Saturday, July 1, 2017

Sonny Landreth - Recorded Live in Lafayette - Electrifying Acoustic Beauty

Recorded Live in Lafayette is Sonny Landreth's first official live release in ten years, and the two CD set is made even more special by being a largely acoustic set, an acoustic set that is also very exciting. In fact, it's electrifying.

I would imagine that most Landreth fans are like myself, and have never had the opportunity to see the acoustic side of Sonny's musical mastery. Everyone knows that it's harder to keep the energy up on an acoustic gig, but it turns out that the true excitement to be found in the Louisiana native's music is in his total sense of commitment to his material.

It's all in the details: his rhythm guitar playing never takes time off, the precision and soulful nature of his rhythms keep you moving in a wonderful way, a way in which it does its job without being showy, but masterful nonetheless; when the accordion comes in for a solo on the set opening "Blues Attack" the band locks into a sophisticated syncopation that allows the solo to fly. Then it's time for Sam Broussard (yes, the same Sam Broussard who along with Sonny created the strings and soundscapes that made Landreth's instrumental album of 2012, Elemental Journey such an incredible record) to take a solo on acoustic guitar, and you instantly see why he's sharing a stage with on of the greatest living guitarists. Now it's time for Landreth to solo, and his pristine playing exhibits why he's one of the most unique and talented guitarists on the planet.

Speaking of the band, you have longtime Landreth collaborator Dave Ranson on the ukulele bass, Brian Brignac and his cajon (the box-shaped percussion instrument from Peru which has become a standard for acoustic performances), Steve Conn on the accordion, and of course, their leader Landreth. There is no question but that it's Landreth's show, but he gives ample room for everyone to display their skills and wares. These fellows move through a career covering set not just playing like their lives depended on it, but also like they are truly listening to each other. Very complex rhythms come across sounding very natural, relaxed, but also very intense.

"Back To Bayou Teche" is a Landreth setlist standard, and this full band, electric rendition is made special by the accordion and the second guitar. Then you have "Brave New Girl" which gets a relatively stripped down treatment from the string and keyboard laden studio version (Elemental Journey album), and it does not suffer from the absence of a more dense arrangement. It is, in fact, elemental and gets down to the basics of the gorgeous composition and the exquisite guitar playing. Mind you, again, the entire band is brilliant, and there are great lessons in what every member is playing.

The production on this set is stunning. Every detail is crystal clear, the tones are sumptuous and corpulent, and the mix is one that would be difficult to improve upon, and that's well worth noting in these days where it is more common to find live releases being tossed out like t-shirts at the merch booth (and with about as much care). No, this sounds like there was much thought to such things as microphone placement, tone tweaking, and once again, some very careful listening and attention to detail.

I'll wrap things up by talking about the reason we're all here, and that is the music, the songs. This is a great career spanning set, ranging from Sonny's 1981 debut album right up to 2015's "Bound By The Blues". If by some crime you've never been on the Sonny Landreth train, this is a great way to climb aboard. The songs have aged beautifully, the playing has only gotten better, and Sonny Landreth and his ace band could not be more on point.

In a time in which we are so often disappointed by the quantity and quality of the goods we're seeing, it's great to know that there are guys like Sonny Landreth, who is doing his absolute best at every turn. He's surrounded himself with excellent collaborators and bandmates, and that it's all being captured and presented in a way which is not just satisfying, but also very exciting.

Find Live In Lafayette here.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Michael Schenker Fest Live Tokyo International Forum Hall A - An Instant Classic

This is without a doubt my favorite Schenker outing in decades. Michael Schenker Fest Live Tokyo International Forum Hall A is going to be very tough to beat as the best live DVD in 2017. It's early in the year, but this is what you call an instant classic, and for all the right reasons.

Michael Schenker has been building on his legend for years now, having left behind the days of a tougher struggle, and now he has finally to my mind once again surrounded himself with a stage full of musicians who are truly up to his game. He's never had a bad band, but that's not the point by a longshot, the point is that this band better suits his songs, his playing, and his temprament at this stage of his life. He plays the gig of a lifetime here, a performance as strong as any he has ever put on, but the beauty is that there is an amazing amount of proper attention to be paid to the whole band, and the whole experience.

The Michael Schenker Fest is a great idea that finds Schenker reunited with the three lead singers who loom largest in his solo history. Gary Barden is from the first iteration of the Michael Schenker Group, and here he seems to be experiencing a return to form that we've been waiting on for many years. He's eased into a lower toned vocal approach, and his husky phrasing and easy stage presence are just as effective as his halcyon era with the band in the early '80s. Next in line is Graham Bonnet, a man who left an indelible mark on Schenker fans with just one album, Assault Attack, in 1982, a record that is still the favorite of many a Schenker fanatic. We waited over three decades to see Graham and Michael smiling at one another onstage, and it was worth the wait. Rounding out the lineup of singers is McAuley/Schenker Group frontman Robin McAuley, who brings his unique set of melodies and still blazing vocal chops to the proceedings, giving the audience yet another flavor of the Schenker legacy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

My First Band: Anacrusis 1977

I remember the beginning of Anacrusis much better than the end. I had been hanging out learning to play guitar for a couple of years with a fellow by the name of Wendell Napier. Wendell could player guitar like nobody I had ever met, and to this day I've not played with many musicians who were more natural than he. We had gotten pretty good at playing together, so we decided to form a band and do a show. All in the same week.

We were picking talent from the neighborhood in which we had went to high school, a little part of Dayton, Ohio known as Northridge. We easily figured Mitch Mitchell as our bassist, as he was the only bassist we knew. He had been playing in school variety shows, and local outfits for some time. As for a drummer, we elected Bruce "Smitty" Smith, an unlikely choice given to the fact that Bruce was a probably the least likely candidate we could imagine. Bruce Smith had an intellect, an appetite for learning that was as big as the great outdoors, stood well over six feet, and must have weighed a good deal over two hundred pounds. A large, gentle, intelligent man-child whose tastes for music we imagined must run towards jazz and classical. His glasses stated that this just must be the case. This turned out to be an inspired call, for Bruce could play the drums fantastically. I'm anxious to hear his recollection of how exactly he came to join this motley crew, as I simply don't recall the conversation or the circumstance, but it must have been a doozy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Eric Johnson - Acoustic Brilliance At The Crest Theater In Sacramento

Eric Johnson put on a quietly dazzling show at the Crest Theater in Sacramento, California last night to an adoring audience. It was an excellent turnout for a Tuesday evening, and everyone knew why they were there. No tire kickers, or lookie loos (sorry, I'm just back from the NAMM Show) - no, this crowd knew the man, and knew the music, and that made for a beautiful evening.

EJ is Eric's new acoustic album, and he played most of it and more in two sets stretched over a couple of blissful hours. Eric's easy going demeanor lends itself perfectly to the living room like setting of a chair surrounded by some acoustic guitars, and an electric keyboard a few steps away that allowed him to move easily between them as he casually worked his way through the setlist.

