Music Mood Board: Electrifying Guitar Solos to Get You Through the Day
Hello! I'm back with another edition of Music Mood Board. This week, I've been into songs that feature stirring guitar solos and chords. The six-string rig is one of my favorite instruments to listen to because of its range and character. It can be piercing and electrifying, soft and gentle, and — depending on who's strumming — it can take on its own persona within a song. Recently, I've been using guitar-heavy tunes as lethargy treatment to pull me out of an apathetic slump. So, if you're in the same boat, look ahead to hear some of the tracks that have kept me charged up.
"Machine Gun (Live at Fillmore East, 1970/50th Anniversary)" by Jimi Hendrix
For those who know me, this addition should come as no surprise. For those who don't, let's just say I'm a big fan of Jimi Hendrix. His performance with Band of Gypsys at New York City's Fillmore East venue is among the most iconic of his stagings. The 2019 Songs For Groovy Children: The Fillmore East Concerts posthumous album features their showings on both Dec. 31, 1969 and Jan. 1, 1970, with the group performing two sets on each day.
Every song boasts an out-of-this-world sound from Hendrix, as well as Billy Cox — who provides bass guitar and backing vocals — and Buddy Miles — who delivers magnificently on the drums while also lending his vocals, but I'm especially moved by their performances of "Machine Gun." I couldn't find a YouTube video with the Dec. 31 rendition of the track (you can listen to it on Spotify), but you can watch the Jan. 1 version above.
Both are special for different reasons; in the former performance, Hendrix's singing is stronger — maybe even more soulful — and the ascension to the guitar solo and its entire sequence is richer and feels more structured. However, the latter set has one of the most anguished, electrifying guitar solos I've personally ever heard (which starts at the four-minute mark in the video). It perfectly encapsulates the essence of "Machine Gun," which Hendrix performed as a stance against the Vietnam War and as a way to support those in the US who were protesting it. Hendrix — and Miles's spectacular drumming — perfectly mirrors people's pain and exhaustion that was brought about by greedy, power-hungry leaders and corrupt authoritative figures — which feels eerily topical right now.
"Purple Rain" by Prince
"Purple Rain" is one of the most emotive songs I've had on repeat lately. It feels more carnal at first, but its mystic undertones take over following the epochal guitar solo and concluding chord progression. It begins to feel hauntingly yet beautifully apocalyptic.
Prince previously explained the song's meaning, saying, "When there's blood in the sky — red and blue equals purple. 'Purple Rain' pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith / God guide you." His bandmate, Lisa Coleman, offered an alternate interpretation, saying the track symbolizes a new beginning, with the color purple referring to the sky at dawn and rain representing a cleanse. Either way, "Purple Rain" — in all its enrapturing guitar glory — has been one of my go-to songs this week.
"Sometimes" by H.E.R.
Although I've been listening to the studio version of H.E.R.'s "Sometimes," I have to call out her Grammys performance of the song. Just look at her play that guitar — go off, sis! I remember watching this in real time and feeling so moved and inspired by seeing someone who looks like me shred on the six strings.
"Grinder" by Gary Clark Jr.
Like Clark Jr., I've "been thinking too much," and the screeching guitar on this track resonates perfectly with that piercing angst.
"Was It All Worth It" by Queen
I went back and forth with including either this song or "Bohemian Rhapsody," mostly because the latter is so emblematic. I've been listening to both songs a lot, but the guitar solo in "Was It All Worth It" is hitting extra hard lately, so I'm standing by my decision to spotlight it. Brian May's arpeggio is just remarkable, and I feel enlivened every time I listen to it.
"In a Paradise" by Post Animal
I'm not saying I've been blasting this song while head banging to my heart's content every day for the past week, but I'm not not saying that. I will, however, explicitly say that the guitar and drums on this track are absolutely masterful.
"Primetime" by Janelle Monáe (feat. Miguel)
When you put a guitar solo in a Janelle Monáe and Miguel collaboration, you better believe it's going to be smooth and sultry. You also better believe that it's going to become my song of choice while I'm unwinding after work with a cup of tea.
"Weight of Love" by The Black Keys
This is my favorite guitar solo from The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, but I'd go so far as to say that it's one of my favorite six-string solos ever. The song itself is about the troubles that accompany love and romance, and it's hard to imagine that it'd pack the same punch without Auerbach's howling solo. It's heavy, ruminative, and the perfect example of how the guitar can sometimes manifest passion far more effectively than words.
"U Know What I Like" by Kat Dyson
Dyson — who was a part of Prince's backing band, New Power Generation, from 1990 to 2013 — has released a handful of songs as a solo artist. I only recently came across her guitar-infused track "U Know What I Like," but it's already been added to my "On Repeat" Spotify playlist.
"Flash Mountain" by Djo
I've had Djo's 2019 Twenty Twenty debut album on loop these past few days, so highlighting just one song is difficult. The musicality of this entire LP is incredible, but if we're talking specifically about the guitar, I have to highlight "Flash Mountain" (sorry, "Personal Lies," you're still my favorite song overall). It has an exhilarating sonic sequence that I'm so grateful to have experienced in person when I saw Djo perform live in Brooklyn last year.
"Do I Wanna Know?" by Arctic Monkeys
"Do I Wanna Know?" doesn't have a guitar solo, but it has one of the best riffs of the past decade, so I'm adding it. This song shakes me to my core every time I listen to it, and — I have to be honest here — I can't fully explain why. There's something intangibly stirring and almost celestial about the guitar, the melody, and Alex Turner's vocals. If I had to pick only a few of my all-time favorite songs, I wouldn't hesitate to slot this one in.