Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Not Even "Expert Mode" on Guitar Hero Could Stop These Guys

Their killer licks will melt your face off. Their inspired riffs and solos brought fans to the arena in droves. These were the performers Harmonix had in mind with the development of the Guitar Hero series. Only thing is, gamers nationwide can only aspire to be half as good as these legends of rock. Prepare yourself for the coverage of some killer axe grinders, brought to you in part by The V-List.

5. Eddie Van Halen

Before hip-hoppers Kriss Kross were prompting you to, “Jump, Jump,” David Lee Roth and his axe mate Eddie Van Halen got their fans to, “Go ahead and jump!” While Crystal Pepsi adopted “Right Now” for use in a television ad, a scene in the film Superbad was invigorated by the tune “Panama,” Olmedo Saenz’s introductory song when coming to the plate for the Los Angeles Dodgers. All of these songs were accentuated by the phenomenal guitar work of Mr. Van Halen himself, whose mastery of the axe was lost in a decade dominated by glam rock (Poison, Warrant, Motley Crue, and the like). While Van Halen were constantly changing lead singers, Eddie remained the band's mainstay, simply because his guitar work could not be denied.

4. Eric Clapton

The Yardbirds. Cream. Derek and the Dominoes. These bands succeeded largely because of Eric Clapton’s legendary stage performance. Working with blues phenom B.B. King on the album “Ridin’ with the King,” Clapton fused his influence with King’s to concoct a memorable collection of tracks. Just as Keith Richards has his “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” riff, Clapton has the ever-impressionable opening riff to “Layla,” a song Goodfellas used to encapsulate popular music from the 1970’s. Of all the guitarists presented on this list, Clapton is the one with the most staying power, having contributed stellar compositions for the past five decades. As Clapton proved, his songs rocked just as hard acoustically, as fans were dazzled by his renowned MTV Unplugged performance.

3. Jimmy Page

For every contribution the Beatles made in popular music, Led Zeppelin worked that much harder to shape the hard rock/alternative music scene of today. As part of the band that brought you John Bonham and Robert Plant, Jimmy Page revolutionized guitar playing through the iconic solo that crescendos throughout the epic closing sequence of “Stairway to Heaven” (how Guitar Hero has not incorporated this song into its catalogue is beyond me--it is a tune that encompasses everything good about Zeppelin’s edgy and unique sound). Robert Plant’s shrieking moans and wails on vocals was the perfect complement to Page’s otherworldly flair with the guitar, an instrument he once innovatively ‘strummed’ on-stage using a violin bow.

2. Stevie Ray Vaughan

Much like Page and Van Halen, Vaughan is far more celebrated for his guitar work than any contribution he may have made penning lyrics. PBS’s Austin City Limits was one of Vaughan’s most prominent forums, a live concert series he has dominated on several occasions. Along the same vein as Clapton, Vaughan was vaunted for his ability to fuse rock with blues guitar, perhaps redefining the genre better than Clapton had. Having captivated Jackson Browne and David Bowie with his raw ability, Vaughan was featured on Bowie's track "Let's Dance." During this time, Vaughan drove a delivery truck to make ends meet, in addition to leading his own band, Double Trouble. Nefariously, Vaughan was connected to Clapton, in that he shared the same doctor, Victor Bloom, during his rehabilitation from cocaine and whiskey abuse.

1. Jimi Hendrix

Just as Bob Dylan made history with his song “All Along the Watchtower,” Hendrix masterfully articulated the track into his own vibrant creation. Hendrix’s reworking of “Watchtower” is the standard by which all cover songs cannot possibly live up to. In combination with “Watchtower,” Hendrix contributed “Hey Joe,” “The Wind Cries Mary,” and “Purple Haze,” tracks that have withstood the test of time. Do not be fooled by Hendrix’s age: although he is the youngest on the list (tragically, he only lived to the age of 27), Jimi played the hell out of his guitar, capping off his Woodstock performance with a poignant version of the “Star Spangled Banner.”

Honorable Mentions
All hail the rock gods that did not make the top five: U2’s The Edge, Duane Allman of The Allman Brothers Band, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan, Chuck Berry, B.B. King, Joe Satriani, John Mayer (yes, that John Mayer), Trey Anastasio of Phish, the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, and Carlos Santana.


JamesBedell said...

Carlos Santana not in the Top 5?


Patrick said...

Bryan, I know I could count on you for giving the shoutout to Billy Corgan! No one gives him the respect he deserves.

Here's a few more of my own: Zacky and Synester of Avenged Sevenfold, damn great players.

Now that I think of it, where's Dimebag and Zakk Wylde? DAMN YOU! :)

Marc V said...

Tough calls, but you made some nice decisions. I have to agree that I'm shocked that Santana is not in there somewhere because he's still doing it after all these years and it's great to see how he's reinventing himself somewhat for a new generation of music lovers.

Michael said...

yngwe malmsteen all the way, baby!!

zburns said...

Tom Morello?

Good list otherwise.

amanda said...

i'd really love to hear why on earth you felt the need to include John Mayer on the list of honorable mentions. I really don't see how he is on the same level as Carlos Santana.

Anonymous said...

John Mayer is a hack!

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