The night was made even more special by my meeting up with Tower Of Power organist/pianist Roger Smith, who when he was twenty years old played with a teenaged Eric Johnson and bassist Roscoe Beck in a band named Blind Mellon, which pre-dated the guitarist's days in the Electromagnets. Roger regaled us with tales of early jams, building their first studio, and even asking Eric's dad permission to take his son out on the road for gigs.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Hall Of Heavy Metal History Makes An Auspicious Arrival

The Hall Of Heavy Metal History is based on big dreams. 

Pat Gesualdo dreams big. When he had his own disabilities as a youth, he unwittingly healed himself by retraining his brain synapses through learning how to play the drums, and in the process he discovered a wonderful holistic healing method of drum therapy, which led to him starting a fantastic organization called D.A.D. (Drums Against Disabilities) over twelve years ago.

Utilized by hospitals and health centers  in over fifteen countries around the world, Pat's breakthrough program helps children and adults with Autism, ADHD, Muscular Dystrophy, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, and other disabilities to develop retention, coordination, social skill interaction, sensory integration, fine motor skill, and physical and cognitive function. Pat is also the only person in America who can certify drum therapists.

Not just a world class drummer and philanthropic organizer, Pat is also a huge fan of heavy music and the musicians who make it. Over the last year he conceived and organized the Hall Of Heavy Metal History, which had its first induction on January 18, 2017 at the Anaheim Expo Center during the world renowned NAMM Show. The show was expertly hosted by Eddie Trunk, a man who has done so much to support the genre.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sidemen: Long Road To Glory - Kickstarter Campaign 2017 Begins January 30th (file under: real news)

Friends, I need your help.

On January 30, 2017 a Kickstarter campaign for the blues documentary, Sidemen: Long Road To Glory will be publicly launched. The purpose of this campaign is to raise the funds necessary to pay for the licensing of the music used in the film, in order to get the film into distribution. We need your support to do this, both financially and in other ways, which I will get to shortly.

I have been involved with this great film for almost seven years. The movie is the story of blues legends Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. But, it didn't start that way. It started off as a live concert document, inspired by the likes of The Band and Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz. Unfortunately, there could have been no foreseeing the death of these three gentlemen within eight months of each other in 2011.

This derailed the project in a variety of ways, not the least being the extreme personal burden on director/writer/producer Scott Rosenbaum, who lost not three documentary subjects, but three very dear and close friends with whom he had been traveling, living, and working with for several years. My real involvement with the film really began with a series of conversations, texts, and e-mails between myself and Scott as he worked for almost a year trying to figure out not just what to do with a half finished film, but whether the film should even live on, or be discarded.

Ultimately, it was determined that in tribute to the lives lived by these great men, that their stories must be told, and that the show must go on. I connected Scott with my friend, record producer/bassist Fabrizio Grossi, and together we all worked hard to amass an incredible list of artists willing to be a part of this film. The film segued from live concert document into an incredible telling of three life stories, stories that anyone would love to watch - this is a music documentary, but it is also a very moving tale of humanity that would move any viewer. One that ends not with the deaths of some legends, but with a path and template for both the blues and its players moving forward.

The film is completed, and played very well on the summer film festival circuit, winning many awards, citations, reviews, and accolades. It made it to the finish line, and now it must make it to market, and onto screens.


Rock Guitar Daily is something which has been very near and dear to my heart for almost ten years. I've written well over a thousand interviews, reviews, gig reports, and various sundry features - a labor of love by any measure, one that was motivated by my love of music and musicians. I've never sought to monetize this blog, I have only used it to support the music I love, and also to build relationships for myself (both within the industry and with readers, listeners, and other music lovers). It has always been my policy to support what I love, and to avoid negativity. I've found that I do not have the time to support everything I like, so why would I burn up energy and time with things I didn't like? Millions of eyes have read these pages, and hopefully the hundreds of musicians, bands, acts, and artists I've covered have benefitted from the work I have done. With 50,000 regular readers a month, you all can have a huge impact on helping this film come to life!

Now, it is time for me to ask something from you. Of course, the first thing I must ask for is your financial support for this campaign when it begins on January 30, 2017. Let's not try to fool anyone, this is all about raising money to get this film onto screens. This is not just a great film, it's an important film. It gets down to the true grassroots, it's all about the love of this great music, and these great men. Your cash donations will be what takes the movie to the next level. But that's only just the beginning. I'm asking for this support as a friend, not because I feel we are owed anything.

As vitally important as the money is the support you can show for the film and its makers in the way of sharing our message with your social circles. Without you reaching out along with us, we will not be able to make this happen. So, we need your help - a lot of it. Please join our sites on Facebook, Twitter, and share our links and announcements when you see them. One person, one vote? No, much better than that, your voice can reach those we have no access to, and you can help us in a very visceral way make this film happen for the world - your vote can win us hundreds of new friends and supporters that we really need to help this succeed.

Sidemen: Long Road To Glory on Facebook

The Sidemen: Long Road To Glory Kickstarter campaign goes live on Monday, January 30th. You'll be able to find the campaign via the Kickstarter website (, the film's website (, or on our social media sites (see above).

Our team has developed a wonderful Kickstarter campaign, and we've got some fantastic perks lined up. Original artwork, autographed Custom Build guitars from Thin The Herd Guitars, posters, t-shirts, copies of the movie, and tremendous bundles of packages to reward your kind and generous help.

I'd like to thank each and every one of you reading this in advance for any consideration of help you can give us. Getting this film to market is just the beginning, but it is something we need to make happen before we can move on to the future, and we absolutely cannot do it without your help, and for that help we humbly thank you all.

Tony Conley, Rock Guitar Daily

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Eric Gales - Middle Of The Road - A Preview (it will blow your minds)

Yeah, over the holidays I got a glimpse. A listen to Eric Gales's new album, Middle Of The Road, soon to be released on Mascot Records. Enough to tell you this. For Eric Gales and his audience, this one is a game changer.

Eric Gales breaks it down on this album like he never has, and we have a record that evokes the memories of not just guitar heroes, but of popular music's highest points. Ray Charles. Little Richard. Miles Davis. Stevie Wonder. John Lennon.

What? John Lennon? How's that?

Well, this record is raw. Four on the floor, wall to wall, and straight to the heart. Much like Lennon's Plastic Ono Band album that laid the musician's life out in as plain a language as anyone could imagine, this album tells the truth. Fabrizio Grossi's production is brilliant - sparse and directly in your face, delivering Gale's message, which might be the most important thing about this project. This is about how we live our lives, and what we have to share with one another. A thing called love. And it's wrapped in melody, harmony, and grace.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

TrueFire In The Jam: Robben Ford Sessions - An Amazing Experience

TrueFire works. They've been a leader in the online guitar lessons since 1991, and with over a million pupils and collaborations with over 600 instructors, they are the state of the art. Their course library contains over 25,000 interactive guitar lessons that cover just about anything a player could want.

