13 December 2011

(Un)Like the Rolling Stone: Another R.S. List of 100+ Great Guitarists of Our Time

Several months ago, I mused about the difficulty of trying to identify "the best guitarist in the world," and offered some thoughts on serving our respective vocations and stations in life to the best of our ability. We are not called to compete with one another for personal greatness, but to live by the grace of God through faith in Christ, and to love one another, each of us from within his or her particular place in the world.

Even so, when it comes to artistic ability, creative expression and skilled performance, there are obvious differences to be noted, and I suppose it is inevitable that people are going to compare and contrast, weigh and measure, sift and sort; if for no other reason than the simple fact that none of us can give our time and attention to everything that's going on in the world around us. Anyway, beyond the duties and responsibilities of our vocations, we have the freedom to pick and choose between this and that, under the basic rubrics of faith and love. Such freedom also means that we are able to debate and discuss our considerations and conclusions, even in matters of personal preference and taste.

Which is to say that, despite my caveats in August, Rolling Stone has not sinned by publishing a list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" (November 2011). Nor was it a sin the previous time (in 2003). I enjoy such lists and find them interesting, whether I agree with them or not. In this most recent case, both the list itself and the numerous reactions to it have prompted me to do some reading and research (so to speak) on "great guitarists," to see what I might discover. The process has been enlightening, especially as I have been making a list of guitarists that I will want to check out for myself, as time and opportunity permit. In the meantime, I've also been considering the place of my own favorite players within the hierarchy of the guitar universe.

I've aimed at coming up with my own list of "Great Guitarists," without presuming to say that these are the greatest guitarists of all time. My efforts have sought an intersection between my personal preferences and the acknowledged achievements of artists over the course of the past several decades. There is a sense in which music is both an art and a science; it has both objective and subjective qualities. Which suggests that "greatness" is found, not only in the fingers of the player, but also in the ears of the hearer. Beyond that, there are still such a plethora of criteria that one might take into account, there's plenty of room for gentlemanly argument and friendly debate. Even my own conclusions are subject to change, not only as I become more informed and knowledgeable and familiar with a wider ranger of guitarists, but as the circumstances of life are always unfolding and developing.

At any rate, it seems to me that a great guitarist will be inspiring and influential, but without really "trying too hard" to impress. He (or she) will make make music that is innovative and interesting, but also inviting and intelligible. A musician needs to be creative, yes, but truly good music also needs to be coherent and consistent, retaining some continuity with what has gone before. It should be entertaining and enjoyable, but also enduring in quality, and in some sense edifying (at least with respect to its artistry, beauty, and craftsmanship). Great guitar music will be mesmerizing at the moment one first hears it, but also memorable after the fact. Of course, you may or may not agree with my opinions in your own assessment and evaluation of any given guitarist, but these are the qualities and characteristics that I am considering and listening for.

So, I've arrived at the following list, and I'm mostly satisfied with my conclusions, such as they are. Some of the names will seem obvious enough, whereas others may seem oddly included. There are some "glaring" omissions, I must confess. There are some admittedly great guitarists who are just not familiar to me at this point, and others whom I simply haven't cared for that much. In other cases, I've included "the usual suspects" on my list, but at a much lower ranking than anyone might typically expect, and that, too, is due either to a lack of familiarity or a lack of interest on my part. These are examples of the subjective element kicking in. My personal biases also show up in the inclusion of guitarists that others might not even think to mention. My number one great guitarist is Joe Satriani (hands down, never a doubt), who was not even included in the top 100 on either of the Rolling Stone lists (although he is otherwise recognized and regarded as at least a "top ten" guitarist). But, along with my subjective tastes and personal preferences, I've also taken into account and weighted the informed opinions of many others, with respect to both inclusion and ranking on my list. And, with all of that in the works, here's what I've come up with:

A Gross of Great Guitarists

1. Joe Satriani (Chickenfoot)

2. Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)

3. Randy Rhoads (Ozzy Osbourne)

4. Eric Clapton (Cream, etc.)

5. Jimi Hendrix

6. Paul Gilbert (Racer X, Mr. Big)

7. Eddie Van Halen

8. Marty Friedman (Cacophony, Megadeth)

9. Joe Bonamassa (Black Country Communion)

10. Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell)

11. Glen Tipton & K.K. Downing (Judas Priest)

12. Gus G (Dream Evil, Firewind, Ozzy Osbourne)

13. Dave Mustaine (Megadeth)

14. Jeff Beck

15. John 5

16. Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society)

17. John Petrucci (Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment)

18. Brian May (Queen)

19. Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple, Rainbow)

20. Carlos Santana

21. Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi)

