Lewis picks his favourite guitar-shredding moments of all time.
Please let us know your choices below.
The Eagles – “Hotel California”
A tribulation of materialism and excess, the title track to the Eagles’ landmark 1976 album is quite simply iconic, and is without question, one of the most famous rock songs of all time. However, more famous then the song itself is the legendary duel-guitar solo performed by Don Felder and Joe Walsh. The two-minute solo featured after the final chorus has become a must-learn for axe enthusiasts across the world, with dozens of wannabe stars earnestly attempting to master its every legato lick and nuance. Performed in the same B-minor chord progression heard in the song’s introduction and verses, with that progression interspersed with fifths and modal interchange, Felder and Walsh’s masterpiece employs all sorts of various articulations, such as hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, bends, and all embellished with chromatic passing tones.
Pantera – “Floods”
“Floods” showcases Dimebag’s extensive repertoire on guitar more then any other Pantera song. Such is the change up of tempo and feel during the nine minute-long track, mirroring the work of Dimebag’s two irresistible guitar solos alternating from punishing to the transcendental, it is the last minute-and-a-half that really produces the brilliance the late guitarist possessed. The final solo was, in fact, a riff that was written back in the eighties but was then chosen to close the epic ballad on the band’s eighth studio release. While not technically preeminent, the outro’s appeal derives from its soothing melody, compelling use of key change and chromatic scales, as well as an amazingly understated delay/echo effect that is completely breathtaking to behold.
Funkadelic – “Maggot Brain”
Funkadelic’s third album, Maggot Brain, was in theory an endeavour that closely followed their psychedelic funk and soul roots. With that said, the title track’s ten-minute guitar solo owing more to the blues than anything else was not what was quite expected. However, this enchanting solo performed by the late Eddie Hazel is quite extraordinary. Legend states that vocalist George Clinton told Hazel during the recording session for “Maggot Brain” to play “like your momma had just died” – and his mind-blowing guitar solo, recorded in one take, was the result. It’s been depicted by many as the greatest guitar solo ever, so fragile it feels as if it’s been pulled out of the air, so deep you’ll feel like reading a Leo Tolstoy novel. With a familiar structure and feel to “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd, not least in the blues influence, but in the way that the songs builds and builds, the solo delivers an intense emotional rollarcoaster with Hazel’s guitar both dripping with emotion as well, at times, sounding like it’s going to fall in on itself, such is the passion and speed with which it’s being played.
Eric Clapton – “White Room”
Commencing with a unique-sounding guitar, tribal drumming and a very evident psychedelic vibe, “White Room” for the most part can be only described as an LSD enterprise. However, the song comes alive (as well as Clapton) in the final phase with an outstanding outro displaying a brilliant partnership between Ginger Baker on drums and Clapton’s legendary guitar work. After being influenced by Jimi Hendrix to incorporate a wah-wah pedal into his dexterity, Clapton took on this effect to new levels and, as a consequence to this individual performance alone, he virtually wrote the book on how the wah pedal should be used for decades to come. Written in the D-minor pentatonic region with a few major notes flung into the mix, “White Room” heralds Clapton’s finest guitar solo, one that is even better live!
Randy Rhoads – “Mr. Crowley”
“Mr. Crowley” is Randy Rhoads’ most definitive moment as a guitarist. Though most see “Crazy Train” as being the most consequential thing to come of Rhoads’ brief musical career, from a songwriting standpoint, the epic sixth track on Ozzy’s solo debut has the edge with its eerie atmosphere and melancholic melodies, coming much closer in notion to what Black Sabbath had been striving towards in the later part of their tenure with Osbourne. (Think Technical Ecstasy or Never Say Die.) The sheer number of memorable passages and revolutionary devices at play in this song, guitar-wise, in particular the multiple volleys of lead guitar brilliance, eclipses everything on Blizzard of Ozz and the follow up, Diary of a Madman. The solos showcase not only jaw-dropping technique and composition but a true melodic feel that few guitarists in any genre and style can attain. The middle and closing solos incorporate most of Rhoads’ signature techniques including melodic legato arpeggios and sweep-picking scales, rapid-fire pentatonics and fast trills, with a graduate build in force and intensity. The instrumental forms a plaintive crescendo that leaves the listener completely amazed.
