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 – 31–40

It’s a race against time to finish this before we up sticks here in the UK and lose internet connectivity for a time, so here’s numbers 31 to 40, hot on the heels of 41 to 50.

#40 Jason & the Scorchers – Lost and Found: Another tough choice, since everything this band does is God-like. However, this album has the amazing ‘White Lies’ which you can see performed live here. Warner E Hodges on guitar and Jason Ringenberg on vocals bring a strange blend of punk and country to the party and what a party this is. If you occasionally like getting shit-faced drunk and then waking up wondering what you did the night before then this may just be the band for you.

#39 Blue Oyster Cult – Spectres: OK, it only has one really well-known song on it – ‘Godzilla’ – but this was the first BOC album I bought so it has a special place in my heart. Rather mellow at times, the sheer range of material impresses, from ballads to straight pop to out and out rockers – and constantly underpinned by the classic line up with the ever-melodic Buck Dharma on guitar. Nice production, too, with lots of overdubs and stereo panning, making it a great ‘headphone’ album. For those who thought that ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ is all there is to BOC, think again. This is intelligent heavy metal with more than a whiff of irony. Or is that what they want you to think so that they can get away with being dumb? Whatever, a great band and still making good albums in their fifth decade.

#38 The Tubes – Completion Backwards Principle: All early and mid period Tubes is fine stuff, but this slick yet rocking sixth album from the band is my favourite. It’s consistently good, with Fee Waybill’s combination of schmaltz and stadium rock vocals in fine form and the band sounding heavier than on previous recordings. Female vocalist Re Styles has gone – no great loss – but the rest of the original band is all present and correct. The opening track features Steve Lukather on guest guitar and still figures in their live set. Elsewhere on the album you’ll find the usual Tubes freakshow with ‘Mr Hate’, ‘Sushi Girl’ and ‘Attack of the 50 foot Woman’ the latter of which deals with an aspect of a relationship with such a lady that you wanted to know about but probably wouldn’t dare ask…

#37 Todd Rundgren – Hermit of Mink Hollow: Typical quirky Todd but a tad more consistent than usual. Quite a lot of his great guitar playing with a lovely guitar ‘choir’ on ‘Lucky Guy’. ‘Onomatopoeia’ is silly and fun with daft sound effects and ‘Out of Control’ features some excessive rock guitar. ‘Can We Still be Friends’ is the classic track here and demonstrates his ability to write a beautifully constructed melody with a chord structure to match. File under ‘eccentric genius’.

#36 The Who – Who’s Next: The best track on the album – ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ – is definitely a desert island disc. Big Townshend guitars, classic Moon and Entwhistle rhythm section and Daltrey’s passionate delivery of lyrics which take a while to really understand (they’re not obvious at all, no matter what many people think) make this one of my favourite songs and performances of all time. The rest of the album’s great too, with ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ and ‘Baba O’Reilly’ getting heavy rotation here. A band at their peak – and no concept album bullshit…I hated ‘Tommy’!

#35 Jeff Beck – Blow by Blow: This was very much a transitional album for one of my favourite guitarists. After showing how rock should be played, Jeff moved on to Fusion with mixed but sometimes breathtakingly wonderful results. ‘Diamond Dust’ and ‘Scatterbrain’ reveal a lyricism and frenzy respectively that he tapped into more effectively than previously and are both exceptions to my theory that about 95% of every Beck track is crap, whilst the rest is pure unobtanium. Here the ratios are more like 50:50 which is good for such an unreliable player. If you can look past the glaring flaws, this album is a real keeper.

#34 The Smiths – The Smiths: Damn…they almost didn’t make it as ‘Hatful of Hollow’ is my absolute favourite but it’s a compilation so isn’t allowed inclusion here under my own rules. However, there’s enough of Morrisey’s jaded vocals and troubled and troubling lyrics and Johnny Marr’s glorious guitar here to make up for it. The rhythm section was just perfect, too – even though overlooked now as the Smiths recede further into rock history. We’ve got real songs here that surprise within a standard rock format and it’s always the songs that are important – take out one element for special attention and it lessens their impact. ‘This Charming Man’ is a stone classic – high life guitar combined with Rusholme reality.

#33 Dan Baird – Songs for the Hearing Impaired: Dan used to be chief vocalist with the Georgia Satellites and on this album he has a really good stab at a Stonesy, Facesy, country type album and largely succeeds. It’s hard not to smile when I hear a lot of this – particularly with a goofy song like ‘I Love You Period’ which deals with schoolboy lust channeled to improve punctuation. Nice gutsy playing on this album too. If you like that Stones/Faces ‘chug’ then Dan is most definitely your man.

#32 Donald Fagen – The Nightfly: Maybe just a little too smooth, this is still a wonderful record that perhaps tries just a tad too hard to be jazzbo cool. The playing is stellar – all those top session men – the songs are jazzy and melodic and Fagen’s voice has that cracked vulnerability in spades here.  It’s possibly one of the most played albums I have and yet I far prefer Steely Dan. Becker adds a sharpness and quirkiness that levens Fagen’s jazz excesses. Duff tracks? None, but overall there’s just a bit of energy lacking. Sometimes you can be just too damned laid back.

#31 Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks – Orange Crate Art: I’ve never bathed in warm maple syrup, but this is probably as close as your ears will get to it. Take Brian Wilson’s amazing vocals, add Parks’ idiosyncratic music and lyrics, toss in a bunch of great session players and adjust to taste with a soupcon of Disney. This is what you end up with. ‘Sail Away’ is a great summer song and if you fancy a ‘tropical zone’ in the middle of a cold February, play this track. ‘Hobo Heart’ has some amazing harmony vocals but you don’t find yourself asking where Carl and Al are. An album to relax to and maybe enjoy with a cocktail or two.