I have a weird relationship with guitar solos. I've often said that Mick Taylor's are the only ones I really care about and, while that's not exactly true, it's not that big of a stretch.
Though there are those solos that send chills down my spine, they're usually fairly brief, and super-long ones strike me as masturbatory. How I feel about guitar solos is basically the same as how I feel about the band Tool: I can appreciate the technical proficiency, but I'm going to get bored pretty quickly.
I blame my short attention span. Even some of the Stones solos go on too long for me, and their solos aren't even that long. Sticky Fingers is one of my favorite albums of all time, but I will consistently skip the second half of "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'" because c'mon wrap it up already.
My favorite "solo" — if you can even call it that — is the infinitely understated little riff in the Stones' "Under My Thumb." I get chills every time I hear it and can't really explain why.
In spite of that, I am intrigued by Solo Extractions, a six-minute-forty-five-second compilation of every single guitar solo on Dinosaur Jr.'s upcoming album Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not.
It probably has something to do with the fact that J. Mascis' riffs are some of the most unique and identifiable around, but it also probably has something to do with the fact that this seems like a super-weird move, and I love super-weird moves. Also, I'm very excited about their new album, which is being released on my birthday, and I'm pretty pumped about going to see them later this September. (If you have not heard their new single "Tiny," I suggest you press play on the video below, which features a skateboarding bulldog.)
I tried to listen to all of Solo Extractions, and I made it about halfway through. I don't really get the point of almost seven minutes of guitar solos, but I do appreciate Mascis' solos within the context of his songs. (If the point is simply to generate buzz around their new album, then I dare say they have accomplished that.)
In addition to Mascis and Taylor solos, there are a few other choice solos I enjoy. Are these the best guitar solos ever performed? No, probably not, as they are guitar solos loved by someone who doesn't really care for guitar solos.
"What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" — R.E.M.
This song, and particularly Peter Buck's solo on this song, is the sonic embodiment of everything good about the '90s.
"Torn and Frayed" — The Rolling Stones
This isn't a Mick Taylor solo. Though Mick Taylor plays electric guitar on this song, the solo is actually performed by pedal steel guitar master Al Perkins, and it is very, very good.
"It Makes No Difference" — The Band
I really do not like Robbie Robertson as a person, but damn, he is a very talented guitar player. Also noteworthy: Garth Hudson's sax solo as performed in The Last Waltz.
"Just What I Needed" — The Cars
I have such a soft spot for The Cars, particularly this song, and the little escalating riff at the end of the solo is frankly amazing.
How do you all feel about guitar solos? Do you find a long one kind of masturbatory? Do you have any favorites? (I'm also willing to talk about sax solos, because I have a few favorites in that department.)