Stellar guitarists you haven’t heard

Posted: January 4, 2012 in Music
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Or maybe you have. I don’t claim to corner the market on esoteric music knowledge. But there might be some guys on this list you don’t know, and they’re worth checking out for their chops.

  • Kawabata Makoto: Leader of the Japanese musical collective Acid Mothers Temple, much of his playing is improvisational, and much of his improvisation evinces a dual ability to play at a lightning pace – his nickname is Speed Guru – and integrate an array of effects. Recommened listening: “Starless and Bible Black Sabbath” by Acid Mothers Temple
  • John Weinzierl: Playing for the legendary Krautrock band Amon Duul II (not to be confused with Amon Duul), Weinzierl lends his chops to a remarkably divergent collection of ensemble playing, which has continued on and off since the late ’60s. Recommended listening: “Yeti” by Amon Duul II
  • John DuCann: Also known simply as John Cann, he played some of the most fluid guitar in late-’60s England this side of Clapton and Beck. John, who died in September, made his name with Atomic Rooster, which scored a couple of U.K. hit singles. Prior to that, he led a power trio called Andromeda that helped bridge the gap between psychedelia and metal; in fact, the band shared bills at the time with some new guys on the scene collectively known as Black Sabbath. Recommended listening: “Andromeda” by Andromeda
  • Steve Hillage: His name may be familiar to fans of progressive rock for his work with Gong, or his solo material, including an album cut with Todd Rundgren’s Utopia. Later he teamed up with Dr. Alex Paterson in the pioneering ambient outfit The Orb. Some of his most intriguing work came when he was a teenager playing with a band called Egg, which cut a psychedelic album under the pseudonym Arzachel, named after a crater on the moon. Whatever he’s doing, he’s been an innovative guitarist for four-plus decades. Recommended listening: “L” by Steve Hillage
  • Bill Nelson: From the Hendrix-Trower school, Nelson played a mean effects-laden guitar with Be Bop Deluxe, which had some success in the ’70s, particularly in its native U.K. The psychedelic overtones proved hard to compete with the emergence of punk rock, and Be Bop Deluxe disbanded in 1978. Nelson’s material since has been more of in the experimental mode, and much of it is mesmerizing, if you make the effort. Recommended listening: “Sunburst Finish” by Be Bop Deluxe
  • Andrew MacDonald: As lead guitarist for Blue Cheer during its last decade of existence, “Duck” MacDonald helped that band perpetuate its legacy as probably the first heavy-metal band. I saw Blue Cheer live in 2007, two years before the death of founding member Dickie Peterson, and the show was one of the most scintillating I’ve seen, a throwback to when musicians played for the joy of playing. Original guitarist Leigh Stephens and replacement Randy Holden are better known, but MacDonald gave the band a steady presence with the skill to keep Blue Cheer roaring into the new millennium. Recommended listening: “What Doesn’t Kill You …” by Blue Cheer
  • Ken Williams: The quintessential psychedelic band of the ’60s was the Electric Prunes. Just listen to the semi-hit single “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night,” and all the elements are there, particularly the fuzz-drenched guitar playing of Ken Williams. The Prunes are prominently featured in Richie Unterberger’s book “Urban Spacemen & Wayfaring Strangers,” which in part chronicles numerous innovations on Williams part to the band’s sound. Recommended listening: “Underground” by the Electric Prunes
  • Camile Baudoin: One of two guitarists for New Orleans’ the Radiators, along with Dave Malone, Badouin specializes in fleet fretwork that carries the band’s originals along with its many well-constructed cover tunes. Recommended listening: “New Dark Ages” by the Radiators
  • Robert Quine: Since he left the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed’s solo career has been somewhat less than consistent, if uniformly of interest from the standpoint of seeing what he’s up to now. One of the highlights was the couple of years during which Quine was Reed’s lead guitarist. I saw Lou’s band as a quartet at Pittsburgh’s Syria Mosque in 1984, and the sheer power of Quine’s guitar really carried the show. Unfortunately, Quine OD’d in 2004, at age 62. Recommended listening: “The Blue Mask” by Lou Reed
  • Sonny Sharrock: Fans of the cartoon spoof “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast” might remember the otherworldy guitar that constituted the title track. That was played by Sharrock, a veteran of the New Thing (free jazz) movement of the ’60s who made his name recording with former John Coltrane sideman Pharaoh Sanders. Sonny’s crowning achievement is recommended; unfortunately, it was his complete album, as he died shortly after the “Space Ghost” project. Recommended listening: “Ask the Ages” by Sonny Sharrock
  1. I’ve heard of a coupe of these. Will have to check out your recommendations. πŸ™‚

  2. harryLfunk says:

    Proceed with caution: As you’d guess by the descriptions, none of this is exactly easy listening! But it can be rewarding.