Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My All Time Favorite Guitarists

Below is a list of my most favorite 10 guitarists ever. For some, I grew up listening to them and have been greatly influenced by their guitar playing and the songs they made.

This list is not about technical skills regarding playing guitar. It is more about their song writing , personalities and personal taste in a certain genres of music, otherwise the list will be much bigger if I included other guitar wizards such as Ritchie Blackmore and Tommy Bolin (Deep Purple), Eddie van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen, Dave Mustaine (Megadeath), Jake E. Lee (Ozzy Osbourne), John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucia,Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains), Glen Tipton and K. K. Downing (Judas Priest), Nancy Wilson (Heart) and many more.

Tony Iommi
I am sure that I listened to his playing with Black Sabbath earlier to hearing Heaven and Hell album. I got hooked up to his style after Born Again with the thunderous voice of Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan on the helm. Since then Tony Iommi is considered to be my all time favorite guitarist ever. I didn’t realize one day that a dream might come true and be able to meet the man himself. That dream came true. Imagine, meeting the “master of riffs” and the godfather of a music genre called Heavy Metal.

Without him being in charge of music, there would be no Black Sabbath. I love all albums, no exception. There are many fans who say that Black Sabbath died after Ozzy was kicked out in 1978, but many agree with me that the Dio years Tony Martin years proved wrong. Even the albums with Ian Gillan (Born Again) and Glenn Hughes (Seventh Star) were amazing and still one of my favorite albums of all time. To this day, I hate this comparison between the different eras, because without albums like “Dehumanizer” or “Sabotage”, the sound of Iommi’s guitar wouldn’t be as influential as any fan love to hear and enjoy.

I used to go to a record shop in Karrada district in Baghdad where I meet classic rock and heavy metal fans there. The guys who work in that shop also listen to this type of music with passion. We used to chat about this music and listen when no customers there. On one Thursday, me and one of guys who work in the shop decided to go for a walk and a very nice guy who happened to be a regular customer and a big Sabbath and Pink Floyd fan joined us. He was a soldier on his 7 days leave – during that time it was the Iraq/Iran war on its peak. While we were walking and talking about music the guy gave a strange description to Iommi’s guitar playing and sound. He said: “Did anyone paid attention to the intro of “Sabbra Cadabra” from “Sabbath bloody Sabbath” album? It is like Tony Iommi is stretching the neck of his guitar above the planet earth and started playing…. No sound in space and earth, but his tune… This man is a magician”. He laughed with passion and continued “I love Iommi, I love Sabbath. Most of the time, I stay late at night sitting in my bedroom. Keep the room dark, except for a spot light on a poster of Black Sabbath I hang on the wall, and listen to their albums while smoking cigarettes and drinking arak”. For those who doesn’t know what arak click here

The Three Musketeers
Without mentioning Iron Maiden as a whole, it is difficult to describe the trio Adiran Smith, Dave Murrey and Janick Gers! Each one has his style but all three gave the sound that all Maiden fans adore. From “Powerslave” to “Brave New World” and further, these are examples of how mighty Iron Maiden as a heavy metal band is. I know that some might argue that Steve Harris (on Bass Guitar) is what Iron Maiden all about, without him classics like “Clansman” and “Rim of the Ancient Mariner” would never exist. But the three guitarists participated hugely to the legacy of giving the dual guitars sound and powerful melodies they lent in combination with the rattling sound of the Harris’s bass.

