Buzz's Blog

Friday, 3 July 2015

Rhythm Ninjas

Guitar World’s 50 Greatest Rhythm Guitarists of All Time proves the point that you can have a tremendous impact without being a flashy soloist.

Chuck Berry, Steve Cropper, Bo Diddley, Don Everly, The Edge, Keef, Andy Summers, Pete Townshend, Malcolm Young … these guys defined the sound of the band, erected the songs on their chords, and for the most part didn’t need a solo to make the tune kick butt.

As Danny Kortchmar says, “it’s easier to play a screamer solo over a heavy groove than it is to make that groove.”

Which is why cats like Alex Lifeson, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix, who are perhaps know for their soloing, are also on the list.  And deservedly so:  it ain’t easy to give us a rhythmic groove and a solo all at the same time.

I can’t figure out why John Lennon doesn’t make these lists, though.  Maybe my Beatles obsession just drives me to want to include a guitarist who happened to play rhythm, as opposed to a guitarist of revolutionary importance.  Maybe, but I still think he was pretty darn good.

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Friday, 26 June 2015

The Texas Continuity

Carrying on about “how come Johnny Winter didn’t make the list of influential guitar solos?” …

Much has been made of the great Texas Blues tradition and how Freddie King was just as strong on influence as Albert King on the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Fair enough, but have a listen to Johnny Winter’s Be Careful With A Fool, then check out SRV’s Texas Flood.  Sounds like a direct connection to me.

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Friday, 19 June 2015

Solo Stars

Guitar World’s 40 Most Influential Solos In Rock is quite possibly the list that’s come closest to what I would have expected.

All the early rockers are there: Scotty Moore, James Burton, Eddie Cochrane –and Chuck Berry, who’s Johnny B. Goode GW correctly notes is “the most important rock guitar part ever recorded.”

All the Classic Rockers are there: Clapton, Beck, Hendrix, Blackmore, Allman, Fripp, Page, Gilmour, Knopfler, Young and West.

The blues influencers are there: Elmore James, and the 3 Kings.

The list is chronological, so until it got to the 80’s my reaction was consistently, “yep, influenced me alright.”

The latter-day guitar heroes are there too: SRV, Zakk Wylde, Randy Rhoads, Malmsteen, Satriani and, the cat with the coolest handle: Dimebag Darrell.

One or two guitarists I wouldn’t have included myself, but fully expected to see.  And given GW limited itself to one solo per guitarist, I think they did a pretty good job of coming up with the most representative tune.  No easy feat with most of these guys.

Not sure how Heartbreaker gets to be Jimmy Page’s most important solo, but that’s just me.  I certainly remember being floored when I first heard it, but later on I kinda felt it wrecked the song, because it interrupted such a powerful groove.

Nice to see Europa chosen for Santana so they could make room for Peter Green and the original Black Magic Woman.  Peter Green is usually under-rated and overlooked.  Speaking of overlooked: no Highway 61 Revisited by Johnny Winter?

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Friday, 12 June 2015

Into The Night

Many others have been, or will be, more eloquent than me, but I just gotta say I was pretty busted up about losing B.B. King.

He was old.  He was unwell.  We could all see it coming.  But when someone has been riffing into the soundtrack of your life since before you were born, you tend to ignore his mortality.  You expect him to always be there.  You expect the magic to go on forever.

It will, of course.  No one can take away his music.  And no one can overstate his importance.  For that we should all be grateful.  RIP B.B..  You were the King.

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Friday, 5 June 2015

Crash and Burn

OK, I get Guitar World’s point about the ending can be – should be - the most dramatic part of the song, and, like, fade outs are maybe over done.  So, I wasn’t surprised to see Hotel California left off their list of Top 10 Greatest Rock and Roll Song Endings of All Time.

And the idea of a climax, as it were, to end the song, is laudable.  But the songs selected seem to have endings bordering on the apocalyptic.

Don’t get me wrong.  Won’t Get Fooled Again probably does have the best ending in the history of rock and roll, and the ending of 21st Century Schizoid Man sure fits the song.  But how about The Beatles’ A Hard Days Night?  Oops, GW doesn’t like endings with strange chords.  Sure fits the song though.  OK then, how about Help!  Not enough guitar for you?  So what.  Listen to John’s voice.

