Sunday, March 13, 2011

solos, collectivised - the final lickstravaganza

OK, opening the mail bag one last time and then next post will be final fusillade from me

on the subject of the history of the guitar solo, the when and why

Andrew Parker suggests:

Solos are a way of displaying musical wares, which has been important for probably as long as dignitaries have paid musicians to play for them (think of all the young musicians, such as Mozart and Paganini, who were dragged around the royal courts of Europe). No doubt it also applied to jazz bands competing to become the house band at a nightclub, virtuoso musicians being an obvious drawcard to get paying customers through the door. Another, more practical, reason for jazz solos would have been to enable other members of the band to have a break.

As for the emergence of guitar solos in particular, there have probably been two major factors: the advent of guitar pick-ups and the mass production of guitars. The first enabled a guitarist to plug into an amplifier and compete with the brass section, which in turn enabled them to become more than just a part of the rhythm section. The second created a generation of bedroom musicians who could hear something on the radio and then try to recreate it at home.

Good points, Andrew. I wonder also if it has something to do with the internal psychological-emotional dynamics of rock bands--guitar heroics developing as a way for the guy who is not the singer to grab some of the adulation/attention?

Andrew also offers some tasty rock'n'roll era solo-or-is-a-lead-break

Bill Haley – Rock Around the Clock (0:43)

Gene Vincent – Race with the Devil (0:48 and 1:17)

Chuck Berry – Johnny B Good (1:32)

Andrew also offers some lead guitarism from the fairer sex

Throwing Muses – Bright Yellow Gun (1:18 and 2:43)

Maria McKee’s guitar work on the “Life is Sweet” album is brutal but effective. She won’t win any awards for her guitar skills, but the simplicity of the solos suits the music perfectly. E.g.

Maria McKee – This Perfect Dress (3:03)

(The way she attacks her guitar on her solos reminds me of The Jesus and Mary Chain – strange no one’s mentioned them yet.)

Douglas Keeley:

Larry Coryell and Sonny Sharrock on Herbie Mann's version of "Chain of Fools" (from Memphis Underground). The first solo starts at about 3m 07" while the track chugs along like a Velvet Underground outtake. I admit the track is a bit boring for the first couple of minutes but then a groove just builds and builds. I think the first solo is taken by Coryell and it's really quite tentative but then Sonny comes along and let's rip

Marc Riley and Craig Scanlon trade solos on The Fall's "In My Area"

It kicks in at 3m 10". There's a touch of reverb on the guitar but the minimum of any ego/showing off (as you would expect) I love the way you can hear how out of tune the guitars are at the end of it!

"Kool" Keith Dobson unleashes World War 3 at 1m 43" on World Domination Enterprises "Asbestos Lead Asbestos". Not really a solo in the Nigel Tufnell sense - just beautiful noise! (i think somebody - Carl? - did this already but what the hey, classic gtr carnage)


another not mentioned so far is neil young [actually i think zone styx did whateva). you couldn’t go anywhere in the 70s without someone yammering on ad-nauseum about his playing. i suppose ‘cortez the killer’ is the one that gets rated mainly because of it’s length but i still go back to the one or two notes on ‘cinnamon girl’ as his best

I would also nominate "Powderfinger" in this area

Jonny Mugwump:

Talk Talk - After the Flood

A one-take one-note ultra-raw entirely shocking thing of violence from Mark Hollis- i mean it literally screams...

Jim Dooley (author of the Small Axe Guide to Dub)

Solos: Fripp on ‘St Elmo’s Fire’ (probably my fav as somehow it seems to match the lyrics and overall feel) … and G4’s ‘Anthrax’ … or pretty much any song featuring Andy Gill…

Stewart Smith:

Sonny Sharrock - Many Mansions

From his final album, the best thing Bill Laswell ever produced, with the live group playing enhanced with well-placed guitar overdubs. First thing to say is that this is one of the all time great riffs in rock or jazz, a monolithic centre around which each player can improvise. And they improvise beautifully. It's Pharoah Sanders who shreds it on sax for the first section, playing some of his wildest lines since the early 70s. Sharrock holds back until the final few minutes before unleashing a torrent of ecstatic slide work and furious tremolo picking. All the while that riff burns beautifully in the background. Glorious.

Richard Thompson -- Shoot Out The Lights

His angular fills and solos approach Tom Verlaine/Mark Ribot territory here. And of course, there's the coiled tension of Fairport's A Sailor's Life, where he and Dave Swarbrick spend several minutes sizing each other up before diving head first into a thrilling guitar/fiddle duel.

Stewart also reps for Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Cinammon Girl and says:

I'm a great fan of the one note guitar solo, much beloved of post-punkers, but this is as classic rock as it gets and is just perfect. The riff is so great there's absolutely no need to add anything fancy. That one repeated note, played with urgency, cuts right through.

Pete Cosey deserves some love for his insane work with Miles Davis. His echo-plex drenched twelve-string is outta sight here: Miles Davis - Calypso Fremilo

Andrew aka ajb:

First, Pete Townshend does take the occasional, short (& wonderfully
chordal) solo - e.g. I Can't Explain. I never could figure out how to play
that one on guitar.

Don't you just love this video?! Mods! You gotta love 'em. Wouldn't wanna be them, but glad they existed.

Second, I don't know if this is too MOR, but no mention of Weezer yet? The
first two albums are chock full of solos that are everything a solo 'should
be' (melodic, virtuosic, elevates the song to climax). Interesting also
that the solo is the one element of the band that the American Emo movement
didn't pick up.

well ajb if you're not to point to anything specific then i'll just have to post the one weezer tune i really like -- not from the first two albums but this is something like "the spirit" of steve miller band translated for the post-alternative era. and it does have a air quotes type RAWK solo innit

stop press: ajb comes backatme with a weezer selection: "if I had to choose one, the solo at 2:03 in
'Tired of Sex' is probably my favorite. Just a short, perfect blast of
maximum radio rock."

Third, glad you mentioned Ernie Isley. One of the most underrated
guitarists IMO; basically the reason the Isleys weren't just a run of the
mill Soul/R&B group. 'Voyage to Atlantis' is another good example in the
'Summer Breeze' vein.

Sly Roodminsen:

u think of u aint seen nuthin yet as a groove song maybe but the lead breaks in this are pure AM rocknroll honey raining down