Desert Island Discs

I regularly discuss this radio show with Jo, my wife and on occasions with friends in the pub – 8 tracks allowed, so how do you manage to pick only 8 – I could draw up my Desert Island provisional list 5 or 10 times and on each occasion I’d come up with up with a new selection of songs, without any duplication’s – The one luxury item is easy, if you’ll allow me to bend the rules a touch – A Fender Custom Shop Tele along with a small Fender vintage based valve amp with reverb – Okay I know we might struggle for a power supply on many islands, but I struck lucky and found one with a 13 amp socket – Otherwise, if we are sticking to the rule book then a small 12 fret mahogany bodied Collings acoustic – Book wise, again a host of options, but as The Godfather Trilogy are my all-time favourite movies and I’ve never read the book, then it would be a good place to start – Otherwise some detailed encyclopedia

Song wise and in no particular order I’ve come up with the following list – As against all rock/blues based songs, I’ve tried to cover a few different styles, so for now how about the following

The Carpenters – Good bye to love – My mum was a big Carpenters fan and was lucky enough to see them in the early 70’s in London – I recall sometime in the summer of 1973 hearing ‘It’s yesterday once more’ on Radio 1, courtesy of Johnnie Walker – I was only 13 and my music taste at the time was probably along the lines of T-Rex, Slade and Sweet – It was the tune that always appeared to be on the radio that summer and even as a young kid I was knocked out with the sound of her voice – Such great tone and addiction, so pure and perfect – I can’t recall at the time been aware of other Carpenters songs that must have been played in the house, and maybe I thought I’d discovered something my parents might like, not realising both parents had every track and album – Not sure how much later it was when I first heard ‘Goodbye to love’ but I assume I must have now been playing guitar and of course it was the first solo and the solo at the end of the song that had me hooked, both played by Tony Peluso – So simple and effective as he solos around the melody line with that ‘nasty’ fuzz tone – I still love it today and it certainly brings back memories from the family and childhood in Yorkshire

Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa – ‘Your heart is as black as night’ – I’m working in the shop and in the back ground is the Ken Bruce Radio 2 show – I hear this song in the back ground and maybe not really listening to it, but thinking this is okay – Then the guitar playing comes in, bit by bit – A few licks and fills to support the melody, then a tasteful solo, followed by another solo as the song fades towards the end, just as the DJ announces this is from the Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa album – Now at this stage I have to admit that for me the jury is still out on Bonamassa – I admire his playing and he is certainly the main attraction today in the rock/blues guitar world – Great player without question – Yet I’ve purchased the albums, seen the Youtube clips, along with a few DVD’s, yet I always keep coming up with the same question – Where is the tune? – Like many great guitar players and I include Gary Moore and Larry Carlton, amongst others, in this list, as all you hear is the guitar from beginning to end as it dominants the song – To me it is too full on – The Beatles had the tunes and melody with a hint of a solo, whilst players like Moore, Carlton and Bonamassa often only have the guitar and it’s full on, so after a while I think I’ve heard it all, time and time again – Yet I don’t want it to sound like that in a bad way – After all I’m a big Gary Moore fan and Larry Carlton is probably one of the finest players of all time – Period – But some of his best work is as a hired hand with the likes of Steely Dan, were he supports the tune, melody and the groove, instead of the guitar been the dominant force – So back to ‘Your heart is as black as night’ – I heard a few more tracks on the radio over the week as I recall it was album of the week – So yes I purchased it – To me it is Bonamassa at his absolute best – He does not have to worry about the tune, as they found some great old songs to cover – He does not have to worry about the vocals as Beth does that (and what a singer she is) so he now supports the song with tasteful licks and a solo, which again enriches the song, as against taking over the song – As of today, both albums are excellent, as is the Amsterdam live album – My wife loves the album as again there are tunes, with soul and melody and not just a screeching rock orientated load of licks – This allows Bonamassa to reach out and push the boundaries as and when required, but most of the time he plays well within himself, far more melodic and supports the tune – This to me is Bonamassa at his best – I know not all JB fans will agree with me

Jimi Hendrix – Wind cries Mary – Hendrix died before I was 11 so all my experiences (no pun intended) are fully based on archives – Maybe some of the magic of Hendrix and likewise for Paul Kossoff and Pete Green, is that everything happened in only a few short years – Players like Santana, Beck and Clapton have had careers that have now gone on for over 40 years – And granted during that time they have delivered albums and tracks that are up there with the best, yet they have all produced some mediocre moments as well, for whatever reason – I’m certainly not saying that everything Hendrix did was good, but if he had have lived for another 20 or 30 years then I’m sure we’d have seen him experiment with different styles and concepts, with varying results and comments from critics and fans alike – So in a short period of time he certainly left us with many magical moments – Could or should I have picked Little Wing? – Yet whilst it was a close call, I felt that Little Wing gets the pundits vote on many occasions, hence part of my choice for Wind Cries Mary was based on this fact – Yet equally both tracks I feel created the best tones we’ve ever heard emit from a Strat – Hendrix on a worldwide basis did more for the Strat at this point in time than any other player – Look through TV clips from the 50’s and 60’s and apart from Buddy Holly and Hank Marvin, you’ll see very little evidence of a Strat been played by The Beatles, The Stones, The Animals, The Who, The Kinks etc etc – Then Hendrix arrived and the rest is history – The phrasing, licks, fills, chord work is soulful, succulent and tasteful with each note caressed to perfection – For a guy with such big hands his touch was so soft and gentle when he played this song – From beginning to end everything is just right – As I said earlier this is the epitome of a good Strat tone

