Showing posts with label guitarists. Show all posts
Showing posts with label guitarists. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Mike Bloomfield in San Diego

 (Originally published in the San Diego Troubadour, used with kind permission).

It’s been mentioned by offhand wits that one’s younger days get hipper the more one speaks of them, an understandable response to a friend or stranger’s grand recollections about the times they’ve been near the famous, the legendary, the brilliant, the ignoble, the stylishly crude. But there’s no intention to brag that I had seen the original Paul Butterfield Blues Band somewhere between 1967–1969 at the Chessmate, a no-age-limit, alcohol-free coffeehouse in Detroit where local and touring folk, blues and jazz acts played.

This is more in wondering what ever happened to the memory of the band’s first guitarist, the late Mike Bloomfield. Bloomfield was a white boy, born in Chicago, from the suburbs, who was in love with black Chicago blues and traveled to Southside Chicago to witness the music he loved in the black clubs where they played: Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Hubert Sumlin. I knew next to nil about the blues then nor did I know who Bloomfield’s influences and mentors were. What I did know was that he played guitar like nothing I had encountered until then.

Biting, fluid, aching, and bittersweet, Bloomfield was masterful that night, a scrawny, jerky Jewish kid playing a black man’s blues with an intensity that was absent of cliché or recycled rockabilly riffs; what he was doing was something else. I was converted to the blues and the cause of lauding Bloomfield each chance I had with fellow music geeks. He recorded two widely praised albums with the Butterfield Band, Introducing the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and East West. Just as things began to break for the band, Bloomfield did what became a predictable habit throughout his career, he abruptly left the band. He started one of the first rock-oriented horn bands — the Electric Flag — leading a racially diverse group of musicians through a variety of American music that include blues, jazz, rockabilly, and soul. A Long Time Coming, their first album, was well reviewed and again, just as things began to percolate, Bloomfield bailed on the project and wound up recording with Blood, Sweat and Tears founder Al Kooper for the Super Session album. Mike Bloomfield, though, couldn’t finish the album and left the project after recording half an album’s worth of splendid guitar work, with Kooper enlisting the aid of guitarist Steve Stills to finish the disc.
And so it was, a genius guitarist who was easily a decade ahead of his time with regard to the art of rock guitar, leaving one promising band and collaboration after another, impatient, a walking case of the jitters. He couldn’t stay in one place too long.

My family moved to San Diego in the summer of 1969, during the Woodstock Festival, and, as it turned out over the years, Mike Bloomfield was a frequent visitor to the area during the 1970s, playing with an assortment of friends at colleges and clubs to promote whatever album he’d just released, or merely picking up a date because he still had name recognition even in music that was becoming increasingly corporate and predictable in a broad range of commercial releases. Bloomfield’s gigs promised the loose-fitting grit of the Bay Area style as well as a funky blend of folk, blues, jazz, and Eastern influences that ran contrary to the tight shoes record companies and radio stations were increasingly insisting musical artists wear in order to gain exposure. Bloomfield had done his best to sabotage his commercial potential by his erratic behavior and inconsistent performances, but there was something intriguing about Bloomfield’s live performances; you didn’t know how well Bloomfield would play, inspired and ruling the frets like the master he could be or so distracted and disassembled that his musicianship would make those unaware of what he could do wonder loudly and angrily what the big deal was with his reputedly great musician.

Apprehension over pending Bloomfield gigs was understandable, considering that his swings in mood and delivery made the interested fan wonder out loud which Mike Bloomfield would show up, the wonderfully expressive blues player who was one of the ground-zero white players to introduce blues, jazz, and raga and improvisational charms into rock ’n’ roll’s evolving instrumental style, or the mercurial bright boy who couldn’t stay in one place, stay in his seat, finish what he’d started? I’ve seen both in San Diego venues, hither and yon, the results different as old steak and the freshest, sweetest fruit.
It sorts of works out as a story of two university engagements, the night and day, the sweet and stinky, the great and the gross.