In The Jam is just what it says - it is an unparalleled jamming/learning experience in the online arena. It's mind boggling to see what they have put together with this latest edition/addition. I've been spending some quality time with the Robbin Ford Sessions these past few weeks, and I am still just blown away at what is available here, and what has been accomplished by all involved.

Included in this massive, but ultra easy to navigate tutorial is eleven chapters. These chapters include a welcome and explanation/introduction by your host Robben Ford, and ten tracks from Robben's 2014 album, A Day In Nashville. The album covers a lot of ground from rock, jazz, blues, some country, as Robben says, "There's something for everybody." Indeed there is - each track contains audio and video tracks of everything Ford plays, including commentary that let's you know not just what and how he's playing what he's playing, but also why he's making the musical choices throughout. If that was all you got here, it would be a tremendous value, but we're only getting started.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Dictators NYC - As Good As It Gets

As good as it gets. Last night amongst more looming news, The Dictators NYC put on one of the greatest straight ahead rock 'n' roll performances I have ever witnessed. It had it all - a charismatic frontman, "Handsome" Dick Manitoba, inciting the crowd, reciting the rock poetry, and singing his ass off, Ross "The Boss" Friedman putting on a brilliant hard rock guitar clinic about a half foot from my face, JP "Thunderbolt" Patterson on ridiculously impassioned drums and hearty backup vocals, the brutal but sophisticated bass attack of Dean "The Dream" Rispler, and one of New York's finest, Daniel Rey (Hey, somebody get this guy a nickname!) on second guitar and vocals. Yes, as good as it gets.

Here's my disclaimer: I've been a big fan of The Dictators since 1975, when they unleashed Go Girl Crazy to a somewhat disinterested public. Some say The Dictators invented punk rock, and no less a connoisseur than the king of garage rock love, Steven Van Zandt (aka "Little Steven", or "Miami Steve") called the band, "The connective tissue between the eras of The MC5, New York Dolls, and the punk explosion of the mid to late 1970s." When I first heard them, I was an impressionable young guitar slinger, and I wasn't sure what the hell they were, but I knew they had balls, a great sense of humor, songs for days, chops galore, and I knew that I dug it all. Well, that all rings true to this day, and I can claim no sense of critical judgement here - I am an unabashed fan, and that's what I went looking for last night, because my soul was in need of something that would take me back to 1975, my personal summer of love. Elections be damned.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Johnny Hickman - Hickmania III - The Third Time Is A Charm, Once Again

Photo by Steve Rizzari
This marks Johnny Hickman's third annual mini tour of house parties in Northern California, and once again I find myself saying that it was one of my favorite nights of the year - one of the best shows I've seen this year, a year that has seen what I would best describe as an embarrassment of riches when it comes to live shows.

There is nothing tougher for a performer than doing a full night of music with just voice, and guitar. In fact, it's always been something I've tended to avoid due to the difficulty involved, and how seldom I've seen it work - it's asks a tremendous amount of the artist, of the audience, and very few artists can pull it off. This being said, Johnny Hickman has the chops as a writer, a player, and a singer to pull it off, but to be honest, where the rubber hits the road is in his ability to draw the audience into every tale he tells as a performer and a personality. He's one with his audience, there is very little separation between the stage and the crowd, they are all in it together, it's almost like a team sport. You can see just how much he is enjoying doing what he does, and the loving response from the crowd is right inline with this.

Diamond Head - A Band Reborn Returns To America As Strong As Ever

"Without Diamond Head, none of this would have existed." ~ Lars Ulrich - Metallica
Diamond Head kicked off the first night of their American tour last week in San Francisco, and they were marvelous. Reinvigorated by vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen, and lead by the unflaggingly brilliant guitar work of founder Brian Tatler, the band gave a performance that got them a enthusiastic welcome back to the states by a pleased as punch audience.

Brian Tatler has always been incredibly scrupulous about the way his band Diamond Head has presented itself. While he's managed to keep the band's standards very high, it has perhaps come at the price of having his band being acclaimed as one of the most influential acts to come out of the NWOBHM scene in the early 80s, but also an act that has been absent as often as it's been on the boards. The good news is that this iteration of Diamond Head is as mighty as any that has come before it, and having a relatively new frontman who owes nothing to the past while giving it great respect results in a band that can play old and new songs that seamlessly live together in the new set.

As with many bands of a certain vintage, Diamond Head now sports a combination of players who run the gamut from being present at the creation (Tatler) to a brand new bassist (Dean Ashton). Then there is the brilliant man behind the drums, Karl Wilcox, who has been with the band for nearly twenty of the last twenty-five years. I've said it many times in the past, but a great drummer is an essential element in rock 'n' roll, and Wilcox is a very underrated stickman. Musical, powerful, and visual - these are the elements that every kid who picks up a set of sticks should learn. Rounding things out you have Andy (Abbz) Abberley on second guitar (2006), and the aforementioned Ras out front. They are a very cohesive unit, and a great blend onstage. Again, a testament to Tatler's unswerving demand for the best he can present for his brand and band.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Bernie Tormé Throws Down The Gauntlet With New PledgeMusic Campaign

Star Shots Photography
Irish guitar legend Bernie Tormé has just announced that he’s mounting his third consecutive campaign to release new music (Dublin Cowboy three cd package) via the PledgeMusic platform. (

Dublin Cowboy is an ambitious three CD set that includes an electric studio album, an acoustic album, and a live set - an big bargain in light of the fact that Bernie’s first two pledge music projects were such complete successes for both the fans and the man.

As most know, Tormé made his bones over the years as an electrifying guitarist in the classic Gillan lineups, and with his famed tour of duty with Ozzy Osbourne in the immediate and tragic aftermath of Randy Rhoads death, as well as his own very successful solo career and the band, Tormé.

“I'm so psyched to be doing my third crowd-funded album on Pledgemusic, and in celebration of number three it’s also a triple album. Triple offender! Titled 'Dublin Cowboy' - because that’s what I am, its going to be a studio album, acoustic album, and a live album altogether in a dinky little slip-box. It’s a totally new experience for me, and that’s the best thing about it! It'll be released in March 2017, and we'll be rocking it live throughout the UK in April 2017. Can't wait!” ~ Bernie Tormé 

Bernie Tormé - Biography

Guitar legend, blues rock psychedelic shredmeister, glam punk sleaze rock frontman: Bernie Tormé has enjoyed a long and remarkable career. Hit records, world tours and international acclaim came as lead guitarist in Gillan. Bernie stepped in for Ozzy Osbourne in the aftermath of guitar legend Randy Rhoads' tragic death before going on to front Electric Gypsies and Tormé. Teaming up with Twisted Sister's Dee Snider and Iron Maiden's drummer Clive Burr he formed Desperado and later reunited with ex-Gillan colleague, John McCoy and drummer Robin Guy in Guy McCoy Tormé (GMT). More recently, Bernie Tormé has been touring with Chris Heilmann (bass) and Ian Harris (drums) releasing two critically-acclaimed solo albums,'Flowers & Dirt' (2014) and 'Blackheart' (2015). Both were crowdfunded, connecting Bernie directly with his fans.