The first time I saw Iron Maiden in early 80s when my neighbor and one of my best friends lent me a video tape, saying: “there is a band called Iron Maiden. The song is just amazing”. It was “Aces High”! I don’t remember anymore how many times I re-winded the tape to watch that song and to look at the power this band can show with their double guitars and killing solos. When “live after Death” came out, hearing the double guitar on each speaker something gave more clarity to the way each guitarist play and sound. When “somewhere in time” came out, it was the moment when I said to myself, this is not ordinary band. With songs like “Sea of Madness” and “Alexander the great”, I thought at that time that this was the highest level that Iron Maiden and any other metal band can reach. I was wrong when they released the 7th Son album. This album was a turning point to me regarding what a concept album should look like. Imaginative, rich lyrics, constructed music all along. All in all, that album wrote history in music generally. It was Friday afternoon when a friend of mine came to our house in Baghdad. He did not ring the bell, just blowing the horns from his car as sign to me that I had to come out. I went in his air-conditioned car. With a smile on his face, his finger tips on the volume, he turned the sound louder to let me listen. As usual in such circumstances, we do not say a word when music is playing, just listening, getting deep into the music. It was a slow part, some keyboard composition, while guitars hammers two chords at certain interval, which led to a build up in music where it kick out with a faster part dominated by a mesmerizing solo. That was the middle to end part of the song “7th son of the 7th son”. I can’t mention that album without giving a notice to one of the most beautiful and most favorite songs I ever heard in my life “Infinite Dreams”: I have never heard in my life a song that can describe someone having nightmares the way that song did. Iron Maiden did that again on “Dream of Mirrors” from the album “Brave New World”.

I still laugh with myself about when I went to a music instrument shop to buy effects pedal for my guitar. I asked the guy who in charge if he can show me a simple guitar effects that can make the sound of Iron Maiden’s. He was wondering and said: “why everyone is looking for that guitar sound in particular?”

Steve Morse
I wasn’t paying attention to a lot of American guitarists, maybe because I like more English rock than American rock. Something I regretted later on when I discovered many great musicians, specifically guitar players who I become a big fan of many of them now due to their technique and the way they write songs and music in general. One of those great guitarists is Steve Morse. They call him the man who can play anything! This has been clearly illustrated in his album “Major Impact”. Steve Morse is one of those geniuses in rock history. Very rear someone can see a guitarist who is so relaxed when playing complex techniques without frowning or squeezing his face features – did anyone saw that guy with the thin moustache from the Eagles? how his face looked during the final solo part on the song “Hotel California”? I thought the guy was having diariah and he needed to control himself!

Steve Morse is for many is currently the guitar player for the legendary Deep Purple, after Ritchie Blackmore left the band in 1993. He managed to put his stamp with his playing style successfully from the beginning, especially on his first album with the great rock band called Purpendicular. I have my reasons to consider him as one of my most favorite guitarists ever: First, his playing style is different from Blackmore’s. Second, he could play the same Purple classics live with the same beauty. Third, He added new musical elements (I call spices) to different classic Purple songs. I love the long tremolo during the singing of “perfect strangers” or when he make the speed car sound from his guitar in the beginning of “Highway Star”, or the way he put his mark on “fools”. Steve Morse has been chosen by readers of the Guitar magazine as the best guitarist for 5 years in a row. This made him decided to exclude himself from the competition for the following years.

I don’t have regrets about Morse joining the giant Purple. I never doubted that Deep Purple music deteriorated after Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord departures. Listen to “Bananas” and “Rapture of the Deep” and you know what I mean.

Music of the Blues
I love Blues, and nobody can play with emotions this type of music other than two of my guitar heroes: Eric Clapton and B. B. King. Anyone plays guitar know about “slow hand”. That’s what Eric Clapton is called. The first time I heard Clapton was on the FM radio in Baghdad. It was a “bad Influence” from the album “August”. Albums like Journeyman and 24 nights album were for me something extraordinary to hear this mix of blues, pop and rock. Clapton kept on inspiring me for years to come, despite my disappointment with albums like Pilgrim, I didn’t like that album because of the way it has been produced. But the album that made me addicted to Eric Clapton is his “From the Cradle” album. Its true that this album consisted of cover songs from classic blues albums.

Eric Clapton opened new horizon in music production by introducing the MTV unplugged series. That album and its consecutive video remain as one of the best music records of all time. It was the first time in years since the sudden death of his little boy son that Eric Clapton performs live. It was also the first time I see him not playing his electric guitar, instead, he played his songs on semi-acoustic and classic guitar. Yet, for years to follow and on every concert, Eric Clapton starts his performance with some acoustic / unplugged numbers. Sitting on a chair, no band accompanying him and slowly build up the show with such atmosphere.

