Saturday, April 15, 2006

Guitar--lifelong friend and torturous enemy

Ever since I was a very young boy I have loved the sound of guitar, actually everything about it, how if feels in the hands, the variety of noises that can be coaxed from it, and the passion it can convey. I began my love-hate affair with this instrument at the age of eight, getting my first cheap electric for 49 dollars with an amp that if turned all the way up could be heard clearly in the next room if the tv wasn't on. I tried and tried over the next several years to learn to master this instrument and learned a cruel fact of life, I just didn't have the talent to be another god of this instrument. Oh I could mimic Tony Iommi and Johnny Ramone, and play along to some extent with about any song I heard on the radio but I couldn't come up with new originals or do those amazing solos I heard Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen and many others doing. So while it was frustrating, I also learned to appreciate and respect a good guitarist, no matter what the style, from Chet Atkins to Carlos Montoya, Al DiMeola to Joe Satriani, Jeff Beck to Django Reinhardt, Leo Kottke to Mattais E. Eklundh. Who is MEE you may ask (or you might not, but too bad, I'm answering this question anyway)? Well, he is a guitar hero of mine and today's post, as I mentioned yesterday, is a self satisfying romp through a few of my contemporary faves to try to turn more people on to some underappreciated but very talented individuals (and groups too) who I feel deserve it. I may not be much of a guitarist, but I think I know a good one when I hear one. Feel free to agree or disagree, but please at least give them an open minded listen if you are a fan of the guitar, and if you love (or even like) any of it, please rush out and snag up any stuff you can find by the artist, because I want them to continue making the hair on the back of my neck stand on end and my eyes bug out in amazement for years to come.
If true talent was the factor success was measured by, all of the following would be household names.

This is a band I sort of found by accident,Locomotive Breath. The name intrigued me so I decided to give it a shot. Needless to say, I was amazed beyond belief. This band is progressive metal with positive messages and the guitar playing of Janne Stark is nothing short of astounding. He does double-tracked solos and sounds a bit like Ritchie Blackmore, and has a bit of Hendrix influence especially in his rhythm playing. Life's Eternal Play is a fave from this one, but to hear Janne at his best listen to the track 29 Strings. There are several guests on this track including Norde Andersson (from Roxette!?!?!) and CarlJoan Grimmark and a guitarist that amazed me even more (who guests on 5 tracks here) Mattias IA Eklundh. On the song 29 Strings his is the final solo that sounds otherworldly (more about him in a few). Janne Stark was in the 80's Swedish metal band Overdrive and also wrote the Swedish Encyclopedia of Hard & Heavy Metal. This out of print CD from 1997 has been reissued with 5 bonus tracks. It's original title was Train of Events, but the new CD is titled Train of New Events. They do an amazing version of the Jethro Tull namesake song too. Highly recommended to all!!!

Another great band that calls themselves symphonic progressive metal Symphony X. The guitar-keyboard interplay is amazing and Michael (1 of 3 Michael's in the band) Romeo is confident enough in his guitar playing that he doesn't have to do endless showboating to prove himself. In fact the solos aren't the most impressive part of the music, it's the arrangements and the interplay.

The next the pics refuse to load for some reason. They loaded once, disappeared and now refuse to reload. Anyways, here are two more favorite guitarists. First up is John Pettrucci axeman for Dream Theater. I have chosen to post an eight minute guitar solo from a great boot I have. Everytime I listen to this I'm in awe of this man. He is truly one of the greats.

And finally here is one of my favorite non-metal guitarists Leo Kottke. A bottle neck player who plays acoustic and blows minds!!! This album 6 & 12 String Guitar is my favorite. Check out track 6, Vaseline Machine Gun and get goosebumps!!!

If those words aren't enticing enough consider these:
"...any hardships you must endure to obtain a copy are well worth the pure enjoyment this album provides..." Rolling Stone 6-70
"Masterpiece. Period...." Down Beat 11/96 (given 5 stars)

And finally, I did not forget the fans of psych today as here are two of my favorite hard acid rock albums with psych overtones.

Here is the Bead Game with thier 1968 LP Welcome!!
Hard rocking yet melodic psychedelic album from Boston with great interplay between Hendrix style fuzz guitar and heavy keyboards. "Welcome" was produced by Gary Katz, best known for his production work for Steely Dan. Due to Katz Bead Game's drummer Jim Hodder eventually became a founding member of Steely Dan and played on their first three albums. He drowned in his swimming pool in 1990.

Lightning is (ex-Litter) Zippy Caplan's band. Hard rock with bluesy and psych overtones. It's great!!! Get more info at:


Mad Dog said...

Found a link to your site from Beerfarts wrt to the Leo Kottke
6- and 12- String Guitar, and just drooled on all the other guitar virtuosos...had to grab 'em all LOL!

Since you have both good taste, and an extraordinary collection, I thought I'd run wish/request by you and see if you could help.

I'm looking for an album from 1975 by David Werner. The album was called Whizz Kid; the best song was called One More Wild Guitar.

Was just a dynamite guitar player, but like many others, just disappeared into the wild blue yonder :-)

Anyways, it was only on vinyl and cassette tape and I lost my copy many moons ago. If you have it or run into it, please think of me!

Thanks for all your hard work and great tunes!

Mad Dog (and Englishmen...and the noonday sun LOL!)

Anonymous said...

What can I say - thanks for the kind words!! As both versions of the first LOCOMOTIVE BREATH album are out of print I "forgive" you for putting it up here for download ;-)

We have two more albums out: "Heavy Machinery" (Sweden Rock Records) and "Change Of Track" (Lion Music) - both still available. I've also release albums with Mountain of Power (tribute to obscure 70's hard rockers like Wireless, Marcus, Captain Beyond etc.), Zello (symph/prog sim to Kansas), Overdrive (metal) etc.

More at:

Janne Stark
(guitarist of Locomotive Breath)