Friday, February 23, 2007

Friday Guitar Blogging

With a nod to Rob's very touching, and metal-savvy, acknowledgement, here's a Friday Guitar Blogging Twofer: A young Steve Vai, before he went all poodle-for-pay on us, and some dude named Frank, who is also a pretty competent guitarist...

In other guitar blogging news, a few months ago Mr. Trend had an interesting post in which he took issue with this list of "Greatest Guitar Solos." I'd started working on a response but never finished, as I am such an extraordinary procrastinor that I procrastinate about things which I was using to procrastinate about other things. Occasionally, I make my way back around to the first thing I was procrastinating about, and use it to procrastinate about something else, thus creating a Perfect Circle of Procrastination.

Anyway, quoth the Trend:

It's time to put all this bullshit to rest, once and for all.

The greatest guitar solo of all time is Eddie Hazel on Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain." Period. End of story.

And for all you future publications and people interested in lists, the presumption that great guitar solos can only be from white-man-rock both refuses the great guitar tradition present in the blues (don't go giving me this "Stevie Ray Vaughan was a great blues guitarist!!!" bullshit; and if you bring up Clapton, I'll rip your throat out), funk, jazz, and in countries that are neither the U.S. or England. It reflects both your ignorance to explore music beyond famous white guys, as well as demonstrating your complete unfamiliarity with anything outside of the traditional "rock canon" (which is probably racist and definitely archaic).

And make damn sure Eddie Hazel is number one. It's the Truth.

Trend is right, the Planet Rock list is crap, and his point about the preponderance of white acts on the list, and the exclusion of non-white acts from the rock canon in general, is an important one. That said, as a self-appointed custodian of the pantheon, I feel I have to defend Clapton and Vaughan. At the risk of having my throat ripped out, I offer that Clapton's playing from the Yardbirds on through Derek and the Dominoes is very solid. His performance on Steppin' Out from Live Cream Volume II is as powerful a statement of musical identity as anything in the rock guitar canon. That Clapton has devolved into just another aging Sixties pop star doing a Rock Skool version of himself onstage shouldn't take away from his truly excellent work, or from the huge role he played in popularizing the blues and helping to get work for a lot of the blues legends who he now unjustly overshadows in the minds of most rock fans. As for Stevie Ray, I have yet to meet a guitarist, of any race, who doesn't recognize that the man was an astonishingly skilled player, and a virtual encyclopedia of blues styles. I don't think he and Clapton should be blamed just because frat boys dig them, or because classic rock radio listeners don't care enough to look up the guitarists who influenced them.

Moving on, Trend's nomination of Maggot Brain as the greatest guitar solo ever is a good one, a very defensible choice. I've loved the tune ever since I first bugged out to it in the crappy little college apartment my buddy and I shared. (As it happens, I've been listening to that record a lot lately. I can still smell the bong water, dirty laundry and cheap vino...) For me, however, there is one clear winner in this category, the touchstone of all electric guitar: Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Chile (Slight Return), the last tune on Electric Ladyland. I just cannot get over this track. I love its simplicity, I love its brevity, I love that it fades out just as Jimi's really starting to play. I love that Jimi's playing the amp as much as he's playing the guitar. I love that it contains within it almost the entire scope of rock guitar vocabulary, from straight blues to whammy bar tricks to the modal playing that makes me weep for the record Jimi never cut with Miles Davis. As far as I'm concerned, this tune is the reason electricity was invented.

Your nominations are, of course, welcome.