Wednesday, August 29, 2007

If There's Music, There Should Be A Voice Too.....

A companion piece, if you will, to the guitarist list I posted. These are the 10 people I want to hear when I'm sad & blue, happy, excited, mellow, angered, horny, on my deathbed, whatever. The songs I picked are a soundtrack to parts of my life too. So, in alphabetical order, here we go....but before I move forward, apologies to Al Greene, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Freddie Mercury, David Coverdale, Prince, Robert Plant, Smokey Robinson, Sting, James Brown, Levi Stubbs, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Costello & Solomon Burke. You all could have a spot here, but I just didn't want to keep writing. I'd be here to 2009.

Tony Bennett
Favorite Vocal: I Left My Heart In San Francisco

Anthony Benedetto. A true legend. An Italian-American hero. The first song played in one of my all-time favorite movies, Goodfellas, is by Tony. "You know I go from rags to riches". So appropriate for the beginnings of that story. My dad's favorite singer, which roped me in. Whenever I hear this song, I always think of my dad. He would sing it to me as a toddler when I would try to fall asleep. Later, he would tell me that it was my grandmother's favorite song and she would sing it to him as a child. Many, many years later, I've started doing the same with my own son. I love you Dad, and I miss you everyday. One of the greatest pop/jazz/standard singers of the last 100 years. Still relevant today.

Sam Cooke
Favorite Vocal: A Change Is Gonna Come

The King of Cool. So smooth. So right. Hearing Sam sing has always been what I would think Heaven would sound like, if Heaven had a soundtrack. From his initial gospel performances like "Touch The Hem Of The Garment" to the classic pop of "Cupid", Sam evolved into a "pop prince". No one before him used the "Whoa,whoa, whoa's" before Sam. You send me, indeed. When he created "Change", the country took notice. Raw, powerful, truthful. It spoke volumes for the plight of the African-American in a time when voices for them were either squelched or looked upon as rebel rousers. One of my favorite all-time movie scenes used the song to set the mood of an incredibly sad moment. Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" showed Malcolm's last moments alive, with the strings and The Voice stirring in the background, showing the end of a misunderstood heroes time on the planet. Only Sam could make such tragedy seem hopeful in it's entirety. He was taken away too soon.

Marvin Gaye
Favorite Vocal: Distant Lover (Live Version)

Sexuality. Power. Defined greatness. Marvin was all those things. Whether singing solo, playing drums on "Please Mr. Postman", dueting with Tammi, or as a voice of the people in the late 60's, Marvin could do it all musically. His voice could rage like a smoldering inferno or be as sweet as sugar in his honeysuckle falsetto. I'm sure if a scientific poll was taken, "Let's Get it On" would be the song most children of the last 30 years would have been created to. But on to "Distant Lover". To hear this version, found on a greatest hits retrospective, is to hear a love-lorn man pleading for his lover to come back home. From the females in the crowd reactions, to Marvin's burning desire and hurt felt in each pained lyric, Marvin put the every man's feelings on notice. You want to win a woman back, play this for her. Marvin knew the feeling. It was there for us to hear. Marvin's emotional stance vocally is what set him apart from the rest of his contemporaries. Another incredible voice lost way too soon.

Gladys Knight
Favorite Vocal: Neither One Of Us

Not that Gladys is the only female voice I love and appreciate (Aretha, Etta, Diana, Ronnie, Tina, I'm here, no fears)but Gladys's voice always stayed in my mind the clearest. It was the raspiness, the on-spot vibrato and the big notes that encompassed her lyrics. The Pips were always "there", but Gladys was the show. "Neither One Of Us" showed anguish, fear and sadness of not being able to move on. Real feelings, coming from her soul, in a beautiful vocal. All earmarks of what has made Gladys a legend to every other contemporary female singer. She is my choice for the Queen of Soul. Or at least the next in line. If Aretha is the Queen, then Gladys is the Empress.

