Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Where Are The Bands With The Lead Guitar Players?

I started posting my favorite guitar solos last week and something occurred to me. Aside from "guitar player" records--you know, the Joe Bonamassas and Gary Clark Jrs., artists meant to specifically show off the guitar playing--are there any bands in the last 20 years with a lead guitarist taking solos worth mentioning? I can't think of any.

The first two of my posts were Prince and XTC, arguably two artists not known specifically for having songs with guitar solos, though Prince and both Andy Partridge and Dave Gregory of XTC are excellent players.  Today's choice is from one of my favorite bands, led by one of my favorite singers and writers, Phil Lynott and featuring two of my favorite guitar players, Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson. This live version of a song originally found on Thin Lizzy's "Night Life" record, has two solos, both of which have moved me since the very first day I bought the "Live & Dangerous" album in J&R Music World in 1978. The dual guitar attack of Thin Lizzy is a trademark sound, but again, this isn't a lead guitarist with a record. It's a band with lead guitarists.

I'd love to hear some of your suggestions. But please, if you can show some willpower, nothing before 1990. Tell me about some great guitar solos on record since 1990.


Anonymous said...

Hello all...no, please remain seated,

Totally off the top of my head....Yellow Ledbetter by Pearl Jam's Mike McCready (1992).

It's not so much guitar pyrothechnics as it is a matter of taste, tone, and control.


Anonymous said...

Wilco's "Impossible Germany" is the obvious choice, or does Nels Cline fall into the guitarist's guitarist category?

If you snag a copy of Drive By Trucker's "Live from Austin City Limits" set, Mike Cooley plays his ass off. the bottle must have been hid during the taping.

It doesn't really have any soloes, but I'm always amazed at the guitar figures unspooled on Sun Kil Moon's "Admiral Fell Promises." All nylon strings, evocative Spanish-tinged playing.

All of Eleventh Dream Day's albums from "El Moodio" through "Zeroes and Ones" have some guitar showcases and overall good playing (the last two albums not so much, kind of slapped together), most of it in Neil Young primitive.

Troy said...

Three bands come to mind:
1. Los Lobos (David Hidalgo) - "Mas Y Mas", "Wicked Rain", "Peace" are 3 of my favorites. Especially as they got more experimental and weird starting with Kiko in 1992, the guitar playing just burst out of their sound.

2. Wilco (Jay Bennett and later Nels Cline) - I'm really partial to the earlier stuff, like "I Got You (At the End of the Century)". These aren't guitar solos in the vein of Neil Schon/Journey where the guitarist essentially says 'get out of my way, I'm gonna solo' but rather they are good guitar solos that don't so much stand out as much as they fit and complement the song.

3. The Bottle Rockets (Brian Henneman)- I once read that these guys were Missouri's answer to Crazy Horse. I love earlier songs like "24 Hours a Day" and "Radar Gun", but their album from last year was terrific too. Brian can rip it up.

Finally, not a band, but not a guitar god (ala Joe B or Gary Clark Jr) either: Matthew Sweet's "Girlfriend" album has some amazing playing. I could listen to the guitar in "Divine Intervention" and the title track all day.

buzzbabyjesus said...

No, I'm stumped. That post 1990 stipulation really narrows it. Punk killed the solo.

Dr Wu said...

The latest album by Tedeschi Trucks Band 'Let Me Get By' works for me. Excellent topic. And challenging.

Sal Nunziato said...

"guitar solos in the vein of Neil Schon/Journey where the guitarist essentially says 'get out of my way, I'm gonna solo'

-is actually what I am looking for. Not necessarily Neal Schon, as I am not a fan. But a solo specifically meant to be heard as a solo, as opposed to just tasty technic throughout.

cube drone said...

I was going to offer up 11th Dream Day too, alas their Beet from 1989 misses the cut-off point.

mauijim said...

RHCP Under the bridge opening and ending guitar licks makes want to pick up the guitar again. was overplayed here at the time but with time passed i can go back to it

Thinking of this subject took me back to a guitar workout i always enjoyed in the early 90s is The Mountain from Bob Seger. Think the dual solos are from Joe walsh and Waddy Wachtel. From the Fire Inside cd.

Dr Wu said...

Well, in the Neal Schon: perhaps, Dream Theater's 'The Best of Times'?

Shriner said...

Oooh, I have one:

"If I Were You" by the Wondermints on Mind If We Make Love to you.

It's a very, very short guitar solo -- but it's fab. A great album, but the first time I heard this solo, I had to stop and replay it. Maybe because it seems (to me) to thematically call back to the solo from "Goodbye To Love" by the Carpenters. I forced a friend to listen to this one and I almost never do that.

It's a solo even though it's only about 10-12 seconds. 12 seconds! No wanking here! (OK, maybe it's not fabulous, but it struck a chord -- no pun intended -- for some unknown reason.

This is a hard call. I don't listen to as many "rock bands" as I used to. The last *long* solo (apart from My Sharona) that I thought was awesome falls outside of the 1990 cutoff ("Yo Mama" by Zappa...)

I have this feeling that there must have been an awesome solo on one of the last two Glen Campbell albums -- or any Fountains of Wayne album -- but I'd have to listen to them again...

Oh, with the 1990 cut-off: "November Rain" (G&R) has a two great solos that are overplaying.

"Remedy" by the Black Crowes?

steve simels said...


I'm stumped. Let me go look at my iTunes library and I'll get back to you.

kevin m said...