Bernie: “In the past you were pretty distant and separated from your fans with a record label in between. Making these albums with pledge campaigns has been a great experience. I like having the connection with fans and getting the feedback direct on making an album.”
His love of performing is still strong: “I feel very lucky, very blessed, to be able to still perform live and as long as I can keep doing it I will!”

It has been said of Irish guitarist Bernie Tormé that he plays his Stratocaster through a Marshall as though he knew them in a previous life. Dublin-born Bernie learned his trade from local heroes such as Rory Gallagher, Gary Moore and Eric Bell before moving to London in 74, where he initially played with heavy pub rockers Scrapyard, and then formed the Bernie Tormé Band in 76. The BTB toured with Bob Geldof's Boomtown Rats and Billy Idol's Generation X among many others.

In early 79 Bernie joined ex Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan's band Gillan, and was crucial to the band's success as guitar hero foil to Ian's soaring vocals. While a member of Gillan he wrote and played on four top ten albums and many hit singles, including Gillan's biggest selling singles, 'New Orleans' and ‘Trouble'.

After his stint with Gillan, Bernie joined Ozzy Osbourne on the Diary Of A Madman tour in the US, standing in for the legendary guitarist Randy Rhoads who had been tragically killed in an air crash just days beforehand. Madison Square Garden was among the gigs that Bernie played with Ozzy: A young Zakk Wylde who was present in the audience has been quoted in interviews as saying 'Bernie rocked'.
Bernie's first solo album 'Turn Out The Lights' was released in the UK, Europe and Japan in 1982 shortly after his return from Ozzy's US tour. He continued playing gigs in the UK and Europe through the remainder of 82 and 83, when his second solo album 'Electric Gypsies' was released, the album's title being drawn from the name of his three-piece touring band.

Bernie also found time during this period to tour Europe and record with legendary keyboard player Vincent Crane (ex-The Crazy World of Arthur Brown) as a member of psychedelic doom rockers Atomic Rooster. 

In the mid 80's Bernie worked with ex-Girl and LA Guns front man Phil Lewis in Tormé. The band released four albums, including the cult classic 'Back to Babylon' which, like the 'Electric Gypsies' album, made waves in Japan. Following Phil Lewis's departure, Bernie teamed up with Twisted Sister's Dee Snider and Iron Maiden's drummer Clive Burr to form Desperado, writing with Snider and recording the album 'Ace'. Bernie then recorded three albums with Guy McCoy Torme (GMT) featuring bassist man mountain John McCoy (also ex Gillan), and drummer Robin Guy. Bernie. During this period Bernie also worked with German band 'Silver', playing lead guitar on three albums.

In 2013 Bernie started playing solo gigs again returning, once more, to his favoured format of the three piece line-up. 2014 saw the release of the critically acclaimed 'Flowers & Dirt' double album and a UK tour, followed by 'Blackheart' in 2015 and a further successful UK tour.

Bernie Torme has recorded over 24 albums in his career to date as a solo artist or band member.

Bernie Tormé 2017 Tour Dates

Sat 1st April SOUTH SHIELDS The Unionist Club
Sun 2nd April GLASGOW Nice n Sleazy
Mon 3rd April EDINBURGH Bannermans
Tues 4th April GRIMSBY Yardbirds
Wed 5th April MANCHESTER FAC251
Thurs 6th April WOLVERHAMPTON The Robin 2
Fri 7th April LONDON The Borderline

Sat 8th April BRIGHTON The Prince Albert

Monday, October 17, 2016

Glenn Hughes - Resonate - Full Spectrum Brilliance

"This album is the first kind of a complete Glenn Hughes album." ~ Glenn Hughes
Glenn Hughes continues to defy the odds, and the laws of nature. Resonate is going to end up on a lot of those top ten albums lists we'll be seeing come January. It's going to be a lot of writers's best album of the year. Out on November 4th on Frontiers Music srl, this album sets the bar very high for whatever comes next.

The career of Glenn Hughes has roller coasted quite a bit over the last few years, but as bands have unraveled and health issues have thrown obstacles at the unbreakable 'Voice Of Rock," he's kept the quality of his music on an incline the likes of which I've never seen. Let me explain.

As artists age, it's very common for time to take it's toll on both the quality, and the quantity of output. It's incredibly difficult to continually grow as a writer when you've been at it for decades, and along with the hinderance of a full catalogue, there is the sheer wear on one's physicality. Time takes its toll on things like voices, joints, and all the rest. This is nature at work, and I am always mystified by so many supposed music lovers's refusal to acknowledge these things when they are considering the lifetime achievements of an artist when seen from the beginning of the third act.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Glenn Hughes - Solo and Superb In San José

Photo By Holger Kling
It's not easy to get me to put ink to paper these days (ink to paper, who am I fooling, right?), but when something strikes me as so important that I can afford to lose some sleep and some moments of productivity, then I can justify bellying up to the keyboard.

#rockaintdead. There, I said it, I've been saying it for ages, and now I'm joined in saying it by my very dear friend, Glenn Hughes, as he not only espouses it, but he also proves it every night out on his first ever American tour as a solo artist.

I've never seen Hughes better than on this night at The Ritz in downtown San José, California.

I first laid eyes on Glenn Hughes when he was in Deep Purple, on February 13, 1974 at a big hockey arena in the Midwest of America located at Dayton, Ohio. It's somewhat ironic that they are tearing down my hallowed home of early rock just this week, after an incredible run that began when The Rolling Stones desecrated the site in 1964. As one of the first musicians I saw playing on that stage, Glenn Hughes is still defining not just what rock is, but where it's at. There's nothing retro about what I saw in San Jose, California last night, it was state of the art.

He could have played it safe, and played a set of wall to wall Deep Purple and Black Country Communion, perhaps his most commercially successful products, but no - whether it was when he was deconstructing his reputation with a fall from grace so large he's today able to quip, "I don't remember the eighties," or in choosing a band challenging setlist comprised of selections from every era of his 47 year career, Glenn Hughes has never played it safe. It's go for the throat, or don't go at all.

