After seeing the post on awesome guitar solos at Amatopia, I started writing a comment, but quickly ran into a big problem: too many great solos. So I left a link to a single Rush song (because Rush) and collected the others for a post of my own.
So here goes. Similar rules for the list: One solo per artist, it has to be a guitar solo, and above all it has to make me feel things.
Mastodon, Jaguar God
Brent Hinds has become one of my favorite guitar players ever. This guy knows how to make a guitar tell a story. There are so many amazing solos I could have chosen… In the end I went with Jaguar God because although I love Blood Mountain, Crack the Skye, The Hunter, and Once More Round the Sun, it wasn’t until this album (call me slow) that the brilliance of what Hinds had been doing all along finally hit me.
There are actually two solos in this song. What do I like about this two-fer? Hinds’ fluid style just pulls you in. These are more than just solos; they help this song take me to a different world.
If you liked this song, Mastodon’s Cold Dark Place EP picks up where it left off, aesthetically speaking.
Limelight, by Rush
If I had to pick only one guitar solo to listen to for the rest of time and all others ceased to exist, this is the one I’d choose. The interplay between the bass and guitar is unspeakably amazing. And Lifeson’s dives, bends, tremolos, and crazy sustains…godlike. It gives me goosebumps every time I hear it, and I first heard it more than 30 years ago.
I’m Broken, by Pantera
Dimebag’s brutal, skittering riffs are deservedly legendary, and so are his solos. They don’t just shred, they squeal and shudder and scramble and scream. This isn’t what I’d consider his best riffage (that’s Cowboys From Hell and Walk), but the solo…damn.
But Cemetery Gates…! How could I leave that off the list? Well, only one, I guess…
The Silent Life, by Rivers of Nihil
If you were wondering where the extreme metal scene’s musical creativity went, well, this band took it all. I don’t even know their guitarist’s name; I just know that I like what he’s up to. A smooth, melodic solo atop death-jazz rhythm comping? Yes, please. Also, you get a bonus with this song: not one, but two saxophone solos…in a death metal song. How cool is that?
Operation Mindcrime, by Queensryche
I included this one because it’s one of those songs that has a vivid memory attached. I remember the precise moment when I realized how brilliant this solo is. And ever since, I’ve judged solos not by technical difficulty, but by whether they help the song become more than the sum of its parts. Too many solos, then and now, just seem like an obligatory break in the song. Instead, Chris DeGarmo’s solos with Queensryche take a melodic approach, building on the song’s theme and telling a story with sound.
So that’s my biased take on what a guitar solo should be. I do enjoy shredding, but as you can tell from this list, those aren’t the solos that tend to stick with me.
Are these really the best solos ever? Well, maybe not…but they’re some of my all-time favorites. Also, I can’t really separate solos from songs (and I don’t want to), so it’s what the solo does for the song that hooks me more than instrumental technique.
What are the guitar solos that stick with you and make you come back for more? Leave some links in the comments for me. I want to hear what you think.