Friday, December 16, 2011

More Great Guitarists of All Time

As expected, I left out a number of the great guitarists of all time that I've worked with. My excuse for that and not posting more is that I've been working an average of 12 hrs/day engineering every single day for the past 2 and 1/2 months except when on a plane or a train.

The first rock star guitar player I worked with was Rick Derringer - amazingly fast but soulfull blues/rock guitarist, a very nice guy, and excellent producer. He was playing a Steinberger guitar which was relatively new at the time; he seemed kind of a perfectionist with his playing, searching for, and finding the ultimate solo. I had this impression because he would reject what I heard as amazing performances until he was satisfied completely. Lots of punch-ins until every detail of the solo cooked to perfection. Punch-ins consist of going in and out of record for one specific part of a performance. Got to work with Rick on a remake of his classic song, Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo.

Jimi Hazel came into Platinum Island with his band, 24-7 Spyz in 1989 or so and burned up the place. Jimi's guitar playing was on fire, living up to his namesakes Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Hazel. It was very exciting and energizing seeing someone of that caliber close-up. I would call his style at the time, virtuoso punk rock. The energy of punk by someone who could really play. I know that engineer Robert Musso was quite impressed with Hazel, and he's worked with the likes of Steve Vai. 24-7 Spyz recorded an entire album live in the studio in 2 marathon sessions and called it Harder Than You releasing it on the In-Effect label. They got compared to the legendary punk/reggae band, Bad Brains.

Some song titles from it are:

#1 Grandma Dynamite
#4 Social Plague
#5 I Must Go On
#6 Ballots Not Bullets
#8 Spill My Guts

Stevie Salas blew my mind one day with a solo he did for Ronald Shannon Jackson's Red Warrior album. Stevie's very fast with both his playing and sound manipulation on his pedals. He plays with a lot of heart, and the knowledge and confidence to set a course and take a solo somewhere definite. His solos tell stories. I've worked with him on a few different projects - his album Color Code for Island, with Buddy Miles, and with his longtime collaborator Bernard Fowler whose day job for the past 22 years has been singing background vocals with the Rolling Stones.

Marc Ribot gets truly possessed by an otherworldly spirit of guitar playing, or whatever you want to call it. He can get truly OUT with it, as we say in the vernacular. He's a guitarist who has inspired imitators but I've not seen anyone do exactly what he does. His playing conjures up bardo spaces for me. Worked with him on a Tom Waits record and with Arto Lindsay's band in the early '90's, Ambitious Lovers. He told some great stories about touring with Wilson Pickett.

Smoky Hormel has incredible feel. Worked with him with Waits and with rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson.

Lobi Traore I wrote about here.

Derek Bailey was a legendary avant garde British guitarist. Only worked with him once at a concert with Jack De Johnette, Bill Laswell, and DJ Disk.

Eric McFadden, Volker Stifler, and Johnnie Axtell are my go to guitarists when the opportunity arises to bring in musicians for projects I'm producing.

I listened to a lot of great guitar playing in my early years doing live sound in Western Canada: Gerry Neufeld and Luch Giacchetta from Sargent, Fast Eddie and Rick from The Tickets, Ronnie Champagne from Frantic, Steve from Blade Runner, and others whose names escape me. It was a real education for me. Sometimes we were obvious collaborators - them on lightening fast playing, me on the PA and Space Echo. For psychedelic guitar passages, I would put delays on the guitar, turn up the feedback significantly, then pan the guitar and effects opposite each other to create a swirling effect of movement in space. I did this with Gerry Neufeld during his guitar solo space explorations in the Van Halen cover of You Really Got Me. Ronnie Champagne and I would sometimes do sound improvs on guitar and Space Echo on breaks from the band's set.

Regular readers of The Oz Mix know that I tend to use the Qabbalistic Tree of Life as a compass and map for just about anything so it won't surprise them to hear that I sometimes associate guitarists and guitar playing with the path of Gimel on the Tree of Life. Gimel connects the spheres of Tiphareth and Kether in a vertical ascent up the Middle Pillar. It crosses a vast, largely unknown territory known as The Abyss said to separate the Real from the Illusory. By all accounts, crossing The Abyss seems like no picnic. It's been called the Labyrinth and finds itself compared to a desert for feeling so very hot and dry.

The writer who wrote under the pseudonym Christopher Hyatt once noted that the emotional quality of yearning accompanies this work of what Gurdjieff called 'waking up to the Real World.'

One of the best songs for illustrating this idea I'm getting at of using guitar music - either playing or listening, as a trigger for journeying up the path of Gimel, is 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps.' Here's a version by one of my favorite Canadian guitarists, Jeff Healy. Jeff no longer plays from that body having died a few years back. He was blind, so, like Ray Charles, Jeff used sound as a primary means for navigating through space. I used to see him play at a small club in Calgary, it was like seeing Hendrix just a few feet away - quite intense, naturally theatrical, and took you out. Last time I saw Healy was at the World Expo in Vancouver in 1986 with my Mother, and my wife at the time after having just visited John Lennon's psychedelic Rolls Royce that was on display.

This one looks good on the big screen. The footage of World Events they show seems quite relevant with what's going on in the world today.

Here's another version, this one lead by Eric Clapton and an Allstar band at the Concert for George tribute. Very big sound, lots of incredible musicians including Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Note the edit cut to Ringo Starr at about 1:07 after the line, "I don't know why no one showed you how to unfold your love??" Also looks good on big screen. Clapton's soloing in the outro chorus seems to have that yearning quality I spoke of. The very last shot of the video looks quite interesting too.

I wrote most of this late last night then passed out before I could finish. My assistant Isha, who doesn't know my recent posts, came in wearing a red Hendrix T-shirt today. I asked him why he wore that particular shirt and he said, "oh it just came around on the guitar, I guess..." Actually, he didn't say that, he said it was just at the top in his drawer.


  1. Wow, never knew about Jeff Healy. Quite impressive skill, especially for having the guitar in his lap and not being able to see.

  2. I remember being lucky enough to see him live once. It was quite curious watching him play-- he was brilliant.

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