In the early 1970s, Bloomfield and Friends played a concert at the University of San Diego gym ,the first time I’d have a chance to see him live since Detroit; he was magnificent and everything critics and admirers claimed him to be. Energetic, even smiling, a change from his usually scrunched up scowl as he punished the guitar strings. The music consisted of up-tempo shuffles and rhythm and blues chestnuts, slow, heartbreaking blues and some instances of the fleeting jazz/raga improvisations Bloomfield introduced to the larger world, which was still living within the confines of Top 40 radio. There was always something simultaneously graceful and unwieldy about Bloomfield’s manner of playing; blessed with a fluidity that was uncommon in the day for rock-oriented guitarists, Bloomfield’s habit was to use everything he had when he sallied forth on a long solo. His slow blues would begin with the bittersweet and golden-hued tone of B.B. King — a sublime replication of the human voice. He would seem to lose control of his stream and have his phrases go over the 1–1V-V progression and wander into dissonance and near atonality as though channeling Coltrane’s high-register skirmishes.

After that, he would bring it back to the V chord, his playing deeper, with a long, searing blues bend sustained for several measures as the pitch increased higher in tone and intensity until he released the note and altered the mood again with softer, whispering phrases that brought the blues to a finely buffered resolution. It wasn’t all slow blues and bathos, though, and I remember how amazingly Bloomfield made the up-tempo blues stomp and rock under the snapping lash of his hot-tempered lead work, or how he displayed a knack for rapid, single-note runs during jazzier instrumentals, highlighted by the full, ringing octaves pioneered by Wes Montgomery. It was a good night for Bloomfield, a good night for the blues. Bloomfield, though, needed to keep moving after the show. He was quickly gone, seen rushing out of the gym’s side door holding his guitar case, brusquely brushing past fans trying to shake his hand or give him high fives or something stronger. He was in a hurry to get somewhere.

The memory gets blurry again recollecting another Bloomfield concert, a reunion concert not so long after the show in the USD Gym. I can’t recall the date, but I do remember what happened.
The Electric Flag, the band that Bloomfield formed after his departure from the Butterfield group, leaving promptly after their widely praised first album. Moby Grape also played, a fantastically talented group of musicians that arose toward the end of the San Francisco rock era and produced two worthy albums. Moby Grape and Wow, before their rapid decline due to drug problems and member struggles with mental illness, were scheduled for a double-whammy reunion concert on a date in the mid-’70s at the UCSD Gym. There was a good amount of commotion among my fellow music obsessives, mad chatter over beers and bongs about how this would shake out. Two bands of short life spans but worthy discographies on tour together, attempting again to be relevant in a terrain that was rapidly forgetting the magic and value of the hippie vibe.
Moby Grape’s performance was, to be kind, something resembling an arrangement of mannequins dressed as old bohemians that held guitars while music was piped in through a scratchy PA system.

A desultory display all around, the band sometimes came to life with a snappy guitar riff or unexpected burst of energy from the rhythm section, but there was the element of songs sagging in the middle, the musicians fall out of time with each other, of lyrics being forgotten, missed cues. The harmonies were ragged, a moth eaten weave of voices. That night Moby Grape’s fine legacy was a burden, a standard they couldn’t come to terms with.

Some of the crowd liked it though, but the applause and war-howls was as lackluster as the music. It was an open seating affair, which meant audience members found their patch of hard wood floor and made themselves comfortable amid the other attendees who had the same idea, to get as near the stage as possible and commune with the drum beats, guitar solos, and the passing of ignitable drugs. The lights remained low during the break between bands; I could see the cherry tips of joints floating in air, passed finger tips to fingertips, and the room was filled with the noxious aromas of marijuana reeking sweet. But the rule was this: stay for Bloomfield, the First Guitar Hero, the erratic genius of electric blues and roots music.
It was a pensive wait for the Electric Flag’s arrival on stage, as the squatting student audience, cooling their heels between bio chem exams and writing padded term papers notable for turgid prose and jargonalia, started a murmur of sorts, people yelling out “Bloomfield” or the staid and sturdy “rock ’n’ roll,” voices hoarse with the burn of pot. A Frisbee was being tossed about. There was the tangible feeling that one was a sardine in a can.

