quo’s three-chord career, as if they were musically limited. Don’t be fooled. Rockin’ All Over The World is a great pop-rock record, and it”s lifted higher by those joyous guitar solos, especially the increasingly insistent solo led by Rick Parfitt towards the end, with Francis Rossi providing the high-pitched fills, that sees out the song.

16. Chuck Berry – Too Much Monkey Business (1957)
Byoong moment: 1:17. It could have been any number of Chuck Berry songs to feature here. Truth be told, I’m a bit tired of the overplayed ones — Johnny B Goode, Roll Over Beethoven etc. Two solos here: the first is classic Berry; the second a throw-away effort.

17. Elvis Presley – Hound Dog (1956)
Byoong moment: 0:50 & 1:22. To white ears reared on Perry Como, Hound Dog must have been a shock: so much ferocious noise! Even now, 62 years later, Hound Dog is punk. Elvis’ raucous vocals, J.D. Fontana’s brutal drum rolls, the relentless bass, and Scotty Moore‘s insolent guitar breaks. Moore later didn’t know himself how he produced that sound; he remembers being pissed off at the countless takes Elvis had the musicians play (Presley was the de facto producer of the song). In the end there were 31 takes; Elvis chose Take 18. It may well be the greatest rock & roll record of them all. (See the Hound Dog Song Swarm)

18. Jim Steinman – Love And Death And An American Guitar (1981)
Byoong moment: none. There’s no guitar here, nor any instrument, but it’s all about a guitar. Jim’s guitar has “a heart of chrome and a voice like a horny angel”, but he doesn’t know how “to treat an expensive musical instrument”. Steinman was not famous for his comedy nor for his mastery of understatement, so this has to be one of the best unintentionally funny things ever committed to record.

19. Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell (1977)
Byoong moment: 6:09. And from there we move to Steinman’s greatest production, the gloriously overblown, operatic Bat Out Of Hell. Meat Loaf might own the song, but the real star of the show is Todd Rundgren‘s guitar which not only scores the emotions and fills solo needs, but most importantly provides the sound-effect for the revving motorbike. It might well be the greatest guitar solo of all time, as this superb account of the recording, mainly true but embellished for effect, claims.

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Any Major Guitar

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Any Major Guitar Vol. 1

January 25th, 2018 16 comments

You know you’re losing it as a writer when you start off writing padding crap in the amateur league of “Guitar solos, everybody loves ’em”. Obviously, to spare you the tedium I’ve deleted all the noodling on about guitars — just as one might wish some musicians would do on their recordings, and on stage.

Having said that, it’s not awfully difficult to compile a list of favourite guitar solos, some of which may even be very long. Hell, I even love me a dose of Freebird now and then, or often.

By definition, a list of anything “favourites” is subjective. They may include unheralded guitarists and exclude masters of the craft. My list certainly does. Slash and Eddie and Sambora? Missing? Dudes from Metallica or Led Zep? Nope. Any number of blues guitarists? I’m afraid not there. But the session guy from Wuthering Heights features.

So this is not an attempt at compiling “greatest-ever” guitar solos, though some of those here are contenders, or to bring together the greatest guitarists, though by the nature of things, many of the greatest will feature. This mix puts together songs on which there is guitar work that makes me sing along in the style of “Byoong, bee-bee-byoom-bee-byum — diddiddiddiddi-byoong-byoo-byoo-byoo-byoo-byoooo”.

And, of course, I apply my usual terms & conditions: one song per guitarist and, if it can be helped, no repeated acts either. This is just Volume 1, so please don’t shout at me for excluding Jimi Hendrix.

And tell me what are some of your favourite guitar solos? What makes you sing “Byoong, bee-bee-byoom-bee-byum”?

As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, includes home-strummed covers, and all this text in a PDF. PW in comments.

Cream – White Room (1968)
Byoong moment: 4:00. Cream make us think that the song is over, and then Eric Clapton goes all guitar solo for the remaining minute. So many Clapton solos to choose from — Bell Bottom Blues was another leading contender.

Chicago – 25 Or 6 To 4 (1970)
Byoong moment: 1:58. Whoever said Chicago were soft? Terry Kath threatens to let rip for a couple of minutes, then eases himself into his 2:15 minutes long second guitar solo which becomes increasingly aggressive.

Steely Dan – Reelin’ In The Years (1972)
Byoong moment: 1:58. His mini-solo kicks off the song, then session guitarist Elliott Randall gives us two solos for the price for one: first a “wanna-take-me-on” duel with the rhythm section, then a triumphant face-contorting solo.