John Lennon
Favorite Vocal: Jealous Guy

John was a disciple of American blues. Many times he claimed Little Richard, Ronald Isley and Sam Cooke as his largest vocal influence in the early Beatle days. With the Beatles he played the role of the one with an attitude. His voice was rough. Paul's was always smooth. His songs were always more on the "far-out" side in their latter years. He wore many hats with the Beatles. And they all fit well. Once he went solo, his true voice began to show. Buy the time he put out "Jealous Guy", he had settled in to more of a balladeer role than the anguished writer he was in the early 70's. "Jealous Guy" showed him at the top of his game vocally. A haunting melody, pained lyrics and perfect vocals, all Lennon hallmarks from his very beginnings. Gone too soon. (what a shitty trend with my picks)

Sam Moore
Favorite Vocal:I've Been Loving You Too Long (live performance from Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary Concert)

If you were lucky enough to have seen this performance, his ranking on this list and any other compiled by legitimate music critics, would no doubt be verified. He out Otis'ed Otis. He stole the show from a group of legendary performers who were not use to being shown up. His voice is on-par with any other blues/soul singer ever. From the Sam & Dave days to the present Sam has cut a nitch out for himself that no other singer past or present has ever been able to fill. At 72, his vocal power is unrivaled even by singers half his age. Yeah,we all know "Soul Man" or "Knock On Wood". "If Something Is Wrong With My Baby" may have been S&D's most soulful performance. Maybe all of Stax's music most soulful performances. True love in song. But if you are ever lucky enough to see the Atlantic Records performance, you may just find yourself saying "how is this possible?" It's that good. He's that good. He wears a diamond-encrusted Superman logo for a reason. He is a vocal god.

Van Morrison
Favorite Vocal: Beside You

The Belfast Cowboy. A legend in America and his homeland. A blues disciple that turned to mysticism and became a Jehovah's Witness and returned to the blues. The voice that can shake paint off a wall. Van is all those things. One of the most well-respected, introverted, mysterious figures in popular music history. Van has been there, done that at every turn of his illustrious book of life. As Tony Bennet was my father's favorite voice, Van was the same to my mom. Throughout my childhood in the 70's , I think I may have heard Van's voice more than my dad's as he worked all the time. If my mom was to have an affair with anyone back in the day it would have been with the voice coming from the turntable and the speakers in our living room. I knew Van as a child, learned more about him as a teen, in my 20's I knew his music inside out and now in my mid-thirties, I am a Van historian. 30+ years of love. "Beside You" was on his legendary Astral Weeks album, which stands in the pantheons of rock/jazz fusion as one of the most creative, influential albums of it's kind. The song showed Van's voice in all it's incredible facets. Tender, pensive, angered, passionate. All things that have made Van the phenom his was and still is today.

Steve Perry
Favorite Vocal: Winds Of March

If there's one singer that might take my top, top, top spot, it might be Steve. Most of the general population think of him and his former band Journey as comical due to their corporate ties and radio overplaying and terrible 80's videos. But for those of us who listened deeper to just the radio anthems, we knew that Steve was the closet thing to the "modern" Sam Cooke. Long touted as his primary vocal influence, Sam's phrasing and tone came through every time Steve sung a line. Steve's first radio foray came with the song "Lights" in '77. In it, Steve sang of his life in San Francisco, and Sam's "whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa's" came through throughout the song. As time and albums passed, Steve evolved. He became less of a high-pitched, over the top, flamethrowing vocalist and to the later incarnation, which showed a more toned-down, bluesier sounding voice in songs like "When You Love A Woman" and "I'll Be Alright Without You". "Winds Of March" came from the early Journey years and had Steve's full range on full display. Huge notes, off-the-charts range for a male singer and impeccable phrasing. He learned well from the master, Mr. Cooke. Although he has been off the radar for years, every now and again he will venture out and add his voice to backing tracks of various obscure artists but The Voice remains. In wedding songs, remembrances of prom songs of years past and songs used to win a girl or two by red-blooded American males across the nation.