On the other hand, we have the King, B.B. King. He is the only guitarist who only uses three notes in all his career. I am joking, but B. B. King is considered by many critics to be one of the rear guitarist who uses very simple notes, and uses very simple musical structure in his songs. I was like frozen on my chair while watching him playing “Sweet Sixteen” from his live concert in Kinshasa, Zaire in 1974 (a celebration of the boxing fight between champion Mohammed Ali and George Foreman). Nowadays, B. B. King and due to his old age he sits on a chair and plays his beloved ‘lucy’ (his guitar name) accompanied by his band. Still his concerts remained joy able and his charisma did not change in all the years past.

Upon reading his biography, I was very touched with the way this great singer/guitar player used to live. Like many, he had very hard life as an African American. His first air playing was just seconds long piece of guitar tune as the theme of a radio station he used to work for. Now, he is one of the musicians in the world who has vast collection of albums and numerous live albums and compilations.

Both B. B. King and Eric Clapton surprised everyone when they released their album “riding with the king” in 2000. I see this album as a meeting point in the career of both Blues guitar legends. It is like they were walking on a road on their own and finally they decided to meet in a café or something where they decided to play together and the result was that album.

David Gilmour
Who doesn’t know the man who is one of five men responsible for creating a unique musical genre, I mean Psychedelic Rock? A genre that resulted in Pink Floyd. David Gilmour is another guitar virtuoso in the history of rock music. He is the one created the most haunted tune ever, I mean the famous tune of “Shine on You Crazy Diamond”!

One of my dreams is to attend a concert by Pink Floyd. This of course will never happen, well, we don’t know, but I doubt it. I had the chance to see them in London when they performed in Live 8, but at the last moment, I was in the airport ready to get into the airplane when something happened that prevented me from completing the trip - I will never forget that day, it was horrible, but I won’t tell it because it is another story!

Like Eric Clapton, David Gilmour performed live on acoustic guitar, but differently. It was not in the same shape and layout that the MTV Unplugged series. He just toured as David Gilmour where for the first time I realize that Gilmour can take Pink Floyd songs into a new direction, where he played songs semi-acoustically among other well known songs from his solo catalogue. A highlight from that concert is the French speaking song “Je Crois Entendre Encore”, and this sensational performance accompanied with a female cello player

If one want to watch the way David Gilmour can do a solo, for example, check out “comfortably numb” from the live album “Pulse”. Outstanding performance.

Like Black Sabbath, there are who consider Pink Floyd dead after the departure of Roger Waters, something I don’t share and don’t see it right because Division Bell album is proved otherwise. Songs like “what do you want from me” from that album is just pure, in my opinion, a typical Pink Floyd style. It cannot be something else!

David Gilmour is one of few guitarists who does not use the little finger on guitar fret so often like the rest of the guitarist i.e. he relies on three fingers instead of four fingers!!

John Petrucci
Super guitarist, this is my opinion of progressive metal band, Dream Theater. The man can play anything from Trash Metal though Classic Rock and even Death Metal. His influence in guitar playing from the classic rock band Yes has surpassed to much higher level. I don’t consider John Petrucci as just an extremely advanced guitar virtuoso, I put him with the same level of great classical music composers, but in a different field i.e. rock and metal.

His mark can be noticed in his work on both Liquid Tension Experiment, a side project band with some of his Dream Theater mates among others. John Petrucci can play the most complex guitar techniques ever exists. In fact, he is someone who tries to transfer compositions written specifically for Piano and succeeded in playing them on guitar. Is this a reason why he uses a seven strings guitar? Forgot to say that Petrucci (with his bandmate, Mike Portnoy) are both producers of all Dream Theater albums.


Doug Aldrich
This is one of the latest American guitarists I got to listen to in the previous years. Aldrich has an octopus fingers when moving up and down the guitar fret.

