100 Great Guitar Moments – #80 to 71

Yes, it’s that time again when another 10 guitaristic delights get featured here for your listening pleasure.

It’s worth reiterating that this is a very personal choice that will vary over time and the great guitar moments are placed in no particular order of merit – apart from the last one, of course, which will be my current all-time favourite.

Steve Winwood – Night Train: He was great with the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and Blind Faith, but it’s his solo work which has some obscure but essential gems scattered amongst it. This track from his second solo album showcases him as a guitarist, although he played all the other instruments himself. It’s really just a jam, but it shows that he can play as well as any of his contemporaries – including Clapton.

 

The J.B.s – Doin’ it to Death: Two guitarists for the price of one here – the legendary Jimmy Nolen and the lesser-known Hearlon "Cheese" Martin. This is funk, with an illuminated capital ‘F’. OK, it’s simple stuff, but decidedly tricky to play for so long and keep the groove. Of course, this is really a James Brown song, but dear old James created so many band offshoots that it’s hard to keep track. Without JB’s prescription for funk, no Funkadelic, no RHCP – no funk at all. Dig the key change from F down to D. Take it to the fridge! Er…bridge!

 

Steve Vai – Blue Powder: I could have picked quite a few tracks by Vai to illustrate why he’s one of the few shredders who has something to say and not just wank away at. This version was issued as an exclusive Guitar player flexidisc and I prefer it to the later album version. It’s not exactly soothing music, but it has little lagoons of calmness within it. I love the subtle and Hendrixy guitar at 1:55 and the way the whammy bar opens this section. Vai plays with feeling here, but also a great deal of humour, and – to my mind at least – that’s an important and rather rare quality in rock music.

 

Robert Johnson – Stop Breakin’ Down: OK, Johnson’s been hyped and mythologised way more than anyone deserves. There are plenty of other great singers, writers and guitarists who contributed to the blues in a significant way. However, that doesn’t mean that Johnson isn’t worthy of all the plaudits that have come his way since his untimely death. It’s hard to listen to his guitar playing when the vocals are so plaintive and prominent, but it’s worth the effort. That’s real driving guitar and his thumb keeps a rock steady rhythm throughout. Essential blues guitar.

 

Les Paul and Mary Ford – How High the Moon: It’s Les’s tone which blows me away in particular. No-one before him had such a deep, rich sound and so much tonal variation. I have this hunch that he had his amp turned up almost to the point of distortion – certainly his guitar has an edge to it that no-one else had at the time. Of course, that’s all without actually mentioning the superb playing and the groundbreaking multitracking…

 

Duane Eddy – Peter Gunn: OK, it’s really easy to play, but tone is all here, with Duane playing the riff in unison with a piano, a bass, another guitar (I think) and possibly even another guitar – a six string bass? Whatever’s going on in the mix, it all adds up to a monster riff that just powers along. Sometimes less really is more…

 

XTC – The Mayor of Simpleton: Two for the price of one! Dave Gregory plays electric 12 string against Colin Moulding’s highly complex bass lines to produce a swirling piece of poptastic goodness. Gregory’s an excellent player who’s taken onboard virtually every style of playing but still manages to sound original. The lines he plays at about 1:50 – the end of the bridge section – are just beautiful. Moulding’s bass playing is just as uplifting and original. Throw in Andy Partridge’s clever lyrics and immaculate vocals and you have pop perfection. Andy’s no slouch on guitar, either…

 

 

Deep Purple – Highway Star: The line up with Blackmore that produced this track has to be one of the all time greatest hard rock bands ever. Yes, it’s headbanging music, but it’s intelligent too. The solo section starting at 3:50 with the harmony guitars is Richie Blackmore in a nutshell – no overt pentatonics, a dash of classical influence and melodicism in spades. At 4.43, he starts a rapid picking section which deserves special attention as the double-tracked guitars play catch up with each other and what seems ostensibly straight forward is really quite complex. There’s a multitrack of this knocking about on the net which will enable you to isolate the guitar tracks and study Blackmore’s contribution in depth.

 

Albert Collins – Collins’ Mix: To be frank, Albert was a bit of a one-trick pony, but when the trick’s so good, you don’t really give a fuck. Playing with a capo and a tuning all his very own, Collins cranks out angular lines which sort of spit out at you but sit well over a funky accompaniment with organ and horns. Collins started out as an organ player and it shows in his playing. I wish he’d explored the idea of a small organ/guitar combo rather more than he did. I have this idea that with the right person, he’d have ended up with the blues equivalent of Kenny Burrell and Jimmy Smith…a blues organ combo – now that’s a very tasty prospect indeed!

 

 

Masters of Reality – Kill the King: Stoner rock from its uncrowned king, Chris Goss. I have no idea what he’s singing about but the guitar lines are just beautiful, with acoustic, whammy bar lead and what is absolutely one of the monster riffs of all time. There have been occasions when I’ve played this track upwards of a dozen times in a row, cranked up to the absolute max.

 

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My favourite albums – 21–30

As I have gained a day at home this weekend, here’s the next unlikely bunch of 10 personal favourites.

#30 Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends: This came along at the same time I was heavily into Hendrix, the Who, Cream and newly-electrified Dylan. The album gets heavy coverage on my blog here, with a full critique. ‘Save the Life of my Child’ still strikes me as a fantastic creation over 40 years on and pretty much typifies why I love this album so much. Everything’s bang on the money – performance, production and composition. The whole album is testament to the old adage that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and although it has its weak moments, these seem less important as time goes by.

