Favourite Guitar Solos? + despair for modern music

It’s really weighing on my mind. Was the 70s of the 80s the best decade for the guitar solo? I know, it’s the 64 million dollar question and the future of the world depends on the answer 🙂 I was hacking away at some code today which is always a chance to put iTunes on random and see what pops up. Well, I got no closer to answering the question of this (and no other) moment but I did have the opportunity to sample some of the most jaw droppingly fine playing of all time in two of the greatest guitar tracks.
The first track for nomination is Pat Metheny’s “Are you going with me?”. In particular the oft-vaunted performance at the North Sea Jazz Festival in 2003. In my opinion this is the PMG’s best composition with a gentle tempo and a catchy hook which begs for improvisation. Connoiseurs of the solo will note that Pat plays the entire track with his eyes closed, covers almost every note on the fretboard and has his band members gasping in astonishment. No trifling words are needed when there’s this much refined guitar tone audible in every pick, ping and pinch. It’s so good that if I wasn’t to be humorous about it, I’d cry.
The other track is the prog-funk epic “Maggot Brain” by Funkadelic. My brother Evan (rather pretentiously in my opinion :D) refers to this as “a sonic landscape”. Even with my tongue bursting my cheek with irony the best I can do is quotation. This is another soulful whail-fest carefully engineered to allow maximum guitar extravagance. It generally starts slow and builds to a crescendo of sonic lunacy. My favourite version of this tune is the live 1983 version with Eddie Hazel and Michael Hampton. This has got the full gorgonzola with a pan pipe intro (SHIT YOU NOT!) followed by Hazel’s soulful playing. Hampton ups the pace with some blazing shred before a dueling-banjos style finale where their fingers catch fire and the stage explodes. Well not quite but it’s not far off.
Why, with all the reality-tv Star-Idol excrement that we’re served up do we NEVER get to see a virtuoso musician auditioning for these kinds of talent contests? I often wonder would Prince, that small purple god of multi-instrumental virtuosity, break through into the current music scene where we’re inundated with photogenic but bland singers trying to be the next Mariah/Whitney/Person-who-won-X-Idol-last-year… By focusing on singers it becomes about the lowest common denominator when it could be more interesting. How about Prog-Idol or eXtemporise Factor ? 🙂
It might actually be entertaining to take some of the great musicians of the past and get them to judge a multi-instrumental talent content to form a REAL BAND ™ of genuinely talented musicians who gel together. They can even have a singer as long as they’re quirky cool. Extra points if it’s Aimee Mann. OK, it doesn’t HAVE TO BE Aimee Mann. Another interesting twist would be to let a member of the public (me!) be on the judging panel.
(This idea is not covered by a creative commons license. If you want to use it you’ll have to pay me millions!)