I never had the chance to listen to his solo stuff, but the first time I heard him on the song “Rush” from Dio’s album “Killing the Dragon”. Before that I read about him joining Dio band to record that same album, I was curious about what this guitarist might bring other than previous ones to Dio’s musical legacy. He did not stay with Dio for long, after the tour he joined the reformed Whitesnake on their extensive world tour. Aldrich was the real star on that tour. He played all classic Whitesnake stuff in a way that made me wonder more than once if all solos for these songs were originally written by Aldrich himself due to the accuracy he illustrated.

I would like to listen more to this great guitarists achievements and I am sure I will do that in the future.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

David Gilmour is the best, pink floyd one of the greatest bands ever, their music is so diffrent. I like all the guitarests u mentionE

MixMax said...

gilmour is an amazing guitarist, no doubt about. I heard the latest album,it is nice, but not to the standard we enticipate from a song writer like him

Zeyad said...

Agreed with every word you said.

"Aces High" was also the first Maiden (actually the first metal) song I ever listened to when I was like five or six years old.

Konfused Kid said...

Aces High? I never really liked it - I was always into Infinite Dreams though, Fear of the Dark...mmm...but my favorite Maiden tune of all time is the quasi-oriental 'THe Nomad', the middle bit is unnatural.

and where's Hetfield & Hammett? You could mention u hate them...Slash?

I would advise you look up Justin King on You Tube, you won't forget that guy.

MixMax said...

Hetfield & Hammett who? just kidding ;)
Metallica men are great guitarists, Slash, no doubt about it - only the solo of "sweet child of mine" is just blow many amateur guitarists away. Justin King is one of technically outstanding guitarists, but as I mentioned, my list did not categorize guitarists based on techincal skills, rather than a combination of song writing and music playing as a whole
Good selection, Kid

:: Katrin said...

Hi Mixmax,

when I came back from Italy, I heard "Albatros" - Fleetwood Mac. I immediately thought of your favorite guitarists.

Well, I'm sure I'm not being objective and rather nostalgic, but wouldn't they deserve.... ??? Somehow I feel I better run and hide now...

PS: Italy turned out to be something not really Italian, but under Italian occupation. I didn't know this still exists and still try to sort things out. When I entered the first shop, I said 'bona serra'. The men snapped back 'grüß gott' (southern German for good day). They still want to be German there! Good gracious, I can't get over it. The landscape is so beautiful, I wouldn't care about occupation at all.

MixMax said...

are you kidding? Peter Green is one genius of a guitarist. However, the second incarnation of Fleetwood Mac must be mentioned, I mean Lindsey Buckingham. He is one master of finger-picking guitar playing style.

Welcome back from Italy :)

aNarki-13 said...

you rule!
can i say my opinion?
blues-wise, i lean towards delta- and texas-blues, more than rock-blues (ala Clapton).. that's why i have to say Stevie Ray Vaughan is the ONE for me.. (sometimes i say he's the only white guy truly capable of playing the blues!)

B.B.'s Lucille is my dream guitar.. the sound, the look, the feel.. that is one mean woman there!
(i'm a bit nuts, to me, guitars are girls!)

respect to you, friend! lotsa respect!

ooh ooh have you heard "How Blue Can You Get? - Live in Cook County Jail version -" that is definitive King!
if you cant find it, pass ur email, i'll gladly attach and send!

MixMax said...

Anarki-13, long time nothing heard from you, friend. I am glad you passed by :)

Eric Clapton was once invited to a concert, and there was a guitarist in the band who just blew away everything related to blues with his wonderful playing skills, even Clapton himself was like "what the...." This guitarist is Stevie Ray Vaughan. This little story Eric Clapton told himself in an interview he made during a tribute concert made for Vaughan and organized by his brother, Jimmie. That concert had excellent musicians invited such as Clapton, B. B. King, Robert Cray (this man is one wonder guitarist of his style), Buddy Guy, Dr. Jhon, Bonnie Raitt...etc

Speaking of favorite guitars, mine will always be Les Paul classic and SG. These two have distinguished sound between sharp, thick and warm! Amazing how tastes can be different, even when looking to the same instrument :)

I have the "live in cook county jail" concert, it is indeed one great concert. Thanks for your offer, friend!

:: Katrin said...