Paul Rodgers
Favorite Vocal: Satisfaction Guaranteed

The king of blues rock vocalists. As influential a singer in the rock arena as any other vocalist. Led some of the biggest bands in rock history. Free, Bad Company, The Firm, Queen. Huge bands, huge sounds, huge talent. Paul made some of the most recognizable songs in the 70's in America, England and across the globe. "All Right Now" is a bar band/radio staple. In the 70's Bad Company was the 2nd highest money earning act behind Led Zeppelin. That's a staggering figure considering the bands that shared stages at that time included Pink Floyd, Van Halen & Aerosmith. Paul's voice came from the Muddy Waters/BB King school of hard blues. He influenced my own vocal style more so than any other vocalist, rock wise. Rough, ready and raw. Paul has been long hailed "the king of soulful rock". Free was raw and powerful. "All Right Now" is an all-time classic. Bad Company changed the way bands played the heavy rock blues with songs like "Feel Like Makin' Love" and "Can't Get Enough". The Firm teamed Paul with the other giant of 70's blues rock, Jimmy Page, and although their teaming only produced two albums, they possessed incredible songs in the vein of "Radioactive" and my personal favorite "Satisfaction Guaranteed". A Rodgers vocal tour-de-force, it could be an introduction to all aspiring young rock singers to the greatness of The Man. To show his greatness, Paul was tapped to be the "new" voice of Queen in the 21st Century. That speaks volumes to his prowess to have the ability to take over the reigns from the legendary firebrand, Freddie Mercury.

David Ruffin
Favorite Vocal: Ain't To Proud To Beg

It's fitting David is last on this list. He was the most tragic figure in Motown history. His voice, one of it's most definable. You've heard "My Girl"? You know his greatness. Ever had a day when "I Wish It Would Rain" was your exact feeling? That was David. The two opposite sides of the emotional spectrum. Happiness and complete loneliness, that was David. With a voice trained in the churches of Mississippi. He gave the Temptations the "rawness" they had been missing. Drugs played a role in his slow descent into failure & a huge ego (which was warranted to a degree)didn't adhere him to his group mates. But when he left the Temptations, they lost their soul. Sure, they scored hits with "Get Ready" and "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" without him, but his signature classic, "My Girl" remained the bands and possibly all of Motown's greatest single song. He had mild success as a soloist, but his days as the long, lean, sex machine (not my feelings, btw)of the Temps remained in many peoples eyes as the quintessial Motown act. If you hear "Ain't To Proud To Beg" and don't want to move your ass, you must be dead or a Mormon. And if David couldn't lock you up with that vocal,then you had to be deaf. The other inspiration that molded my vocal game, he gave me soulfire more than anyone else. Another voice who left too soon.

Enjoy the classics, appreciate the greatness.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Patch Reef Chronicles (& a study in FLA ball)

This is a story of ball in South Florida. From my first experiences with it to today, where I have stumbled into some of the most competitive and diverse talent any area of the country has seen.

I began my basketball life playing in New Jersey on the streets, in summer leagues, for my high-school team and anywhere else I could get a game in my ball life infancy. While I bypassed college ball opportunities to lend my support to my sick father (see last post for that story) in a different state, coming to Florida showed another type of basketball culture, much different from the NY/NJ area I was from. It has evolved since the 90's and now Florida is also known as a "basketball" state as opposed to just the "football" state it was known as for so long. Thanks to the Heat and the Gators, Florida now has a championship pedigree that can't be overlooked and the state's ball players on the high-school level are finally moving into national notoriety.

Street basketball in Florida is SO different than NY/NJ ball. When I came here and began trying to find decent runs, I was amazed at how few good players there were in my area. I would travel the entire county (Palm Beach County is pretty large , for the out of towner's) looking for decent games and really found nowhere that held promise of good, intense competition. It took me a while but I finally came to realize that most of the good players didn't play outdoors here. The 90+ degree days just seemed to much for these guys, which I found amusing. All we did back in my old neighborhoods in NJ was run games from after school to 11:00p on school nights and weather was never an issue. Rain, snow, whatever. We balled. Here, cats would run at the first sign of rain. And if you did get an outdoor game, these dudes looked like they would be dead on another fast break take off.

So, after about 5 years of searching and running into some decent games now and again, my best friend, Rich, told me that he had found a court in Boca Raton that ran games Saturday and Sunday mornings every week and there were a group of guys that played there each week. Rich has been my basketball prodigy/project. He's a few years younger than me. He's left-handed like me. But unlike me, he always lacked self-confidence and the fire to be a "killer". It's taken about 15 years, but he's finally just about there. But the old dog doesn't give him all his tricks. He still bows down to the man when I have to set him straight if he get's a little too happy.

