For my first blog I thought I’d discuss my ten all time favourite Guitar Solos. It was hard to narrow this down to only ten but here they are, in reverse order, with an explanation of what I like about them.
Seize the day (Avenged Sevenfold) by Synyster Gates
This has pretty much everything a rock guitar solo needs in terms of techniques and feel. I love the way it announces itself just before the actual start of the solo. Also has a very satisfying conclusion (pinched harmonic) but the best bit is where the drums go into double time but the guitar just continues over the top in much the same way.
Regret #9 (Steven Wilson) by Guthrie Govan
I saw a video of Guthrie Govan in the studio recording this solo and I bought the album very soon afterwards on the strength of it! I could go on all day about his playing in general but here you can really hear what an absolute master of the instrument he is. Very melodic but also has a cool, improvised feel about it (I imagine it mostly was) and with a bit of bluesyness thrown in. As with most on this list it has an effective beginning and ending. Another masterclass in soloing from Mr Govan.
Red House (intro) by Jimi Hendrix
Do I really need to say anything about this??
There are millions (well, a lot..) of versions of this on Youtube but the one I first heard has the intro I am thinking of here. It is the the alternative studio take (which I can’t seem to find a copy of now!) with a slightly more laid back run where the drums come in.
No 8 solo on the list but definitely one of the best intros ever.
Blinded by rainbows (The Rolling Stones) by Ronnie Wood
Great song and an amazing solo! I haven’t heard another one quite like it. It has a couple of ‘almost bad’ moments which I think are incredible! Oh, and listen to the concluding couple of notes!!!!! (No.1 solo ending, for me).
When recording with my band Homebrew a few years ago I wanted to get this kind of vibe on one of my solos. I listened to this solo over and over again in the car on the way to the studio in an attempt to absorb some of the feel, style and brilliance before I did mine (it didn’t really work, unfortunately).
Why is this only at no.7??
Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin) by Jimmy Page
Whenever I hear this one I always think (and constantly say to people!) what must it have been like to be Jimmy Page in the studio control room listening back to this solo to see if it was o.k? It’s another one I really don’t need to say anything about - listen to it. Even sounds good backwards, too. Please see my video (top of this page) of me playing it....forwards.
Mother (Pink Floyd) by David Gilmour
I love this! Fits the song perfectly and is so memorable - you only need to hear it a couple of times in your life and you can hear it in your head any time you fancy stopping what you are doing and being inspired. Having said that, it is best experienced ‘in person’ through your actual ears. Great tone, perfect string bending and amazing phrasing (as always from DG).
I smell a rat (Intro solo) by Buddy Guy
My love of the blues really started when I first heard a Buddy Guy album called ‘The Blues Giant’. That was the name of the copy I first had but the album is usually entitled ‘Stone Crazy’. This is certainly the one on this list that has inspired my own playing the most (and from the earliest time). As a teenager I used to spend hours playing along to the whole album. In fact, probably about half of all the guitar practice I did for several years was just doing that (and I don’t mean generally playing along to stuff, I mean playing along to that one album). An underrated Buddy Guy classic! If you are into blues I highly recommend stealing a few licks from this one. I could have picked any solo from any song from ‘the Blues Giant’ / ‘Stone Crazy’ but, for this No. 4 slot, went for the opening solo from the first track. Brilliant!
News (Dire Straits) by Mark Knopfler
The other half of my teenage guitar practice time was mostly spent trying to play like Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits. I didn’t listen to much else for quite a few years and his playing was hugely influential on me and thousands of other players.
I love all the obvious big solos, of course, such as ‘Tunnel of Love’ and ‘Sultans of Swing’ but this one was always a favourite. It’s another case of being perfect for the song. Great melodic phrasing and a wonderful singing guitar tone (one of Knopfler’s trademarks).
Third World Man (Steely Dan) by Larry Carlton
As a complete guitar solo to sit perfectly in it’s place in the song this has to be no.1 for me - and it would be, if this list was ‘the BEST’ rather than ‘my FAVOURITE’ solos.
Steely Dan (Fagen/Becker) were famously difficult to please if you were a session player brought in to play on any of their stuff (allegedly reducing grown guitarists to tears on a regular basis) but I can’t imagine Larry Carlton got many complaints when he came up with this! Apparently the song wasn’t originally meant to be on the ‘Gaucho‘ album but was an outtake from a previous album which was resurrected when a song was accidentally erased! Like ‘Seize The Day‘ this one starts with a little solo-intro a bar before the main solo begins. Very effective use of double stops, bends, faultless phrasing (there’s that word again) and a great sound make this one of the best guitar solos ever!
Seasons by Jeff Beck
Like thousands of other guitarists I would probably place ANY Jeff Beck solo in my number one spot! Maybe I’ll do another list of ‘my top ten favourite Jeff Beck solos’.
This is from the 2003 album ‘Jeff’ - great album with some stunning guitar playing all over it. This song actually has two solos (with a short interlude between them) and I am thinking of both together, here, although it’s really the 2nd that completely blows me away every time.
The first one, starting 52 seconds into the song, has loads of space and comes in with a couple of volume swells (‘violining’) before the third phrase which instantly screams ‘Jeff Beck’ (if you heard it without knowing who was playing, this is the point that you would). One of the things I love about this is it is just Beck ‘noodling’ over an atmospheric backing but it becomes a collection of his trademark licks and techniques (this description makes it sound less inspired and soulful than it actually is), all played with his usual perfect execution.
The 2nd solo (starting around 2:22) begins with a few simple notes in a similar style to the first one but gets a bit more fiery after 10 seconds or so and he then plays an utterly brilliant run (2:38-2:43) which alone cements it’s place at the top of my list. Lots of tremelo use throughout and a singing/crying guitar tone make this a staggeringly brilliant guitar solo!
And now I am going to stop going on about it and instead, go listen to it again............