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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Neil Young: Rolling Stone | 100 Greatest Guitarists

Neil Young
Birmingham NEC Soundcheck, 24 September, 1982

Back in 2007, Rolling Stone compiled a list of "The Twenty-Five Most Underrated Guitarists". Seriously. And Neil Young was #3.

Well, now -- just 4 years later -- Neil is on Rolling Stone's list of 100 Greatest Guitarists?! At #17??? Imagine that. He keeps getting better day after day...

And not really sure what has happened to Neil's guitar playing over the years because the last time Rolling Stone compiled their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists, he was #83.

I mean Neil's good and all that. But what is possibly happening with these Rolling Stone editors? We just don't get it at all. Please someone explain. (ED: See comment below explaining RS methodology).

In the meantime, here's what Phish's Trey Anastasio has to say about Neil Young:
If I was ever going to teach a master class to young guitarists, the first thing I would play them is the first minute of Neil Young's original "Down by the River" solo. It's one note, but it's so melodic, and it just snarls with attitude and anger.

It's like he desperately wants to connect.

Neil's playing is like an open tube from his heart right to the audience.

In the Nineties, we played a festival with Crazy Horse. At the end of "Like a Hurricane," Neil went into this feedback solo that was more like a sonic impressionist painting. He was about six feet back from the microphone, singing so you could just hear him over the colorful waves of hurricane-like sound.

I think about that moment a lot when I'm playing. Traditional concepts of rhythm and keys are great, but music is like a giant ocean. It's a big, furious place, and there are a lot of trenches that haven't been explored. Neil is still blazing a trail for people who are younger than him, reminding us you can break artistic ground.

(Thanks Chris!)

Speaking of "Down by the River", here's Phish at the Farm Aid Benefit, near Chicago, IL, with Young on October 3, 1998. Pretty freakin' awesome DBTR.

Setlist notes from Andy's Phish Page indicate that Young joined Phish onstage for "Runaway Jim". Next came an electric instrumental that is best described as "Arc"-like. This was followed by a monster 26 minute jam on "Down By the River".

Judge for your self, but this version of "Down By the River" is considered to be one of the top 10 performances of the song ever. Certainly the best ever non Ol-Black version. Neil uses a hollow body Gretsch guitar (Trey Anastasio's older Languedoc guitars, hand-made by Phish soundman Paul Languedoc) and delivers some heavy hand blows to the body at various jam points. Massive shredding ensues.

The Trey and Neil duel @ 12:45 is epic. We can't honestly we've ever sen another guitarist ever push Neil so far to the dark side.

Unfortunately, the YouTube version is *only* 19 minutes long.

Phish and Neil Young - Farm Aid 1998
Photo by Barry Brechsian

More on Phish and Neil Young.

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At 12/01/2011 10:43:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to the article in Rolling Stone the reason Neil Young jumped from 83rd to 17th is because of the voters involved. Many are well known others newer to rock 'n roll and most were influenced by his music and guitar playing. The list of voters is a who's who in guitar greats. According to Rolling Stone they assembled a panel of top guitarists and other experts to rank their favorites and explain what separates the legends from everyone else. I believe the original lists were mostly critics. Obviously, Neil Young had a heavy influence on old and new guitarists. This is a more deserving list for all of the guitarists men and women(glad to see some women included).

At 12/01/2011 11:10:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks for that info. That helps a great deal in explaining things & makes total sense.


At 12/01/2011 01:15:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

So all you critics sit alone
You're no better than me
for what you've shown

At 12/01/2011 02:00:00 PM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

Nice that Neil's playing finally gets some of the recognition that it so well deserves. I've only quickly checked out the full list, but some interesting placements, omissions and juxtapositions:

Betcha that Tom Verlaine is pleased as punch to know he's almost as good as Bonnie Raitt (#90 and #89). Love Bonnie and a long, long time fan (e.g. first ticket cost me $2) but really guys.

Neil is in a guitar heaven group with Derek Trucks just before, then Les Paul, James Burton, Carlos Santana, Chet Atkins and Frank Zappa. Les is the only one I never saw live...almost but not this is a great mixture of talent, artistry and pioneer spirit.

Willie Nelson is just a little better than John Fahey...but Bert Jansch nowhere to be found. Again I love Willie's playing, but Fahey s/b way further up and Bert....