Huh, I'm relieved ;-)

And thankful - I just googled and wasn't aware of it. Jumping over to Amazon now and order *waving*

MixMax said...

I did not hear the latest album of Lindsey Buckingham. Let me know what do you think when you finish hearing it :)

aNarki-13 said...

7th son of a 7th son.. i LOVED "Moonchild" on that one, my alltime maiden fave is "Can i play with Madness"
alltime fave album is "Number of the Beast"
the swoop of the voice.. plus the TONE of the guitars.. each playing inside another..:D what can i say? Maiden!

Infinite Dreams.. classic maiden!

wowww my friend you sure know your blues.. amazing. too bad there arent too many blues lovers around :(

MixMax said...

have you ever heard of Kenny Wayne Shepherd? a young blues musician.
Check this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenny_Wayne_Shepherd
However, I find it a little bit exageration to say that B. B. King is big fan of Shepherd.

The fitst two albums are very very nice.

By the way, did you hear the last year's album of Clapton, called "back home"? typical Clapton style with this mix of rock, ballad, Reggae, and of course blues. I really recommend it. Highlights are "revolution", "Love Comes To Everyone", "Love Don’t Love Nobody "

aNarki-13 said...

Yes yes Kenny Wayne Sheperd!
Blue on Black.. dunno why but i love that one most! (maybe cuz its the first song i heard for him? i was tuned B.B.King fan radio on yahoo music and it came on, and i was hooked!)
i first heard of him a couple of years ago, searching for Stevie Ray stuffs and someone told me, check out Kenny Wayne, he is kinda similiar.. and the rest is history.
am looking for his newest album..out 3 days ago..
his tone indeed sounds a bit like Stevie Ray, esp. on "LedBetter Heights"
(a bit lighter, but i think the difference is mainly in the string gauge)

well... B.B.King being a fan of KWS?
hmm.. well.. the 'King is known for his appreciation of talent of "young" musicians.. i mean, Clapton, Jeff Beck, and now KWS?
why not? it only shows what a great man the 'King is!

btw KWS is now married to Mel Gibson's daughter, i saw that sometime ago on tv somewhere..

will go look for the Clapton album.. last i had for him is Me and Mr.Johnson, which i loved for the Robert Johnson influence.

thank you again!

MixMax said...

I didn't know that he was married to Gibson's daughter, interesting

you are right, King is known for his support. Couple of years ago I read his biography, very nice indeed the way he started in music. The first tune he made was for a radio station background between comments

By the way, I am listening these days to Distrubed, the Thousand Fists album. Nothing to do with blues, but one great album.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Many great guitarists on your list, though you are more into metal than I am. Have to say that PINK FLOYD didn't create Psychedelic music, though they certainly improved it. (I saw them live at Philly's ELECTRIC FACTORY in 1970 -- yes, I
m that ancient -- 60 in fact, first live concert was at the Fillmore East with STEPPENWOLF the first act (the main group was the totally and deservedly forgotten BUDDY MILES EXPRESS but their encore had a friend of Miles come up on stage and jam with them, a pretty decent guitarist himself named Hendrix) -- and they blew me away. Told one of the members, and he said that what was so great was they were still feeling it the same way themselves.

Want to give you a really off the wall recommend, but about eight years ago i discovered Pakistani pop/rock music, and have two suggestions for you to check out. For 12-string, Salman Ahmad of JUNOON, for standard guitar, the incredible Aamir Zaki.

aNarki-13 said...

can i use those recommendations too? :D

oh, i asked a Disturbed fan (Melantrys) bout 10'000 fists, (was looking for something a bit different from my usual stuff) but she didnt encourage me too much.. now that i'm really grateful for your advice bout "Back Home", i'll go put 10'000.. on DL queue!

:) thank you again!
oh and thanks for the recommend, Prup!

Gee Oh! said...

Eric Clapton played a lot at my local christmas carols.
I went and saw Tommy Emmanuel live as a kid, i was about 8 maybe. Although I was realy there to see a boy, Nathan Cavaleri. Blues Rock guitarist, toured with King too.
Wonder where he is now...