Chris Forsyth’s Five Favorite Guitar Solos

Chris Forsyth plays Normaltown Hall Thursday, Jan. 8 as part of a tour supporting his excellent recent album, Intensity Ghost, a nuanced and explosive record that highlights the Philadelphia guitarist’s technical and compositional prowess, as well as his singular, spaced-out sense of melody and texture. Below, Forsyth waxes poetic about a few of his favorite recorded guitar jams.

Upon being invited to reflect on my top five guitar solos of all time for Flagpole, I must confess that my first reaction was a slight shudder. How can you talk about guitar solos without being pushed into some corner as Defender of the Decomposing Corpse of Rock? This is not a position I’m particularly interested in assuming. I think we should’ve let the banks fail, and I’m fine with the failure of R-O-C-K, too.

But, y’know, let’s be honest: I’m a guitarist, and I play a lot of so-called guitar solos. Often I’m just leading the charge into free ensemble passages, but whatever.

I could make a lengthy (and valid) list including a lot of fairly obvious choices—Robert Quine, Jerry Garcia, Verlaine/Lloyd, Moore/Ranaldo/Gordon, Pete Cosey, Neil Young, Richard Thompson, etc. But you already know all that stuff, right? So, here are Five Great Under-Reported Guitar Moments (Today’s Edition), in no particular order:

1. Catfish Collins: “Ain’t It Funky Now,” from James Brown’s Love Power Peace: Live at the Olympia, Paris, 1971

Every single drop of this track is untouchable. But the guitar solo is pure flame-throwing—and much of it is actually rhythm guitar. Lead rhythm? I say “yes.” 

2. Wayne Rogers: “Knowing the Sunshine,” from Crystalized Movements’ Revelations from Pandemonium, 1992

I stole much of what I do from this record. Couldn’t find this track online, though. Can you imagine?

3. David Mitchell: “Sing Song,” from 3Ds’ Swarthy Songs for Swabs, 1991

The intro alone is enough to make my list. Pure gold dual-guitar action from New Zealand. So much mayhem and momentum compressed into a two-minute song. Sounds like it’s about to come apart at any moment, like most of my favorite musics.

4. Richard Bishop: “Space Prophet Dogon,” from Sun City Girls’ Torch of the Mystics, 1990

A melody that could be from 1000 years ago or 1000 years in the future, and an example of ensemble perfection in the performance. There’s not a guitar “solo” here, just three musicians running down a hill while tethered together, doing whatever it takes to maintain their balance.

5. Mike Bloomfield: “East/West,” from Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s East/West, 1966

The most under-appreciated of the ’60s guitar heroes. This jam has the exploratory curiosity of the best West Coast psych, but with a ferocity and articulation that’s always in short supply anywhere. And it’s soooo edgy. People always talk about Jerry Garcia or John Cipollina in regards to Tom Verlaine, but I hear the roots of Verlaine’s wiggy vibrato in Bloomfield’s playing more than anywhere else.

WHO: Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, Grand Vapids, Blue Blood
WHERE: Normaltown Hall
WHEN: Thursday, Jan. 8, 8:30 p.m.