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Seven Solos that Melted My Face
I have to start by saying Eddie Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Jimmy Page have been so well covered that I’m going to give them a quick, respectful “I’m not worthy” bow, and move on to some lesser-known, but still thoroughly face-melting guitarists. I chose these songs with one specific requirement in mind: These are solos I actually sat down and learned. I tried hard to play specific parts of them, and although I couldn’t always play them perfectly or completely, I definitely came away with some great phrases and inspiration. Please seek these out and give them a listen.
1. Song: “In the World of Giants”
Guitarist: Kim Mitchell
Max Webster, like Jethro Tull and Lynyrd Skynyrd before him, is not actually a member of the band. Kim Mitchell is the guitarist, singer, and creative force behind this Canadian rock-prog-fusion-pop band. Kim blasts out an amazing intro of picked 16th-note triplets in this song. Not only is he fast, but his tone is flawless, and he’s so locked into the groove that you can stomp your foot to it. The song itself is a great rocking shuffle, and his guitar solo in the middle was one of my first exposures to playing “outside.” Plus, Kim is wearing some kind of bright yellow satin jumpsuit while flying through the air on the album cover.
2. Song: “Mother Mary”
Guitarist: Michael Schenker
Check out the live version and listen to Michael Schenker rip through some descending fours with power and ease. It took me a long time to figure out that these are played on a single string. Yngwie made a franchise out of this lick, but Schenker played it first.
3. Song: “Harpsichord Concerto in A Major”
Composer: Johann Christian Bach
How many hundreds of years ago was this written? I’m not sure. But it was long ago when TV, video games, email, and Facebook didn’t distract musicians. In other words, there wasn’t much to do except practice. And it shows in classical pieces like this one. Okay, it’s not guitar, but I still tried to learn the beautiful and simultaneously face-melting harpsichord solos in this piece. If you want to hear my guitar version of it, listen to “Gilberto Concerto” on my Flying Dog record. I also used a chunk of it in “Scarified” by Racer X.
4. Song: “End of the World”
Guitarist: Gary Moore
Gary Moore gained fame as a blues guitar player, but in the ’80s he was metal, metal, metal. Have you heard his Corridors of Power record? No? Well then, put down this magazine and go get that thing. The whole record is great, but Gary’s solo in “End of the World” is the definition of “face melting.” Seriously, you’re not going to believe it. Go get that record!
5. Song: “Exploder”
Guitarist: Akira Takasaki
Akira Takasaki is the Japanese Gary Moore, Van Halen, Alex Lifeson, and Richie Blackmore all rolled into one. You can hear his influences, but they are excellent influences, and he mixes them into his own incredible style. This is from an album called Disillusion. The whole album was a huge influence on my early Racer X playing and writing.
6. Song: “Answer to the Master”
Guitarists: Pete Willis and Steve Clark
This song is from the very first Def Leppard album when Pete Willis and Steve Clark both played lead guitar in the band. I don’t know which one of them played the solos in this song, but the result is one of the most glorious air-guitar moments I can think of. The main riff is creative and rocking at the same time. Yes, 1980 was a great year to be a metal fan.
7. Song: “Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights)”
Guitarists: Pat Travers and Pat Thrall
And 1979 wasn’t bad either. Pat Travers and Pat Thrall remain my favorite dual-guitar team of all time. On this live recording, their guitars are panned hard to the left and right channels, so you can easily hear what each Pat is playing. Both their rhythm parts and lead parts made a huge mark on my style. In the mid ’80s, when I found myself getting too deep into harmonic minor Bach-rock, I brought myself back to this song, learned the solos as best I could, and my rock-blues soul was literally saved! But with face-melting phrases still at full force! The rest of the album is great too. And you can hear where I got the idea for getting crazy sounds out of an old A/DA Flanger or my new Airplane Flanger.
Paul Gilbert purposefully began playing guitar at age 9, formed the guitar-driven bands Racer X and Mr. Big, and then accidentally had a No. 1 hit with an acoustic song called “To Be with You.” Paul began teaching at GIT at the age of 18, has released countless albums and guitar instructional DVDs, and will remembered as “the guy who got the drill stuck in his hair.” For more information, visit paulgilbert.com