America – Sister Golden Hair (1975)
Byoong moment: 0:00. It’s not really a solo; the slide guitar intro and its reprise after the break last only a few seconds, but what a beautiful ethereal sound. Rumour had it that it was played by George Harrison (since George Martin produced the song). Boringly, lead singer Gerry Beckley played the guitar, inspired by Harrison’s work on My Sweet Lord.

Wilco – Impossible Germany (2007)
Byoong moment: 2:29. If was asked to vote, I might nominate this as my all-time favourite guitar solo. Even if it features two soloists: Nels Cline (right speaker) and Jeff Tweedy (left speaker). It’s 3:28 minutes of exquisite, exciting and epic elation.

Foo Fighters – Everlong (live) (2006)
Byoong moment: 3:44. From the acoustic Skin And Bones live album, one doesn’t expect so much noise in the instrumental interlude and (aptly) climax. Not really a guitar solo, but those instrumental breaks are driven by Dave Grohl‘s acoustic and Pat Smear‘s electric guitars.

Crowded House – Don’t Dream It’s Over (live) (1996)
Byoong moment: 2:24. Neil Finn‘s glistening guitar is all over it, in the studio version and in this gorgeous live recording from Sydney on the Farewell To The World set, but it really kicks in after the organ solo, and certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Gary Moore – Still Got The Blues (For You) (1990)
Byoong moment: 3:39. Plenty of byoong throughout as Gary Moore puts on his orgasm-face and noodles exquisitely on his Les Paul. A court ruled that Moore plagiarised the solo from a 1974 song called Nordrach by the German prog rock act Jud’s Gallery — and the similarities are indeed there. But there’s a reason several thousands of people have had sex to Moore’s song, and only eight to that by Jud’s Gallery.

The Isley Brothers – Summer Breeze (1973)
Byoong moment: 3:51. There are few guitar solos in soul music, but when there is one, you can do worse than Ernie Isley laying it down, turning the gentle warm breeze into a heatwave. His solo on Who’s That Lady was another contender.

Toto – Georgy Porgy (1978)
Byoong moment: 1:58. There is so much musical excellence going on (and Cheryl Lynn’s superb vocals) here that the fleeting, half-minute guitar solo by Steve Lukather can be overlooked. But it is exquisite.

Eric Gale – Blue Horizon (1981)
Byoong moment: 3:44. The only instrumental here, by the late, great fusion guitarist Eric Gale. The real star of the show on this song is the recently late Hugh Masekela’s flugelhorn, perhaps even Peter Schott’s keyboards, to which Gale’s guitar offers accompaniment — until Gale takes centrestage with two brief solos; after which he lets his guitar sing like a bird that is desperate to mate.

Commodores – Easy (1977)
Byoong moment: 2:47. A guitar solo that comes from nowhere. Lionel goes: “Ooh!” and Thomas McClary lets his fuzz guitar sing. It’s superb, but be alert for another great McClary moment: that tiny fill at 2:23.

Carpenters – Goodbye To Love (1972)
Byoong moment: 2:47. Another fuzz guitar solo, by the late Tony Peloso. If you’ll disqualify the Cline/Tweedy solo, I’ll nominate this as my all-time favourite guitar solo, alone because it comes so unexpectedly in a Carpenters song; guitar solos did not really feature on easy listening numbers. The first solo, at 1:21, sounds at first melancholy, reflecting Karen’s resignation and sadness, then it tries to lift her up. But that second solo, if Karen doesn’t invite love back in after the big solo that closes the song, backed by celestial harmonies, then she really has no chance.

Fleetwood Mac – Never Going Back Again (1977)
Byoong moment: 0:44. No byoong here, just lots of finger-picking acoustic guitar by what essentially is a Lindsey Buckingham solo track. I was very close to picking Buckingham’s solo for Landslide (which features on Any Major Fathers).

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights (1978)
Byoong moment: 3:47. Given that he discovered Kate Bush, I sort of guessed that the guitar solo that sees out Wuthering Heights, and takes centre-stage, was played by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. It was, in fact, the work of Scottish session musician Ian Bairnson, formerly of glam-pop band Pilot.

The Knack – My Sharona (1979)
Byoong moment: 2:43. My Sharona is dominated by that insistent riff and the stuttering vocals and “whooo”s, but that guitar solo by Berton Averre is one of the finest in late 1970s pop music. It goes on a bit, so it does need that furious power pop drumming, with the brutal assault on the cymbals, to sustain it. The Freebird for the new wave generation.

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Any Major Guitar

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