Photo By Gavin Lowery
To those ends, Hughes has with him a band to die for. Soren Anderson has been with Glenn on and off for the last ten years, and he's a brilliant right hand man, not just delivering on the music side, but also keeping the stage balanced with a fabulous combination of musical chops and style of performance. It would be easy to get totally bowled over by a personality as large as Glenn Hughes's, but Anderson has the looks, sounds, and confidence to keep that from happening. I'm almost in stitches waiting hear the album they've created together, Resonate, that will see its release on November 4th on the Frontiers label. I'm hearing from sources close to the project that it is the heaviest solo Hughes we've yet heard, and isn't that what we've all been waiting to hear?

On drums we have the larger than life Pontus Engborg, and at a towering six foot four the Swedish stickman commands the throne like a king. His exuberance, power, and precision are perfect for the job. Like Anderson, Engborg is as entertaining as he is musical, and he's definitely the man for the job.

We arrived at the gig early enough to catch the band doing their pre-VIP meet and greet soundcheck, and got a preview of what was in store. Hughes was onstage, still critiquing and fine tuning the band a month into the tour, and you can tell that his attention to detail pays off in big dividends, as the band is as powerful as a locomotive, and still sophisticated and precise. We stuck around to witness the meet and greet, and while these are always a point of contention for some purists, it was clear that both the band and the fans were having a great time communing with "The Voice Of Rock," so who's to judge. Check it out when it comes your way, it's more than worth it, and the package the band gives away is most generous.

Photo By Stewart Westwood
When we walked into the club, Glenn looked up from their intense soundcheck long enough to give me a hearty welcome, and to tell me he's soon be sending me the tracks for his upcoming studio set, which this band plus keyboard wiz Lachy Doley have just completed before this tour began, and Hughes's excitement abut the set was palpable.

We didn't get a taste of the new sounds on this evening (one can't let the cat out of the bag on a new project unless one wants it on YouTube months before release), but what we did get was a career retrospective that was mind blowing in it's depth and coherency. It's remarkable that the first song Hughes ever wrote, the Trapeze classic, "Medusa", sits so well with the latest material he's recorded forty years later, but somehow it all works.

Kicking off the show, it's "Way Back To The Bone" from 1972, then it's ten years later with the Hughes/Thrall classic track "Muscle And Blood" from that great one off album from 1982, and Hughes and company are in it to the hilt. In spite of a heart surgery, and double knee replacement since I last was him perform, Glenn Hughes continues to be a force of nature. His vocals grew increasingly powerful as the night progressed, and he stalked the stage with the energy and passion of a man forty years younger.

Then it's into the twenty-first century with "Orion" from 2005's Soul Mover album, and it's to Soren Anderson's great credit that he not only covers the bases of so many great guitarists that came before him in Hughes's various iterations and bands, but he manages to change up everything just enough so that his personality as a player shines through, and this points straight to the fact that this coming up solo album from Hughes will be a treat, as it's the first record with the man for Anderson.

Photo By David Wala
A few songs later we get our first jolt of Deep Purple, and "Stormbringer" was just that. The crowd went absolutely bonkers as Anderson whipped out the opening chords, and then Hughes's freight train, Orange Amps based bass tone thundered through the mix, Engborg pounded out the groove, and all was well in the valley. Rock royalty was witnessed, and all joined in to celebrate the spectacle.

"Medusa" has long been a centerpiece of any Hughes show for years, and tonight was no exception. After Glenn talked the audience through another sermon of peace, love, and happiness, he spoke of a young man in his mother's kitchen writing songs for his first band at the tender age of 17. If you weren't aware of the song's heritage and history, you'd never known it wasn't written last week, and this band manages to make everything sound up to date and born again. The kids have got nothing on this one.

In advance of next years return, Black Country Communion was represented with a raging version of "One Last Soul" from the band's 2010 debut, and it never fails to get the crowd swaying with it's huge groove, and sensual melodies. Then Anderson throws on a flashy white Strat to round out the set with the title track from "Soul Mover."

Before you know it the main set is done, and the band is off the stage. There is never, not for one second any question about encores. Everyone knows they are coming, and everyone plays their part in this vaunted piece of rock ritual. Lighters come out, fists are raised in the air, and the volume of the room goes up accordingly.

Hughes rips into his brand new Yamaha signature bass, and you know you're on your way back to the "Black Country". Again, it's up to Anderson to conjure the sounds and signature riffs of another, and he does Joe Bonamassa proud with a careening solo that raises the whole affair up another notch, and you're left wondering if there is anything this band can't do. They're left with only one place to go, and when Anderson tears off the intro to "Burn", it's all over but the crying. This is one of those shows you just hate to see end, but it's time to go, and the house lights are on.

Since we're now rating gigs in terms of not just performance (this gig report is also running simultaneously at MetalTalk.Net), but also volume and sound, let's take a moment to discuss this. The Ritz in San José is a square box of a room that is long and narrow, and in the hands of a lesser soundman, it could have been tough to contain the sheer horsepower of this power trio, but the stalwart crew was more than up to the task, and it sounded very good. Hughes was raving about the sound of his bass rig in the room at soundcheck, and you could see, feel, and hear it in his performance. He was pumped up by what he heard, and it played straight into his performance, and it's seldom noted, but while the world knows Hughes is as great a singer that has ever walked the planet, he is very underrated as a bassist. All this being said, it was as loud as Gideon's Trumpet, and it rang like a bell. Fantastic stuff, the stuff rock is made of when it's made right.


Way Back To the Bone
Muscle and Blood
Touch My Life
First Step of Love
Can't Stop The Flood
One Last Soul
You Keep On Moving
Soul Mover


Black Country

Thursday, July 7, 2016

An American Writer Asks Why It Takes A British Ex-Pat to Ask, "What's Going On?" Michael Des Barres Has The Answer

America has not been this divided in my lifetime. Not even close. We're barreling towards the most contentious (for many, many reasons) presidential election of our generation, there's violence in our streets, we are being divided in every way imaginable, and for all intents and purposes, it would appear that the wheels are falling off the wagon of The American Dream. Michael Des Barres's new single, an incendiary cover of Marvin Gaye's classic "What's Going On?" confronts these issues in an incredibly timely and head-on manner.

What gives Michael Des Barres the right?

Michael Des Barres has lived in America for over thirty-five years, and for a member of British nobility (He is officially, Lord Marquis Michael Philip Des Barres) that speaks volumes. He's lived in America for the sole reason that he dearly loves it. His radio show can be heard on the greatest mainstream rock 'n' roll radio station on the planet, Little Steven's Underground Garage, and he's been a fixture on the scene in Hollywood as a rocker and an actor since the early seventies. You want to talk credibility? The guy has it in spades, so he's well within his rights to now ask, "What's Going On?"
The Marvin Gaye classic is Des Barres latest solo release on his own Humble Servant, Inc label, and both the song and its accompanying video could not be more timely, or rock a bit harder. Des Barres is joined by his old bandmate and legendary drummer, Clem Burke (Blondie, Chequered Past), and together they make a divine racket. The guitars bristle, the beat is savage, and Des Barres is in fantastic voice. He's also been gifted with an exceptional video (directed by Marianne Spellman) that shows how little things have really changed (and perhaps gone backwards) in the great American experiment and experience.

