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Monday, December 3, 2012

My 10 Favorite Guitarists

In honor of Jimi Hendrix's 70th birthday which was this past Tuesday, I decided it was only fitting that I talk about 10 of my favorite guitar players of all time. Even though I am a drummer and don't play the guitar (not well anyways), I still am able to understand the fact that the guitar is the heart of rock music and many other types of music. I have always been fascinated by the ENDLESS possibilities that can be transmitted through a guitar in relation to its sound. These ten guitarists were some of the best at doing this, and I am sure that you already know who the number one choice is.

10. Alex Lifeson - Rush

I think Alex Lifeson may possibly be the most underrated guitarist of all time. Not only is Lifeson a creative and smart songwriter with his instrument, but he also possesses an AMAZING ability to simply shred whenever the hell he wants to. This is most easily demonstrated when Rush plays live. Even today on the Time Machine Tour, Lifeson has not lost a beat. The main reason why he isn't recognized as much is because Neil Peart is one of the greatest technically proficient drummers of all time and Geddy Lee is one of the greatest bassists/singers in rock history. All of this is quite a shame especially considering how talented this legend is.

9. Jack White -  The White Stripes / The Raconteurs

I highly recommend anyone reading this checks out the music documentary "It Might Get Loud" which features Jack White along with Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin and the Edge from U2. The documentary not only dives into the musical experiences, influences, and history of these wonderful musicians but also features a series of jam sessions where all three of these men experiment with the guitar. I was so fascinated by Jack White. Not just his guitar skills but the overall life he lived. As a famous musician, Jack is not phased by the success at all. In fact he somewhat loathes it in a way. The more interesting part was that Jack White could create the trashiest, heaviest tones from the crappiest guitars. He had such a fascination with the simplicity of music which has in a way transcended to me.

8. Slash - Guns N' Roses

A lot of things have been said about Slash and his personality obviously but that does not at all take away from how incredibly he plays the guitar. As a member of Guns N' Roses in the early 90's during the bands peak success, Slash was the prototypical rock guitarist with biting riffs, melting solos and a larger than life personality. This personality has not only caused him to leave Guns N' Roses but create a very strong identity as a Rock icon. With his signature top hat, long hair, shades, and beautiful Les Paul, Slash will always be one of my favorites.

7. George Harrison - The Beatles

George Harrison was a must for this list not only because of how influential the Beatles were but because of how talented of a musician Harrison was all-around. Everyone knew Harrison was an excellent singer which allowed him to maintain a strong solo career after the Beatles broke up. However, Harrison was able to write the most PERFECT parts for a song. He never overplayed and he always kept the songs simple. Take a look at songs like "Drive My Car" and "And Your Bird Can Sing" and you will see exactly what I mean. If that wasn't enough, Harrison also played the Ukelele and the Sitar on multiple Beatles tracks. He was a very down to business guy, and it was obvious that the music was always his top priority, which is why he deserves as much respect as any other guitarist in Rock n' Roll.

6. John Frusciante - Red Hot Chili Peppers

When I first heard that John Frusciante had decided to leave the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2009, I was immediately disappointed. John Frusciante brought a certain energy to that band that I haven't ever seen from a guitarist (However, Josh Klinghoffer has done an INCREDIBLE job replacing John). The riffs that Frusciante were always amazing to listen to. Whether they were funk-based and high energy like "Tell Me Baby" and "Give it Away", or it was mellow and soulful like the opening for "Under the Bridge" and the solos from "Scar Tissue", John Frusciante is one of the best. That's only the tip of iceberg however. When the Chili Peppers play live, they transmit a chaotic and crazy feeling that gets everyone in the entire arena pumped. When jamming with Chad Smith, Flea, and Anthony Kieidis, Frusciante ripped out some of the most mind-blowing solos and seemed to do it at will. Although, I'm not really into his solo career, I can't help but respect and admire the passion he has for what he does.

5.  Pete Townshend - The Who

Not only is Pete Townshend one of the greatest musicians of all time, but he is one of the most intelligent people to ever pick up a guitar. Everyone is aware of the influential music this man helped make with "The Who". However, Pete Townshend was also able to embark on a notably successful solo career as well. His voice is very good considering he was not the lead singer of the Who, and also he patented the iconic "windwill" strum of the guitar. The main thing that made me respect this man more was his book that was released just a few months ago; "Who I am". This showcases the intelligence this man possessed while writing some of the greatest songs of all time like "My generation", "Baba O' Riley", "Pinball Wizard", "Won't Get Fooled Again" and COUNTLESS others. This man is a living legend and everyone should appreciate everything he has done for music in general.

4. Eddie Van Halen - Van Halen

When I first heard the song "Eruption" by Van Halen, I'm going to be completely I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever heard. Every time I imagined someone absolutely SHREDDING on the guitar, Eddie Van Halen was the first to mind for me. My favorite part about Van Halen was the shrieking and squealing guitar riffs. Songs like "Hot for Teacher" and "Ain't Talkin' About Love" just sounded like Van Halen before the vocals even came in. All of this was because of the iconic, and unique presence that Eddie had as a guitarist for so long. I think it's safe to say that Eddie Van Halen is one of the most influential guitar players of all time solely because of the fact that he created a phase. Little kids wanted to learn how to play the guitar just because of the things Eddie did with a guitar. To me, that's the coolest thing in the world. Even cooler than being a great guitar player because you change the lives of other people. And that is the true essence of the music industry.

3. Prince - Prince and The Revolution

Music would be a lot better if everyone listened to Prince. I'm totally serious. My friends used to make fun of me for listening to an "80's pop-star" but Prince is much more than that. He is an artist in the finest form of the word. Everything this man does, from the songs that he writes, to the shows he plays is absolute showmanship. His guitar skills are no exception. Prince is known for that signature purple guitar, but he's also known for writing some of the most catchy songs on guitar ever. Pure emotion and passion is what I sense whenever I hear the music of Prince. To me this man will always be a legend in the industry of music and he is right below Michael Jackson as the greatest pop artist of all time.

2. Jimmy Page - Led Zeppelin

There isn't anything about Jimmy Page that hasn't already been said. Obviously the man's guitar skills were TOP NOTCH. He may have written some of the greatest solos of all time as well from songs like "Black Dog" to "Good Times Bad Times" or even "Heartbreaker". However the thing that I feel that Jimmy Page most excelled at was writing lead guitar riffs. His riffs were always so aggressive yet so calm (if that makes sense). It took a huge presence to be the only guitarist in a band during this time, and Page not only lived up to this, but he led the band on stage. Take a look at the rendition of "Stairway to Heaven" in Madison Square Garden in 1971 and you will be amazed by Page's magician-like techniques. Another part of Page that is around more often today is the businessman side of him. In an effort to preserve the Zeppelin legacy, Page has been orchestrating releases of albums like "Mothership" and concerts like the recent release "Celebration Day". It's safe to say that he is one of the smartest men to ever pick up a guitar and this transcends music in many ways.

1. Jimi Hendrix

Just about EVERY guitarist today knows the name Jimi Hendrix. If they don't then they probably don't understand that they wouldn't be where they are now without him. I am so grateful for the things this man has done. He did things with a guitar that no one would ever think to do even today. This includes playing a righty guitar lefty and even playing a solo backwards and flipping it back on the recording. Hendrix was a talented man who had the presence on stage to draw people near him whenever he played the guitar. By now you already know that to me, the ability is secondary and how you utilize it is the most important thing. Jimi Hendrix not only produced absolutely classic albums but also managed to be the greatest guitarist of all time all based on the attitude that nothing was impossible. And to me, there isn't anything more inspiring than that.