Thursday, December 6, 2007

The History of Shred in a Nutshell, Part II: The Sweet Eighties

Hello shredheads! Last time we did a quick run through the most important guitarists of the pre-shred era, so today we’re gonna explore the golden age of virtuosic guitar – the 80s. After Eddie Van Halen had impressed the world with new soloing methods, dozens of young guitar hero wannebees began to practice patiently day and night, trying to match with the master. That lead to tons of great guitar music being recorded in the decade often associated only with pop and new romantic. There have appeared so much talented players that time, that we’ll just name really those biggest and most influential in here. Here we go!

RANDY RHOADS. While Eddie Van Halen was like “Page on steroids” due to his awesome technique and blues feel, Randy went rather the Blackmore path, bringing some stunning classical music ideas into the rock territory. He was an actual master in connecting various scales and arpeggios, also one of the first to use the diminished scales, which he mixed fluently with more traditional, pentatonic licks. It’s no doubt that his tragic death in an accident (at the age of merely 26) is one of the greatest losses for the rock guitar ever. He left way too few records, but enough to become a major influence on the next generations of players – his solos to Ozzy Osbourne’s hits like “Crazy Train”, “Mr. Crowley” or “Flying High Again” are still regarded one of the best ever written and played. And there is often said that nobody could mix melodic and virtuosic playing in such a perfect ratio as Randy did. He was an excellent classical and acoustic guitarist, too!

YNGWIE MALMSTEEN. That name speaks for itself. One may like Yngwie or not, but it’s no doubt he’s one of the players who influenced the whole rock and metal music the most. You may also find his solo albums a bit repetitive, but such masterpieces as “Black Star” or “Far Beyond The Sun” have unquestionable place in the history of modern guitar playing. Yngwie was heavily inspired by Ritchie Blackmore, especially from his Rainbow days, and took his soloing approach on a new technical level, making everyone’s jaw drop by playing superfast sweep-picked arpeggios and fabulously precise scalar lines. He is also credited for introducing the harmonic minor scale to the world of rock. Beside that, an essential element of Yngwie’s style is his wide, passionate vibrato and distinctive tone of his Stratocaster. Every shred fan should have a listen or two to Yng’s solo debut – “Rising Force”, which is simply a classic today. I also recommend his best live release – “Trial By Fire” which shows how fervant an improviser is he.

JOE SATRIANI. For twenty years on the top, Joe is definitely one of the greatest stars of the guitar business. To save space and time, we’ll run thrugh his achievements and innovations rather briefly:

- superhuman legato playing and frequent use of stunning pick-tapping

- “piano like” two handed chordal tapping in pieces like “Midnight” or “Day at the beach”

- unparalleled mastery of the whammy bar and feedback

- unique mix of “feely” blues-flavoured playing and syntetic and exotic scales

- and above all that “technical” matters – AWESOME sense of melody! Listen to “Surfing With The Alien” and “Crystal Planet” albums to see what I mean!

Joe was also a great guitar teacher and some of his students have become actually huge rock stars. And STEVE VAI is perhaps the greatest player of all them. Technique-wise, he picked up many of Joe’s tricks, but developed his very own, unique style. Unlimited technical ability and creativity have been helping him with making insane, exciting music and go beyond all the borders. Whereas his great teacher has always had an amazing flair for catchy melodies and pleasant harmonies, Steve is more of a musical explorer, keen on experiments, some of which are hardly accessible to the average listener. However, when he hits the target – like in legendary “For The Love Of God” or the thrilling “Whispering a Prayer” – he can give the audience some sensations no one alse can give. Check out “Passion & Warfare”, “Fire Garden” or amazing live DVD “Live in Astoria” – one of the finest rock shows I’ve ever seen. It can take some time to become a Vai fan, but then I ensure you – you’re gonna be rewarded!

Next week we’ll learn a thing or two about the Shrapnel Records. See ya!

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