The Electric Flag soon took the stage, first the horn section, all proper looking gents dressed for the gig, alert and seemingly sober, and then the others, the bassist and keyboardist. Drummer Buddy Miles came on and took his place behind a large drum set, ready to let the world know again how it was he’d been picked by Jimi Hendrix, John McLaughlin, Carlos Santana, and Bloomfield to handle the sticks on various projects. Miles was a good, not great drummer, able to adjust his rhythm and blues approach to a variety of rhythmic requirements, minimal but firm, steady, on the mark. He was not a Tony Williams, not a Mitch Mitchell, but he got the job done. His second biggest talent seemed to be skill at landing high-profile gigs with famous rock guitarists. Then vocalist Nick Gravenites took his position, an underrated vocalist and the composer of the blues standard “Born in Chicago,” made famous by the Butterfield Blues Band.

Finally, Bloomfield himself emerged, thin, lanky, jeans drooping and back curved, looking not a little like a guitar bearing pugilist approaching his opponent, sensing where the next punch was coming from. There was a good amount of applause and this time the gymnasium echoed with the fanfare, as much from the relief of the waiting as it was anticipation for Bloomfield’s artistry. The performance itself was wanting, though, not bad nor slovenly, but strangely professional. In the metaphysics of judging such things, or at least reconsidering the events years removed, that secret something was missing: the elan, the verve, the energy that comes from playing the notes in such a way that the nervous system lights up like Christmas lights and infuses the sounds with a feeling that resonates in a listener in areas of the soul that have nothing to do with the quality of technique. The band, musically on point, could have been employees gathered to collect their paychecks after a Friday shift. Bloomfield wasn’t having a good time of it and seemed hesitant to play anything.

Where the band would play a solid, Albert King-style blues requiring suitably mournful and sting guitar fills between phrases, Bloomfield was often silent or late to the cue, and his solos were tentative half the time, as if he were trying to remember why he was in the center of the stage in the spotlight. He did play a great solo on the band’s signature song “Texas,” a moment when talent and sensibility jibed and made something moving, a slow blues solo as very few people could play it. This was half way through the show and it made me optimistic that the rest of the night would ascend to the proper heights of excellence. One could here, though, electrical crackling and short bursts of electronic blurting from Bloomfield’s amp.
He was agitated; his face was a road map of exasperated furrows. Two songs later the band went into a slow soul ballad featuring Buddy Miles on drums. Bloomfield strummed away in accompaniment while Miles softly drummed and crooned the lyrics. Miles, who had a voice that was, say, adequate to sing in harmony but far too thin and screechy to take on the Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, or Wilson Pickett gospel-influenced style, had walked up from behind his drum kit and took the microphone from the stand, confessing to the crowd on why he needed his baby. It became an endurance contest but Bloomfield couldn’t take it. His amp continued producing extracurricular belches and his facial features vanished behind a mask of irritation. He abruptly yanked the cord from his amp and walked off the stage, not to return. The rest of the Electric Flag managed as best they could but by that point one could seem a growing stream of students, hippies, faculty and assorted bohemians headed for the exits, heading to the parked cars or buses that awaited them, wondering what happened to Bloomfield and if they could get a refund.

