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Zharth's Music Log

Week 50: Guitarists You've Never Heard

Preface: This week will feature seven of my favorite classic rock and blues-related guitar gods that you just never hear anymore (especially on the radio), but who are every bit as talented and inspiring as the Jimi Hendrix's and Eric Claptons of the world.

Monday (6/30/08): Bloomfield & Kooper - Albert's Shuffle [Super Session, 1968]
Comments: We just did a week celebrating the talent of blues virtuoso guitar god Michael Bloomfield, so he should no longer be a stranger to you. This is quite possibly my favorite track featuring Bloomfield's guitar work, and indeed, Al Kooper's plan for the Super Session was just that - to try to record some of Bloomfield's best playing. Did he succeed? Quite possibly.

Tuesday (7/01/08): Johnny Winter - Tribute To Muddy [The Progressive Blues Experiment, 1968]
Comments: Speaking of blues virtuoso guitar gods, albino bluesman Johnny Winter always had a powerful guitar heavy approach to the blues - and he plays a mean slide, too - but even his somewhat more popular brother, Edgar Winter, is relegated to not more than a couple tracks on mainstream classic rock radio. And that's a shame.

Wednesday (7/02/08): Ten Years After - Turned Off T.V. Blues [Rock & Roll Music To The World, 1972]
Comments: It's criminal that Ten Years After as a band don't have a fraction of the popularity of other bluesy rock bands such as Led Zeppelin. Alvin Lee is a remarkable guitarist who is capable of creating infectious rock riffs as well as amazingly fluid lead solos. And he has a distinctive vocal style that suits his songs perfectly - sort of like Jimi Hendrix's approach to vocals. Most people who view the Woodstock film are blown away by TYA's performance, but it seems that their popular legacy doesn't extend any further than that...

Thursday (7/03/08): Roy Buchanan - C.C. Rider [American Axe: Live in 1974]
Comments: I've extolled the virtues of Roy Buchanan briefly on this blog in at least a couple other places, I'm sure, but it's never enough. Roy's style is so unique, and so expressive, that you can't compare him to any other guitarist that ever lived. He didn't so much play the guitar, as transcend it. It's fairly obvious that he didn't play popular music, but any true fan of guitar virtuosity would be missing out terribly if they never heard a Roy Buchanan recording.

Friday (7/04/08): Fleetwood Mac - Watch Out [The Original Fleetwood Mac, released 1971 (this track recorded in 1967)]
Comments: Runaway commercial success in the mid-to-late 70's unfortunately obscured the original incarnation of this band, which played a large part in laying the blueprint for the blues-based hard rock boom in the late 60's - Led Zeppelin themselves were known to have been influenced by Fleetwood Mac's early live shows. That incarnation was helmed by guitar god Peter Green, who replaced Eric Clapton in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers before heading off to form Fleetwood Mac. Perhaps if Peter Green hadn't been a victim of torturous mental conditions from the 70's onward, he might have made a more lasting impact - but what has been recorded of his legacy is evidence of an amazing talent, in songwriting as well as the ability to make a guitar weep and scream.

Saturday (7/05/08): Robin Trower - Daydream (Live) [Live, 1976]
Comments: If you're lucky, you might hear the song Bridge of Sighs on the radio, but even that is rare. Some people slag Robin Trower off as a Hendrix-wannabe, but although Trower was inspired by Hendrix, to ignore his own amazing ability and unique style would be moronic. One of Trower's strengths (though not the only one) is the amazing tone he gets - the kind that can kill you with a single note, comparable to the great Stevie Ray Vaughan. But don't let comparisons throw you off, listen to Trower's skill and realize for yourself what a find he is - and he's still going strong after all these years!

Sunday (7/06/08): Harvey Mandel - Wade In The Water [Cristo Redentor, 1968]
Comments: Harvey "The Snake" Mandel may well be the most obscure guitarist of the week. But, somewhat like Jeff Beck (who also has a penchant for guitar-based instrumentals), he has augmented his lack of general popularity with evolutionary experimentation - in fact, Harvey Mandel is considered by those in the know to be the progenitor of the "tapping" style that Eddie Van Halen made popular towards the end of the 70's. Growing out of the white boy blues scene in Chicago, from which Michael Bloomfield was a pivotal player, Harvey Mandel had stints with California's Canned Heat (maybe you've heard the track Let's Work Together) and British blues legend John Mayall, as one of the Bluesbreakers (which included the likes of Eric Clapton and Peter Green previously). Harvey Mandel was also considered as Mick Taylor's replacement in the Rolling Stones, during the mid-70's. Despite all of this, his name is all-but-unknown - but not to you any longer! Hear now the fluid and slithering tones of "The Snake".

Afterthought: Honorable mention goes to Rory Gallagher and Frank Marino, two more of the many brilliant guitarists that didn't have enough hits to keep people interested, but deserve the attention of any serious guitar fan.