14 July 2004

Musical Moment of the Day: The Guitar Solo

I miss the guitar solo.

I know that I'm biased because I'm a guitar player but I always felt like a good butt-kickin' guitar solo took a song to a whole new level. Notice how "Stairway To Heaven" utilizes Jimmy Page's beautiful solo to kick the song into fifth gear. Classic.

Recently, a guy at work loaned me his copy of G3: Live in Concert featuring Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Eric Johnson. A veritable smorgasbord of gutar solos. My friend, Daniel Copeland, and I saw Satriani in concert in 1998 and we left just amazed at the level of technical skill displayed. However, the downside of the guitar solo was also on display that night. It can be too much of a good thing if it's done with no soul. It's hard for Satriani, Vai and the like to achieve the proper amount of soul because their songs are nothing but a big solo. But I digress …

Think about your average '80s glam metal song and there's a good example of a soul-less solo. The solo took the song nowhere and was just an excuse for the guitar player to show his chops (think most any Poison song). Eddie Van Halen kind of started this trend but EVH had a little more soul to his playing than the average knock-off. Slash, of Guns 'n Roses, started to reverse this trend with his more bluesy leads and the way he played for the song instead of playing against it (think November Rain or Sweet Child O' Mine). Then came grunge.

Many think Nirvana et al. eliminated the guitar solo but they really just minimized it it. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" does have a guitar solo. Albeit a repeat of the melody line. Pearl Jam had lots of guitar solos, just not in every song and they were always tasteful I thought. Then came the rap-metal phase of rock and guitar solos went the way of the T-Rex. Emphasis was now on groove and riffs. Players with any skill were sidelined and had to be content churning out the riffs. I always liked Creed's guitar player, Mark Tremonti because he came up with some monster riffs. Only on a few occasions did he have the chance to rip off a solo and when he did, it was always a good one. I wonder how many Creed songs could have been improved if Scott Stapp had shut up a little more and let Tremonti play a bit more. I'm hoping his post-Creed band will feature more of his playing and less of the posing that plagued Creed.

This is getting to be more of a ramble than anything so I will end it with a question. What are a few of your your favorite guitar solos? I'll answer mine in the first comment.

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