This was the deal one made with their admiration of Bloomfield’s guitar work — that one would either be in the presence of a master, an innovator, a man who changed the way succeeding guitarists approached the way they played guitar, or be witness to a burned-out case. Michael Bloomfield was found dead of an apparent drug overdose February 15, 1981, in the front seat of his Mercedes. He was a heroin user and suffered, it’s been said, from chronic insomnia, two things that might provide clues to the musician’s famed inconsistency. For all his breakthroughs in revolutionizing rock-oriented guitar playing with a heady fusion of blues, jazz, swing, raga and traditional folk-blues techniques, Mike Bloomfield was a man who didn’t stay with a project for very long, as his brief but galvanizing stints with Paul Butterfield and the Electric Flag and Al Kooper attest. Other projects, such his collaboration with Dr. John and John Hammond Jr. in the trio Triumvirate, didn’t go beyond one album and one tour. Another band called KGB with Ric Grech (from Family and Blind Faith), Barry Goldberg (Butterfield) , Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge, Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart) and Ray Kennedy (James Gang) was an attempt to put a “super group” together, but , again, didn’t last beyond one album. Bloomfield did, though, keep busy with his music, appearing on a good number of albums by other musicians, and releasing a steady stream of studio albums of his own where his best skills were displayed.

It’d be a little grandiose to maintain that Bloomfield is the Forgotten Guitar Hero, but it irksome to those of us in the early circles of fans to hear younger blues fans discuss the genius of Stevie Ray Vaughn or Robin Trower and the like without a mention of MBs monumental importance to establishing blues as the Rosetta stone through which all contemporary rock guitar playing comes from. Under discussed, obscured, perhaps, but not forgotten, not wholly.

One day few years ago I was at La Jolla’s Pannikin Café on Girard Ave., next to DG Wills bookstore, and there were the familiar plaintive, slicing, fluid riffs of Mike Bloomfield coming out from behind the counter. It was turned up loud, like it should be; I could hear the notes emoting from across the street as I waited for the traffic light to change. John, a fine young man with an angelic crest of long brown hair, was the manager on duty and the Bloomfield disc, 1969‘s Live at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West, was his choice of play. I ordered my coffee, black, no sugar, no room for cream, and asked him if he liked Bloomfield.

“Oh yeah” he replied. He took my money, gave me change. I threw the coins into the tip can.

“You know how old this recording is?” I asked, hoping to brag with one of those back-in-the-day boasts that maintained that the past was better than what’s being sold in the current time. John just smiled and ended the conversation with the best response regarding the matter.

“Really doesn’t matter” he said, “it sounds great right now.”

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Jeff Beck : less is less

Occasional guitar genius Jeff Beck.
Jeff Beck is a tiresome guitar player whose penchant for sparse noodling sends too many listeners, seduced by legacy and legend,  into reveries about how "less is more" and the virtues of having a minimal palette of tones. Truth be told, less is merely less and a Jeff Beck performance means there will be huge, gaping spaces in an improvised section, while the guitarist waits for what seems like the random moment to lay another twist to the string. His band, particularly on the Live at Ronnie Scott's album, stays busy while the master awaits is riffing muse, laying down a carpet of funk with a fabric of high-register bass work, minimal drum work, and a variety of ethereal space chords emanating from the keyboards. John Cage had the notion that the audience need to sit in their impatient stews for some periods so they have a chance to listen to their own music (Zen/chance practices in music are more exciting theorized about than experienced firsthand) and the take away for me is that the point of going to a Jeff Beck concert is to confront his reputation and to wait for him to do something interesting. This is what the late critic Steve Esmedina called "boredom as aesthetic effect". Beck, I'm sure, intends other things, and thinks himself akin to Miles Davis, another musician who never burdened his solos with gratuitous technique. Davis, though, could build tension and, when required, fire on all cylinders and make it frantic, exciting, breathe taking. Beck does not do that. Decades go by and endless conversations refer to the genius of Beck and still, nothing happens at the address I was given. I understand that and we have, of course, is essentially subjectivities competing for dominance.

The matter isn’t whether Beck can play guitar. As a blues/rock guitarist who first came to American attention during the British invasion of the Sixties with the Yardbirds and later with his string of short-lived (but memorable) ensembles, Beck is a pioneer in matters of extending the vocabulary of an African American vernacular and incorporating elements of funk, jazz, reggae and fusion and rockabilly into his particular mix. He’s recorded quite a bit of music that still makes me turn my head and stare incredulously at the speakers; when he wasn’t being cheap with his playing and willing to lavish more in guitar bravado, his guitar work is of a whole piece.