So anyway, I was curious. But initially, I wasn't too thrilled with two of the things that he said. One was, it was an "older" crowd and they only ran half-court games. Just what I didn't need. A bunch of old guys who didn't want to run. This couldn't be good. Or so I thought.

So the following weekend (in 1994) Rich and I made our way to this park in Boca Raton one Saturday morning. Boca is a rich man's paradise, for anyone who doesn't know it's "rich" history. It has it's own culture, and you are an outcast if you are not a part of it. Strange people, weird thought processes but a nicer kept area of the Palm Beach County you will not find. Just have money or be a professional of some kind to feel comfortable there. So we got to the park, 7:30a, and to my complete surprise there were about 20 guys, in all age ranges and sizes, playing 4 on 4 half-court ball on 3 different courts. My eyes were barely open at this point, and these dudes were in heated competition at the crack of dawn. I was shocked. And being 24, and knowing I had a strong game, I was eager to show these dudes what I could do. Once Rich and I got on one of the courts and picked up two other guys to run with us, I was surprised at how "different" these dudes played. It wasn't like the normal street ball game. There was cutting, pick and rolls, backdoor plays, box-outs and all the things I had learned in my growing-up basketball life, that is rarely seen in streetball. It was like an epiphany. How did this out of the way park, surrounded by huge trees and beautiful grounds, stay hidden away for all this time? Over time I learned that the guys that played here, created the "hidden" culture almost 15 years before and that some of these "breakfast club" ballers had been playing together since their late teens. The average street ball player didn't want to be awake and ballin' at sunrise, so keeping the games in-between this "brotherhood" was more out of "love" than as a chore.

So time passed, the weekend games became a ritual and with the exception of the stray "rain" day, Saturday and Sunday mornings became reserved for ball. I still played weeknights up in my area of the county and ran league games too, but the weekend morning games became more and more entertaining to me. Getting to know the guys, playing against better competition and the promise of early morning work-outs were all good to me. For the first year or so, we were looked upon as the "new guys". We weren't the youngest guys there, but we were easily the two best players under 30. We started to bring some of our playing partners from our area with us now and again, and eventually some of them became "regulars". At one point (probably 2000 or 2001)the older guys had lost their hold on the courts they once dominated and the "new guys" were now the lions that ran the pride.

There are 4 groups of players at this park. "The Originals" who today, consist of guys in their early to late 40's and a stray 50 something here and there and play a very ground-based, high-execution, physical type of game. There are a lot of "nice" players in that group, regardless of the ages. There is another group, " the Boca Boys", who consist of the young players at the park (18-25) who probably are the best athletes but are not quite there yet on the experience and mental tip. They also have the most "pretty" games where any type of contact is either a foul or a cause for argument. They're also the easiest group of guys to put an ass-whipping on. Young and dumb. I like those guys the most. Then there is the "ancient" group. The guys are in their 50's & 60's and there is even a 70+ year old man who is there every week. It's funny to watch them, but the old guys know the game and you can gleam a ton of knowledge from them. Sweet old guys, some with potent set-shots and some who get REALLY intense in their games. Finally, there is the group of guys I play in. There's no nickname for the group. We just play. The pro's that come through. They run with us. Jason Taylor rides up on a Sunday morning in April, he's coming to us. Tim Hardaway shows up with 2 cats from his Pit Bull ABA team, they ran against us. There are some rough players in this group. Do not be gunshy or unsure of your game. You will get embarrassed. Between those 4 groups there is probably 50 to 60 players that come through EVERY week.

One of the things I realized about the guys that played there pretty quickly was that their playing backgrounds were as diversified as the styles of game present. Among the lawyers, doctors, pilots, former athletes, real estate moguls and everyday schmoes stood a collection of basketball greatness that wasn't put out to a newcomer until they accepted you into the fold. There were European league players, 2 former members of the French National Team, a former Kentucky Wildcat pf, 3 former Miami Dolphin players, Wally Sexybacks father (I know, but dude has a game), 2 Florida Panthers players. And these guys were the "regulars". Several players that came during the off-season from current NFL, NBA and NCAA ball teams that have contact with the various "professionals" come through, aren't bothered, play some games and left with little fanfare. The guys respect them for their profession's and that's why they return each year.