Marc Ford did a lot of great work with the Black Crowes but in my humble opinion, he really nails it on Ballad in Urgency.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention Kryptonite to a fella wearing blue and red jammies, but Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead is a master of the perfectly utilized, tastefully-serving-the-song solo. I'd point to Paranoid Android, There There, and others as solos so melodic (yet noisy) that I could sing them.
I'd agree about Wilco.
Jayhawks records are band records that have great solos.
Flaming Lips guitarist Steven Drozd may play weird noise guitar, but he does play guitar solos.
David Rawlings' acoustic lead is a highlight of every album and show.
Certainly the metal and Jam band scenes aren't lacking for bands with lead guitarists.
Others that fit the bill, and the time line, Jack White, Jason Isbell, Ryan Adams, Alabama Shakes, Dawes, and more come to mind. :-)
But your point is no less valid just because we can think of exceptions :-)

Anonymous said...

Def Leppard is still putting out albums. I do not mean this facetiously.

Bombshelter Slim said...

As a guitarist, I feel your pain. That said, the "get out of my way..." syndrome is kinda boring. I much prefer the "get in...one chorus...get out" approach where taste, chops, and melody intersect. David Hidalgo is mentioned (though he can be a little long-winded at times) but his band-mate Cesar Rosas has the chops as well, and more of a bluesy vibe as well.

Heather Taylor said...

Truth & Salvage Co.'s "Rise Up" from their 2010 eponymous debut. Love Scott's solo. Wonderful.


ASWAN said...

Cheap Trick, U2, Ike Reilly, Tom Morello...

M_Sharp said...

King Tuff - "Bad Thing". 20 seconds of greatness, not a wasted note. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRE3jb7VRns

i haven't listened to him in a while, but he has a few other good ones. Time to listen again!

Dr Wu said...

Anonymous is absolutely correct about David Rawlings. His work on the Gillian Welch track 'Time (The Revelator)' is transcendent. Thank you for the reminder. https://youtu.be/jdYG-Nh_AxU

Dr Wu said...

I believe we have a winner: Dream Theater's 'The Spirit Carries On'. https://youtu.be/-J6PPkKBXoU

Alan Rudy said...

You are exactly right... it sucks. These may help/be exceptions that prove the rule:
Giant Sand's 1994 record Glum has some great guitar,
Chuck Prophet's 1997 Homemade Blood does, too.
Grant Lee Buffalo stuff around until '99's, Jubilee
Dave Schramm's beautiful work with The Schramm's continued at least through 1998's Dizzy Spell.
I always liked the guitars in the melodies and choruses of Magnolia Electric Company's music, esp. the first two in '03 and '05.
No solos to speak of, but really really tasteful playing on the Farrar, Johnson, Parker and Yames tribute to Woody Guthrie, New Multitudes
Calla's post-rock-y album Collisions, from 2005, has some nice work on it.
The Black Angels 2006 Passover is a world of psychedelic guitar joy.
Queens of the Stone Age's 2002 Songs for the Deaf and 2007 Era Vulgaris comes to mind.
Do the Black Keys, starting in 2001, count?
Or that first Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, 2002, record?
There's guitar on Vic Chesnutt's 2007 album, North Star Deserter to die for.
STRNGRS - from Brooklyn - have/had some shredding going on earlier this decade.

Alan Rudy said...


zillagord said...


Anonymous said...

I'm gonna get killed for this because it's a completely uncool choice...but John Mayer's solo in "Gravity" is just about perfect. Captures and extends the mood of the song, and has subtle twists of phrasing that keep the listener off balance.

Okay, you can shoot me now.

A walk in the woods said...

Has nobody mentioned The Strokes yet?? I think they qualify!

jeff said...

I don't know his name, but Pokey LaFarge's guitarist plays some great solos.

Bill said...

Breaking the rules of your topic, I was listening to some live Squeeze songs on YouTube this morning. As has been discussed here previously, Glen Tilbrook is a most underrated guitarist. I was struck by the little solo he fits into the end of this version of The Truth, which the band was playing last year.


Oh, and I'd add another vote for the Jayhawks--some nice guitar work on their new album.

Anonymous said...

If nailing it on the year 1990 counts then Flood of Sunshine by the Posies absolutely has to be included multiple minutes of unadulterated flat out kick ass guitar work that fades off into the ether only to come back around and give you one last dose fabulous fret work. I agree with the inclusion of Wilco's Impossible Germany.

Steven Portela said...

Every Black Crowes album, from the first in 1990 to the last in 2013. Every. Damn. One

Lord Carrett said...

Every album by The Brian Setzer Orchestra has at least one blistering guitar solo.

Brian would technically be a hot-shot guitarist with an album now, since he made his name with The Stray Cats (Stray Cat Strut!)

I believe The Stray Cats' comeback album: "Blast Off!" would come in just under your 1990 cut-off. How about the solo on "Slip, Slip, Slippin' In."

Evan Johns unfairly existed in the shadow of Danny Gatton for some, but his latest stuff (available from the man himself) is awesome. As you can see I favor the fluid jazzy solos of rockabilly music.

I agree with the above posts about Chuck Prophet, Cheap Trick, and The Jayhawks (and even Golden Smog).

Lord Carrett said...

I posted without checking my facts, but because I did, I came up with a better example of a great solo by Brian Setzer Post-1990. Blast Off was '89 as it turns out... but I prefer Setzer's guitar work on the follow-up: 1992's CHOO CHOO HOT FISH, which is an exceptional release from the cover design to the songwriting and playing.

So here's my revised choice: Brian's solo on "Beautiful Blues" which is 1:03 seconds in and goes for about 45 seconds.

Kirke said...

Just heard Learning to Fly on the radio, and had to come back to this thread. Mike Campbell is so underrated.