Five Underrated Guitarists
The great thing about surviving a discussion about overrated guitarists (maybe the ONLY great thing about having that discussion, actually) is that you inevitably get to swing over to talking about underrated guitarists.
And there’s one completely terrible thing about discussing underrated guitarists:
THERE'S AN ENDLESS NUMBER OF THEM.
Here at PGS, each of us could name twenty or thirty players that we all feel don’t get proper recognition. Unfortunately for those players, only one of us is writing this, so I get to play favorites here. These picks are mine and mine alone and do not represent the views of PGS as a whole or even as a half. We expect everyone here to have a favorite player to highlight-- let's turn the spotlight to players who deserve to be in it a little more than they are!
Though Fripp routinely shows up in the best-of lists of well-read music historians like David Fricke, the guitar playing public at large seems relatively unaware of this amazing and inventive musician. Perhaps best known for his work in King Crimson, Fripp blossomed as an artist as he began working on other projects, notably with Brian Eno and David Bowie. In 2004, Fripp joined Satriani and Vai (themselves well-read music historians) for a G3 tour. Fripp’s playing is inventive and avant garde, often mixing elements of jazz and classical into his progressive playing—even developing a “New Standard Tuning” which he has taught in his Guitar-Craft courses. Check out this video from 1979 where Fripp performs Frippertronics—a tape looping technique he developed long before we had our Dittos and JamMans.
Okay, yes—Lifeson gets props from time to time, but not enough. His riffs, his dynamics, and his regular guy approach to some of the most complicated songs in the rock canon landed him on this list. Rush is always going to be a love/them or hate them band, but you can’t deny Lifeson’s abilities. In a thirty year career (with the same band!), he has written so many legendary riffs you can't count them. One of the few guitar heroes from the "classic rock" era who is still working and still producing stadium-worthy tunes. What's Jimmy Page up to these days, anyway?!!! Touring the world?!!! No?? Oh, okay... ;)
Seriously. This guy has written some of the greatest, sleaziest rock riffs of all time. He knows when not to play. You can hear his blues influence in everything that he does. He survived being in a band with Vince Neil, Tommy Lee, and Nikki Sixx. He has a debilitating bone disease and is still going out on tour to melt fans' faces. Most impressively? He always looks scary as s@#*. Mars packed up his Kramers ages ago and now plays his battered Fender Strats which sound so heavy I forgot for a second that Les Pauls even existed.
We all know the Boss is an American treasure and a living legend—but did you know that he shreds?!!! Just cause he's the master of the American murder ballad ("Nebraska") and just cause he can dance with Courtney Cox ("Dancing in the Dark") doesn't mean the man can't play-- clearly he can. It should come as no shock that he's equally able on guitar as any of the amazing musicians in the E Street Band are on their respective instruments.
You know, the other guy in Aerosmith. Who is easily as good as yet destined to be eternally overshadowed by his counterpart. Not much more to say than that-- except that he's also a super cool guy who is happy to do meet & greets with fans who get to film him showing off his stuff:
HONORABLE MENTION: JEFF BUCKLEY
Jeff Buckley is largely remembered for his otherworldly voice, but it’s a little discussed fact that he was an absolute BALLER on guitar. Unfortunately there’s no video of him performing this song live, but listen to his rendition of Edith Piaf’s “Je N’en Connais Pas La Fin” and imagine attempting to manage all that fingerpicking while singing your heart out-- or at all.
Alright, let's get ready to rumble (in the comments, that is)... ! Cheers, PGS Fitz