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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

3rd Most Underrated Guitarist: Neil Young

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Birmingham NEC Soundcheck, 24 September, 1982


From Rolling Stone's "The Twenty-Five Most Underrated Guitarists":
Statistics show that the average rock fan spends roughly 4.7 hours per year arguing over who’s the greatest guitarist of all time.

Here's where Neil stacks up:

1. Prince
2. Kurt Cobain
3. Neil Young

We've seen Prince and he's definitely a great guitarist. Quite fast and furious. Never saw Cobain but he definitely had more going on than many give him credit for.

As for Neil? Last we checked he was in 3rd place also as most covered artist of all time.

Numbers add up to nothing.


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21 Comments:

At 10/02/2007 06:12:00 PM, Anonymous Weaseley said...

Underrated by those who don't listen to him, maybe. Which also makes little sense.

 
At 10/02/2007 06:22:00 PM, Blogger Andy said...

the fact that one rolling stone's list of 100 greatest guitar players features kurt cobain #12 (just ahead of garcia) makes me sick to my stomach. the fact that people still say he's underrated makes me dislike nirvana solely based on their reputation

 
At 10/02/2007 07:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thats a pretty cool photo.

 
At 10/02/2007 07:30:00 PM, Blogger RDR said...

Unfortunate but true about Neil. The primary reason he's underrated as a guitarist is because his most technical and inventive guitar work comes when he plays with Crazy Horse, a band whose name is all but unknown and Neil's involvement with them equally so.

While Cowgirl in the Sand, Down By The River, and Cinnamon Girl all feature some technical guitar and classic riffs, and are some of his most popular rocker tunes, such epics are few and far between (at least any that have been recognized.

Cowgirl In The Sand, Down By The River, Southern Man, Words (Between The Lines Of Age), Last Dance, Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown, Albuquerque, Walk On, Danger Bird, Cortez The Killer, Winterlong, Like a Hurricane, My My Hey Hey/Hey Hey My My, Sedan Delivery, Powderfinger, Opera Star, Shots, Hippie Dream, Prisoners of Rock N Roll, Life In The City, Rockin' In The Free World, the whole of Ragged Glory, Sleeps With Angels, Change Your Mind, I'm The Ocean, Big Green Country, Scenery, Big Time, Slip Away, Scattered (Let's Think About Livin'), even Roger And Out. Neil's electric guitar skill has been prolifically spread throughout his career, as that list should make apparent.

As far as acoustic guitar, listen to Harvest Moon, Silver And Gold, even the acoustic bits from Greendale (Bandit) and Broken Arrow (Music Arcade). Neil has been known as a man of words, but his guitar can sing just as well when he puts his mind to it. I think it just comes down to the fact that Neil's music is so prolific that he can only come up with so many unique riffs for songs.

And that's only released material, there are well over a dozen songs which could qualify as guitar wonders which Neil never saw reason to put on an album. (Evening Coconut, Ordinary People [now coming to album], Bad News, Kansas, Windward Passage, Lady Wingshot, Berlin, So Tired, Interstate, Road of Plenty, Pushed It Over The End, Standing In The Light of Love, and I'm sure you guys can think of more).

Yes, he is one of the most underrated guitarists of all time, mostly because his vocals have no appeal to the average "rock" fan, Neil, for all he's worth, will never have a "grungy" or mean voice, the tenor is strong with him.

 
At 10/02/2007 08:09:00 PM, Anonymous Andy L said...

Hitchhiker will become the greatest unreleased Neil Young composition on October 16th. Have you ever heard that song? It's like Drug Use and Consequences 101. Quite an epic. I have a version from '92 that is just amazing. Just my opinion. Live Music are Better.

 
At 10/03/2007 02:45:00 PM, Anonymous set list thief said...

Neil's guitar work is not just about technique but also the pacing and "feel" of the song as it's performed.

Two performances come to mind: The "Hurricane" performed at the L.A. Forum show on Oct. 24, 1978 is perhaps the best guitar solo I've ever heard by any guitar player. The technical prowess is stunning. During the first half, his solo flies off into the stratosphere only to return as the sound of falling rain during the second half of the song. One actually "feels" like one's standing in the eye of a hurricane. Spectacular.

The other performance is the Oct. 20, 1999 show in Oakland where he plays an acoustic "Cortez." Again, it's all about pacing and feel. When he plays, Neil's talked about being "in the moment" and "transported away." That particular performance of "Cortez" is perfect. No meandering guitar solos-the song has a definite beginning, middle, and end yet the melody and lyrics stretch out gorgeously over the songs 8+ minutes. Who else can play a three chord song for 10 minutes and make you feel that you've been transported someplace you've never been before?

Yeah, SRV and Jimi, the three Steves (Morse, Howe, and Stills), DiMeola and McLaughlin are all great guitarists, but none of them can make me feel like I do after a Neil Young guitar song.

 
At 10/03/2007 04:36:00 PM, Anonymous Yohay said...

I think that Neil Young's guitar skills are underrated since he is so outstanding as s songwriter.
I guess that guitar solo fans haven't heard all his great solos in live shows, as the previous commenters detailed.

 
At 10/03/2007 04:36:00 PM, Blogger Andy said...

anyone know how i can find that version of like a hurricane?

 
At 10/03/2007 07:44:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd love to hear it too. You described it beautifully set list thief.

 
At 10/03/2007 10:34:00 PM, Blogger heywally said...

Richard Thompson should be high up on that list.

The reason Neil is so high on that list (maybe that means he's not underrated) and one of the reasons he is a great guitarist is because he plays with such a tremendous sense of melody - that is why he is so good; nothing to do with speed/dexterity, just musicality.

 
At 10/04/2007 07:54:00 AM, Blogger Hoshisato said...

