Articles like this bother me to no end. Well, this one less than others, but still…
There’s something that smacks of wrong about presenting lists of “greatest” things about art of any kind. Favorite, maybe, but without proper qualification or explanation, there’s no real rationale behind the idea.
Some people make lists that are positively laughable, obviously nothing more than preference or personal taste. Which isn’t necessarily a problem, until a high-profile publication like Rolling Stone promotes that list — and when you have the backing of a logo that stands for pop culture and music, you have instant credibility that you haven’t necessarily earned or deserved.
I think one of my biggest issues is that these lists are written by fans or critics or writers, with bias but no knowledge of what they are writing about, whether it’s best instrumentalist, best film, best painting, or whatever. It’s a given, understood that my listening tastes are going to come into play if I compose a best-of list. Not necessarily known might be the added weight of my twenty-five years of playing guitar, an understanding of the instrument and the underlying difficulties of mastering it.
Sure, there are some critics who have an inherent, almost prodigious understanding of their subject matter. Roger Ebert and films comes to mind, or perhaps David Fricke at Rolling Stone, perhaps. But maybe not. Is there any way of knowing, for sure? If the American Film Institute tells me that there are 100 classic films I should see because they are the best, I assume that the committee that put that list together is probably composed of people with expertise and understanding.
Maybe it’s just part of my genetic make-up, but semantics are a huge issue for me.
All this being said (he typed with a smirk), my own list of the ten greatest guitarists:
10. Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth) (see Porcupine Tree’s ARRIVING SOMEWHERE BUT NOT HERE)
9. Michael Hedges
8. Albert Lee
7. Christopher Parkening
6. B. B. King
5. Joe Satriani
4. Edward Van Halen
3. Jeff Beck
2. Jimi Hendrix
1. Steve Vai
Take it for what you will. That was composed considering technique and mastery over the instrument, feel and passion behind the playing, innovation in the respective genre or over the instrument, creativity, and of course my own preferences and experiences.