 Not just flashy solos, which were, in fact, the least of Beck’s best art, but of control of tone color,  splendidly, tasty fills in the interstices of his band’s alternately rocking or funky fury, attacks, flurries and elongated elaborations on the tremolo bar when your attention was otherwise engaged.  What makes Jeff Beck a great guitarist (when he wants to show off) is that while his compatriots were concentrating on the number of notes they could cram into a twelve-bar or sixteen bar phrase, he did what Miles Davis did with is trumpet after he ventured from the fast, rapid, conspicuously virtuoso inclined sphere of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and instead pared back his soloing to what was essential and made musical sense. 

While others dominated their songs and performances with fusillades that eventually became a comfortable rut, Beck filled his accorded solo slots with the gift of space, fewer notes, high register bends, and unique tunings. I put forth his first two albums The Jeff Beck Group and Beckola in evidence and will skip ahead to his fusion release Wired and still later Beck’s Guitar Shop as prime examples. That sweet, discerning blend of flash, taste, discretionary speed, off-center attack and an uncanny mastery of electric guitar volume are marvels for future generations to listen to if they wonder what all fuss was about. These weren’t records by an artist still making his reputation. Presently, his reputation is made, his name now a brand, his work too frequently a stylized snore.  Again, I wish Beck would indulge the less savory side of his musical nature and burn a hole in the state no one can leap over.

That, though, is part of the fun of discussing musicians and their work. It just seemed to me that Beck has refined his style over the decades to the point that he is drastically essentialist in the tweaking of his playing; all the speedy, distorted, flashier bits are missing in large measure in the interest of a more mature purity, Artists, as they age, do that, but I think Beck's ruthless reappraisal of his chops has, for me, left much of what he's recorded sound empty. I would love to hear Beck rave it up again, to cram a lot of notes into a measure and make them stick, like he used to.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Miscellany on Old Guitar Rock

:Blues --Jimi Hendrix

A typical gathering of Hendrix loose threads, centered his outstanding blues guitar work: some tracks are better than others, the band is not always in tune , and sometimes drags terribly, but this is more than archival stuff for completist. "Red House" is included, always inspiring, and "Bleeding Heart", a truly mournful show blues work out that has only surfaced once or twice on some imports, has Hendrix digging deep into the frets. A live "Hear My Train A Comin'", originally on the "Rainbow Bridge" album, is a masterpiece of pure, blazing Hendrixism: Everything Hendrix could do right on the guitar is displayed here, the sonic flurries, the screaming obstinate, the feedback waves that he turns into melodic textures with a snap of the whammy bar: this track ought to the one any Hendrix advocate plays as proof of the genius we speak about. Not a bad blues guitar disc at all, essential for this Hendrix fan.

Muddy Water Blues
--Paul Rodgers

Rodgers, ex of Free and Bad Company, is as good as blue-eyed blues/rock belting has ever gotten--he can rasp and croon, belt and banter with equal measures of savvy and snap when all cans are firing. Sadly, he sings better than he writes, as just about all his post-Free efforts show. On this album, he digs into the bullet-proof songs of Muddy Waters, and has a hoot doing them: refreshingly, this is not a purist effort. Instead, it’s a throw back to British blues rock, which was louder, faster, flashier. Jeff Beck, Gary Moore, Brian Setzer and Trevor Rabin and Neal Schon all lend their fingers here, flash and feeling , and Rodgers applies the vocal chords for the best singing he'd done in easily ten years. "She Sends Me", "Born Under a Bad Sign", 'She's Alright" and "Rolling Stone" help me, for a moment, remember why I used to think he was the best singer on the planet.