The list ends (i.e. who can we squeeze in here) with Thurston Moore and Lindsey Buckingham!? Based on that, I wonder who missed out at #101?

Lou Reed and Nels Cline together at #81 and #82 is cool. Kurt Cobain and Dick Dale together (#73 and #74) with Robert Johnson and John Fusciante just before them...interesting.

By a quick count, I've seen close to 70 of these guitarists, so again I realize how lucky and blessed I have been. And to coin a phrase (unless someone's already come up with this one), make a list and get people can never please all of the people all of the time. But where the hell is Junior Kimbrough?

At 12/01/2011 02:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rolling Stone is sucking up real good to Neil lately. Maybe it has to do with getting the Cameron Crowe interview. Three stars for Peggy's album? Someone had to hold their nose to do that.

At 12/01/2011 02:14:00 PM, Anonymous Mother Nature on the Run said...

I saw the list of musicians who voted. Among the list of musicians who voted, I saw Stephen Stills & Robbie Robertson's name. Didn't have time to go through the whole 100, but Stephen & Robbie should be up there, too. Those two could weave rosebuds around the mundane in their sleep.

Sorry, I just get my head around seeing Eric before BB or Keith before Jeff Beck or Pete Townshend. Fortunately BB, Pete & Jeff are in a place where it's not a big deal.

For me, it's a big deal. Sorry, Keith Richards is not the 4th greatest guitarist of all time. Juliana Hatfield, Chrissie Hynde, and Nancy Wilson can outplay that guy even on their worst day.

I didn't see Fogerty up there. Please tell me he wasn't overlooked. Rory Gallagher didn't even make the list?

Oh the inhumanity!

At 12/01/2011 02:33:00 PM, Anonymous Mother Nature in the Memphis Blues again.. said...

I betcha voters ranked their guitar heroes instead voting the placement.

At 12/01/2011 03:01:00 PM, Anonymous set list thief said...

I have that DBTR performance on disc. I have to gather up my jaw from the floor everytime I hear it.

Playing guitar (or any instrument for that matter) is about conveying emotion. DBTR is about hatred, anger, confusion, betrayal and loss. Neil's playing conveys those emotions like no other guitarist I know of.

At 12/01/2011 03:34:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

and Mark Knofler at 44? He's got a whole truckload worth of skills, vibe, etc. that merits better than that rank. Oh well, we all have our favorites, it's all in the chops. Was John Hiatt on there?

At 12/01/2011 08:29:00 PM, Anonymous Look4wrd said...

List is light on acoustic players - Bert Jansch and Buddy Miller come to mind. And jazz - Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny to name just two.

At 12/01/2011 08:53:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

Jerry Garcia only #46??
Is Joni Mitchell even on the list??

At 12/01/2011 10:06:00 PM, Anonymous Mother Nature on the Run said...

She's in the 70s somewhere with Jack White, Peter Green, that guy from King Crimson, Robert Thompson, and T Bone Walker.

At 12/02/2011 10:04:00 AM, Blogger TomCrac said...

Not trying to be negative here, but,there is no validity with these lists. They are completely subjective and are there just to get attention.

At 12/02/2011 10:33:00 PM, Blogger DeborahYIP said...

I somehow agree with Tom Crac's comments ... anyway NEIL YOUNG has always been my #1!
(And who could be any better than him live?)

At 12/03/2011 12:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

eh, i was there for that down by the river with the fishes. wayyy overrated, in my humble opinion. it never really took off and trey was just wanking away the whole time, trying to respond to every little thing neil did instead of just being a rhythm guitar player. when you have neil young on the stage playing with your band, HE IS THE LEADER.

neil made a lot of new fans that night though, that's for sure. his acoustic set was legendary. he came out with a full, grey beard and played some of the most heartfelt versions of his classics i've ever had the pleasure of hearing. that "old man" on the 12 string still gets me every time, and is infinitely better than the jam with the fishes.

At 12/15/2011 12:41:00 AM, Anonymous Simon said...

Awesome if Neil Young is included.But I dont see Pat Metheny,Martin Simpson,Leo Kottke,Tommy Emmanuel,Jan Akkerman (Focus),Django,Tony Rice & Pat Martino

Was this the greatest ever, or just the greatest rock players?


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