Des Barres is currently working on an album's worth of both classic and original protest songs for our times, and if this single is any indication (and it is), it's going to be a barnburner. Bring your torches and pitchforks, but make sure they are metaphysical, as Des Barres's message at the end of the day is that we all must learn to love one another and to practice this always. Believing in love has always been the formative philosophy of any protest worth its weight, and it's what the world needs now more than ever.
So, my question seems to have been answered. Perhaps the reason that it's necessary for an ex-pat Brit to kick off the return of the protest song in a country steeped in the tradition is that it sometimes takes the perception of an observer from outside the situation to see it clearest. Michael Des Barres has grabbed the bull by its horns and is leading the charge on this day in which America must truly ask, "What's Going On?" He's inside, and he's looking out. With love.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Glenn Hughes - Keeping It Real All The Way To The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Glenn Hughes is in his car rolling down the highway, giving me the update on all things Hughes, when he gets a text from his pal, David Coverdale. Turns out that the pair still have no reasonable idea of what to expect this coming Friday (April 8, 2016) at their induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in Brooklyn. However, two things are quite clear - these two will bring a great sense of fashion (I believe it's Armani for one, and I know it's John Varvatos for the other), and a lot of class to the proceedings, regardless of all else.

I've spoken with Glenn Hughes several times over the last few months, and his take on the difficulties involved with Deep Purple's induction have been predictably sane and solid. He absolutely gets that the band that has been Purple for the past many years must be the band that takes the stage, and that they have unquestionably earned the right, but he would also dearly love to be able to get onstage with any living member of the band, and to sing a bit on that night for the band's fans. Regardless of what actually transpires, Hughes says that he knows that Coverdale and himself shall greet it all, and all involved with a smile and sincere handshake. It will sure be interesting to see how it all goes down.

Monday, March 28, 2016

UFO - Lights Out In San Francisco! - Gig Review

March 26, 2016
The Independent, San Francisco, CA, USA

If ever there was a night that should have been recorded for a live record, it would have been this one.

UFO has been rocking American audiences with much regularity for some forty years, and I've never seen this iteration of the band put on a better performance. The sold out crowd at The Independent in San Francisco was in great voice for the last show of the band's current US tour and the walls reverberated as loudly as ever as they sang along on most choruses. This evening was an unabashed love fest, the likes of which I hope we will soon see again.

Monday, March 14, 2016

SIDEMEN: Long Road To Glory - A Big Hit At SXSW Film For All The Right Reasons

"People said, 'Pinetop, it looks like you ought to have plenty of money.' How you gonna have plenty of money when you a sideman? No way!" ~ Pinetop Perkins (July 7, 1913 - March 21, 2011)

SIDEMEN: Long Road To Glory opened this past week to unanimous rave reviews and acclaim at the SXSW Film festival, and while it is a great film, likely as good a musical documentary as you'll see released this year, it's also a movie that has a great story of its own.

In his 97 years on earth, Pinetop Perkins never made himself a rich man by playing the piano, but he still went out of this life a rich man, celebrated by fans, friends, getting some of the acclaim due an artist of his stature by way of his third Grammy Award in 2011, and now having his tale told in this passionate documentary.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Supersonic Blues Machine - West Of Flushing, South Of Frisco - The Blues Rock Record To Beat For 2016

Supersonic Blues Machine is that rarest of beasts, a cameo packed blues rock album on which the core band and the tunes actually supersede the weight of the heavies who stop by to lend their support. And now, let me raise the stakes even higher - every cameo is worthy of being on the guests's own albums, nobody here brought anything except their A-game.This just might be the blues rock album to beat in 2016.

The core band is made up of Fabrizio Grossi, the project's visionary bassist/songwriter/producer, Texas guitar legend/vocalist Lance Lopez, and everybody's drummer of choice Kenny Aronoff. The list of guests is a who's who of musical legends, starting with The Righteous Reverend Billy F. Gibbons of ZZ Top, Warren Haynes, Robben Ford, Eric Gales, Walter Trout, and Chris Duarté. Grossi has done the near impossible in creating an album with a tremendously diverse cast that never sounds like anything less than a band. In a day and age in which budgets and time constraints often cause projects such as this to go off the rails, this one surfs high up on the waves of glory.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Leslie West - Soundcheck - No Sign Of Going Gently Into That Good Night

Leslie West
Prologue Records/Mascot Label Group
November 20, 2015
"On my tombstone, it should read, 'Leslie West: It's Neither Major Nor Minor.'" ~ Leslie West
Over the last eight years, Leslie West has delivered four excellent, excellent albums, and he continues to ratchet it up with Soundcheck, an album that manages to hit everything on the menu of what you want from Leslie West. Not as many original tunes as we've gotten used to seeing, but the covers are all done with great taste, and some damned good creative change making on some classic numbers. Believe me, Soundcheck is what you came for from Leslie West.

It think this album sees the definitive version of Leslie's recorded guitar playing and legendary tone.  I know he's not out to sell a textbook, but if you were looking to buy one, this would be a great purchase. And it's not just tone and technique - his note placement and choice of notes has never sounded better, and he's still progressing as a musician with each release, how many guys can say that at the tender young age of 69?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Dictators NYC - Supply And Demand - Rock Ain't Near Dead™!

Holy hell! The new single by The Dictators NYC, the long venerated rock 'n' roll institution, is a force of nature.

"Supply And Demand", b/w a live rendition of the MC5 classic, "Kick Out The Jams" is as much fun as you will have listening to rock 'n' roll in 2015. From the Who approved crushing chords that announce its arrival to Ross The Boss Friedman's self described "Chuck Berry on steroids" Les Paul/Marshall howl to Handsome Dick Manitoba's superb rock 'n' roll manifesto lyrics and delivery, this sizzling piece of rock delivers on the promise of the past, the present, and future of this thing we love, this thing called rock 'n' roll. This dynamic duo have stepped up and not just matched, but added to this great band's legacy.

Bassist/producer Dean Rispler may be the secret weapon that takes it all over the top - you know The Dictators' veterans are on board - I've got to tell you, drummer J.P. "Thunderbolt" Patterson has never sounded better or more powerful behind the kit, and longtime collaborator Daniel Rey will rip your head off with his hard hitting rhythm guitar work, but it's Rispler's throbbing bassline and in-your-face, crystal clear and crushing production (with the aid of engineer Jesse Cannon) that will have you smiling from ear to ear.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Death Dealer - Hallowed Ground - Best Metal Album Of 2015?

Death Dealer
Hallowed Ground
Sweden Music Group
October 2, 2015

Death Dealer has crushed the sophomore jinx. The sophomore jinx. At least that's what it's called in America. In the United Kingdom, it's often referred to as the second year's blues, in Australia it's known as the sophomore slump. At any rate, it is a term that addresses a second effort that is weaker than the first. Whether it's in terms of an athlete's performance, a student's second year, or a musician's second album, it is a reality that has haunted since time immemorial.

