Sunday, September 20, 2009

8 Guitar Solos That Changed My Life

I decided to commemorate this, my 100th blog post with this list of my favorite guitar solos.

They are the reason I got started, the reason I stayed, and the reason I carry on.

All Along The Watchtower -- Jimi Hendrix (Electric Ladyland)
This tune never fails to give me goosebumps. Hendrix apparently agonized over the various sections of this song for weeks, laying down a multitude of parts before paring them down. The result -- amazingly melodic electric solos that grab you from the outset, a mysterious delay-enhanced 'slide' section and wah solo and a scratchy rhythm thang culminating in double bends. The studio version is a work of art, and still sounds relevant today despite being recorded more than 40 years ago.

Does anybody know what he used for the slide section? Til this day I can't figure out if he was using a conventional slide. Or could it have been a mic stand, or as some have postulated, a large ring he wore on his right hand?

Sunny - Pat Martino (from Pat Martino Live!)
I first heard this one when I was about 16. It was my first introduction to Martino and I was an instant convert. At 10 minutes 25 seconds this song filled the entire B side of the record. Martino really cooks and the sheer raw emotion he projects is startling.

Cause We've Ended As Lovers -- Jeff Beck (Blow By Blow)
What more can I say about this tune? Turn off the lights, the TV and the computer and just listen to it. Jeff gives us a timeless lesson in exactly what a Fender Stratocaster is capable of. Just as Jimi owned Bob Dylan's All Along the Watchtower, Jeff Beck certainly owns this song by Stevie Wonder.

Devil Take The Hindmost -- Allan Holdsworth (Metal Fatigue)
I first heard this as a Guitar Player magazine Soundpage. I was familiar with Holdsworth's earlier body of work but this track from Metal Fatigue was to me a defining moment -- his 'new' sound if you will. His already great playing seemed to have taken a quantum leap on Metal Fatigue with a newfound clarity of expression and articulation.

Push Comes To Shove -- Eddie Van Halen (Fair Warning)
Eddie has said that he had Holdsworth in mind when he cut this track, but the end result is unmistakeably Van Halen. I consider Fair Warning to be one of the darker Van Halen albums and to me it still stands above everything the band has ever produced. And Ed's tone has never been more 'brown'.

The Days of Wine and Roses -- Wes Montgomery (Boss Guitar)
Stating the melody in a very pianistic chord-melody style, Wes absolutely slays with his solo on this Henry Mancini classic, balancing jazz sophistication with a soulful bluesy edge. Wes is the Boss and every guitar player worth his salt knows it.

Stairway to Heaven -- Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin IV)
This solo needs no introduction. After many years of my thinking Pagey played this solo on a Les Paul into a Marshall stack (hey, these were pre-internet days!), it turned out that this landmark was played on a '58 Telecaster into a little Supro amp!

Blues For Salvador -- Carlos Santana (Blues For Salvador)
Recorded at a soundcheck for a Top of the Pops TV show, this duet between Santana and his longtime keyboard player Chester Thompson oozes with soul. Carlos's PRS guitar plugged into a Marshall stack simply cries with the most glorious of tones and might have just been the tipping point that put Paul Reed Smith on the map.

The complete home study jazz guitar course


  1. re: Watchtower-- I think he just used the trem. Notice the delay-echo effects and how that track is doubled. The slap backs at the tail of each phrase give the impression a slide was used, but the beginning of the phrases seem too clean for slide. The delay-echo stuff accentuates and exaggerates the magnitude of the actual dives, which by themselves dry wouldn't be that dramatic or "liquidy".

    In the live versions i.e. Isle of Wight, Atlanta and one other I found, he makes little effort to duplicate the studio solo, but at the section we're focusing on, he glisses into those phrases with octave and/or harmonic intervals with the fretting hand utilizing octaves and/or harmonic intervals, then uses the trem at the ends for modulation & sustain.

    If you try his live approach, thru some reverb and light repeat delays, you'll get the feel.

    I recently acquired the "balls" to attempt learning this section, only after watching the live clips. Most of the other solo sections from the studio recording are pretty straight forward.

    Just play with it-- and "get Jimi with it"!

  2. Thanks for this. I'll investigate further with your suggestions.

    On the Isle of Wight footage he kind of gets close to what he did in the studio as far as the 'slide/whammy' part. But the cameraman chooses to focus on Jimi's face instead of his hands during this section. Intentional?

  3. I thought the story was that Hendrix used a zippo lighter for the slide on Watchtower

  4. And the plot thickens! That's my theory too -- I hear some some kind of low-mass metal object like the side of mic stand, a ring, or more plausibly a Zippo!

  5. Jimi's All Along The Watchtower really is a classic tune. Not too much, or too little of anything, just beautifully balanced.

  6. Right on Freddy. It would be fascinating to hear what some of the other parts Hendrix laid down that were never used in the final mix of Watchtower. But they were doing everything on 4-track back then so those parts were probably erased from the masters. But I'm sure there are some rough mixes floating around out there with the forgotten bits.



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