#29 Groundhogs – Split. I came to this album quite late – about 5 years ago – but it’s now a firm favourite. Tony McPhee created a strange blend of proto-Stoner rock with a touch of 1960s British blues band, lots of great guitar and some distinctly psychedelic touches. Remarkably, this mix doesn’t sound dated and the band deliver it with such aplomb that you’d never guess that Split itself – parts 1 to 5 and half the album – was about McPhee’s nervous breakdown after the band’s earlier successes. It’s ugly stuff…but somehow beautiful at the same time. If you’re into Stoner rock bands like SUNN 0))) then you’ll know what I mean.

#28 Greatdayforup – God Loves a Sinner: Not proto Stoner rock, but the real thing this time. I love this genre – lots of guitars, often a bit psychedelic and – above all – heavy and rocking. It’s what attracted me to rock in the first place. But back to this album…Sometimes I think that the opening track ‘Golden Arms’ is perhaps the only track I’ll ever need. Spacey vocals, guitars that induce migraine and a relentlessness that is hypnotic. Think Sabbath crossed with Nirvana or the Foos and you’ll almost be there – but not quite…

#27 Was Not Was – Born to Laugh at Tornadoes: Normally studio guys’ albums are a pile of shite, but Don and Dave Was assembled some great albums and this is perhaps their most eccentric and least soul based. Guests include Ozzy, Mel Torme, Marshall Crenshaw, Wayne Kramer and Mitch Ryder and the material is as varied as the guest list indicates. You’ve got soul, techno, rock and roll and ballads all with bizarre lyrics. Rolling Stone magazine made it their album of the year in 1983 – the year ‘Thriller’ came out. Forget that album, the Wases created something far better!

#26 Joe Jackson – Big World: Recorded live – but in front of an audience instructed to not applaud after each song and make no other noise at all – I’m including this because it’s all original material and wasn’t meant to be a live album per se. With a nicely stripped-down band – Joe on keys with guitar, bass and drums – it’s a far cry from his first two small combo albums. Vinnie Zumo on guitar is a real asset with beautiful chordal fills which make the sound really big. Honestly not a duff track on the album – in spite of none of the songs really considered to be amongst his ‘classics’. Current favourite track – Home Town. All about Portsmouth, but affectionately so.

#25 Rage Against the Machine – Rage against the Machine: I hated this when I first heard it, but after being asked to teach someone all the bass parts on it I grew to love it. Tom Morello rewrites guitar playing after the excesses of shred and the rhythm section kicks bottom. Again, a large part of the attraction of this album to me is that it reminds me just why I love rock music so much. It’s loud, exciting and obnoxious with plenty of guitar and most of the time that’s all I need to keep my ears happy. No favourite tracks – they’re all good.

#24 Ian Dury and the Blockheads – New Boots and Panties: I miss Ian greatly – his humour, his enthusiasm and his geezer persona. Great lyrics where aggression meets sentiment and fantastic music – courtesy of Steve Nugent and Chas Jankel. And what a band…the Blockheads were just perfect with Ian in every way – from rock and roll, through funk to vaudeville. Only one duff track lets the album down – ‘Blackmail Man’. The rest is sheer perfection.

#23 Family – Music in a Doll’s House: Classic British psychedelia from a band who soon dropped the genre in favour of a strange blend of the pastoral, out and out rock swagger and jazz fusion. This was one of the defining albums of psychedelia for me with backwards violins, strange stereo panning and trippy lyrics. It isn’t classic Family as most people remember the band, but it is a fine offering all the same. My favourite tracks are ‘The Chase’ – with the late Tubby Hayes on sax I believe – and ‘See Through Windows’ which is just downright bizarre. Roger Chapman brays as usual, but a little less so on this album.

#22 David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: Bowie’s first album with his own band and what a cracker. Mick Ronson – a personal hero of mine and more than a mere guitarist – impresses throughout with his guitar, piano and string arrangements and Bowie really immerses himself in the parallel universe he creates. ‘Moonage Daydream’ is amazing with superb guitar and nasty lyrics and the twin attack of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and ‘Suffragette City’ is one of rock’s greatest triumphs. I almost chose ‘Aladin Sane’ but it’s not as cohesive as ‘Ziggy’. A 5 star album.

#21 Masters of Reality – Masters of Reality: More Stoner rock and occasionally played 5 or 6 times on the trot given the time and right occasion. Chris Goss is the kingpin here and this really is his album. Highlights? Well,  ‘John Brown’ is a sort of acoustic nursery rhyme with some great slide guitar and ‘Kill the King’ has what could possibly be the best guitar riff of all time. Reference points probably include Cream, Led Zep and the blues, although the mix is so spiked with Goss’ stoned slant on things that the influences aren’t always so obvious. Hard to find – I know because I eventually ended up buying a secondhand CD from Canada – but worth it.

Masters of Reality – stoned brilliance

One of the things I hope this blog is doing is creating interest in some great musicians and bands that either went nova before their time, aren’t appreciated by enough people, have become forgotten or just aren’t very well represented on the interweb.

We’ve had Jellyfish and the Dictators and now it’s the turn of Masters of Reality.

“Who?” you may well ask.

Well, you may be more familiar with writer, singer, producer and guitarist Chris Goss who is the band really – especially if you’re a fan of Queens of the Stone Age and Stoner Rock in general.

Here’s the band with ‘She Got Me’ – a track from their “Sunrise on the Sufferbus” album.

Their eponymous debut album might just well be my favourite album of all time with its stoned, guitar-dominated and varied ambience. Not a duff track on it, with Goss in fine voice sounding very like Jack Bruce at times.

Incidentally, Ginger Baker features in the video above.

A new album is in sight – ‘Pine/Crossed Dover’ – but the release date keeps getting put back. At the moment it’s scheduled for some time this coming August but I’m not holding my breath…