The benefit of hindsight proves that The Kinks’ 1964 debut may have been the first true hard rock album. On the strength of the heavy slit-speaker distortion of “You Really Got Me,” this album (followed quickly by the single “All Day And All Of The Night”) placed buzzsaw power chords and catchy riffs into the mainstream of pop music.
Kinks leader Ray Davies developed the template for heavy riffs with “You Really Got Me,” basing the song on moving 5ths, which became the foundation of heavy metal. While Jimmy Page and Vic Flick were said to have played on several Kinks’ songs—but only as sidemen; Page denies he ever did a Kinks solo—credit for the legendary Kinks distortion goes to lead guitarist Dave Davies, who slit his Elpico amplifier speaker with a Gillette razor blade. History was made, and the sound of hard rock was born.
Others eventually did it louder, and sometimes better, but the Kinks did it first.
: “Lerxst” Alex Lifeson Amp - Mojo Musical Supply.
Alex Lifeson and Rush are back with a new album, a new tour … and a new amp. Lifeson now has the signature “Lerxst” model created by the amp masters over at Mojotone. It’s a phenomenal piece of machinery from Mojo, who also happen to be NGM partners in our guitar tour. Get more on Lifeson’s new amp at http://www.facebook.com/mojomusicalsupply.
: Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles - “Live!”
Released in 1972, this “Live!” album captured Santana and his band at the peak of their powers, as well as Buddy Miles in the years subsequent to his stint with The Band Of Gypsies. The album features two cuts that have become near anthemic in the guitar universe: Santana’s “Evil Ways” and Miles’ “Them Changes” (which had been known as “Changes” when Hendrix played it with Miles). It also has Santana’s extended exploration into jazz and fusion—accompanied by Neal Schon—with the 25 minute “Free Form Funkafide Filth.” After this album, Santana would give up much of his early Latin rock roots for more experimental and eventually more pop avenues; Schon would leave the following year and form Journey; and Miles would achieve unique fame as the voice of the California Raisins. As a testament to guitar-driven jamming circa the early 1970s, this album is one of the best.
: Led Zeppelin II.
43 years ago today, Led Zeppelin II was released. In the minds of many guitarists, the sound and fury that Jimmy Page unleashed on cuts like “Whole Lotta Love” and “Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid” changed the way the guitar could be played. Even bluesier cuts like “The Lemon Song” and “Bring It On Home” featured Page’s infusion of heaviness into traditional guitar forms. Four decades later, the album remains one of the most influential in all of hard rock.
:Steve Vai- “Passion and Warfare”.
Vai established himself as both a frontman and a singular guitar virtuoso with the release of 1990’s “Passion and Warfare”. Recorded after his stints as a sideman for David Lee Roth and David Coverdale, P&W features Vai at his most aggressive and extreme- couples with deft sonic experimentation.
The album contains the instrumental masterpiece “For the Love of God”, the boogie grooves of “The Audience is Listening” and “Greasy Kid’s Stuff”, the hauntingly beautiful “Sisters”, and the fusion-esque “Blue Powder”. The album proved to be a showcase for Vai’s incredibly fast fretboard technique as well as his effects-laden approach to coaxing a myriad of incredible sounds from his instrument.
: Boston - “Don’t Look Back”.
A lot of people don’t realize that the image on Boston’s album cover is a gigantic flying guitar with the city of Boston located under a dome on top (technically, the guitar’s back). On 1978’s “Don’t Look Back”, the band’s 2nd album, artist Gary Norman painted the low-flying guitar craft up close enough to see the frets and the gleaming machine heads. If that wasn’t enough, the inside sleeve of the record actually had a blueprint of the Boston craft that showed the guitar craft’s dimensions (in case you wanted to build one yourself).
The Boston logo emblazoned on the side was courtesy of Gerard Huerta, who did the logos for AC/DC, Ted Nugent, Foreigner, the NGM, and countless others.
One bit of trivia: Norman’s album art ultimately was copied for the design of Atari’s “Space Invaders” game pack.
: Billion Dollar Babies- “Battle Axe.”
The cover of this 1977 album features the guitar, as the title suggests, in the form of an axe used for warfare- a “battle axe.” Billion Dollar Babies was the name of the original Alice Cooper Group- without Alice himself- as they pursued a separate recording career. Led by rhythm guitarist Michael Bruce, the group brought in unknown guitarist Mike Marconi to take the place of lead guitarist Glen Buxton. The band came up with the cover concept, which was rendered by artist Ernest Thormahlen.
The “Battle Axe” album didn’t do very well, although its cover depiction of a monstrous robot wielding a distorted Gibson SG as a weapon is about as iconic a guitar image as a band could get. After this album, the post-Cooper band members broke up and went their separate ways, reunited after decades for their induction into the Hall of Fame last year.