August 28, 2003
If you're going to pick the 10 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, kim du toit makes a valid point. The choices should be broken down by category.
The electric guys have their style. I noticed that nobody mentioned Leslie West, who is pretty goddam good, and I even receieved a poo-poo from someone who DOES NOT believe that Mark Knopfler is one of the greatest alive today. Just listen to the lead on "Sultans of Swing" and then go listen to Neck and Neck when he played with Chet Atkins. Tell me that boy can't play.
I can recognize good guitarists by their style if I've listened to them long enough. I'm a big-time reader of liner notes, so I pay attention to the studio dudes, too. I've impressed people many a time by hearing a lick in a song and saying, "That's Clapton." "That's Tony Rice." "That's Doc Watson." They check the liner notes and I am correct, even though I never heard the song before.
Now that Chet is dead, I believe that Mark Knopfler is the best guitar player in the world. Paul McCartney is the best bass player (and yes, that IS a guitar, but completely different from a six-string) and I don't give a shit about drummers.
On acoustic guitar, I would love to play with James Taylor, Paul Simon, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Doc Watson, Leo Kottke and Tony Rice.
On electric, I would just like to stand back and watch, maybe throwing in some rhythm. I confess that I am an okay lead player, but I'm never going to burn up the stage. I don't have the twitch muscles in my fingers to compete with some of the REALLY GOOD pickers I know. I am much better at acoustic music because I finger-pick AND play leads. Besides, I like bluegrass and country better than I like rock-and-roll anymore.
Some of the "New Wave" shit leaves me cold. I like Hendrix, Clapton, West and Knopfler. The rest of those "greats" sound like they came out of the same can.
That's MY humble opinion.
One I left off in my comment last night on the acoustic side is Donovan. Listen to his albums "Catch the Wind" and "Fairytale" for some of the finest flat-picking of the folk era.
Did you ever listen to Merle Travis pick? Now that's guitar playing.
Steve Hunter on Lou Reed's "Rock and Roll Animal" LP.
Ever hear of Michael Hedges? He was killed in a car accident a few years ago, it's a real shame. I saw the guy open for CSN a bunch o' years back and he was absolutely amazing. He picked with his right AND his left up on the neck and danced percussion on a specially miked mat. Steven Stills came out and started playing with the guy and gave up, he smoked him so bad. Stills and Crosby came out and bowed to the guy. If you like Leo Kottke, you'll appreciate Hedges.
I'll add: Jimmy Bryant, Grady Martin, John Hughey,Buddy Emmonds
Joe Satriani, hands down!
A tie for second place
Clapton and Bryan Adams--cause they know how to write great lyrics lyrics as well as play great tunes.
Third? Page, Hendrix, and Jeff (Skunk) Baxter . . . I like that last one for some reason.
Lenny Breau picked a few good ones with Chet Atkins a few years back. Outstanding.
I probably have listened to the Neck and Neck album a couple hundred times. I never get tired of it. Two Masters.
I saw Eric Clapton in concert in Giants Stadium, and I kept staring at the guy standing in the background with the rest of the band. On occasion, I could single out this particular background guy. Between his appearance and the sound, I KNEW it was Mark Knopfler.
Finally, after about 45 minutes, Clapton introduced the "visiting" guitarist, who was a "friend of his." It WAS Mark Knopfler. He apparently showed up and hopped on the stage that night, and was content to stay in the background and just lay it in.
Knopfler and Clapton on the same stage, live. What a night!
You cannot leave Satriani off of the electric list...
McCartney's a good bassist, but there are a hell of a lot of good ones out there. As an ex-bassist, I'm not easily impressed, but these guys impress me:
Jack Bruce (Cream)
Boz Burrell (Bad Company)
Glenn Cornick (Jethro Tull)
Nathan East (Eric Clapton)
John Entwhistle (The Who)
Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big)
Chris Squire (Yes)
There was a guy who played with Blood Sweat & Tears about twenty years ago, who was absolutely monumental -- I only saw him live, never got his name -- but he was EASILY the best bassist I've ever seen. If anyone can give me his name, I'll add it to my list.
The jazz guys are easy: Stanley Clark, Johnny Boshoff and Ron Carter. There are doubtless others, but I hate jazz so I wouldn't know.
[Favorite description of the Mahavishnu Orchestra: seven guys all playing at the same time.]
hrm as a bass player i still think Jack Bruce is top of that heap. McCartney gets a nod, but Jack just rips. I've blistered all 10 fingers trying to play some of his solo stuff.
My favorite guitar player is still the canadian from a band no one has heard of, Gordie Johnson from Big Sugar.
As far as bassists, I would put my nod to Jon Camp from Renaissance, who put the bass up front with the melody and blew out the first set of speakers I ever bought with Ashes Are Burning (and so's my tuner).
I'm surprised no one gave a nod to Carlos Santana or Stevie Ray Vaughn.
It is wise to apply the oil of refined politeness to the mechanisms of friendship.
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