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Well this list should be significantly different than The Smitchen’s version, which you can check out right here.
My list reflects the fact that I have changed styles a dozen times since I started playing at around 10 years old, which is going to make this list that much harder to cough up.
A few of these really aren’t known for being “guitar albums” but I find it really enjoyable to explore some of the great guitarists out there who are backing up other musicians.
But anyway – here it is, like ‘ol Mr. Smitch said, in no particular order because I love them all.
(Click album covers to enlarge)
Considered by some (well, quite a few, actually) to be Metallica’s worst album of the early days, it just happened to come out in 1988 when I was still in my early teens and these long haired dudes seemed like the coolest guys on the planet.
Being my first guitar-specific influence, it really had an impact on my rhythm playing, and at the time a bit of a depressing impact on my soloing style – in the form of “not being able to play that”. So I guess I learned more from James and Lars on that one than anything. I think I figured out the rhythm parts for most of the songs on this album.
Musically it really is a great album, most of the critisism came from the way it was produced, some saying it was too “sterile” or “over-produced”. I loved it for its cleanness, which really made it easy to learn the rhythm parts.
A year earlier in 1987, this one came out. I didn’t find it until after Justice, however, when I was looking through all my sister’s cassette tapes, which I was famous for stealing. Actually, my sister played a big part in my musical upbringing, specifically the metal beginnings. I was listening to AC/DC, Accept, Sabbath, and all that good stuff when I was only 13 and should have probably been playing outside.
Anyway, back to the Guns. This album was hard to sort out from some of the others of the time, trust me there were alot more, but its another one that I remember just sitting down and learning note for note, song by song.
I always thought that most of the parts I was really digging were Slash’s – I knew the solos were, but I later found out that I had chosen many of Izzy’s parts as my favorites. Izzy is a monster. Listen to Rocket Queen. Hard rock rhythm is worlds apart from metal rhythm.
In fact – if you’re gonna listen to this album, check out one of the coolest things about it – pretty much all of the guitars are panned fairly hard left / right. You can pan either way and hear mostly one or the other. This makes it pretty easy to pick out the parts you want, and you can hear exactly what Slash / Izzy are doing.
What I learned from it? Well, I got alot of soloing styles from it. In fact, in later years it was really hard to get out of some Slash habits to make room for new ones. It was a really good foundation for my then young soloing style, however.
I was a wee boy in the last half of the 70’s, but I remember my parents listening to lots of disco/funk. It stayed with me, and today it’s still with me. Lenny Kravitz was the one who put the two together in my mind, with “Mama Said”. I recognized a lot of the vibes my parents had introduced me to the very first time I heard this album.
Some might argue that this isn’t a funk album, but it had the elements, especially on “Always On The Run”, and it made me want to pick up the guitar and play. This album helped establish my “feel” for the guitar – in other words channeling emotions into the instrument.
Here I learned a lot about a style of music that would never leave me, from the Henrix-like vibes of “Are You Gonna Go My Way” to the syncopated licks on “Always On The Run”. I actually had to learn the bass part to fully understand the song.
In the years after, I looked for other albums that made this connection in my mind, and it lead me to alot of funk / acid jazz stuff, which is why I always credit Lenny for bringing the funk into my guitar style.
It’s gonna be hard to find much by this band, they never made it really big, and their albums can be hard to find. They did however do a great job blending funk, hard rock (some metal) and soul. I found them by accident, as they were actually one of the first bands to be featured on MTV’s “Buzz Bin”, from way back when the “M” in MTV actually had some meaning.
Excellent guitars, great funky vibe, and some good rockin songs too. I actually highly recommend this album.
This album taught me a bit about fusion, as I learned more about blending elements of music together that previously had been self standing in my mind, so this one is on the list because it expanded how I thought about musical styles, and opened a lot of doors in that regard.
There are many albums and collaborations that Al Di Meola worked on that had a huge impact on me, but “Flesh On Flesh” was the first one I remember purchasing and devouring. I was already into Vai at this time, and you can hear some similarities there. I think it was listening to Vai that opened up my mind enough to tackle Al Di Meola.
With Al, you almost always have a constant, strong theme relying heavily on the E and A strings, that pretty much goes throughout the entire song. This is probably one of my favorite elements of his music. This element in particular combined with his sprinkles of lead playing over top, weaves a bit of magic.
Also I have to mention his work with Paco De Lucia, which is always ear-candy. If you’re gonna check out Al, be sure to check out some of his stuff with Paco, they compliment each other extraordinarily.
I always thought I loved Sting, but it turns out it was really Dominic Miller getting my attention. Mercury Falling had two songs in particular that necessitated my purchase of a nylon string guitar.
First – “The Hounds of Winter” It’s simple, but a hell of alot of fun and satisfying to play, and incredibly written. Dominic taught me exactly what “less is more” really means.
Second – “La Belle Dame Sans Regrets” Who knows what the hell Sting is saying in this song, which is all in French, but if you’re a guitarist, who cares? This song is way harder to play right than it sounds. You might think its easy, but once you start to learn it, you’ll notice the rhythm part.
I actually contacted Dominic at this point, and he gave me some great advice on how to tackle this song, as well as a tip to check out Baden Powell, since it appeared that the elements I liked most about the song were Brazilian & Bossa Nova. Thus another era began, and I studied this type of music for quite awhile.
Another song on this album to check out if you want a real challenge is “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying”. Its insane. If you can keep up you’re full of talent. I learned it, but man that was a rough weekend. Dominic is doing SO much in this song, and you’ve really got to know it to play it at full speed. It’s all about finding the groove and knowing the song well. The rest will follow with practice.
Two other tips:
1 – Get the original Sting version, not Toby Keith.
2 – Capo on the first fret, unless you have some strong fingers.