I have seen several of Neil's concerts but the one that really blew me away was 1993/06/28, Sjöhistoriska Muséet, Stockholm, Sweden (With Booker T And The MG's). More than 20 minutes of Down by the River was the best solo I ever heard him play.
Neil clearly liked the environment of the venue: outside in the long Scandinavian evening with the water nearby and he really let himself go.

 
At 10/04/2007 01:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I'm not really surprised that Thrasher is now censoring what he considers offensive remarks and grammatical faux pas. It was getting a bit loud in here lately for the Neil zombies. They might wake up with all that noise, and then where would the whole Neil myth be?
Amazing that you allowed Chili to post all his neocon trash during the LWW era, but now you're going to start deleting posts with misspellings. Makes one wonder what's really going on here. Is the Neil machine getting pissed now that they're being forced to do things like abort the ill-timed Neil cover story for the unfortunately-named GOLDMINE magazine? (Does that qualify as excessive capitalization? Not to be confused with excessive capitalism.) Is Elliot demanding that you quell the threat$ to commerce? Are you afraid Neilco will cut off your special access? Do you actually believe in the message of the Freedom of Speech tour? Does Neil?
I don't think things have gotten that offensive around here, with the exception of the plate of s*** post. But even that person was obviously sincere, though unneccessarily crude. Where are all these misspellings and excessive !s and capitalizations?
What has happened is that, for once, real legitimate, long-overdue criticism of the legend of Neil Young has surfaced, some satirical, but still legit. You're not saying you're going to quash that, are you?
Are you actually even allowing real anonymous posts here or are you monitoring and commenting on that? What does anonymous actually mean here? Full anonymity or pretend anonymity with winking editorializations?

 
At 10/04/2007 05:13:00 PM, Blogger Adam said...

I love the photo. Never seen it before.

 
At 10/06/2007 11:52:00 AM, Blogger Mars said...

and the funny part is....Neil uses Prince's studio sometimes before a tour...I would really love to hear them jam together!!!

 
At 12/07/2007 08:31:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neil Youngs preformance at Red Rocks is Definatly his most impressive. in the middle of a driving rainstorm, he played untill his strings snapped. his crewwas getting pissed they wanted to go home but neil kept jamming.AMAZING.

 
At 12/28/2007 11:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most ordinary people today figure if your not playing 64th notes like Van Halen then you're no match. Now don't get me wrong I love Van but there is more to the guitar than knowing a billion scales and playing super fast. Neil plays with emotion and feeling. Between his voice and guitar , the man can convey any feeling in the purest form.

 
At 1/01/2008 02:11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am going to ring in the new year listening to Neil playing some of the best lead guitar he ever laid down.On the Crazy Horse release Crazy Moon, Neil really cuts loose with an incendiary and inspired pyrotechnic display of lead playing.Sparks seem to be spitting and flying all over the place.Just like him to do it on a release not readily available.

 
At 1/04/2008 08:08:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My head is spinning from the comments so far in this thread. I wholehearted agree with what Andy said about feeling sick about Cobain being rated a better player than Garcia. Right there I say stop and toss the Rolling Stone judges out the window. Certainly in the long list of fine guitarists that have graced our ears Jerry is not near the top but being ranked anywhere near Cobain? Should Kurt actually make the top 100?

On to Neil. IMHO Neil shines when he plays acoustic. His style of vamping the strings and getting percussive sounds off of the body of his Martins is what makes him unique. This is all about feel and not what you'd rate as great technical playing. A great example of his style is Pocahontas.

As to his electric playing (with or w/o Crazy Horse), again it is all about feel and energy. C'mon folks, you cannot tell me that you actually think that he is a great technical player! Those of you who are saying that must not be guitar players. Neil's electric solos rarely involve more than single note runs.

Don't get me wrong, I love Neil's music. I have seen him over 20 times since 1982 but a great guitar player he is not.

Just to make this clear, I have never seen the RS article so I don't know whether they are ranking best technical guitar players, those with the best emotive playing, or a complete package. Neil would certainly rank high in emotive playing. Nothing makes you feel quite like a scorching Down by the River but then again nothing makes you feel like experiencing Jimi, Leo Kottke, M. Hedges, or other technical players for the first time.

 
At 1/04/2008 05:54:00 PM, Anonymous Martin Lav said...

Nobody and I mean nobody can play slower than Neil!

Maybe a better judge would be to see how a guitar player, rhythm or lead, makes those around him play better.
I've seen Neil make Stills better, Jimmy Page better and whole lot of others.

"I can't play too fast, but I can play real slow" - Neil Young

 
At 1/10/2008 12:56:00 PM, Blogger Nate said...

I've played guitar most of my life now, some 35 years at least.

Neil still amazes me, how he can casually sit and strum on the accoustic guitar and out comes the rhythm AND the melody.

And Old Black, well ... NOBODY rocks like Neil. It's note about the number of notes, it's SOUL MAN.

 
At 9/06/2008 04:27:00 AM, Anonymous Terry David said...

I have been listening to Neil Young since 1970. I was 13 then and the sound of a pedal steel guitar weeping and the mixing of rock-folk-country really turned me on. Southern Man was his first electric song to grab my attention. The man has a God given gift to take you through time and space with his music like no one else I've ever heard. I dare anyone to smoke some good krippy and play EKTIN in it's entirety and then tell me how, after 40 years, is it possible for a record to fold space the way EKTIN does and it not be a supernatural sound Neil puts together with the songs from that album. There truly is more to the picture than meets the eye when it comes to Neil Young's vision of Rock and Roll! I love Chrome Dreams II too. The spirituality communicated on that album is awesome. God bless you brother Neil and to say he is the world's most underrated guitarist is an understatement. I know that he will keep on "Rockin In The Free World" because he has the "Will To Love."

 

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