Like so many "lists," a compendium of essential listening for specific musical genres is highly subjective. However, it's also true that certain albums and specific recordings get mentioned over and over again over time by both professional critics and amateurs alike. Ask anyone to name ten of the most influential rock guitar albums of all time, and you can rest assured that Van Halen I will make the list, as will some album by Led Zeppelin. But what about other genres? Jazz? Blues? Country? And other albums? What makes a recording "essential" listening anyway?
Probably the most important criterion in this decision is an
album's range of influence. Did it redefine an entire genre of music?
Did it inspire droves of kids to emulate their guitar heroes? Did it
catapult sales of a particular guitar model? Did it rule AM or FM radio for a long time? These are just some
questions to consider. Consider the two following examples.
Sometimes, an influential recording does
all of the above. Consider Jimi Hendrix's celebrated album, "Are You
Experienced?"? Released in 1967, the record immediately captivated an
entire generation of music lovers and helped usher in a new era of rock
guitar. Gone were the über clean tones of the Beach Boys and the early
Beatles. Hendrix's use of feedback, the whammy bar, the wah-wah, and
new overdrive devices through his upside down Stratocaster into a
"stack" of Marshall amplifiers redefined the role of the electric guitar
forever. The role of the electric guitar would never be the same again.
It's not necessarily flashy or pyrotechnic guitar
playing that determines an album's importance though. Although U2 had
been successful for a few years, it was their fifth release, 1987's "The
Joshua Tree," that catapulted them into the mainstream. Similarly, the
album showed that it wasn't necessary for a guitarist to be flashy or
technically advanced in order to make good music. For guitarists who
were interested in texture more than tapping, the Edge's masterful use
of guitar effects - particular echoes, delays, and reverbs - redefined
the role of the electric guitar in an ensemble context.
Our list of essential guitar albums includes selections from blues, country, rock, and jazz. Although it's impossible to please everyone or to offer a fully exhaustive list, if you need some advice on influential guitar albums, keep reading. If you have any recommendations, please let us know!