I’ve been blown away each time I’ve seen Ian Williams play, whether it was in the original monsters of crushing polyrhythmic madness, Don Caballero, the avant-weird hyperkinetic not-jazz of Storm & Stress, or in his current band Battles, where he taps the fretboard with his left hand and plays a keyboard with his right. On top of that, he’s a really nice guy.
Prince is such an extraordinary performer and songwriter that his skills on the axe are often overlooked. The guy is awesome though, displaying a masterful command over his blistering, soul-stinging solos and tight riffage.
Brian May had to invent new instruments and equipment in order to translate the melodic heavy metal pop in his head. His triple-tracked leads, chugging rhythms, and ambient harmonics were certainly showy at times, but Queen was a showy band. Nothing wrong with that–it’s called glam music after all.
Brian May rips up a 10 minute solo from “Brighton Rock”–
Would we care about David Bowie today if Mick Ronson hadn’t been there to boost the one-time fairy-folk singer’s fey melodies and bizarro lyrics with some rocknroll oomph? Maybe, who knows–Bowie was (is) always adept at finding great people to work with (no fewer than three of Bowie’s guitar players will make this list). Besides working with Bowie and the perennially underrated Mott the Hoople, Ronson was always behind the scenes working with all the cool kids–Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Morrissey, etc.
Ronson tears up the solo from “Moonage Daydream” on the Ziggy Stardust tour–
After making five albums with British folkies Fairport Convention (including my faves Unhalfbricking and Liege and Lief) Richard Thompson set out down the solo path, recording some brilliant albums with his wife Linda, including the classic I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight. Although he’s best known for his distinctive folk-rock sound and wiry, spare solos, Thompson also made a significant contribution to the new, punk influenced music of the early eighties with his album Shoot Out the Lights–a masterpiece on par with Television’s Marquee Moon and almost as good as anything the Talking Heads ever did.
Check out “Wall of Death” from Shoot Out the Lights—