I thought I’d write a couple of lists of my favourite guitar albums. In a strange anomaly, my favourite instrumental album of all time would be a piano record: Una Mattina by Ludovico Einaudi -my ultimate desert island disc. Anyway onto the guitar records…my criteria for these tends to be the albums ‘ worked out most songs from. I’m also more interested in great playing and original parts as part of a song rather than for there own sake, so these albums also tend to contain really good songs (in my opinion anyway).
Here we go:
My top guitar albums:
1. Jack Orion – Bert Jansch ; An album described as an open tuned assault on traditional music, which is half true as not much of the album is in open tuning. A lot of it is in drop D, but that doesn’t really count as an open tuning in my book as its only one string different. What makes this really special is the interplay between the vocal melody and the guitar rhythms and melody which I think provided a blueprint for for one guitar / one voice for the next 40 years. Bert Jansch s a much revered artist in the UK, but I think in some circles he isnt really credited for the huge impact he and his first 3 albums had on the course of music but when Bert Jansch play, the ghosts come out to dance
2. Dire Straits – Dire Straits; I always thought and still think Mark Knopfler offered something a little bit difference compared to the other guitar ‘heroes’ around. i think it’s the way his solos were so well constructed and melodic (check out the first solo on Sultans of Swing) and didnt resort to the blues cliches that fall so nicely under the fingers. He also had a country influence to his playing that led me to get into a lot of country music, and I reckon these hot country guys are the best in the world (check out Brad Paisley, Forrest Lee jr, Brent Mason, Johnny Hilland and many other). This album has some great songwriting on it as well, as does my next favourite Dire Straits album, Making Movies, but for no particular reason Dire Straits gets the nod.
3. Led Zeppelin 3 – Led Zeppelin; I really like guitarists that play both electric and acoustic and treat them as the slightly different instruments that they are. These guys are few and far between and I would say that Jimmy Page and Rory Gallagher (see below) are the best examples of this. Led Zeppelin 3 gets in my list over 2 or 4 due mainly to “Since I’ve Been Loving You”…everybody loves a slow blues don’t they? Brilliant slightly off the wall songs, the best drummer in rock history, Jimmy Page…what more could anyone want ofrom a record
4. Against the Grain – Rory Gallagher; Apparently in an interview, when asked what it felt like being the best guitarist in the world, Jimi Hendrix replied ” ask Rory Gallagher”. Like Led Zep 3 , above, this has killer songs and most of all Rory’s unique soloing style which kind of mixes blues with traditional (Irish) music. Pretty unique. Check out his version of Leadbelly’s “Out on the Western Plain” as it really doesnt get better than this. Also a great mandolin player as seen on his Irish Tour 1973 DVD.
5. Ladies of the Canyon – Joni Mitchell; An odd one for a guitar album list maybe as half the songs are played on the piano, but I love the big open tunings and the way in which they back up her voice and somehow envelope around the vocals while leaving a lot of space. I’m a huge Joni Mitchell fan and as I said at the top, i’m way more influenced by good guitar parts on great songs rather than great playing and technique in isolation. Joni Mitchell, for me, is the sound of an open road and cloudless sky