Essential Listening for Guitarists

Everything we listen to can influence the way we approach playing the guitar. It might be the sound of a cranked up amplifier, an artificial harmonic squeezed out of a Stratocaster or a fingerpicked melody on an acoustic guitar.

There is an important difference between emulation and reproduction. Without emulation, nearly all of the great artists of this generation would not have developed their own style. In fact there are very few artists that cannot cite someone else that has not affected the way they play in some way.

Without Chet Atkins, there would be no Mark Knopfler. Without Cliff Gallup, there would be be no Jeff Beck. Here then is a list of some essential listening that can make any guitar player look at his instrument in a different way.

Dave Gilmore - About Face
The production alone makes this essential listening, but the real wonder about this album is the number of intelligently layered and multi-tracked guitar parts. Each listen uncovers something new to the ear, be it a new harmony or dramatic string bend. One to stay on the turntable for a few months and a definte headphone album.

Talking Heads - Little Creatures
What seems so complex at first hide the genius of David Byrne's arrangments. You don't even realize the guitar is there until you listen specifically for it, and then it leaps out at you. A wonderful example of how the guitar can be used for the sake of the songs, rather than the other way round.

Little Feat-Sailing Shoes
All the guitar tracks on the album were done by Lowell George. If you thought slide guitar was limited to the 12 bar blues, take the time to hear this 1972 recording. The versatility of his regular playing and shear inventiveness of his slide guitar parts is staggering. There are out-and-out rockers alongside country ballads, and both sit equally well together on a finely crafted album of songs.

Kenny Burrell-Live at the Five Spot Cafe
Every guitar player should hear Kenny Burrell, just to remind themselves that there is nothing new under the sun. This classic Bluenote recording sums up the atmosphere of the New York jazz scene of the late 1950's and features Art Blakey on drums.

Herb Ellis and Joe Pass-Seven Come Eleven
Any recording of these two guitar masters will blow your mind, but together they are just awesome. The guitar interplay is as at times frantic as it is sweet, and if you ever thought your fingers moved around pretty fast, try playing this version of Charlie Christian's Seven Come Eleven!

The Vaughan Brothers-Family Style
Just when we thought the blues had gone as far as it could go, this album came out with some wonderfuly refreshing new ideas. Mixing funk, blues and soul is not a new formula, but these two injected some Texas flair into some great songs and came up with a great album.

Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop
No one even comes close to Jeff Beck and this album proves why. He just thinks in different ways and lets his imagination lead the way. This album genuinely contains new ways to play the guitar; something that very rarely happens. It is a sign that he is so unique that no other artist has followed up on this style of playing.

Lonnie Mack-The Wham of that Memphis Man
I just cannot imagine what it would have been like hearing this album for the first time when it came out; the playing is simply years ahead of its time. Lightning fast open-string riffs played with a tuned down Flying V dripping with trememo became his trade mark and was born with this album.

Duke Robillard-Swing
One of the finest jazz guitar albums I have ever heard. There is simply years of material here for any guitar player; it is like looking into a vast library of books full of new ideas. Although it was recorded in the mid-1980, it captures the sound of swing combos from the 1940's.

Rush-Moving Pictures
An inspiring example of guitar production, taste, inventiveness and touch at its best. Alex Lifeson just has an endless stream of ideas and no matter how far away from the intital theme he goes, the notes he plays always work.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds-Walk that Walk
Not only does this album contain some eye-opening guitar playing, it also contains a wide range of styles. The two-guitar arrangements of each song are lessons unto themselves. The straight-forward, but very effective, production enbles each guitar track to be isloated simply by using the balance control on a hi-fi. Both Kid Bangham and Duke Robillard (yes, it's that man again!) are using Stratocasters and Fender amps, but they manage to blend the sounds to create a great rock'n'roll guitar album.

Copyright Dale Churchett © 1995. All Rights Reserved.