Louis Armstrong – We have all the love in the world – I just wish that me and my guitar could talk, phrase and sound like this – There is nothing complex about the melody, so just sit down and play it, then try and play it like Louis sings it – For me it is impossible yet should be so easy – BB King once passed similar comments about Bobby Bland in the way he phrases and the tone of his voice and I recall Santana said likewise about Dionne Warwick – Players like Jeff Beck manage to capture, then deliver these attributes on tracks like Somewhere over the rainbow – Whilst Pete Green improvised around the pentatonic notes, he was so melodic with such a soft touch that you feel he could have conquered such songs with ease – Just take any great classic song that you like and try and play it as a melody, either with a clean amp setting or overdriven amp setting, then deliver it with all of the emotion that Louis portrays

Free – Mr Big – Today what is often overlooked with Free, is that when they recorded their first 2 or 3 albums, hit singles like All Right Now and toured extensively, they were still teenagers – Today we look at young boy based bands like One Direction, JLS, McFly or Busted as young kids who appeal to a teeny bop market, yet Free appealed to anything but that X factor based market – It wasn’t just one great track or a big album, then nothing, like Hendrix and Fleetwood Mac with Pete Green, everything commenced and finished in only a few short years – To me Paul Rodgers is still one of the finest rock singers – He just sounds like a Les Paul and Marshall whailing on and on – Joe Bonamassa is a big idol of Paul Kossoff who caresses every ounce of emotion from only a few chosen notes – Mr Big is one of those songs with such a simple riff, yet to me what makes this song is the grove in the middle stages of the song and stays with us until the end – Simon Kirke lays down a simple beat, Kossoff groves out over a few simple arpeggio based licks and then Andy Fraser delivers that powerful driving melodic bass line on an SG bass of all things and to think he was only 17 or 18 at the time – WOW !!!!!! – Cover a song like All Right Now and the audience expects you to nail it as per the record, so to a degree there is a formula you have to work towards – Cover a song like Mr Big and you better make sure that the bass player, drummer and guitarist know how to nail down that groove – No need to rehearse it as it is fully improvised, but you can either deliver it or you can’t – As a guitarist this shows that great playing is not always about blistering solos, as many times you need to add texture to support the rest of the band – Mr Big is probably the epitome of a classic rock/blues based grove

Chitlin Con Carne – Kenny Burrell – I have to admit that when I first became aware of this song it was through Stevie Ray Vaughan – I’ve always had an interest in the jazz side of blues but at the time I don’t think I was aware of Kenny Burrell, but SRV provided me with this introduction, which of course led me to discovering Midnight Blue – If you’ve ever wanted to find out what influenced both SRV and Robben Ford so much, amongst others, then buy this album, listen to it, dissect it and play along with it – A master class in jazz flavoured blues that still resolves heavily from pentatonic scales and maybe that is all I need to say

Santana – Samba pa ti – This was a close call between Europa (Earth’s cry Heaven’s smile) and Samba pa ti – Maybe both portray a similar message and style – Melodic and full of emotion – I’ve often said that Samba pa ti should be played at my funeral (hopefully years away) – I’m often asked by non-guitar players, who is or what makes a great guitar player, song or solo and Samba pa ti is the answer – It starts off with a simple melodic idea that is full of soul and emotion, then expands from there as the tension rises to a peak – Then falls back to the start, to finish with an improvised solo – Again nothing fancy or complex that can be played by so many players, but it is the tone, touch and emotion that makes the song and is so hard to capture – If a picture paints a 1000 words, then Santana has preached a novel with this song – He once passed a comment that playing a guitar is like been in a crowded room – If you have nothing to say then shut up and if you’ve said something and have no more to add, then get the crap out of there – So true yet often ignored

Can’t believe this is my final option and I have to choose between Steely Dan – FM – or The Isley Brothers and Summer Breeze – To me Summer Breeze is a great song, but what makes it so special is the ‘nasty’ fuzz solo and the solo on the fade out at the end – This is the bit on the radio that the DJ talks over, so play it on a CD, Youtube or Spotify etc – Again it is the tone and emotion that makes this so special – Once again it does not take over the song, it supports the song and enriches it were it is required – Maybe the same solo in a 12 bar, or indeed another song won’t work, but in Summer Breeze it is just perfect – So on to Steely Dan and FM – I first heard this track on a movie based sound track that was full of other laid back west coast music from the likes of Boz Scaggs, Steve Miller, Linda Ronstadt – Not sure if it is the best Steely Dan track or not, but it is the track that introduced me to Steely Dan – The masters of the grove or should I say the laid back grove – Ultra cool and probably the best after midnight chilled out music to play – These 2 guys have it all, then bring in the finest session guys as and when required – Look at the list of session guys who have played with Steely Dan and it is the definitive least of who’s who – Between them these guys have probably played on more tracks than any other players – All the time you feel as though it is a battle between the session players who want to show off and add more technique and Walter Becker and Donald Fagen allowing them to play only so many notes in the solo – Tell them to play only 50 notes and record it, now try it with 40 notes, then 30 and then finally we are there – Maybe this is what finally made me choose FM as my final choice

Is it my definitive list – No way – will be so easy to find another great 8 tunes some with no guitar solo like Nilsson and Everybody’s talkin or The Eagles and Last resort then EVH with Eruption, possibly something by Wes Montgomery, Ray Charles or Brian Setzer, Little Green Bag by George Baker (maybe the best sound track movie) and how about Bob Marley, then Fleetwood Mac with Go your own way from Rumours (possibly the best pop album of all time) then of course there must be some SRV in there and I just realised I never mentioned Nat King Cole and Let there be love – So much music to fill our lives with me – Maybe I can go back to the desert island for another session – How about you tell me your 8 discs