Thursday, 12 January 2012

Less Is More

Speaking of Guitar Heaven ...

Technical prowess is impressive, but musicality is something else.

Take the case(s) of three rock icons who are not typically thought of as guitar heroes:  John Fogerty, Pete Townshend and Neil Young.

All three are more known for their songwriting than their guitar prowess.  All three were constrained in what they could do because their instruments carried the song (and the band).  And all three excel(led) at simple.

Fogerty's songs aren't much more than campfire folk songs, but they feel more complicated.  Dead simple chords, but lyrics and melodies that keep things interesting.  And his guitar solos never stray too far from the chord - in fact, they often are the chord (we're pretending the aimless wandering on Suzie Q and Grapevine didn't happen here).

Townshend's best songs are a little more complicated, but not much.  And again, his best solos are chord based.

Maybe Neil Young is in another category, now that I'm writing this.  His acoustic playing is superb, and often intricate.  His electric work is simpler, though (and noisier).  His soloing is neither simple nor complicated - it's just, just  … just downright weird. 

Every time I listen to him solo I think "this is so bad, why does it work?"  He has this uncanny knack of not sounding good but still sounding right.  Like he's deliberately saying, "I'm not Santana, Clapton, Hendrix, Beck, Vai or Malmsteen.  So what?  Doesn't this fit the song?"

Different styles, to be sure, but all three are skilled guitarists.  And all three let the song do the work.  And that, kids, is alright.

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