Songs from the Vault – Guitars (Part One)

For many years I played the electric guitar (having gone to guitar tech back in the day), playing in rock, fusion, acid-jazz and other bands.  While I rarely touch the guitar these days, focussing on my piano playing, I’ve a soft spot for the guitar tunes that became the soundtrack of the latter part of my youth.  But enough with the emotional journey, here are some great guitar tunes from the vault…

First up it’s Surfing with the Alien from Joe Satriani’s 1987 classic album of the same name.  The track is special to me in that I’m a big Silver Surfer fan, with a shelf full of Surfer comics, including the 1982 comic (36 years old!) which includes the picture that became the cover of Satriani’s album.  The guitar tone itself is apparently Satriani’s attempt to bring the Surfer’s voice to life.  It’s a great tune, with a great hook and a fitting soundtrack for the Sentinel of the Spaceways!

Satriani was Steve Vai’s (and Kirk Hammett’s) guitar teacher and it’s hard not to mention one without the other, given their omnipresence over the guitar landscape for so many years.   I saw Vai play with David Lee Roth’s band in 1988 at Donington rock festival (as part of the Skyscraper tour) and was amazed by his playing, including his talking guitar! I didn’t hear Vai again until his Passion and Warfare album blew me away in 1990.  I was going to include For the love of God off of that album but I think this classic scene from the 1986 movie Crossroads is well worth including, even though it’s a bit galling seeing Steve Vai having to fluff things at the end…

Adrian Legg is another guitar virtuoso, and an English one at that, but far removed from the sound world of Satriani and Vai.  I was going to include Kinvarra’s Child, the first track off his 1993 album Mrs. Crowe’s Blue Waltz.  However, I can only find versions of it by people other than Legg.  So, regrettably, I’ll move on.

This next track is, I think, one of the finest pieces of guitar music ever.  Mediterranean Sundance is an Al Di Meola tune off his 1977 album Elegant Gypsy.  That track is amazing but bettered, I believe, by the version featured on the album Friday Night in San Fransico, which captures a 1980 gig by Di Meola, John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia.  The trio have recorded and played live together a number of times.  Their second album, named Passion, Grace and Fire, is for me the perfect description of the live version of Mediterranean Sundance (the first track in the video)…

I hope you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard.  I’m not quite done yet and have a few more tunes to add to this guitars-themed Song from the Vault, so stay tuned!