Thursday, August 19, 2010

Guitar Heroes of the Non-Video Game Kind, Part 2

photo by Sean Rogers

This is part 2 of this series, see Part 1 here.

Pop Dose recently threw up their list of the top 50 guitar players of all time. I was surprised by some of the omissions and decided to create a post or two to respond, then I noticed that Pop Dose's list was actually created in response to the LA Times magazine's top 50. Okay, so a number of the players missing on one list can be found somewhere on the other. One list skips the Edge, Robert Fripp, Angus Young and Randy Rhoads, but then we see Eddie Hazel, John Mayer, Charlie Hunter, Neal Schon and John Frusciante. Huh? Of course, there are always complaints about lists like these, who got snubbed, who is wrongly placed at the top or bottom, and so on. Sometimes I think the choices are coloured by how much a guitarist sticks out, especially to other musicians or guitar god wannabes (Yngwie Malmsteen, anyone?)So, since I'm a non-guitarist (no musical ability whatsoever, actually) I've compiled a short list of stringbenders I like without any thought to how technically proficient they are, how difficult their music may be to play, or how wizardly they wield their axes. They might not be flashy, might just be rhythm players, but they've made some noises I like and they're not always included on favourite guitar player lists.

Wherever possible, I've tried to include live videos so you can see guitar grandeur without studio trickery.

Canadians already know Rob Baker, as The Hip have been at or near top of the rock heap in this country for years. But we probably take him for granted now, even though he's still pulling out new tricks, Like on Love Is a First, where he yanks out some muted Tom Morello-type moves at about 3:18. For some more new six-string sweetness, impossibly-long curtain of hair half-obscuring, try Morning Moon, or Grace, Too from Saturday Night Live if ya wanna check some older, more-restrained but satisfying licks.

The Tragically Hip - Love Is a First

Rick Nielsen writes the catchiest riffs and plays nice little licks, always looks funny and is a fine showman. Even when he's just playing fuzzed-out simple stuff he's worth a deuce. But what about the guy in the white jumpsuit? What the heck is he playing...a 12-string BASS? Can I nominate a bassist for my guitar player list? Tom Petersson doesn't just fatten up the bottom end, he sometimes manages to make it sound like there's three guitarists onstage, not just Rick and ballcap and goofy mugging. And neither one of them feel the need to show off and overplay on an uncomplicated song such as Southern Girls.

Cheap Trick - Southern Girls

The Church have been making the same hazy guitar rock for 30 years, and it ain't broke. Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes have been making beautiful sounds playing beautiful guitars without paying any attention to what is hip or commercially viable, which may account for a) the fact that many people don't know the band's still around and b) people not "getting it". For me, even if you don't like Steve Kilbey's songs or voice, the guitar almost always makes up for it. And also: Rickenbacker.

The Church - Reptile

If you've been following along, you know of Scruffy's love for the varied work of Adrian Belew. A guy once tried to tell me that all of Belew's songs were simply vehicles for his guitar sounds, but I have always felt that his weird noises and weird songs were showcases for one another - no tunes without the tone, and vice versa. Anyhow, if you listen to how he puts his own spin on Bowie's Heroes (originally played by his King Crimson band mate Robert Fripp), maybe you'll feel like I do; the guy can do anything. If I was sentenced to explain the difference between rock musician and rock star, I might look to Belew for the former - I mean, just look at him.

Adrian Belew & Martha Wainwright - Heroes

Dream Syndicate's Karl Precoda and Steve Wynn did the slow burn and guitar freakout as well as anyone but never got past cult band status. In fact, I'm a little pissed off at the dearth of quality sound AND video available on YouTube. So they get two, from two classic albums that haven't yet received their due. When Wynn gets deep into the song and the rhythm drives the tune, Precoda takes the lead somewhere else, maybe into an alternate universe where Television was part of your daily vitamins and The Velvet Undergound was piped into every crib.

The Dream Syndicate - The Medicine Show

The Dream Syndicate - Halloween

No comments: