Saturday Top 5: Rock and Roll Guitar Solos

I love music. And of all music, I like rock and roll most. At the heart of all great rock is the guitar, and the guitar shines today in the top 5 greatest guitar solos. Included in the list are a few songs that had the juice to make honorable mention, but not enough to crack the list.

Honorable Mention:

Hotel California – The Eagles Easy sounds from this southern rock band gave it such a nice feel. I still haven’t figured out what the song is about, though I have read things ranging from Satanism to music history (with references to Steely Dan and many other rock greats in the song). But the solo is just killer. Definitely one of the greatest rock solos ever.

Reelin’ in the Years- Steely Dan This is the closest to pop of any songs on my list. It actually was the #1 pop tune of 1973. But the guitar solo is totally rock. Steely Dan is jazzy enough for your mom and dad to enjoy, rockin enough for me, and about the most sophisticated rock and roll created. The solo on this track is Jimmy Page’s favorite solo of all time. It’s not every day you can find a guitarist who can come close to replicating it.

Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin There are many who say Jimmy Page’s hammering on Stairway was the best solo of all the Led Zep tunes, but this one had more emphasis with the breaks. I gotta whole lotta love for this song and this solo!

Long Time – Boston Off the self titled album, this was the best of Boston’s killer guitar solos in my opinion, and there were plenty to choose from.

Europa – Santana This song was the closest of the honorable mention selections to making the top 5. If you think Black Magic Woman contained his best solo work, you are incorrect. You can feel the heat coming off those tubes in his Mesa Boogie. Wikipedia has the parameters for attaining the sound Santana had on Europa, supposedly. He really makes the guitar sing, scream, and then cry.

Do You Feel Like We Do – Peter Frampton This was the best video I could find of this. The sound quality isn’t the best, but it still has the voice box and guitar solo. This tune is energetic, and the solo rocks in a big way that is worthy of mention on my list.

The “Top 5”

#5 Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd The smoothest work by a seriously smooth guitar player. Quite a few regard this as the best guitar solo ever laid to vinyl in the Rock and Roll genre. David Gilmour punctuates a song about an apparent injection of something that takes away pain. According to some of the information I found, there was nothing to the drug rumors other than that it was about a child that got sick and got shot up with some medicine to feel better. Of course, the term “acid rock” is actually a description of the effects of acid rain on a sheer mountain face. YEA RIGHT! Any way you slice it, the solo is one of the best ever.

#4 Eruption – Van Halen Eddie sets the fretboard on fire with some of the fastest hammering ever recorded. Actually, he was so fast many of the notes were supersonic and undetectable to the human ear. That’s how amazing this solo was! The link is to a live version with a little more than the original recorded version.

#3 Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits Is it rock and roll? You better believe it! There’s no trumpet playing in this song, and the solo(s) are just as effortlessly smooth and fast as the combination can be. One of my gun range instructors used to say “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast!”. I love the clean bends and flat picking Knopfler brings with his guitar here on this slightly altered live extended version.

#2 Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd It’s technically not a guitar solo when played live since it’s a duel between Allen Collins and Steve Gaines (Ed King originally), but the recorded version was double tracked and recorded by Allen Collins alone (still not exactly a solo). But since the 5 minute guitar piece at the end of the song is one of the most recognizable portions of rock and roll picking in rock’s history, I have to include it. The haunting slide played in the beginning of the tune is by Gary Rossington. That makes it a three part solo. 🙂

#1Little Wing – Stevie Ray Vaughan This is the ultimate in Rock and Roll guitar solo, an extended version of Hendrix’ Little wing with a portion of Third Stone from the Sun at the end. It’s a buffet of all you can eat blues/rock! It has some serious rock foundation to it, but the soul of this jam session is pure blues. It’s sad that such a talented guy (the greatest guitarist to live) didn’t live longer. To quote Bill, how much music was lost when he died? He had years of creativity, writing, recording, and performing taken away when he died in a helicopter crash at the age of 35. When you watch him play, he makes it look so easy.

There you have another controversial edition of Saturday Top 5. If you think I am wrong, then you are wrong, obviously. I welcome anyone to challenge my list so I can prove to them why I am right.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Saturday Top 5: Rock and Roll Guitar Solos

  1. Chuck Berry – Johnny B Good
    Guns n Roses – Sweet Child o’ Mine
    ZZ Top – La Grange

    But perhaps the biggest tragedy…no Clapton???
    White Room, Those Were the Days, Layla? Here is a link to a YouTube video of Clapton’s (Cream) version of Crossroads from back in the day. Pick it up at about 1:22 to get right to the solo. Incredible.
    link here

  2. EVH Eruption
    Steve Vai Tender Surrrender
    Eric Clapton Crossroads
    Joe Satriani If I could Fly
    Eric Johnson Cliffs of Dover!

    I gave Eruption a shot

    Here’s the link if you interested

  3. The Clapton/Cream/Allman Crossroads solo was great, so was Sweet Child, and I considered both. Tell me which song in the top 5 would you replace with either of those? La Grange is cool, but there is no way it ranks up there with any of these, and Johnny Be Good, you have to be kidding.

  4. billyfinch

    Philly I think you picked a really tough one to bite off, but did a fine job of narrowing it down. I’m a big Steely Dan fan too and there is a lot of awsome guitar work on their albums because they used such a diverse pick of session musicians. Different guys on each song in fact.

    I’ve seen Pink Floyd live and yeah “Comfortably numb” solo rips right through and gives chills.

    As I write this Boston’s “More than a feeling” is on the radio. Definately a defining sound from Tom Sholz.

    SRV, I was truly sad when I heard he had died. So much music left to play.

    See ya soon bud!
    Billy

  5. billyfinch

    BTW “Hotel California” was written about the west coast music industry and it’s seedy white underbelly, and unsavory cast of charcters behind it. HC was leading up to the time the guys were getting sick of the whole thing and considering solo projects.

  6. Johnny B is there only as an homage to the classic beginnings that shows the rock coming out of the blues. I like Dire Straits but I might move it to honorable mention for the Clapton.

    It’s a tough call.

  7. billyfinch

    Johnny B Goode is the main portal a guitar player must pass through…

  8. Yes, it is one of the most recognizable, it was revolutionary, but it was not exactly great. It would be like putting a list of the top 5 cars of all time and someone saying the Ford Model T should be included. Bill, I had heard that explanation of the Hotel California before and it’s the one that makes the most sense.

  9. 5. Panama – Van Halen
    4. Fire and Ice – Yngwie Malmsteen
    3. Somewhere over the rainbow – Chris Impelliteri
    2. Surfing with an alien – Joe Satriani
    1. For the love of God – Steve Vai

  10. a very ballsy claim to stake in full view. i honestly don’t think i’d dare come up with a top 5 guitar solo list.

    re: frampton’s “do you feel like we do”–fun choice. everytime i hear that song, i take that mofo up to “11.”

    re: steely dan–my personal favorite. i might have put larry carelton’s contribution to “kid charlemange” at the top of their guit solo heap, but, well, it’s not my list now, is it…a very interesting bit of trivia about jimmy page’s fondness for to solo on reelin’. love that.

    fun post and comments; glad i wandered in.

    cheers,

    dmb

  11. DMB,
    This blog is all about my opinion (which is certified correct over 93% of the time). That is why I don’t have a problem setting in stone such a tough topic as this. I do it every Saturday. Feel free to come back in and check it out. Glad to have you stop in.

  12. Somehow I don’t see Brian May here. Very disappointing. For me his Brighton Rock Solo alone is worth a million.

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