Guitar player notes:

Stevie Ray Vaughn is no more a wanker on the blues than are/were Albert King, Guitar Shorty, Buddy Guy or Vernon Reid, Blood Ulmer, Michael Hill or Sonny Sharrock, nor was he any less inspired by the pitched, aggravated dynamics the style demanded. He could keep a solo going, he could extended the sheer reams of bent notes, shadings and feedback into reams of pure, sustained rapture, a pain that does not subside--he was easily continuing the work Hendrix started, by bringing the blues into something that was as emotionally relevant to the times he surveyed, and he kept his guitar heroics honest--one can listen to Gary Moore, for example, and be impressed and overwhelmed by the sheer ferocity and speed of his technique, yet not be moved by it, but with Vaughn, the heart of his feelings found their way to his finger tips and their calluses and managed a voice out of some dark night of the soul that exclaims, in high notes and low, rolling rumbles along the bass e string, that he has survived another midnight, another patch of bad luck, another bad fuck and worse drunk to see the sun of the following day again just to live the next twenty four hours on the promise of more blues, the one thing that doesn't lie, the one set of notes in any scale and key you please that renews itself endlessly as long as there remains some capacity to feel deeply and longingly in that arena that is the province of being human alone, to find another reason to live another day. Stevie found his reason, a day at a time, with his guitar

Jeff Beck is easily the best of his generation: he has made more than a few awful records, but his guitar work was always with out equal. He is the only one of the original British blues-rock pioneers who’s learned how to blend his style musical situations than strict-rock: at his best, he is riveting as no other guitarist can be. The shame of his career is his inability to keep a band together for any real length of time. Had he found the right folks, his recorded output might have been more consistent than it is.

Ritchie Blackmore: a case of great guitar talent wasted in a bad band, Deep Purple. His solos on "Smoke on the Water”, "Highway Star' and many others are classics, little gems of perfection, but you had to put with macho-posturing to get to it. Blackmore, to my knowledge, never really did the electric work that showed unencumbered by lame vocals and moronic lyrics; though I understand he has a Celtic - themed acoustic project that might be worthwhile.

Friday, July 6, 2007


Hendrix eclipsed all the old school guys easily. But he died, which is a shock the art of rock guitar never recovered from. Jimmy Page is a first rate idea man, a great producer, a conceptualist of hard rock architecture, but he is easily the worst heavy-rep fretman I've ever seen--fast , knowledgeable, but very sloppy, so full of mistakes, painful to listen to, bordering on incompetent, without the Hendrix genius for turning mis-fingerings into an advantage.

Allan Holdsworth is in a class by himself who merged the spidery phrasing of Harvey Mandel with the "Sunship" style acceleration Coltrane favored in his most period of most frantic playing. His solo albums are inconsistent, but the band materials where I think he's done work approaching guitar genius are

Perry Como did not play the guitar.
a hard rock band with former Coliseum drummer Jon Heissman, which I heard a few years before the emergence of Van Halen. Holdsworth's fleet, punchy runs remain breath taking. Material is better than average riff-rock, and serves the guitarist just fine.

-- Soft Machine

Instrumental work, full on jazz rock, and Holdsworth takes a long solo on "Hazard Profile", choice post-McLaughlin/Coryell guitar work. Holdsworth is in state of transcendence.

Believe It
-- Tony Williams Lifetime

Great match up, Lifetime chapter two. Williams drives the jazz/fusion session masterfully--god, I miss him--and Holdsworth sears the scales in angelic overdrive.

Clapton is one of the great white blues guitarist, but he is not a blues man, but a pop star. And these days, he is kinda dull, considered by too many as being the definition and savior of blues guitar while the likes of Buddy Guy, Michael Hill, Johnny Winter and BB King are still breathing. He is trading on the remains of his charisma, I think.

Beck is singular, unique, cool, the Miles Davis of rock guitar to Hendrix's Coltrane, but he cannot keep a good thing going, breaking bands faster than many can eat lunch. It would've been nice to have a series of albums by the same band that one could dip into to see how the music developed over time, but Beck has a hard time committing. He seems to get bored in a hurry with what he's doing.
Ritchie Blackmore: a case of great guitar talent wasted in a bad band, Deep Purple. His solos on "Smoke on the Water" , "Highway Star' and many others are classics, little gems of perfection, but you had to put with macho-posturing to get to it. Blackmore, to my knowledge, never really did the electric work that showed unencumbered by lame vocals and moronic lyrics, though I understand he has a Celtic - themed acoustic project that might be worthwhile.

