Further reflections on the best guitarists of all time have led to some additions to Layer 357's shortlist. Alongside Hendrix, Clapton, Santana and Dave Gilmour we should have Peter Green, BB King, JJ Cale, Frank Zappa, Neil Young and Jimmy Page. These are all individuals whose body of work, and in particular whose improvised live performances, bring incredible and indescribeable pleasure to human senses, soul and spirit.
These musicians don't just paint in colour - their work ranges from deepest, darkest blues to dazzling silvers & golds. They are also masters of rhythm, raunch, and soulful reflection. Tracks like The Supernatural, Voodoo Chile, Machine Gun, Rattlesnake Shake, Comfortably Numb, Smooth, Jingo, Layla, Stairway to Heaven, Change Your Mind, Down By The River, Peaches En Regalia, Son of Mr Green Genes, Willie The Pimp and All Along The Watchtower are masterpieces and supernovae whose light will continue to shine in the darkness from now to eternity.
David Gilmour and Neil Young are numbers 82 and 83 respectively in Rolling Stone's list of 100 greatest guitarists, which is a complete joke. Just take a look at some of the plonkers who are higher on the list. Ridiculous.
This commentary on the so-called top 100 is pretty good, though posted in 2003 -
Consider "45 Frank Zappa - Should be in the top 10. Insane at 45. Half the guys above him couldn't play his stuff with a year of practice."
Peter Green at 38 is nonsense. So is Mark Knopfler at 28.
I like this comment - "17 - Jack White of the White Stripes - I have no idea why he is on the list at all let alone this high."
Carlos Santana is 15th on this list, one place below Jeff Beck, which is also crazy. Beck is a good technical player and has done some good stuff - but he's not in the top flight.
How to explain the complete absence from this list of JJ Cale? I heard him play at the old Hammersmith Odeon and he was superb. Tracks like "Momma Don't" when extended on stage are brilliant.
BB King deserves to be at No 3 - just above Clapton. BB's recorded work is superb, but I'd no idea how incredible he is as a blues improvisor until I heard him play live with his band at the Royal Festival Hall a few years ago. The man totally rocked the joint.
Bruce Springsteen, Keith Richards and Ron Wood are all great rhythm guitarists who can also play a mean lead guitar. Probably in a class of their own - semi-attached to the top flight
Just outside of the top flight, I think, are Chuck Berry, Mark Knopfler, Mike Bloomfield, Steve Stills, Les Paul, Buddy Guy, Pete Townshend, Steve Cropper, Bo Diddley, The Edge, Ry Cooder and Nils Lofgren.
As for Carlos Santana and his band at the O2 - they were amazingly amazing, stunningly stunning.
The thing about Santana, the band, is that they've never been in any sense a one man band.
Take the rhythm section - a thundering bass guitar and THREE percussionists beating out mighty and complex rhythms on kit drums, congas, timbales, etc. Plus a rhythm guitar.
There's always been a brilliant player of the Hammond B3 in the band to give depth to the sound and also play thrilling solos. Carlos has now added a horn section, and the trumpet and trombone players also add blasts of musical complexity as well as play some great solos.
The two vocalists back one another up and sing superbly well individually, as well as contribute to the rhythm section with various shakers and rattles.
That's 10 people on stage creating an incredibly complex and dynamic soundscape before Carlos plays even a single note.
The power, precision, subtlety and flow of his guitar playing is a wonder to behold. He's a unique performer playing a unique style of music. What's more, he's no sad-ass ageing rocker cranking out greatest hits in a pale imitation of his glory days. Such are the improvements in sound systems, musical instruments and amplification/effects devices over the years that the band now sounds better than ever as it blasts out timeless classics like Jingo, Evil Ways, Soul Sacrifice, Black Magic Woman and Jungle Strut. Listening to these tracks on home hi fi or MP3 player can't begin to match the experience of the band in full flow in an arena where the acoustics and amplification do full justice to the brilliance of the performers.
All photos (c) oxzenpics
It's not just a rock n roll show either. Carlos is fully aware that the magic of his music plus the performance of the band make a Santana concert an experience that's spiritual and emotional as well as sensual and physical.
As the man says in the concert programme - "My deepest desire is that each and every one of you lives life to the fullest of your true spiritual potential." Which is rather different from the usual star-performer platitudes about "realising dreams" and "becoming anything you want to be if you work hard enough at your dreams" blah blah.
What else does it say in the programme?
"For more than four decades - from Santana's earliest days as a groundbreaking Afro-Latin-blues-rock-fusion outfit in San Francisco - Carlos has been the visionary force behind artistry that transcends musical genres and generational, cultural and geographical boundaries.
With a dedication to humanitarian outreach and social activism that parallels his lifelong relationship with music, Carlos Santana is as much an exemplary world citizen as a global musical icon.
As profound as his artistic legacy is Carlos' dedication to humanitarian work. His Milagro Foundation . . . has granted more than four million dollars to non-prifit programs supporting under-served children and youth in the areas of the arts, education and health. Milagro means "miracle" and the image of children as divine miracles of light and hope - gifts to our lives - is the inspiration behind its name."
Written in a large font inside the programme are various slogans and exhortations:
THE SPIRIT IS FOR THE HIGHEST GOOD OF ALL.
CLEVERNESS DIVIDES. INTELLIGENCE INCLUDES.
LET THE MUSIC SET YOU FREE.
YOUR INNER PURPOSE IS TO AWAKEN.
On the last page is printed -
It's one thing to believe in miracles. It's another to make them happen.
We invite you to join us in educating and serving children throughout the world.
http://www.santana.com/ - browse whilst listening to a playback of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".