This isn’t a ‘best-of’ list, nor is it limited to a particular genre of music. This is simply a collection of great guitar albums that have become favorites in the Guitar Command office. It’s a mixed bag, which just goes to prove the versatility of the guitar: the same skills used to play alternative rock songs can be transferred to classical or jazz music. We hope that you enjoy the list: let us know what you think of the albums in the comments.
John Williams – The Seville Concert
If you don’t already own any classical guitar albums, then The Seville Concert by John Williams is a great place to start. It covers the entire range of classical guitar repertoire: from Baroque lute music to contemporary pieces. Everything about this recording is exceptional: the choice and order of the pieces, the recording quality and of course the playing. From the Prelude from the E Major Lute Suite to the Adagio from Rodrigo’s Guitar Concerto, Williams’ playing is faultless. If you could only have one classical guitar album then this would be a good choice.
The Pixies – Doolittle
This may seem like a surprising choice to metal and jazz guitar fans, but alternative / indie guitar bands often demonstrate a different, and equally valid, approach to guitar playing. Influenced by punk, surf-rock and psychedelia, Doolittle represents The Pixies at their mad, exhilarating best. The twin guitars of Black Francis and Joey Santiago provide the songs with some great guitar tones. They also prove that you don’t always need compressed, metal-style distortion to create powerful guitar parts. Sometimes the ‘dirty-clean’ sound of an amp being pushed to its limits is just as effective. A classic in the alternative rock field.
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Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny – Beyond the Missouri Sky
If you’ve been following Guitar Command for any length of time, you’ll know that we’re big Pat Metheny fans. However, Beyond the Missouri Sky is not a typical Metheny album with big ensembles and complex arrangements. The production here is sparse, with most of the tracks relying solely on Haden’s bass and Metheny’s acoustic guitar. Missing too is the Latin feel of earlier Metheny albums. Beyond the Missouri Sky is influenced more by traditional American folk music. The result is a lyrical, expressive album, with a rather melancholy feel: a great ‘late-night’ album.
Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms
The Eighties was a strange time for music. While there were some excruciatingly bad acts around, there were also some real gems. In fact, looking at ‘chart music’ of today, we’d have the Eighties every day of the week. The success of Dire Strait’s Brothers In Arms was helped by the advent of the CD and of the music video. However, it was the quality of the songs that led to the album selling a staggering thirty million copies worldwide. The uptempo ‘Money For Nothing’ and ‘Walk Of Life’ perfectly complement the slower songs such as the moving title track. This is songwriting at its best, and the guitar playing isn’t too shabby either.
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Strapping Young Lad – Alien
After the Haden/Metheny and Dire Straits albums, this one ought to waken you up! The perfect word to describe Strapping Young Lad’s Alien is ‘onslaught’. However, what at first seems to be an imposing wall of noise becomes, on subsequent listenings, an intricate and perfectly-assembled work of art. Strapping Young Lad were a Canadian extreme metal band formed by guitarist / vocalist / composer Devin Townsend. Influenced by metal, psychedelia, prog and The Cardiacs (one of the greatest and most creative bands the world has ever known), Strapping Young Lad were always going to be ‘good’. Alien is arguably their best album, although purists may argue that there are too many synths and samples in the mix. We think this adds to the mayhem, giving the album a massively multi-layered sound.
We hope that you have enjoyed this list, we’ll do more of these informal reviews in the future. How about letting us know your five ‘desert island’ guitar albums in the comments below? We’d love to know what you are listening to…