Tony Besgrove’s guitar hero no. 1 – Neil Young

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Neil-Young-1969-

One of the greatest acclamations a guitar player can have is to be instantly recognisable through their playing. Who else, other than George Harrison, could it have been playing the first solo on Cream's 'Badge'. Take the guitar solo in Michael Jackson's 'Beat It' - no-one but Eddie Van Halen sounds like that. Brian May, Carlos Santana, Keith Richards - they all have a signature sound that makes then instantly recognisable.

Another guitarist with his own sound and unique style of playing and who ticks all the boxes for me is Neil Young. A Canadian, (though you wouldn't think so judging by his interest in United States' politics and civil rights), he first came to fame as a member of Buffalo Springfield in the mid 60s, before joining Crosby, Stills and Nash as a fourth member of the band - beefing up their somewhat wistful set with more of a rock edge.

As a solo act, whilst he has experimented with electronic music in the past (but don't go there!), his more memorable songs are mainly split into two groups - acoustic with solo voice, or hard rock, often accompanied by his long term backing band, Crazy Horse. The association with Crazy Horse has lasted since 1969 - that's one hell of a long time ago. Young himself is now just shy of 69 years old (younger than Jagger/Richards...), but onstage he can still silence his audience with beautiful renditions of his acoustic numbers or get them up on their feet, fists punching the air, singing along to his rock repertoire.

Acoustically he uses vintage Martin guitars, but his mainstay electric is 'Old Black', a modified 1953 Les Paul goldtop painted - you've guessed it - black. There's also a Bigsby vibrato attached to the tailpiece. This guitar, plugged into an ancient Fender Deluxe amp, with a bunch of black box effects in between, gives Young the range of guitar tones from overdriven to completely over-the-top filth. Just listen to 'Hey, Hey, My, My (Into The Black)' from his double album, 'Weld', to see what I mean! The guitar wobbles; Young's voice wobbles; everything wobbles. There are suspect notes in both Young's singing and playing...but that matters not a jot! The tortured screams from his Les Paul at the end of 'Rockin' In The Free World' from the 'Weld' album are just unbelievable, and unsettling too for those of a nervous disposition! Most of the songs on this album take forever to finish, with Young coaxing endless waves of feedback from his guitar...nirvana for yours truly!

No-one plays like him. No-one sings like him. His body of recorded work is vast. If I had to pick a few recommended albums: - 'After The Goldrush' is still stunning - a perfect album; 'Decade' covers a lot of ground and includes some Buffalo Springfield songs; and 'Weld' for its sheer overwhelming, eviscerating, guitar power.

The YouTube video I have selected is from a Farm Aid concert in 1990. You'll see what I mean about guitar filth and wobbles! In my book, the guitar tone is to die for. (Looks like he'd still to go out and buy that pot of black paint for the Les Paul). A re-recorded vocal with the same guitar backing track is on 'Ragged Glory', a 1990 album release.

All hail Canada's greatest export - a truly remarkable performer! 😎

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33N8M6tQ4e0

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