Among the NBA guys that have passed through each off-season, retired and active, Jamal Mashburn, Udonis Haslem, Jason Williams (Eboy), Anthony Carter, Caron & Rasual Butler (on the same weekend), Anthony Mason, Jon Sundvold, Glen Rice, Wally Sexyback (shot lights out for a month straight with his father doing the same) Paul Pierce and probably 10 to 15 other guys I can't remember or wasn't at the courts on those other days. Some of the NBA guys just showed up as a "favor" to their lawyer or their doctor or real estate agent and barely tried, while others showed up to meet a former running buddy and actually played at a high-level. I've never known what to expect. I've played against these guys, met some of them off-the court socially and have been privileged enough to call some of these guys acquaintances. I've been blessed from a basketball fans point of view. And even more so from a players point of view as well.

My game evolved over these last 12 years. I went from a driving/slashing two guard, to now, where most of my time is either spent in the post playing more of a power forward role (2 guard footwork helps tremendously when playing guys 4 or 5 inches bigger than me) or stepping out on the perimeter with a deadly mid-range game. Playing against the NBA cats's is a continued master class each off-season and the continued addition of "new blood" to the morning crew has kept my game, even at 37, at an extremely high level. I've brought friends, co-workers, family from out of town, all of whom thought they could play and once we left the park, the response is usually the same. "Damn, that shit is rough". At the end of the day, the guys are like a big family. We know each other's wive's and kids, help each other in the business world, if someone gets an ailment guys are quick to offer a hand if need be. It's a beautiful connection of race, religion, etc. White players, black players, Spanish players, Europeans, whatever, for those 4 hours each weekend day, outside lives are put aside, ball takes center stage and fun and the spirit of competition takes over. I can still go back to that first day, pulling up to the courts and not knowing what to expect, and then moving to the present and seeing how, as time has passed the players have aged some, the knee braces become more prevalent and the group has expanded but the game, in it's purest form, stays the same.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Rock Guitar At It's Best

Beside my love of basketball, the other great love of my life is music. Been playing guitar since I'm about 15 and been singing even longer. In bands, on stages, real crowds, money, the whole nine. And while I love so many genres of music, hard rock/rock music is always front and center. Vocally, I go blues based in the vein of Paul Rodgers & David Ruffin, but on the six string, the influences are as varied as Rodman's haircolors with the Bulls. These 10 players listed are who formed my style of playing and still provide so much inspiration. Let's begin......

John Lennon/George Harrison-The Beatles

Favorite Guitar Moment: Happiness Is A Warm Gun

What can you say about these two visionaries that hasn't been said before. Besides being the twin guitar originators in a mainstream band and one half of arguably the greatest group in music history, they were always revered as incredible songwriters and cutting-edge stylists as well. My choice of "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" as my favorite guitar moment revolves around two things. The way the song goes from the classic otherworldly Lennon sound of a single "clean" guitar picking chords and then the rough chord changes and "nasty" tone through the verses that segue into George's light wah-wah solo. And then the song ends with a "brightness" in sound and words when John makes you believe that "true" happiness could come from a warm gun. Classic. Genius. Unparalleled. And when they both made their solo music, their singular visions stood out and created some of the most endearing songs put to tape. From pop icons to psychedelic pioneers to their legendary status in today's culture, the Beatles were and still are the standard that all pop/rock bands wind up compared to at some point. And for good reason. Listen to their progression, from pop song cheeriness, to more adventurous alt-rock sounds to the psychedelic deep lyric end to the masterworks they created, The Beatles stand alone as the band that could do everything.