I cannot imagine Zappa sounding like anyone except himself.

Bloomfield, who I saw many times, including with the original Butterfield Blues Band, was at least ten years ahead of his time. His story is the best anti-drug message I can imagine.

I was a guitar obsessive for years over a slew of players--Larry Coryell, Leslie West, Ritchie Blackmore -- but I was in my teens and early twenties, after all, and matters of family, work, sobering up , and substantial career change consumed the time I would otherwise have spent waxing on , 24/7, about my favorite guitarists.

The sad part of the story is that I know some fellows, from a variety of circumstances, who are my age, late forties, and rattle on about their musical agendas at the drop of a beret. I did an interview with Ozzie Osborn in the early eighties for a weekly when Black Sabbath were coming through town, and an acquaintance named Roy couldn't get over the fact that I was the undeserving son-of-bitch among his associates who'd received an audience with his Ozziness.

Roy complimented on this fact, saying that I must be something special to get the interview --"You met Ozzie, Man, that's doesnt jus happen, bro, you met Ozzie, I mean , The Oz, the god damned Oz shook your hand , bro..."-- and then would kneel , valet style. Of course, being a young asshole myself, I got a kick out of that, but he kept it up for weeks, months, months turned into years, a decade passed, friends got married, had kids, other friends died of many different things, life became full and complicated, and close to twenty years later, around the time I turned forty, I was in the local market when Roy turns up in the aisle pushing a cart, thick around the middle, hair long, grey and thinning.

"Hey, how's the Oz man" was the first thing he said. I said I was okay, and after the expected pleasantries, he asked me what I thought of Randy Rhodes, Osborne's guitarist who was killed in a plane wreck. Not much, I said, I liked Van Halen better.

"But Randy played with Ozzy, man" he said," and you met Ozzy. Where's that at? Randy Roades played behind Oz and he could..."

Jeff Beck has always been the most adventurous of the Yardbirds triad, and he's easily the most unique: only Hendrix rivals him for advancing rock guitar by light years, and it's lucky for us that he's stayed alive to add to his legacy.Jeff Beck is easily the best of his generation: he has made more than a few awful records, but his guitarwork was always with out equal. He is the only one of the original British blues-rock pioneers who's learned how to blend his style musical situations than strict-rock: at his best, he is riveting as no other guitarist can be. The Truth / Beckola band rocked like a mother. People left their concerts with out eyelashes. Becks' guitar licks sliced the meat in the butcher shop across the street powered the generators at the ER when the lights went out. Rod Stewarts' singing forced ugly cops to stay indoors on nice days.

The shame of his career is his inability to keep a band together for any real length of time. Had he found the right folks, his recorded output might have been more consistent than it is. I wish he'd keep his bands together longer than has been his habit, because it would be a gas to see what he'd sound like with musicians he really gelled with. Anyone who wants to hear some of the freshest and flashiest guitar on disc ought to seek out the work of the late Danny Gatton. A fantastic hybrid of rock, country, blues and jazz, Gattons' playing could slash and burn and run circles around the fretboard like no ones' business. My guess is that he's was a technically accomplished as Steve Morse, but with an ear to the ground.
Jerry Garcia had his random moments when he and the Dead connected on a number of levels during those lengthy jams, but he was really an interminable improviser without much imagination beyond his diddling sense of phrase. I'll take Allen Holdsworth or Pat Metheny for extended improvisation: there is far more money in their musical banks.

Robert Hunter, though, is one of the best rock lyricists ever.

Optimum Coryell is, in my opinion:

Spaces --Incredible album, with John McLaughlin on second guitar, Miroslav Vitous on bass, and Billy Cobhmam on drums, this is one of the greatest jazz-guitar albums ever. Coryell is a lyrical blur over these strong compositions, and McLaughlin's back up and second-gun soloing anticipates the band leader's moods nicely.

