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Top 5 Guitar Cuts













Johnny Winter - Raised On Rock
(from album Gold, Gold 071)

Johnny WinterThe Texan albino bluesmeister turns in a scorching performance on this track from one of those anonymous budget-priced compilations that you find in garages, and it is worth the price of admission alone. Raised on Rock is egotism writ large from megawatt stacks, and there's smoke curling from his fingers and the fretboard. Radio-friendly blues-rock that tells everyone that Winter turned his back on Beethoven's Fifth and country music to play da bloose, and then he promptly displays an example of nimble fingeredness that will leave other axe heroes breathless at the first hurdle. Big and undeniably loud, this is the blues according to one who knows and has lived them to the full.

Rory Gallagher - Shadow Play
(from album Stage Struck, Castle TFOCD 020, 1/2)

Another blues-rocker who never took prisoners, Shadow Play comes from a 1980 live recording, and closes the album in fine pounding style with a blistering solo that fades, leaving you screaming at the stupid sodding engineer for pushing the faders down at just that moment. Gallagher's attitude to blues and rock was probably the same as Johnny Winter's, full volume, full tilt and take no prisoners, though being Irish he did it with much more charm. Previous live albums had highlighted Gallagher's robust and affectionate blues acoustic picking, but Stage Struck was out-and-out hi-wattage rock that started loud and never dropped a decibel.

Randy California - The Prisoner
(from album Guitar Speak, No Speak 008)

Randy CaliforniaThe late Randy California was an idiosyncratic guitarist whose roots were as much in jazz and blues as in rock 'n' roll - all part of the same melting pot. This instrumental track comes from one of the Guitar Speak compendiums of 'classic' rock axe men, though you can find a vocal version on the excellent Spirit album Rapture in the Chamber. Why is it on the list? Simply because it is one of the classiest, most lyrical pieces California ever created, his double tracked and triple tracked guitars gliding and soaring over stepfather Ed Cassidy's muscular and epochal drumming.

The Allman Brothers Band - In Memory of Elizabeth Reed
(from album Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas, Polydor 831-595-2-Y-1)

The Allman Brothers BandThe longest track by far on my list (the whole of Side 3 of the above vinyl album), I have no idea who Elizabeth Reed was but she inspired this excellent 'slow burn' instrumental from the Allman Brothers Band, including some fine duelling between Richard Betts' guitar and Chuck Leavell's piano. Recorded live at the San Francisco Winterland Ballroom in 1973, this extended workout was a blues/country/r'n'b showcase illustrating that the Allman Brothers Band were more than a simple southern boogie band. And, of course, it proved that there was very much life after the death of brother Duane Allman.

Marino - Salvador: Passion & Fire
(from album The Endless Enigma, Castle/Essential ESSCD 177)

I have no idea if this Marino is the Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush fame, I suspect not, but no matter for this is a fine instrumental taken from a concept album (don't cringe, I hate most of 'em too!) about the life and work of outrageous artist Salvador Dali. Passion & Fire is one of the few tracks featuring electric guitar, and while it is no heavyweight rocker it's an extsremely lyrical and well-measured piece, duetting with a flamenco-style acoustic guitar backing. No bass and drums, no keyboards - just ravishing guitar playing.


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