sold on solos

(*Header image by Carvin Audio*)

Guitar.

For those of us frequenting gigs, or ‘concerts’ as they were more often described in the ‘70s, there was always one main talking point on the bus journey back home – the mind-blowing ‘solo.’

In this short, occasional series, we’ll have a listen to some of my favourite, ‘less obvious ‘solos from the ‘70s.

So, let’s …kick out the jams, mofos, and start with the GUITAR!

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It may have been a rehearsed and integral part of a song; a short impromptu guitar lick; a prolonged jam involving several players taking turns to lead; an awe inspiring drum solo; a smooth sax piece; a finger-blurring burst on the keyboards … whatever. It was generally the highlight of the show.

With particular regard to guitarists, regular visitors to this blog will fully expect me to include at least one example of Rory Gallagher’s searing, blues infused playing. But that would be just too obvious; so too would likes of Allen Collins and Gary Rossington sharing solos on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Fee Bird.’ Or Jimmy Page on any one of a number of Led Zeppelin tracks. Or that Hendrix dude, when it comes to it.

The three I’ve highlighted below are indeed still particular favourites of mine, but for differing reasons. They are by what I’d consider under-appreciated artists in the ‘70s, though I’m sure they’ll be familiar to some. However, I’d say they are not of the ‘household names’ that would spring to mind when asked about the pantheon of great guitarists.

I’m not saying they’re ‘the best’ guitar solos in rock music, but I do regard all three as some of the most enjoyable.

Please feel free to suggest your own / debate the selection in the Comments section below, and / or post your own favourite on our Facebook Group Page.

OK – here we go:

#3: TEN YEARS AFTER: ‘I’m Going Home.’

Guitarist Alvin Lee formed The Jaybirds as a straight-up R&B trio in early Sixties, Nottingham, England. For a while they backed The Ivy League, and in 1966, like so many beat bands of the time, they spent some time developing and playing in Hamburg, Germany. 

They became a popular live act and upon change of management in 1966, also changed their name to Ten Years After – reflecting their new start some ten years after Elvis Presley rose to prominence.

They had released three albums by the summer of 1969, and established a reputation as one of the UK’s most popular bands. However, in August of that year, Ten Years After, really hit the big time, when their appearance at the Woodstock Festival was filmed, highlighting Lee’s speed guitar prowess.

The video above has been edited, I’m sure, for I have a recording of the festival and this song runs to over nine minutes.

Ten Years After would record several more albums throughout the early / mid Seventies, and cement their reputation as possibly the best blues rock band in the country (in truth, second best to Rory Gallagher!) before disbanding in 1975.

I love this particular performance and solos because it’s almost proto-punk in nature, brash and frantic, yet encompasses some raw boogie and classic rock ‘n’roll too.

And yes, I guess I should come clean, there IS a resemblance to many a Rory performance here!

#2: ROY BUCHANAN: ‘Roy’s Bluz.’

I really can’t recall how I came to love the music of Roy Buchanan. I did buy his LP, ‘That’s What I Am Here For’ as a fifteen year old, back in 1973. I presume I must gone down the Blues rabbit hole, having discovered, yes you guessed, Rory Gallagher the year previous!

Roy Buchanan was born in 1939 and brought up in rural communities of both Arkansas and California, where he was heavily influenced by the gospel music of his local churches, and the music heard on his radio.

He would, at age nineteen, record with Dale Hawkins who himself leant heavily on the influences of Louisiana ‘swamp’ music and mixed the blues sound of the local black artists with the ‘new’ rock ‘n’ roll style being popularised by Elvis etc..

Although not widely successful in a commercial sense, Roy Buchanan was held in high regard by fellow musicians, and reportedly, after Brian Jones’s death in the summer of 1969, he was asked to join The Rolling Stones. (So was Rory Gallagher in case you were interested!)

He declined the offer, concerned that he’d become more embroiled in the drink and drugs culture that surrounded the greatest band in the world.  He was also a famously shy man, and suffered some mental health issues. His voice was soft, and he had concerns about playing large venues and so never really became a ‘superstar’ as we’d now regard it.

Sadly, Roy Buchanan took his own life after being arrested following a drunken domestic dispute … though his cause of death remains questioned by his family.

As a lad, I was so enthralled by Roy Buchanan’s playing. I loved Blues music anyway, but his style just seemed so ‘clean’ and unassuming.  Hey – I can’t play a note on any instrument. I don’t do the technical stuff. I just know what I like.

And I still love the music of Roy Buchanan – one of rock’s true unsung heroes.

#1: ALBERT LEE: ‘Luxury Liner.’

I could play this song on endless repeat! (The first video is from a performance by Emmylou Harris and The Hot Band on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1977.)

This particular track convinced me (a) I was in love with Emmylou Harris, and (b) that Albert Lee was at that point, the best guitarist I’d never heard of. I reckon he’s STILL the best many people have never heard of.

Albert Lee grew up in London and first gained recognition playing guitar for Chris Farlowe and his band, The Thunderbirds. He moved on to play with Heads, Hands & Feet for a while, before in 1974 moving to Los Angeles.

This was where he really found his feet, and more importantly, his hands. As a renowned session musician, his finger-picking style of play proved a perfect fit for the rock ‘n’ roll and country based music he’d be booked for. He played on three albums by The Crickets amongst others and for a period towards the end of the Seventies was hired to play with Eric Clapton – no competition there, in my book! 

Albert Lee has played with the great and the good of Rock and Country over the years and was awarded Guitar Magazine’s ‘Best Country Guitarist; five times.

Why do I love Albert’s playing so much? Sheesh! Really ….?

(Here’s  a later video of Albert playing the same song – kid’s still got it!)

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – August 2022)

2 thoughts on “sold on solos”

  1. For me it’s gotta be Larry Carlton’s epic solo’s on Steely Dan’s Kid Charlemagne.
    It also features the best rhythm section of the 70s (Purdie/Rainey)….

    Liked by 1 person

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