Eric Clapton

Favorite guitar moment: Keep On Growing

To hear Eric Clapton play guitar is like watching Michael Jordan play basketball. Always on point, no holes in the game, consistently great and loved and respected by peers and fans alike. Whether it was Cream as one piece of the incredible triangle of sound, or as a member of the Yardbird where he cut his teeth on the blues, or as a member of Blind Faith were his legend exploded like a supernova, Eric did things in ways never before heard by a white blues player and his moniker of "God" was well-earned. Before Eric became a megastar as a solo artist, he formed a group with various studio musicians to put his lustful feelings for the wife of Beatle George Harrison down in words and music. Widely regarded as Eric's best work, the studio sessions took on a huge boost to the power of the music with the recruitment of Duane Allman. The album blazes from front to back and the guitar work is exquisite. My favorite example is "Keep On Growing" but "Layla" IS the masterwork that it is portrayed as. "Growing" just has a looseness to it and a straight-ahead driving force that showed the passion that was flowing through those classic sessions. The ending solo to the song is a masterwork in lead playing. The phrasing and tone are incredible and in this instance, Eric plays alone without Allman's slide work and it is a tour de force. The song has long been a a favorite of mine and plays over and over on trips to the Florida Keys. On a bright summer's day, with the windows open and the Gulf breezes blowing, the long trek to the southern most point of the USA is just that more enjoyable with this song playing in the background. It will make you think of palm trees, beaches and sunshine.

Jimi Hendrix

Favorite Guitar Moment: Bold As Love

How do you describe the indescribable? How do you wrap your mind around sounds never before heard? How do you compare an interplanetary entity to the modern musicians who STILL can't figure out a 1/10th of what the Voodoo Chile did with the instrument? Are those questions varied enough? Then you have an idea of what Jimi was all about. Jimi holds a special place in my heart because A)I'm a left-handed player like Jimi was and b) my father smoked a joint with him in '68 after a concert at the Filmore in NYC and said Jimi was so cool to him and his buddies (my dad was 19 so that was just before my creation in 1970) and my dad was a Hendrix disciple from then on. Never mind that his music and creativity are still unmatched. Jimi's voice, although not a classically "great" voice, had a sound all it's own, like Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen, legendary songwriters who's voices sometimes took a beating from the press and fans alike. His songwriting could be viewed in two categories, straight ahead rock songs like "Purple Haze" or "Foxey Lady" or the polar opposite in eclectic, bizarre sounds, never before heard chord progressions and out of tune playing at times that just seemed right in the essence of "Are You Experienced" or "If 6 Was 9". To hear "Bold As Love" is to her the genius at the height of his game. The spacey lyrics (no doubt fueled by the acid that would soon take his life), the jazzy-fusion chord structures throughout and one of his best vocal performances put this song over the top for me. And if you listen to the song with a fine-tuned ear you can hear the solo being played back in reverse, a trademark that Jimi made his own in recording sessions and was later used by other virtuosos like Jimmy Page and Steve Vai. "If I don't meet you no more in this world, I'll meet you in the next one, and don't be late." Read that sentence. And think of how out-there yet comforting that statement is. And bizarre. And freaky. That was Jimi. Unreal.

Brian May

Favorite Guitar Moment: Love Of My Life

Freddie's Foil. Pomp and circumstance in the rock forum. A true original. Brian is an orchestra in one instrument. Queen's music was operatic. Freddie Mercury's voice was just that, an opera singer with a sly sense of humor singing in a hard rock format. When Brian would play his leads or the chord progressions of their unforgettable songs, they took on a huge, over-the-top life of their own. Think of a sports arena. And then think of songs that play in those arenas. Inevitably, you will hear three Queen songs. "We Will Rock You", "We Are The Champions" & "Another One Bites The Dust". Big. The sound, the power, the voice, the majesty of Queen. Almost everything they did was just that. I think that's why "Love Of My Life" stood out for me. Almost entirely acoustic with an electric flourish for the solo, Brian put together a song with almost a Renaissance feel to it that, fit for a King or Queen. A song of angst and pain with a calling to love lost and hope for the return of that happiness, held together by Freddie's pained vocals and Brian's perfectly picked fretwork. A truly beautiful piece. By a truly beautiful band.

