Monday, March 14, 2011

Solos (9 of 9)

And so I face the final curtain....

But first a story.

Once upon a time I played this game that the Stud Bros invented. Down the Oporto of Maker legend. With Dom Stud. It was a game that depended on total honesty. This would have been 1987 or 1988, and it kinda prefigured the whole guilty pleasures thing. Basically you would take turns to think of a record you absolutely loved that would, you suspected and hoped, genuinely appall the other person. A win was when you managed to find something that did actually shock your opponent. As I say, it only worked if you were totally honest about your likings and about your reactions to the other's liking. This game went on for a surprisingly long time. Everything I would offer up (like, i dunno, "Jack and Diane"), Dom would say "oh yeah, obviously that's great". And everything Dom would brandish, I would either say "totally, love that" (e.g some late 80s Heart single) or "I can certainly see there's an appeal there, for some". But then I won. Genuine unfeigned look of disgust on the part of Dom. I'd actually managed to lower myself in his eyes. Couldn't believe that someone would not only like it, but would publicly admit to liking it. The record? China Crisis. "African and White".

So if we now were playing this game, I concede that Carl has won a triumphant (if possibly Pyrrhic) victory with Meat Loaf. I'm not disgusted exactly, but certainly incredulous that anyone could be emotionally moved by anything that passed through the vocal cords of Mr Loaf and the imagination of Jim Steinman. The fact that the British working class loved Bat Out of Hell is by the by, really (it sold something like 4 million in the U.K., right?), because the British working class like a lot of things that are pure shite.

Anyway, enough of shite, let's get back to the gold: my last volley of solos.

Gene Clark's "Lady of the North" is amazingly not on Youtube, but you can hear it here

The solo is in the last 45 seconds and now I'm listening it sounds like it might be a Moog or some other keyb (so presumably the work of Craig Doerge) but it has the keening feeling of a guitar solo. Anyway DO YRSELF A FAVOUR listen to the whole song, gorgeous entwined soloistic playing from multiple instruments, including guitar (presumably Danny Korchmar), all the way through, and Gene's melody and lyric, and his vocal performance = SUBLIME. in the final stretch of the song, he's basically inventing Stevie Nicks in "Landslide"/"Silver Springs"/"Gold Dust Woman" mode

"Lady of the North" is the last song on the album for which this is the title track

and here in fact is my review of the Edsel reissue of No Other

Mick Ralphs of Mott the Hoople! "Violence" should have featured in Riffs last year. But it also has a very nice lead bit that comes in first at 1.04 and various other delicious solo-y bits. And also a rather nifty recurrent violin solo (violins / violence -- it's a pun, geddit?)

Sly and the Family Stone, "Don't Call me Nigger, Whitey" - not on youtube, but again, here in full

Now this a talk-box solo isn't it--not to be confused with vocoder, very basic error made by many, including me. Talk-box is like this tube thingy that connects the guitar and the guitarist's voice (said tube gets full of spittle and quite smelly I seem to recall someone telling me) and this enables the performer to sing the guitar, or "guitar" the voice, or something. Whatever, this here is one of the great stretches of lead guitar-as-voice/voice-as-guitar EVER, just so-so-so...-- DO YRSELF A FAVOUR AND listen to the whole thing

Talk-box means Peter Frampton but it also means Roger Troutman, who was a very fine guitar player in a bluesy-funk Johnny Guitar Watson-y sort of way. There are sublime bits all the way through Zapp's "More Bounce to the Ounce" and then some proper guitar solo-y stuff from about 8 minutes on--DO YRSELF A FAVOUR

Neil Young's "Southern Man" has been done already but what the hey... I love the non-fluency, the stuck on one or two notes of this solo, like Young is trying to untie this unyielding knot of anguish... it is an ahem gestural theater of authenticity, like a great thespian playing someone who is inarticulate or choked up...

Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold" appeared in Riffs but as i noted then, what really sends me is the solo--not the first typical Ted noisy-nonsense solo but what starts to unfurl from about 2 mins onwards, which is almost psychedelic and has been burned into my cranial membranes since a rather delicious evening with the Dazed and Confused soundtrack CD and the sacred herb. DO YRSELF A FAVOUR, i know it's long but listen to the whole thing from start to finish

Can't stand the Nuge otherwise, as red-blooded opiniator/massacrer of furry animals or as guitarist (flailing frenulum frotting frenzy that signifyeth nothing).

Nugent was in Amboy Dukes who were on Nuggets right? Reminding me that there's loadsa grrrrreat guitarrrrr solos in garage punk but i cannot recall anything specific apart from The Litter's "Action Woman" and Positively 13 O'Clock's version of "Psychotic Reaction"

Jane's Addiction: one hesitates to commend anything touched by the paws of Navarro but the praise must flow for "Stop" and "Been Caught Stealin'"

Now this next song has a kind of "unconsummated solo" feel about it all the way through until it finally breaks loose to Do a Mascis at 3.25

I know Anwyn loves this song (i'd link to her post on it but she done deleted her blog again). The guitar bit is uncommonly lyrical--passim but I'm talking specifically about from about 2.18 onwards. A retro-fake that surpasses the real thing in this case (I'm assuming it's trying to be West Coast, late Sixties)

(Wasn't the bee girl's life ruined or something?)

Great Guitarists Who Leave Me Perfectly Unmoved (in Solo Mode anyway)

Alex Lifeson

Ritchie Blackmore

Clapton (there is a fun book on the joys of loud guitar called Big Noises by Geoff Nicholson that argues that Eric C's success post-Layla is much more due to people liking his voice than his guitar, which is a subdued presence on his releases apparently)

Eddie Van Halen

Jeff Beck



David Gilmour (mostly)

Peter Green

Great Guitarists Who Coulda But Never Quite Did, As Such

I was going to nominate Robin Guthrie but then I remembered "Musette and Drums" -- it is more like a glissando stairway to heaven than a solo in the traditional rock sense, but awe-inSPIREing

Keith Levene is kinda constantly solo-ing, a lot of the time... the invention is incessant

The same seems to apply, somewhat, to John McGeoch, in so far as it's all these spidery patterns, lacework

Now I was going to say the same of The Edge but then remembered what transpires around the 1.56 mark in this... fabulous lead playing but more about texture and a sensation of cascading ascension than solo-as-solo... like Tom Verlaine further sublimated and ego-evacuated... and that's the Edge's way: self-less majesty that billows out of the guitar without any great sense of exhibitionism

Mind you this one is more classic rock and even a little bluesy

Okay, winding up now: here is my last selection, it connects nicely with U2 given Anthony H. Wilson's whole line about U2 as "Joy Division for Stadiums"

"Novelty", B-side of "Transmission". The solo comes in at around 1.50 and again at 3.05-ish.

Two things about this: Joy Div were a rock band, as rocking a rock band as you can get. So here, logically, is a Proper Guitar Solo. Now there are defter and dextrous-er pieces of lead guitar playing... but in its straining towards something that lies just a little beyond its technical reach, this solo suits the plain and painful directness of Curtis's lyric and vocal. The nobility of ordinary pain and woe. Or something like that. At any rate, good work Mr Sumner.