Hallowed Ground is the band's second album, and it's a runaway contender for best metal album of 2015. As much as I've enjoyed Iron Maiden's latest, I will admit that a part of that love is tied to nostalgia and very much wanting to love something. Maybe that's the difference between it and Hallowed Ground - Death Dealer comes across like someone's first band, and I am taken back to the first time I saw Eddie The Head grace an album cover, reminded of how I felt when I first heard Def Leppard's On Through The Night. It's excitement is thrilling, and it hits you like a ton of bricks. It makes me feel like a kid again, and metal is reborn.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Scorpions and Queensryche - A Great Night Of Classic Metal For The Masses - San José, California

Scorpions/Queensryche Gig Report
SAP Center, San José, California
Rocktober 1, 2015

I can't imagine a better way to ring in Rocktober than by seeing two exceptional classic metal bands in fine, fine form.

Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker have found the fountain of youth, and they nearly wore out their sixty foot walkway as they put on the hits for a nearly sold out crowd at the 18,000 seat SAP Center arena in San José, California. But first came the mighty Queensryche.

Queensryche is a band that has spent the last several years rebuilding after the controversy filled departure of frontman Geoff Tate, and all that I can say is that they are doing a magnificent job of moving the legacy forward with two excellent albums, and a regular spate of road work. The original core members, guitarist Michael Wilton, drummer Scott Rockenfield, and bassist Eddie Jackson have not lost a step, and enough credit cannot be heaped upon this bunch for not only revitalizing this great classic metal outfit, but for also moving it into the future with newcomers Parker Lindgren on second guitar and the new star of the show, frontman vocalist Todd La Torre. Michael Wilton proved again that he is among the unheralded guitar heroes in all of rock with his riffs, solos, and presence.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Joel Hoekstra - Have Guitar, Will Travel - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

"I do believe you can create your own luck to a degree through hard work. The harder you work, the luckier you get." ~ Joel Hoekstra
You could be forgiven for not knowing of Joel Hoekstra before he showed up this summer electrifying audiences around America this summer with Whitesnake's shockingly successful "The Purple Tour." His rise in the world of rock has been a slow, steady climb that saw him go from a Broadway show (Rock Of Ages) to MTV hitmakers Night Ranger, then to even bigger stages with the Trans Siberian Orchestra, before he landed his first true star turn as a member of David Coverdale's long running legend of Whitesnake in 2015. His overnight success has at last arrived after thousands of gigs.

Hoekstra will be the first tell you that luck may be a small factor in this equation that has seen his star rise, but he'd also tell you that it's really all about the work - whether it's a basic love for playing the guitar, or the desire to be a part of something larger than one's self, it will all go to naught without great bits of perspiration, the choice lubricant of dreams.

No sooner than Hoekstra has wrapped up his debut tour with the 'Snakes, he is now overseeing myriad details as Frontiers Records prepares to launch his latest solo project, Joel Hoekstra's 13 - Dying To Live on October, 16, 2015, that includes a group of musicians (Tony Franklin, Vinny Appice, Derek Sherinian, Russell Allen, and Jeff Scott Soto) that certainly ranks as powerful a rock machine as you could imagine. The album is a straight up, no chaser hard rock album that is in Hoekstra's words, "Good, solid rock stuff, tastefully played by great players."

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Neal Morse - Morsefest! 2014 - Five Hours Of Glorious Prog

Neal Morse has done it again. After being asked to do a performance in his home church by his pastor (an idea which Morse initially thought impossible due to logistics), the idea wouldn't go away, in fact it grew, and it all blossomed into Morsefest! 2014, a 2 DVD/4 CD/ package that features over five hours of progressive rock brilliance by Morse, his stellar band, and a host of cameo appearances (most notably his brother and former Spock's Beard bandmate Alan Morse).

Not being one to do anything with less than a complete effort, Morse elected to perform his first two solo albums (Testimony from 2003, and One from 2004) on consecutive nights, and he even flew in Rich Mouser, who did the original mixes on both records, to do the front of house sound. Considering that the albums had never been played front to back by a live band, it is Herculean to consider the daunting task for everyone involved. Over five hours of performances rehearsed for two shows. The quality of these five hours is astonishing - Neal Morse has done it again.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Kelakos - A Missing Link In Seventies Rock History - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Kelakos is one of those great bands that sometimes fall through the cracks of history. They've just released Uncorked: Rare Tracks From A Vintage '70s Band, a set of tunes originally recorded between 1976-1978, and when you hear it, you'll wonder why these guys weren't on The Midnight Special cranking out the same type of eclectic, soul stirring rock as the Allman Brothers Band, Steely Dan, and other legends of the times. Better late than never, we can now hear what should have been a big hits at the time.

The band was filled to the brim with talent - drummer Carl Canedy has been a hard rock/heavy metal legend for many decades, and bassist Lincoln Bloomfield Jr. went on to a remarkable career in Washington, D.C.. While his bass playing and singing can compete with anyone of his era, Bloomfield instead opted towards a path that would see him most notably appointed Assistant Secretary Of State for Political-Military Affairs by President George W. Bush in 2001. Guitarist Mark Sisson, and singer/guitarist/songwriter George Kelakos Haberstroh have never stopped playing music, and continue to work together almost forty years later, proving that the love of music never dies, in spite of the pains that can be caused by the industry.

I recently had a chance to speak with George Kelakos Haberstroh, and it was one of those experiences best called life affirming for all the right reasons. It would be only too easy for a musician to respond to a fickle market with bitterness and acrimony, but Haberstroh has instead chosen to taking the high road by putting the past behind, and getting on with the task of honing his God given skills, and continuing to follow his muse with an attitude that is wonderfully refreshing.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Cracker - They're An American Band ( And One Of The Best) - Gig Report

Photo by Kristie Brown Gripp

Cracker w/ Victor Krummenacher
Palms Playhouse
July 7, 2015

Cracker is one of those rare and few bands that can get their audience to come from near and far on a weekday evening, fill a room with rock 'n' roll lovers in an ancient room in a relatively sleepy town, and create the party of the week just days after a big party holiday.

The band's fans call themselves the Cracker Crumbs, and when they gather it's always a joyous celebration. Every band has its fans, but the Crumbs are a special lot. They know the words to all the songs, they sing and dance the whole night through, and it resembles a high school reunion (at least the way we wish they were) as much as a rock show.

Steve Lukather Offers Up Some Real Talk On The Music Business As It Stands Today (Includes New Commentary From Luke)

Last Friday something kind of strange happened on my Facebook wall. It seems that someone 'liked' a photo I had posted way back in 2013 of Steve Lukather of Toto, Ringo Starr's All Starr Band (and probably a million recording sessions). Attached to the photo was a rant that Lukather had written concerning the state of the music business at that time.