-- --With Steve Marcus on sax and Mike Mandel, a unique jazz rock album, mainstream compositions and approaches to the arrangements with Coryells' cranky , buzzy guitar chops dicing and slicing --his then recent work with Sonny Sharrock on the Memphis Underground album with the other wise forgettable Herbie Mann shows here. Steve Marcus is in Coltrane overkill on his alto--those squeallllllly high notes will make you go deaf, but he is an energetic soloist.

Alvin Lees' problem is that he's only had one guitar solo, which he plays over and over again. It's not an issue of style, but of repetition. He's a one trick pony.
Buck Dharma was the cats' meow in the seventies with Blue Oyster Cult, but I always found him sterile, if proficient. Bland professionalism. BOC were also one of the dullest bands I've ever seen. Their dalliance with fascist chic hoodwinked some critics who needed symbolism to commit discourse upon, but I thought they were just silly.

There's a tendency of fans to buy into the faux tragic sweep of rock history, and to locate the "death" of the music with some event where the possibility of being legitimate at what you do became impossible. For guitar fans, that is the death of Hendrix, after whose passing no one could play as well as, and certainly no one could adopt or play in the style of because to do so would be a transgression against some deified shrine. This makes no sense, and is antithetical to music making, which is a living activity, not a bunch of notes on a page or locked on some scratchy master tapes. Hendrix certainly modeled is guitar work on guitarists before him, he modified what he liked and used to create his style, and he extended the possibilities of the music he loved by his treating the music as if he owned it. It was his creation, everything that influenced him became his own in his hands, with the result being the guitar work we discuss today.

To revisit the old neighborhood, SRV was a distinct and powerful guitarist, just as Hendrix was distinct from his mentors Albert King and Buddy Guy. "Voodoo Chile (Slight return)" sounds eerily similar to the original, but that is in the proper spirit of homage, and for other tracks, the influence is weighed with Vaughn's own personality, which is strong enough on its own.

While there's no doubting that Vaughn was deeply influenced by Hendrix, he did developed his own style, and created his own sound with what he did with the notes. For slavish, note-by-note infatuation with Hendrix's guitar work, you're on more solid ground citing Frank Marino or Randy Hansen. Vaughn created his own thing and his own feel, inspired by an obvious source that he acknowledged many times in his playing life. Even if he WAS derivative, I'm not so sure that's always a bad thing.
Agreed. It is impossible for any musician, or any artist, to not be derivative to some degree in their work, at some time. What matters is how well the influences are absorbed and make for a foundation on which to build your own expression. Vaughn had moved rather compellingly to his own style before his death. Marino, or even Uli Jon Roth, say, have never gotten beyond the box that the Hendrix factor has become.

From the get go,George Harrison's guitar work was about taste and melody, in being sprite and joyful in the notes he played.

Brian May was tasty at what he did, I think, but he was an uninteresting soloist, really, though I think it would have been interesting to have he and Steve Howe switch bands. May might have given Yes some more guts, how brought Queen more grace. Both bands, though, sank musically under the weight of their top heavy conception: the music lost drive and direction, it became dull and cranky, and both bands stumbled.

Nice licks were played , though.
LESLIE WEST!!! playing "Dreams of Milk and Honey" on the live side of Flowers of Evil by Mountain is pure, snarling, bell tone genius. Sure , call it repetitive: I quite literally know every note of this forty minute jam by heart. No, I am not a Deadhead given to listening to wandering guitar noodling. I think West achieves a moment of genius here: he never equaled this performance again.
If Keith Richards drew his inspiration in extending the sound of Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters into a new kind of rangy, chest thumping howl of macho badness, Harrison took from not just Berry but also Carl Perkins and James Burton and understood the stoic, bittersweet nature of their country-tinged phrasing, and had not a little of the "swing" these cats possessed in spades.

Most important, I think, is his genius for simplicity. He didn't play all the notes, just the right notes, and beyond that , he played them with an unexpected originality that made his solos some of the most memorable in rock and pop.