100 Great Guitar Moments – #100 to 91

Well, here goes…

Mansun – Wide open Space: Although I rate this song very highly – likewise the band and their brief recorded career – it’s the guitar intro that particularly appeals to me. Dissonance is the key here, with an alternately-picked guitar going from an unsettling E played against an F to a totally harmonious major triad. It sets the whole song up very nicely and suits the subject matter very well.

 

David Bowie – Drive-in Saturday: Sometimes the guitar can be used orchestrally, as in this example. The stellar Mick Ronson (RIP) plays some big beefy lines and chords in the chorus – starting at 0:54 – that could have been played by a string section using mainly cellos and double bass but weren’t, thank goodness. A better-known example from him is the title track from the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ album, but I prefer the guitar in this song.

 

The Smiths – This Charming Man: Again, it’s all in the intro with Johnny Marr playing a mutated mix of African High-Life music and the Byrds, although the whole track is an exercise in creative rhythm guitar playing. Who needs a solo when you’ve got guitar playing like this?

 

The Beatles – And Your Bird Can Sing: I’m not a Beatles fan, but the harmony guitars throughout are a reminder that Wishbone Ash didn’t invent the concept. George and Paul play the lines on a Lennon composition that he described as "another of my throwaways…fancy paper around an empty box". In which case, I’m very happy with the paper, bugger the absence of a present…

 

 Frank Zappa – Zoot Allures: This time: the whole damn track! From the beautifully-bizarre arpeggiated chord at the beginning, through the controlled feedback to the plaintive concluding solo, this is probably as good as rock guitar playing gets and it’s not bludgeoning its way into your consciousness with speed, volume and distortion all the time.

 

Al Stewart – Rocks in the Ocean: Time for a solo – and one from one of my many guitar heroes, the highly-talented Tim Renwick. I love the melodicism that he puts into his playing and this solo is a prime example at 3:06. His playing soars on this and it’s definitely one of those guitar moments that make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

 

Eric Johnson – Cliffs of Dover: I used to get ‘Guitar Player’ magazine every month back in the 1980s and one of the great things about it was the free flexi-discs that used to accompany it. Often exclusive recordings, this very track was featured one month. Johnson re-recorded it for his second album, but it wasn’t a patch on this version. Again, melodicism is at work and amidst all the technical skill, there’s a tuneful thread weaving its way through the piece, constantly changing and shifting. Beautiful playing!

 

 Blind Blake – Blind Arthur’s Breakdown: Time for some acoustic goodness with a stunning piece of ragtime guitar from 1929. Yes, that’s just one guitar, although you could swear that sometimes it’s two players going at full chat. The guy was a true genius and some 90 years later, there’s still no-one to better him!

 

King Crimson – Red: Say ‘power trio’ and people immediately think of Cream or the Jimi Hendrix Experience. However, during the final stage of the first flowering of Robert Fripp’s King Crimson, they were ‘reduced’ to a line up of Fripp on guitar (and occasional keyboards), Bill Bruford on drums and John Wetton on bass and vocals. Not that this caused their output to suffer any decline in quality. This track has that dissonant quality that few people can use effectively and as a written guitar instrumental is a million miles away from what most people expect one to be. Nothing flashy, just very muscular playing.

 

Django Reinhardt – Limehouse Blues: I’m a sucker for Jazz Manouche. There are many great gypsy jazz guitarists, past and present, but all roads ultimately lead to Django and this is one of my favourite pieces of his. Sounding as fresh as it must have done way back in the 1930s, this has it all. Sublime soloing from Django, great violin by Grapelli and that rhythm – la pompe. Who needs a drummer? I especially like the dischords Django plays at about 1:50 and then he solos again, along with Grapelli. Stunning stuff and, above all, such happy music!

 

Well, there you go.

That’s the first 10 and only 90 to go.

The next 10 will come just as soon as I can make the time.

Meanwhile, enjoy the choices and try and find more by all these people to listen to. It’ll be worth it!