Stevie Ray Vaughan – “Pride and Joy”
After being popularised throughout the 1940s to the late 1960s, electric blues music suffered a bleak and inconspicuous period during the dance and pop era of the seventies and eighties. However, that all changed when a young guitar player by the name of Stevie Ray Vaughan released his debut album, Texas Flood, along with his backing band, Double Trouble. You shouldn’t underestimate the impact Vaughan had on the blues and how he appeared to exclusively spark a revitalisation of the genre alone. Critics at the time claimed that, no matter how prodigious Vaughan’s instrumental talents were, he struggled to forge a distinctive voice with his music. Instead, he wore his influences wholeheartedly on his sleeve, whether it was Albert King’s pinched yet muscular soloing or Larry Davis’ emotive singing. Pumping fresh blood into a familiar genre, Vaughan openly celebrated his influences and his two best self-penned songs feature on his debut, “Pride and Joy” and “Love Struck Baby.” It is “Pride and Joy” that takes centre stage on this list, though, featuring one of his most famous guitar solos. Encompassing groove turnarounds on an E7 chord pattern, Vaughan’s middle solo in “Pride and Joy” epitomises every skilful technique he had at his disposal and showcases exactly why he is considered the greatest blues player of all time.
Pearl Jam – “Alive”
Nirvana may have grabbed all the headlines and acknowledgements of the grunge era, but it was Pearl Jam who produced the best album of the time, and “Alive” was well and truly their signature anthem. It commences with a simple power chord riff before Eddie Vedder’s soft mellow tones drop away to yield an outstanding vocal presence throughout the choruses. Once the third chorus climaxes, guitarist Mike McCready performs a magnificent outro solo, matching the high intensity of the choruses and masterfully delegating the ending of the song all to his command. According to the guitarist, the solo was based on Ace Frehley’s on the Kiss song “She,” but unlike Frehley’s, the solo performed in “Alive” is the real crowning glory of the song, bringing it to a majestic climax very rarely seen in modern music. Operating in the G -major and E-minor pentatonic, McCready’s technique is simple but hugely effective, achieving arguably the best two minutes of music from the nineties.
Led Zeppelin – “Achilles Last Stand”
By the late seventies, Led Zeppelin had already scaled huge heights in their continued dominance of stadium-filled hard rock. Their seventh studio album, Presence, featured their last piece of greatness, a song so epic in composition it easily parallels with the adventures of its subject matter, Greek Mythology. “Achilles Last Stand” exhibits a beautifully intricate solo by Jimmy Page, proving why he is arguably one of the most important guitarists in the history of rock and roll. Having often displayed an avid interest in multi-layered guitar tracks to achieve an orchestrated sound, Page overdubbed a dozen guitars for “Achilles Last Stand” with the solos ranging from multi-tracked harmony lines to single track-led lines. Whilst incorporating thematic repetition and extended melodic phrases, “Achilles Last Stand” represents Page’s most lyrical recorded work.
Alter Bridge – “Brand New Start”
Though globally known as a more-than-adequate songwriter in his days with Creed, it wasn’t until the rise of Alter Bridge where audiences would finally encounter Mark Tremonti, the solo guitarist. Nowadays, Tremonti is widely renowned as a virtuoso and his technical abilities of frightening fretwork are on another level entirely. By creating a unique style that’s all his own by cherry-picking particular techniques from the likes of Paul Gilbert, Rusty Cooley and Eddie Van Halen along with his own, he has become one of the best guitarists working today. “Brand New Start,” featured on Alter Bridge’s second album Blackbird, sees Tremonti establish the solo as a defining feature of the song, not just in build up but in the amount of time it takes up. Commencing with a slow bluesy pattern, the solo builds with the help of layered dynamics consisting of softer notes that build into more extensive patterns that perfectly segue into the second half of the piece, with intense fretwork creating a very endearing guitar solo.
Guns N’ Roses – “Nightrain”
Guns N’ Rose’s debut featured many of Slash’s now-legendary guitar masterpieces, exercising precise blues-inspired licks along with a raw heavy rock feel. However, his cream of the crop on Appetite, and one that gets fairly overlooked, is his closing solo on “Nightrain.” The song’s over-the-top enthusiasm and unforgiving adolescent tone concludes with an incredible solo from Slash. Both gritty and emotional, and with bursts of technical mastery, the solo brings to a close Guns’ most “rock n’ roll” song they ever wrote, and with it, fully showcased a guy who could play some serious guitar. Written in an A-minor pentatonic scale at first, the final phase of the solo incorporates legato speed techniques and fast-paced trills.