Jimmy Page

Favorite Guitar Moment: The Rain Song

Led Zeppelin. Probably the greatest hard rock band ever. They played the blues, straight ahead rock, mystic acoustic ballads & exotic sitar flavored middle-eastern sounds, sometimes all in one song. The band that could do it all. And those sounds all emanated directly from the Dark Lord, Mr. Page. Jimmy was always a mysterious figure. Whether it was his ties to the infamous Aleister Crowley to the shaggy dark mane that always covered his face to the exotic tunings he used in their albums, Jimmy made a niche that almost EVERY other hard rock guitarist since has tried to "borrow" from him. Whereas Jimmy borrowed heavily early on from the classic bluesman of the Delta like Robert Johnson and Sonny Walker, Jimmy's contemporaries did the same once Zeppelin was established as the foremost authority of the hard-rock sound that ruled 70's radio. While their radio staples dominated for so many years, "The Rain Song" was an example of the alternate tunings and exotic chord structures that differentiated them from the rest of the bands from that time in music history. The song could almost make you feel like you were in a grassy field, light rain falling on you and then as the song gradually grows to a crescendo you can almost feel that same rain turning into a huge downpour, lightning crashing all around. And then at the end of the song, the rain tails off and the sky's clear as the music shifts from hard chord strikes to lite picking. All of those things happen in the context of that song. And as a musician, to make someone feel the lyrics and the sound as if it could actually happen to them is a gift only a very select few have.

Keith Richards

Favorite Guitar Moment: Gimme Shelter

The man who created the most recognizable riffs of all time. One of the top 3 bands of all time. The Rolling Stones made their bones the same time the Beatles did. While the Beatles initially were recognized for their "poppy" tunes and matching outfits, the Stones were raw. Harder edged. They played the blues. Rough and tumble covers of the blues. And while the Beatles went a more psychedelic route, the Stones went a more "American" sounding route. Throughout the early 70's they had country songs, hard blues and toward the end of the decade a more dance flavored sound. These all came from Mick Jagger's love of the United States and it's music and while all of this was going on it was Keith's guitar work that kept the Stones the Stones. Whether it was the fire of "Sympathy of the Devil", the tender acoustic work in "Wild Horses" or the smooth blues in "Tumblin' Dice", Keith kept the SS Stones on point and relevant. "Gimme Shelter" has that haunting quality in the beginning of the song that Martin Scorcese has used in films to set the mood of a scene but in reality it was Keith who CREATED that mood and allowed Marty to build a fantastic scene around IT. Keith's lead work is pristine and between him and Ron Wood's rythm work the song is just filled to the brim with great playing throughout. Just a great piece from beginning to end. It would be hard to argue their title of "The Greatest Rock Band In The World". Long live the Stones.

Carlos Santana

Favorite Guitar Moment: Europa

The King of Latin Fusion. Not quite rock, not quite jazz, not's hard to pinpont exactly what Carlos does. It's just damn good. Good hard rockin, spicy sounds that can make people move on their feet and be moved to the core by the intensity and passion that Carlos plays with. Want to know how good Santana is? They have long been touted as the band that stole the show at Woodstock. Woodstock!! Maybe the single biggest music event of all-time with some of the largest names in music on the same bill and a group in it's INFANCY stole the show.? That's power. While Santana made a huge comeback in the late 1990's and still proved that they had that magic formula it was their early work that catapulted them into the foreground of the San Fransisco/California rock sound in the early 70's and carved a niche' that no other band has ever been able to fill since. "Jingo", "Evil Ways" "Black Magic Woman" & "Oye Como Va" are classic songs. Songs to light a joint to, or sit back and drink a beer to. Like Bob Marley rocked out reggae, Carlos did the same for Chicano music. And when he slowed it down like he did with "Europa" the love and passion for the instrument shone through like very few others could do. The beauty of this song was made out of Carlos' love for the planet and I experienced it being used to express love in another way when one of my cousin's used it as their wedding song. Now every time I hear it, it makes me think of a 1980's wedding and horrible hairstyles. The song is still gorgeous, though.