Since last week the photo has been shared almost 6,000 times, and it has received some 1,200 comments, and those comments have been 95% in agreement with what Luke had to say.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Beatles' Three Guitar Workout On "The End"

It was somewhat fitting, and the circle was completed when The Beatles wrapped up their career with a three guitar jam in the appropriately titled, “The End” on their Abbey Road album. After all, they had started their career as three guitarists playing together, and it seems a good place to wrap things up. 

It was Paul's song, and John Lennon said he wanted to do the solo himself initially, as he often enjoyed having a shot at being a lead guitarist (and he was usually brilliant when he chose to do so), but let’s let EMI/Abbey Road engineer and author Geoff Emerick tell the tale, as he was in the room when it happened:

There were quite a few empty bars to fill after Ringo’s drum solo on “The End” [Abbey Road], and George Harrison said, ‘Well, a guitar solo is the obvious thing.’

‘Yes, but this time you should let me play it,’ said John, half seriously. He loved playing lead guitar, but he knew he didn’t have the finesse of either George or Paul, so he rarely took a solo on record.

‘I know,’ he said mischievously, unwilling to let the idea go, ‘why don’t we all play the solo? We can take turns and trade licks.’

"George looked dubious, but Paul embraced the idea, and he upped the ante further by suggesting the three of them play their solos live. Paul announced that he wanted to take the first solo, and as it was his song, the others deferred. Ever competitive, John said he had a great idea for an ending. So, as always, poor George was overshadowed by his two band mates, and got the middle spot by default.

While they were practicing, I took great care to craft a different, distinctive sound for each Beatle, so it would be apparent to the listener that it was three individuals playing, and not just one person taking an extended solo. They were each playing a different guitar through a different amp, so it wasn’t all that difficult to achieve. I lined the three amps in a row—there was no need for a great deal of separation, because they were all going to be recorded on a single track.

Incredibly, after just a brief period of rehearsal, they nailed it in a single take.

For me, that session was undoubtedly the high point of the summer of 1969, and listening to those guitar solos never fails to bring a smile to my face.” Geoff Emerick, Here, There, And Everywhere: My Life Recording The Beatles.

The beauty of “The End” is that there is not a sense of competition between the players, so much as there is a collaboration. By all counts it was a joyous occasion enjoyed by all three guitarists. While Paul and George’s solos are excellent examples of the style of melodic hard blues rock that was being played on stages around London at the time, John Lennon’s take on things is much more simplistic and crude. It is Paul’s song, so he gets the first slot, and his playing is not very far from what Harrison is doing in the middle position, and this has caused great confusion amongst listeners for decades. 

Three amps were lined up side by side, and I am assuming they were recent issue silverfaced Fender Twin Reverbs, but this is again difficult to verify. George was almost certainly playing his red 1957 Gibson Les Paul Standard, a guitar which had started its life as a Goldtop model that went through the hands of The Loving Spoonfuls' John Sebastian, blues rock guitarist Rick Derringer, and a refinish before it ended up in the possession of Eric Clapton (who used the guitar on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps") who went on to make the guitar a gift to George in early August of 1968. The guitar is still in the possession of George Harrison's estate. John was undoubtably playing his 1965 Epiphone Casino (serial number 328393) which was famously stripped of its sunburst finish, and is still owned by Yoko Ono Lennon - the Lennon estate has the guitar in its inventory under the designation, “The Revolution Guitar”. While I have not found a definitive answer on what guitar Paul McCartney used for this session, with various usually reliable sources saying it was either his Epiphone Casino or Fender Esquire. I’ve listened very closely time and time again, comparing it between different tracks Paul has played with both guitars, and I’m very familiar with both instruments as a player, but I cannot with any confidence saying which is actually on this track. The guitars were played live, and they were obviously playing very loudly - you simply get those bold, aggressive tones out quiet amplifiers.

Let’s look at the solos themselves:

In the first round, Paul and George both tear off slices of highly energized riffs that sound almost as if this could be the work of a single guitarist. Both parts are evokative of the playing of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Jimi Hendrix at the time, and are even very similar in tone. But then, in comes Lennon with brutally effective rhythmic stabs at his guitar that establish his very singular voice as a lead guitarist. He’s making it howl, not sing. 

In the second round you start to see more stylistic differences between Paul and George, as Paul continues to sound very contemporary with the hot British rock guitarists of the day, and now George answers with a very tasty double-stop outing (a double-stop is when a guitarist plays a melodic section of a song using two notes, as opposed to a single note or a chord (three or more notes)) that is very reminiscent of the soul music coming out of the American South. Paul and George's tones are also more noticeably different with Harrison's being a bit softer and smoother than his playing on his first go round. Perhaps he had switched to his Les Paul's rhythm (or neck) pickup from his lead (or bridge) pickup. Next, John steps it up a bit and fires off a brilliant volley of bent low notes in a seething homage to Link Wray.

His travelling record collection includes albums by Bo Diddley (three), Chuck Berry (two), Lenny Bruce (six), the Mothers (everything), Paul McCartney (Ram – and it's been played at least once), and Link Wray (with cover inscribed "To John and Yoko – thanks for remembering – Peace, Link Wray").

“The story behind the Wray inscription is that John and Yoko were getting out of the lift at 1700 Broadway, which houses Allen Klein's office, when they were confronted by Wray, who was going up to Polydor's offices in the same building.

“Wray apparently said, ‘Hey – John and Yoko.’ John didn't say anything to him, but turned to Yoko and breathed: ‘Yoko, that's Link Wray. Without him…’”, Richard Williams, Uncut Magazine, 1998.

For the third and final round, we see Paul go very guttural in his playing with a staggering, stuttering statement that he picks very aggressively and very close to the guitar’s bridge, giving it a taut, staccato tone that would not sound out of place on a Jimmy Page solo from early days of Led Zeppelin. George’s gorgeous climb up the neck suggests his very soon to be exploration of the slide guitar (which he had been hinting at in his playing, and in his love for Indian music for several years), but it’s just the musical motion you’re hearing here as he manipulates the strings with just his fingers and a pick. John wraps it up with a rave up that is the perfect marriage of where rock ’n’ roll guitar had started for him, and where rock guitar would go in the future. 

Everyone simply did what it was that they did as guitar players, without any real time or thought being given to anything other than having a play. They had seemingly come full circle to once again meet The Beatles.

Here is a video of the isolated guitars from the track, and below is a clickable time schedule for who starts playing at what point (the soloing starts at the 1:03 mark):

Paul #1: 1:03
George #1: 1:07 
John #1: 1:10 
Paul #2: 1:14 
George #2: 1:19 
John #2: 1:22 
Paul #3: 1:27 
George #3: 1:30 
John #3: 1:34