Or, speaking of voices, how about Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit?

Well, if you want even more drama, how about Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody – or Under Pressure?  Not loud enough?

OK, I give up.  Drama bordering on self –immolation it is.  So then how about including Deep Purple’s Child In Time, then?  Or Hendrix’s Manic Depression?

But I’ll still take Nowehere Man or even Eight Days A Week.

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Friday, 29 May 2015

Passengers In Time

Have a listen to Secret Separation by The Fixx.  Actually, have a listen, because the video didn’t age well.

Imagine your soul mate, your one true love, your reason for being - and you must giver her/him up because you are both committed to someone else.  You must sacrifice your happiness, and with it your true love’s happiness.  Talk about sad songs!  Heartbreaking lyrics, and, given we’re talking 1984, the music fits them perfectly.

Close your eyes, though, or you might not take the song seriously.  The video producers didn’t seem to.

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Friday, 22 May 2015

Pick Up My Guitar And Play

You could disagree with the albums, but it’s hard to debate the artists who made Guitar World’s 10 Essential Classic Rock Guitar Albums: Van Halen, Aerosmith, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, The Who, The Stones, The Beatles.

Personally, I would swap Are You Experienced? for Electric Ladyland and Wish You Were Here for Dark Side of the Moon, and I do not count myself among those who believe Exile On Main Street is The Stones’ masterpiece, but let’s not quibble.

Except: The Doors?  Really?  The Doors debut album is absolutely an essential part of the Classic Rock catalogue, but who considers them a guitar band?  And - with all due respect - who puts a ton of effort into learning how to play like Robby Krieger?  I didn’t even remember his name.

Not to take anything away from The Doors well-deserved legendary status, but on a list of essential guitar albums, I think we’d be better served by the likes of AC/DC, Dire Straits, Clapton or Petty.  Little bit more distinguished guitar playing came from those cats.

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Friday, 24 April 2015

Just Get On Board

I could never figure Jeff Beck out.  I mean, his talent is undeniable, and, in many respects, I’ll admit maybe even unsurpassable.

And I get that not everyone has the same taste, but I have always struggled with his choice of tunes.  And his choice of notes is usually, well, baffling – at least to these blues-rock, minor pentatonic-conditioned ears.

So when I hear songs like, People Get Ready, which has some of the tastiest guitar work in the last 60 years, I can’t help but wonder how much larger Jeff Beck would be in our collective psyche if he’d been more, well, mainstream.

But he’s obviously his own man, and for that he will always have my respect.

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Friday, 17 April 2015

I Don’t Need No Marshall

I agree with Slash that “there’s no lying with an acoustic guitar,” but I’m not quite convinced that all the songs on Guitar World’s 25 Greatest Acoustic Songs in Hard Rock share an ‘elemental simplicity.”

Stairway To Heaven doesn’t strike me as simple.  Sparse, maybe – at the beginning – but not cowboy chord, sing-around-the-campfire simple.  Anyway, it doesn’t stay very acoustic for long.

The same could be said for More Than A Feeling, or Pinball Wizard, or Feel Like Making Love.  I mean, in the last case, do you even remember the acoustic guitar, or do you just think about the rhythmic, power chord hook in the chorus?

Dust In The Wind, Wanted Dead or Alive – ok, got it.  These are great songs built around an acoustic guitar.  But many of the songs listed – while being fantastic tunes – don’t really jump out at you as being acoustic guitar songs.  Rather, they are hard rock songs that happen to have acoustic guitar in them.

Speaking of hard rock, while Extreme might have been a hard rock band, More Than Words, as terrific as it is, sure isn’t a hard rock song.

By the way, are we sure Eddie Van Halen even owned and acoustic guitar?

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Saturday, 11 April 2015

Up Around The Bend

I know Dylan made his reputation as a folk singer, and then famously embraced rock, but he sure had a feel for the blues.  In my book, Slow Train Comin’ is a great example, and one of his best songs, and, given his enormous catalogue, that’s saying something, right?

A mournful groove supporting righteously indignant lyrics, smacking you in the face for eight verses until you moan, “Alright!  You’re right!  Have mercy!”  It leaves you angry  - at someone – and feeling guilty (maybe even ashamed), all at once.

The enemy I see wears a cloak of decency.

Yep, that’s Dylan all right.

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