My favourite albums – 41–50

Here’s the next 10…

#50 Warren Zevon – Sentimental Hygiene: Another hard choice as I like all of Warren’s albums without exception. This album features him with REM (minus Stipe) mostly, although Neil Young and Dylan guest. It’s a good cross section of his various styles with rockers, narrative songs and ballads all linked by his dissipated but still rather vulnerable sounding vocals. ‘Reconsider Me’ is a tender ballad whilst ‘Boom Boom Mancini’ is a typical Zevon ‘story’ song. You can’t really go wrong with anything he’s done. It’s just a shame that cancer got him so young.

#49 Oingo Boingo – Boingo: They meant absolutely nothing here in the UK but Danny Elfman’s band produced some stellar albums. This is my favourite with the 8 minute track ‘Insanity’ sounding like nothing ever made before or since. As one reviewer put it, “This is what happens when someone captures “Children of the Damned” and gives them Danny Elfman as choir director.” Highly recommended if you want something totally original. You won’t have heard anything quite like this band.

#48 Faith No More – The Real Thing: Funk metal with a touch of the surreal at times. Their first with the remarkable Mike Patton it also broke them in the UK with ‘Epic’ getting the airplay. Not a duff track on this but unfortunately it was their peak. After this it was downhill all the way with Patton going on to Mr Bungle who were none too shabby in their own right. One of those ‘albums you should own’ and rightly so. It’s what the RHCP wished they sounded like and could if they were a bit more adventurous.

#47 Secret Chiefs 3 – The Book of Horizons: Led by Trey Spruance – ex-Mr Bungle and see the entry right above this one – SC3 are totally uncategorisable, covering surf rock, Persian, Arab, Indian, death metal and electronic music. Eclectic’s the term we need here and it’s one of those albums you need to hear because it’s truly indescribable. You’ll probably hate it!

#46 It Bites – Once Around the World: Prog which appeared at a bad time for prog in general but, by virtue of some snappy tunes, managed to break out fairly successfully. The highlight here, however, is the 14 minute plus title track with leader Francis Dunnery’s vocals and guitars to the fore. This is a long track which never seems long and maintains the listener’s interest throughout. The album also reveals what a great pop band they were, too, with ‘Kiss Like Judas’ being a particularly good example.

#45 Earth Wind and Fire – I Am: I have a soft spot for disco and this album combines that much-maligned genre with great compositions and fine musicianship. ‘Boogie Wonderland’ is my favourite disco track ever with its fantastic arrangement and beautiful chord changes. This is extremely well-crafted music which deserves to be remembered. For another side of the band, check out ‘Rock It!’ which features, I believe, Steve Lukather on very hot lead guitar.

#44 King Crimson – Red: The Crims’ last studio album of the 70s finds Fripp leading a trio of himself, drummer Bill Bruford and bassist/vocalist John Wetton. The title track is a bruising guitar grind with odd time sigs and ‘Providence’ might tell you in 8 minutes why I consider the King Crimson of 1973 and 74 to be the finest improvising rock band ever. ‘Starless’ – not to be confused with the earlier ‘Starless and Bible Black’ – is also prime Crimson.

#43 Mott the Hoople – Mott: Bless ‘im…Ian Hunter can’t sing, but he’s a fabulous vocalist and a great writer and he’s on top form here. Almost the original Mott – Verden Allen had left when this was recorded – the band that rocks out here never sounded so focused and Mick Ralphs really stands out on guitar. The tracks are very self-referential which is typical of Hunter in particular. Not a duff track on the album.

#42 Frank Zappa – Joe’s Garage: The album that turned me back onto Zappa and a fine example of Frank’s more song-orientated albums. The whole thing tells a bizarre story of a totalitarian society and one man’s rather pathetic struggle against it. There are times when there’s an undoubted poignant grandeur to the theme which shows that Frank wasn’t totally cynical. A delight from start to finish and a double disc set which never flags. Not suitable to play to your granny, by the way.

#41 Mountain – Nantucket Sleighride: The title track really should be heard in its 32 minute entirety on the live ‘Twin Peaks’ but my own rules preclude listing that album here. However, even in its original 6 minute version it impresses with driving organ, beautifully gutsy guitar from Leslie West and Felix Pappalardi on vox and bass. The song also tells a story and a quick google will fill you in on it. Not a perfect album, but the title track is just too good to be ignored here!