The Top Ten Slow Guitar Solos
Slow and steady wins the race with these slow-burning beauties.
Remember those old Bugs Bunny cartoons where a pompous Bugs would race a tortoise—and lose? The moral of the story: slow and steady wins the race.
The same principle can hold true with guitar solos.Spitting out sixteenth notes at 200 beats per minutes isn’t always the most winning approach; sometimes, a lead calls for a little less hands and a little more heart.
So let’s step back, take a breather and examine some of rock guitar’s greatest slow burns.
01. “’Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” — Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck’s electric guitar work contains enough moments of sonic brilliance to fill up most any top ten list. For our purposes we’ll go with his take on this Stevie Wonder–penned instrumental, from 1975 Blow By Blow, on which Beck opens with a gently moaning major 2nd to root C interval that rises and falls like a caterwauling alley cat, setting up the fluid, vocal-like phrases that follow.
02. “Something” — The Beatles
The “Quiet Beatle” steps out of Paul and John’s writing shadow and pens his first song to be released as an A-side on the Beatles’ 1969 Come Together single. George Harrison’s “Something” is lauded for its lush melody and tender lyricism, but guitarists will note Harrison’s deft guitar solo that follows the operatic bridge as a characteristic example of his reserved, yet highly tuneful style.
03. “The Messiah Will Come Again” — Roy Buchanan
An often duplicated, but distinctly underrated guitarist, Buchanan inspired no less than a few of rock’s most recognizable players, including Jeff Beck and Gary Moore.
This haunting A-minor piece opens like Faustian theater, with gloomy organ and prophetic, spoken-word lyrics. When Buchanan finally unleashes on his Telecaster, the droning notes cut through the mix and wail with eerie vocalization. Check out the expert volume swells at 4:30, a Buchanan trademark.
04. “Brothers In Arms” — Dire Straits
The title track from Dire Strait’s chart-topping 1985 album is often overshadowed by the flashier “Money for Nothing” and “Walk of Life,” but this somber, G# minor track has found a place as background music in films such as Spy Game, and television shows Miami Vice and The West Wing. While Knopfler opens and closes the song with a tasteful indulgence of front-pickup soloing, it’s the longer, tone-soaked lead at the end that showcases his soulful, fingerpicked sound.
05. “Parisienne Walkways” — Gary Moore
Moore is no slouch when it comes to burning a fretboard, and the Irish rocker does taper off unto some excessively speedy bits towards the end of this instrumental version of his 1979 U.K. hit (the long, descending trill at 6:15 is particularly note-worthy). The majority of this live version of “Walkways,” however, is laden with Moore’s subtle vibrato and stratospheric string bending. The song was intended to show off the former Thin Lizzy guitarist’s blues prowess, and has left few Moore detractors in its wake.
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