Steve Vai

Favorite Guitar Moment: For The Love Of God

If Jimi was otherwordly, than Steve Vai is a true alien. The surname is strange. His look is odd. His sound is singular. His style produced a new 7 string version of the instrument that no one before him had the vision to create. He is the 21st century's version of Hendrix. Except his work is done without vocals and without the constraints of 4 minute radio songs. He is s technical marvel without peer. His sound is created through processors and tone enhancements that give his sound a "voice" that others haven't even begun to think about. If you ever saw the movie "Crossroads" with Ralph Macchio about the quest for the perfect sound and nirvana through music, it was Steve who played Satan's guitar ward who would "cut heads" with the latest poor soul who was dumb enough to put his own soul on the line. Playing with another genius in the 70's, Frank Zappa, and then moving on to mainstream popularity with David Lee Roth's solo project and the arena-filling Whitesnake, Vai was initially viewed as another Van Halen "wannabe". But once people saw and heard his performances they quickly realized he was something more entirely. It was on his instrumental monster "Passion & Warfare" that his full repertoire was finally put in a forum that was heard all at once. On that album, "For The Love Of God" stood out as the highlight in an album of career achievements. It would be like picking which of Michael Jordan's big-shots was the most exciting. Although there were many, inevitably most would choose the final shot against the Jazz to seal the Bulls 6th title. This song was that in musical form. While those last few moments of that Jazz game has every high imaginable from the steal to the setup to the shot to the finish, "FTLOG" carries that same vibe from the first notes to the final whammy bar pull. It should be noted that in recording this song, Steve saved it for last, and stopped playing the guitar for 2 months to get the feel of expression through reconnection that he was trying to convey. Hands bled, guitars broke and souls stirred. He is the fire that keeps "guitar heroes" everywhere sitting in their homes, practicing to be heard.

Eddie Van Halen

Favorite Guitar Moment: Little Guitars

In the history of rock guitar, there has never been one player who's style and sound has been so copied and examined as Edward Van Halen's. Coming out of California in 1978, Van Halen took the place of Led Zeppelin as the most well-respected and beloved band in the US. If half of their popularity was due to the flamboyant frontman, David Lee Roth, then the rest of the bands power and creativity came from the genius of Eddie. Known as one of the tightest live acts and being difficult to work with in the recording studio due to his meticulous preparation and follow-through on the songs he fought to create, Eddie is legendary for his fire, passion and temper. While Van Halen the band has undergone personnel changes over the years, Eddie and his brother Alex have continued to drive the Van Halen machine, right or wrong. Eddie's playing takes the best of Clapton, the best of Jimmy Page, a bit of Jimi Hendrix and even some of Tony Iommi's Black Sabbath power. His "brown" sound,as it is called, is instantly recognizable to any guitar player and his style is on full display in "Little Guitars". A flamenco-flavored acoustic opening, to a classic VH riff to start the song and played throughout and the breakdown in the middle that plays off the flamenco theme and the images of a small Mexican town and it's beautiful senoritas. All and all, a fabulous song, and although not as well-known as "Jump" or Running With The Devil", a classic to all Van Halen aficionado's.

Angus Young-AC/DC

Favorite Guitar Moment: Touch Too Much

Raw. Power. High. Voltage. These words provide the mental backdrop to what is arguably the hardest rocking heavy blues band to grace our shores. Coming from Australia in '75, The brothers Young and singer Bon Scott, provided blues rock in it's heaviest, rawest form. Their songs are radio staples for 30+ years. If you go to a bar ANYWHERE in this country, you will hear an AC/DC song on a jukebox blaring and giving the patrons the desire to drink. They are beloved by fans, panned by critics and heralded by their peers. Angus is a human flamethrower and out of his compact frame has come some of the most recognizable riffs. "Back In Black", Highway to Hell", "You Shook Me" & "Hells Bells" are some of the instantly recognizable riffs he created but "Touch Too Much" is a more refined version of the bombastic sound. A tale of a blazing hot woman, built around a pulsating beat and simple yet effective playing, it's the epitome of the AC/DC sound. Simple,brutal, raw, on the razor's edge.

And even though there are names missing here that probably could be interchangeable (Pete Townshend, David Gilmour, Andy Summers, Neal Schon, Tony Iommi, Joe Perry and Randy Rhoades, Yngwie Malmsteen and Joe Satriani among many others) these 10 are the guitarists I'd want to hear once my time is done here on Earth and I'm loungin' in heaven killin' eternal time.