FT5: Underrated Guitar Solos
No countdown is more contested among guitar geeks than the list of the top guitar solos of all time. Heavily dominated by Metal and Classic Rock bands, top 100 lists have spawned all over music media outlets everywhere. Comfortably Numb, Stairway to Heaven, All Along the Watchtower, Freebird. We know the usual suspects. Today we pay homage to some the lesser known solos that, we believe, deserve more attention than they have gotten in the past.
This one could arguably be higher on the list because of the quality of the solo, yet it falls to number 5 due to being just partially underrated. Why is it underrated you ask? Because Time has, and will probably forever act as the little, shorter, less cool brother of what is acclaimed by most as the best guitar solo of all time, Comfortably Numb. Well, I’m throwing my hat in this discussion to make a rather bold statement: Time is every bit the guitar solo that Comfortably Numb is. While Comfortably Numb exposed the world to David Gilmour’s chops, Time represents the archetype of Gilmour’s composition abilities. In a solo that never speeds up, Gilmour begins the solo with a melody which distinctly clashes with the main melody. He then manages to develop two completely distinct sections, with absolutely distinct feelings. The first half of the solo provides the tension that is resolved in the second half, which ties back masterfully into the song’s verse. This solo gives us the feeling that the solo has a life of its own, and although Comfortably Numb is great in its own right, it never achieves what Time does.
Middle age, fat, bald dudes can’t wail. That’s what we used to think before Kyle Gass’ arrival to the music world. This ballad, part of the “Pick of Destiny” soundtrack, is once again a vehicle for Kyle to showcase his surprising guitar skills. An acoustic version is introduced early in the song, while a full on electric reprise finishes the song. It is not the difficulty of the solo which makes it great, but rather the ever present platonic love for, bandmate Jack Black, which oozes out of every note. Oozes. That’s right, I said it.
This is not only an underrated song, but also the representative of what is generally an underrated genre. Admit it: the first thought that comes to mind when thinking about punk rock is most certainly not “guitar prowess”. This little ditty by the now elder Bay Area punk outfit surprises us not only with a catchy blues-driven intro, but also with a masterfully written guitar-encore to end the song. Speed alone does not determine the quality of a solo, but El Jefe perfectly balances speed and melody to provide us with an instant punk classic.
Here’s why I can tell you this solo is underrated: I’m sure you have a hard time remembering exactly what the solo sounds like. This is not exactly the kind of guitar solo you can hum or whistle along to. So what makes it so special? This is one of those few musical pieces that make zero sense by themselves, yet work so well within the song that you cannot imagine another solo that would fit in that spot. Go and give it a listen. See if you can make sense of the chaos.
This is a solo, and a song, that never gained enough attention for two different reasons: First of all Pantera as a band did not enjoy long term mainstream success, or at least not enough for some of their lesser known songs to gain some notoriety. Secondly, every guitar solo in Dimebag Darrel’s repertoire will forever live in the shadow of Floods, Cemetery Gates and Walk (which if you haven’t heard, you should…. now). Hidden in the middle of a rather minimalist metal song we find this golden guitar nugget. A perfect balance of metal speed and gorgeous melodies make this solo hard to resist. Regardless of how you may feel about Pantera, or metal even, I encourage you to at the very least fast forward to the 2:48 mark and enjoy one of the lesser known treasures in metal guitar playing.