22. George Harrison & John Lennon (The Beatles)

23. Angus & Malcolm Young (AC/DC)

24. Dave Murray & Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden)

25. Chris Robertson & Ben Wells (Black Stone Cherry)

26. Slash (Guns ‘n’ Roses, Velvet Revolver)

27. Steve Clark & Phil Collen (Def Leppard)

28. Brian Robertson (Thin Lizzy)

29. Mark Tremonti (Creed, Alter Bridge)

30. Andy McKee

31. Yngwie Malmsteen

32. Chris Broderick (Jag Panzer, Nevermore, Megadeth)

33. Synyster Gates & Zacky Vengeance (Avenged Sevenfold)

34. Kirk Hammett & James Hetfield (Metallica)

35. Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones)

36. Joe Walsh (The Eagles)

37. B.B. King

38. Steve Vai

39. Eric Johnson

40. Ace Frehley & Paul Stanley (KISS)

41. Michael Schenker (Scorpions, UFO)

42. Peter Frampton (Humble Pie)

43. Stevie Ray Vaughan

44. Duane Allman

45. Joe Perry (Aerosmith)

46. Al Di Meola

47. Steve Howe (Yes, Asia, GTR)

48. Chuck Berry

49. Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi

50. The Edge (U2)

51. Chet Atkins

52. Gary Moore (Thin Lizzy)

53. Jack White (White Stripes, Raconteurs, Dead Weather)

54. Dimebag Darrell (Pantera)

55. Scotty Moore (Elvis Presley)

56. Neal Schon (Journey, Hardline)

57. Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs, Kansas, Deep Purple)

58. Brian Setzer (Stray Cats)

59. Rob Balducci

60. Rudolf Schenker & Matthias Jabs (Scorpions)

61. Paul Quinn & Doug Scarratt (Saxon)

62. Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains)

63. Antoine Dufour

64. Glen Drover (Megadeth)

65. Mick Jones (Foreigner)

66. Keith Urban

67. Dan Donegan (Disturbed)

68. Uli Jon Roth (Scorpions)

69. Mikael Åkerfeldt & Fredrick Åkesson (Opeth)

70. Herman Li & Sam Totman (Dragonforce)

71. Thomas Bredahl & Michael Poulsen (Volbeat)

72. Rich Eckhardt (Toby Keith)

73. John Sykes (Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, Blue Murder)

74. Gary Rossington (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

75. Brent Hinds & Bill Kelliher (Mastodon)

76. Alvin Lee (Ten Years After)

77. Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top)

78. Brad Paisley

79. Steve Lukather (Toto)

80. Mike Campbell (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers)

81. Jake E. Lee (Ozzy Osbourne, Badlands)

82. Jeff Loomis (Nevermore)

83. Orianthi (Alice Cooper, et al.)

84. Chad Taylor (Live, The Gracious Few)

85. Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits)

86. Pete Townshend (The Who)

87. Buddy Holly

88. Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac)

89. Dave Davies (The Kinks)

90. Phil Keaggy

91. Tony MacAlpine

92. Alex Lifeson (Rush)

93. George Lynch (Dokken)

94. Michael Angelo Batio

95. Tommy Emmanuel

96. Andy Timmons

97. Bonnie Raitt

98. Tom Scholz (Boston)

99. Corey Beaulieu & Matt Heafy (Trivium)

100. Chris Poland (Megadeth, Ohm)

101. David Gilmour (Pink Floyd)

102. “Metal Mike” Chlasciak (Halford)

103. Dave Martone

104. Andy James

105. Luke Morley (Thunder, The Union)

106. Ronnie Wood (Jeff Beck, Faces, Rolling Stones)

107. Zac Brown

108. Philip Shouse (Bo Bice, et al)

109. Kenny Wayne Shepherd

110. Don Felder (The Eagles)

111. Joe Stump

112. Joanne Shaw Taylor

113. Stoney Curtis

114. Neil “Spyder” Giraldo (Pat Benatar)

115. Ben Moody (Evanesence, We Are the Fallen)

116. Matt Tuck & Michael Paget (Bullet for My Valentine)

117. Christian Muenzner (Obscura)

118. Michael Romeo (Symphony X)

119. Michael Harris

120. John Mayer

121. Lee Ritenour

122. Chris Henderson & Matt Roberts (3 Doors Down)

123. Prince

124. Tommy Shaw (Styx, Damn Yankees)

125. Gary Hoey

126. Josh Steely (Daughtry)

127. Austin Diaz & Gabriel Garcia (Black Tide)

128. Vivian Campbell (Dio, Whitesnake, Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy)

129. Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave)

130. Tosin Abasi & Javier Reyes (Animals as Leaders)

131. André Olbrich & Marcus Siepen (Blind Guardian)

132. Olavi Mikkonen & Johan Söderberg (Amon Amarth)

133. Vinnie Moore (UFO)

134. Nancy Wilson (Heart)

135. Sammy Hagar (Montrose, Van Halen, Chickenfoot)

136. Steve Wariner

137. Eric Gales

138. Leslie West (Mountain)

139. Rory Gallagher

140. John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

141. Robby Krieger (The Doors)

142. Roger McGuinn (The Byrds)

143. Stephen Stills (Crosby, Stills, and Nash)

144. Les Paul

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