Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Birthday Salute Quintessential Solo #1 -- Thomas McClary's 'Easy'



Born 6th October 1950, Thomas McClary is probably one of the most unheralded famous guitarists of his time.

Despite being a founding member of legendary Motown group, The Commodores, McClary is anything but a household name -- probably because of the huge shadow cast by Commodores lead singer Lionel Richie.

Founding the band after a chance meeting with Richie in the enrolment queue at Tuskegee University, Alabama in 1968, McClary had lofty ideals, dreaming of forming a band so big that it would rival The Beatles.

Signing with Motown Records, The Commodores went through several personnel changes before emerging in 1974 with their debut album Machine Gun.

Several albums were to follow but it wasn't until 1977's self-titled album The Commodores that the band entered true superstar status. And from that point, McClary's quintessential solo on the hit 'Easy' has become ingrained in the collective consciousness that is modern pop culture.

There is so much about this solo that I just love. There is nothing about it that falls into any immediately recognizable fingerboard pattern. And it's nearly devoid of cliches.

The studio version of 'Easy' also has one of the nastiest, overdrive-pedal-DI'd-into-the-mixing-board tones that would make any seasoned session pro cringe.

But the rather unique choice of notes -- the unusual first bend on the D string, followed by a succession of half-step and quarter-step bends -- and the sheer aplomb with which McClary makes it all work is downright uncanny.

It's not so much a solo as a statement. You can hear him make it talk as he plays it.



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