RIGHT-ON '70S CLASSICS
by Mike Keneally
Guitar Player, February 1994
The cumulative hours of beautiful guitar playing on all of Steely Dan's albums takes the breath away and keeps it. Again, it's tough to decide, but the riff in Ex.18 always stays with me, because when I was 11 years old, I heard a band practising it across the canyon from my house and slipped into a reverie about how awesome it would be to be able to play it someday. (Now it's in the Z medley!) While he doesn't play lead on this tune, a lifetime achievement award must be presented to Denny Dias, the planet's most able performer of genuinely well-fused jazz-rock guitar. (And a huge nod to Drew Zingg from the Steely Dan reunion tour, who burned so resolutely, the stars were singed.)
Interlude #2: Other Obscure, Semi-Obscure, or Semi-Uncelebrated Amazing People And/Or Moments That I Didn't Have Time To Transcribe. If the late Ollie Halsall is known in this country at all, it's most likely as a guitarist on the Rutles album, but he was a dazzling, inventive player with a taste for the twisted. Find and purchase an import copy of Patto's Hold Your Fire, likely Halsall's recorded peak. On the other hand, some talented guys found themselves playing in the bands whose sheer commercial success prompted many observers to overlook them: Chicago's Terry Kath had stunning phrasing, ideas and energy; Mike Allsup's playing in Three Dog Night, and his tone could shred your scalp (listen to Captured Live At The Forum, seriously); and there's wonderful things by Kurt Winter and Greg Leskiw on the Guess Who's Share The Land album. And these three guitar events must be adored: the way the guitars sound on Badfinger's "No Matter What," the way the guitars sound on Nilsson's "Jump Into The Fire," and Robert Fripp's soloing on "The Hammond Song" from the Roches' debut.
Where does one begin with Jeff Beck? I've always loved the elasticity of the Jan Hammer-influenced lick in Ex.20, but talk about a garden of guitaristic delights, and you're talking about Wired and Blow By Blow. Ouch.
Okay, the Beatles riff in Ex.21 was recorded in the '60s, but it was released in the '70s, so I cling to my right to include it. Do you know how certain riffs just demand to be played when you pick up the guitar? This is one of them. if you can play this and not smile, you are in trouble.
Fred Frith did marvelous things with Henry Cow and continues to do marvelous things in his solo career and in an endless parade of collaborations. But to me, this simple melody is the most marvelous of all his marvelous things. This song pretty much defines and defends the relationship between art and rock. Ex.22 is majesty incarnate.
Doom, Pt.3: This Black Sabbath riff scared me when I was ten. So did the Campbell's Kids and the Quaker Oats guy, so that might not be saying much, but there's no question that this figure cuts to the heart of darkness. At the same time, even at ten I thought there was something faintly amusing about the whole vibe, and indeed a lot of unintentionally funny music has been spawned by these three notes. But blame not the sins of the sons on Tony Iommi; Ex.23 is Doom Rock King.
The AM rock riff of the '70s? As appropriated by Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit In The Sky," the time-worn boogie lick in Ex.24 sounded wicked coming out of a horrible car radio.
I know I left out a lot of stuff you love; I left out a lot of stuff I love too. For starters: Steve Howe, Allan Holdsworth (try the first Bruford album, Feels Good To Me), Steve Hillage on Space Shanty by Khan, What If by the Dixie Dregs, David Gilmour on Wish You Were Here, Santana's Lotus, Derek & The Dominos' "Bell Bottom Blues," bunches of Aerosmith, Jan Akkerman's beastly riffing with Focus, Devo's Duty Now For The Future, the Sex Pistols, obviously Zappa, and a million other things that I will hate myself for forgetting as soon as I turn this in. But these things happen.
©1994 Guitar Player Magazine