Updated: Feb 4, 2022
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“The solo/jam sections of their performance is what really separates The Stone Blossoms from the rest of the pack”
Few things defined the genre of rock and roll more than the guitar solo. Sometimes powerful and loud, at other times gentle and orchestrated, the guitar solo changed pop culture and the way rock musicians approach composing songs.
Ranking these solos isn't easy: There are countless solos throughout rock and roll's history that are worthy of recognition. To narrow down the selection process, our ranking only includes studio versions of songs, rather than live performances.
From Carlos Santana's "Europa" to Jimmy Page's "Stairway to Heaven," here are the top 20 guitar solos of all time, ranked by The Stone Blossoms.
#20 "Jessica" -- Dickey Betts, Allman Brothers Band (1973)
Dickey Betts' Grammy Award-winning instrumental jam is a showcase of the Southern rocker's virtuosity of the guitar.
Throughout the song, Betts conjures a playfully upbeat melody that fits right in the middle of Chuck Leavell's top harmony on the electric piano and Gregg Allman's bottom harmony on the organ. Although the song is grounded by a dominant riff, Betts' playing constantly wheels through new rhythmic variations to keep the train rocking.
#19 "Johnny B. Goode" -- Chuck Berry (1958)
Chuck Berry shaped all future rock and roll songs with the release of his 1958 hit song "Johnny B. Goode." Though it's not the craziest guitar solo ever recorded, it certainly was integral to the development of the instrument and rock and roll because Berry brought elements of the blues and country to electric guitar.
This is apparent from the opening lick when Berry uses a double stop to play two notes at once while sliding down the first two strings. Throughout the rest of the song, he uses bends and slurs in ways that would be copied by everyone from The Rolling Stones to Jerry Garcia. Plus, it's simply a #StoneBlossoms favorite.
#18 "Crossroads" -- Eric Clapton, Cream (1966)
Eric Clapton's spin on Robert Johnson's 1936 Delta blues song "Crossroads" is a classic from the guitar legend's catalog. Over the years it has become one of Clapton's most iconic solos and is a fan-favorite to see live, as the guitarist improvises a new solo each time.
On the initial recording from 1966, Ginger Baker lays down a driving beat and Clapton goes to work with a dominant riff that he frequently repeats throughout the song. During his solos, Clapton draws from the blues and dances on the high strings, giving us tasty triplets and bends.
#17 "Texas Flood" -- Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble (1983)
Arguably his best solo is on the track "Texas Flood." He seamlessly weaves stanky blues licks in between each of the song's verses and relies heavily on vibrato and string bends to achieve his signature sound.
An underrated part of these solos is the warm and tender tone of Stevie's guitar, which delivers the idea of devastating floodwaters to listeners' ears with ease.
#16 "Sympathy For The Devil" -- Keith Richards, The Rolling Stones (1975)
"Sympathy for the Devil" is amazing in many aspects: It's one of popular music's best songs ever recorded, it's an amazing dance song, and it also features Keith Richards' best guitar solo.
He isn't constantly shredding throughout the entire last three minutes of the song. Instead, the empty space in between each of his crunchy licks emphasizes the power of his solo and keeps the listener on edge waiting for the next run to grace their ears.
#15 "Hotel California" -- Don Felder & Joe Walsh, The Eagles (1976)
Over the years this quintessential Laurel Canyon jam has turned into somewhat of a yacht rock classic, but "Hotel California" features one of the best solos in rock history. While others on this list earned a spot for their technicality, what Felder and Walsh prove here is that sliding into the pocket and grooving a more laid back solo can also prove to be just as successful.
As the two duel back and forth it's like they're communicating through their guitars. The solo features dramatic slides and iconic triplets that have become a favorite for air-guitaring over the years.
#14 "Europa (Earth's Cry, Heaven's Smile) -- Carlos Santana (1976)
On this beautiful instrumental, Carlos Santana's guitar isn't just translating the guitar legend's beautiful playing, it's singing.
From the beginning of the song, the power of Santana's tone is apparent, driving the sorrowful nature of the track home. With about a minute-and-a-half left in the song, Santana's playing begins to seem frenetic. Energized by the clash of the drums, Santana speeds up and begins to shred, sustaining bends on the high strings and spitting out licks effortlessly.
#13 "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" -- Eric Clapton, The Beatles (1968)
Not counting session musicians, The Beatles almost never featured other artists on their records. On the rare occasion when George Harrison tapped his friend Eric Clapton to play guitar on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," he surprisingly didn't want to record the track because "nobody ever plays on The Beatles' records." But after some convincing and a promise that it would sound "Beatles-y," he laid down one of the rock world's most legendary solos.
What makes this solo so poignant is the meaning behind the song. Harrison wrote it as a social commentary about the abundance of hate in the world and humanity's inability to love one another. The song is summed up perfectly in the lyric "the love there that's sleeping."
Clapton captured the emotion of the song perfectly; it's as if with each sorrowful string bend he is pouring out his heart through his guitar. Unsurprisingly the meaning still holds up well today. Despite the fact that a non-Beatle recorded it, I'd argue this is the best guitar solo in the band's catalog.
#12 "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" -- Jimi Hendrix (1972)
Upon hearing the first few notes of "Voodoo Child," even a non-guitar player can tell that there's something about the way Jimi's playing the guitar that's special. It's a disorienting pattern of oscillating wah sounds created by the wah-wah pedal.
The solo is a masterclass in shredding and showcases Jimi's toolbox of effects that helped leave his mark in rock guitar history.
#11 "November Rain" -- Slash, Guns 'n' Roses (1991)
"November Rain" could have been like any other hair rock-era power ballad, but thanks to Slash's guitar solos, it lives on as one of the best guitar songs to date.
The song starts out sentimental and Slash's first two solos mirror that, producing mournful melodies that affect the listener. Slash's final solo during the last two minutes of the song, however, is a triumphant juxtaposition compared to the wails of sorrow pouring out of his guitar during the main portion of the song.
Well, we can't give all of our cards away at once...stay tuned for our #Top10!