When talking to any guitar player about solos, the usual suspects will no doubt be brought up, from the harmonically rich solo in "Hotel California" played by the guitar duo of Don Felder and Joe Walsh, to Jimmy Page's display of virtuosity in "Stairway to Heaven".
In this article, I'm going to list five of my all-time favourite guitar solos at great risk to my personal well-being...
5. Home (01:48)
Artist/Band: Michale Buble
Solo Played by: Brian Green
Feel, feel feel! This solo is made of pure feel. It starts off small and never really gets any bigger, however, the attention it demands is what makes it the bit of musical gold that it is.
Brian Green's old school jazzy tone is exactly what this song cries out for. It is smooth and unobtrusive. His control is also worth noting. Each note sits beautifully among the instruments in the rhythm section as well as the string arrangement.
Each listen yields something new to appreciate.
4. Smells Like Teen Spirit (02:32)
Solo Played By: Kurt Cobain
Playing the vocal melody as a guitar solo isn't a new idea, even in 1991 when Nirvana released Nevermind. It was a staple in early jazz and rock n' roll records and was used to great effect, but they all, in my opinion, pale in comparison to Kurt Cobain's solo in 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'.
The attitude with which this solo is played is simply awesome. Kurt's guitar jumps out of the mix without losing any of it's mid-range body. His tone is perfect! Not too crisp, but not too muddy (I hope that makes sense to anybody). I think context is what makes this solo so incredible.
3. Something (01:44)
Artist/Band: The Beatles
Solo Played By: George Harrison
Frank Sinatra called it "The greatest love song ever written", and I'm not one to disagree with him. Everything about this song is powerful. The lyrics are simple without being understated and the musical arrangement is a testament to the collective genius of the Beatles and their producer, George Martin.
This song, so easily, could have been ruined by a solo which had little or no connection to the overall theme of it. Thank goodness that was not the case.
Eric Clapton's influence on George's playing can be clearly heard in this solo. It is melodic and dripping with emotion. He managed to find the best notes to coincide with the chord changes, yet wasn't afraid to go out of the box in the latter part of the solo. It also sounds as if George was holding back, preventing himself from overplaying, a mistake which would have proven detrimental to the song.
2. Driven By You (02:32)
Artist/Band: Brian May
Solo Played By: Brian May
Brian May is a true master when it comes to the art of composing a guitar solo. He has the gift of making almost any piece of music he plays memorable.
The first time I heard the solo in 'Driven By You' I struggled to comprehend what was happening. There is so much happening at once that it is easy to lose yourself as the music grabs a firm hold of your mind and shakes it violently...
What makes this solo so incredible is the arrangement behind it. Brian's solo travels through four distinct movements, changing in each one, keeping the listener guessing at all times. His flawless technique shines through in every measure. His picking, bending, note selection and his knowledge of harmony all play a role in making this solo the masterpiece that it is.
1. Purple Rain (Original - 03:48; Video - 01:19)
Solo Played By: Prince
Arguably one of the most underrated guitar players in musical history, Prince delivers in 'Purple Rain' what can only be described as an emotional explosion of artistic expression at its finest. This song is unrelenting in its mission to make you feel, whether you like it or not.
Prince displays not only his vocal virtuosity in this song, but his astounding guitar skills as well. Just when you think the song cannot possibly get any bigger, he launches into a solo which smacks you across the face with its raw power.
His phrasing in this solo makes it particularly interesting. He isn't scared to let the song breathe in between bursts of his guitar wizardry. This space gives his solo an even more haunting and human-like character.
From start to finish, he is in complete control of every note that he plays and he doesn't let you forget it.