My Picks For Best Guitar-Playing Albums

I grew up listening to older music, older, meaning, as you may think, music that came before my time. Having a dad that was born in the mid-to-late 40’s and a mom born in the mid-to-late 50’s, by default, that set me for a musical education from songs 30+ years old. Like most my age, in any generation, one would avoid, at all costs, to stray away from listening to what one’s parents would listen to because it was “lame.” I never thought the music was lame. I would attempt to listen to more contemporary rock, country, and even pop in the early-2000’s… that didn’t last long. Once I got into high school I came back to ALL the music that I grew up with, little by little, and then began expanding upon that.

SO, there is a purpose to this long intro, and it is: The music I did grow up on from my parent’s was the best. Beatles, Stones, Cash, Waylon, Jerry Lee, and more, it all had unique qualities that made the music of theirs timeless. With that, was fantastic guitar playing. Not only fantastic guitar playing, but fantastic guitar tones.

Hearing George Harrison with his no-frills, minimalistic approach to the guitar for the first time, I felt that that was how guitar playing should be, and what others should build upon. Or hearing Luther Perkins with an even MORE minimalistic approach to guitar, creating the “boom-chicka-boom” sound for Johnny Cash.

So blah, blah, here are some albums I would suggest to anyone who loves great guitar playing:


“Rumble! The Best of Link Wray & The Wraymen”Link Wray & The Wraymen – 1958-1979

Link Wray. He is the King of the raw guitar tone, and brought the power chord to the masses. He has influenced everyone from Pete Townsend of The Who to Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. When listening to his nasty-raw guitar tone, it’s hard to believe that most the music that he recorded that people associate most with Wray, such as “Rumble,” comes from the late-50’s into the early-to-mid 60’s. People hold The Rolling Stones “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” to such high praise, for the riff (predominately) but also tone, but Wray had the grittier tone and his playing was unmatched by anyone.

Key Songs:

  • “Rumble”
  • “Ace Of Spades”
  • “Run Chicken Run”
  • “Deuces Wild”


“Revolver”The Beatles – 1966

First off, I’m a huge George Harrison fan. His guitar playing is just fantastic (listen to the solo material!) So, “Taxman,” is the first song on the album AND it’s NOT George Harrison. What?! Shocked? Maybe, but it’s Beatle Paul McCartney playing that lead part, whaaaaaaat? Yeah, besides George, McCartney and Lennon both were fantastic lead guitar players (it’s Lennon on 1965’s “Day Tripper.”) So yes, 1966’s “Revolver,” is the album the acid got slipped into and what kept the on-going revolutionary and uncharted trajectory of The Beatles (starting really with 1965’s “Rubber Soul“) going. Plus, on a non-guitar related note, it’s the Beatles album that has the best album art, thanks to Klaus Voormann.

Key Songs:

  • “Taxman”
  • “She Said She Said”
  • “And Your Bird Can Sing”


“With His Hot And Blue Guitar”Johnny Cash & The Tennessee Two – 1957

The first album off of Sun Records for Johnny Cash, this album is “Cash For Dummies” to newcomers who want to hear the early Johnny Cash during his heyday at Sun Studios. Cash had a very unique sound, and a unique voice… but those came unexpectedly. Cash auditioned at Sun wanting to be a gospel singer, Sam Phillips (owner of Sun Studios) told him he couldn’t sell gospel any longer, and told Cash to come back with something different. Cash came back with his band The Tennessee Two. Now, they were suppose to have a steel guitar player show up, but he never did, so it was just Cash & The Tennessee Two. They played Cash’s newly written, “Hey Porter,” and won Phillips over, and the rest they say is history.

Key Songs:

  • “Cry, Cry, Cry”
  • “Hey Porter”
  • “I Walk The Line”
  • “So Doggone Lonesome”
  • “Folsom Prison Blues
  • “Wreck Of The Old 97”


“The Live Anthology”Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Call it cheating, or a very understandable pick. Cheating being it’s a live album, and not a “studio” album… But most who know the Heartbreakers work would find it difficult to narrow it down to one album that fully encapsulates guitarist Mike Campbell’s guitar playing. Perhaps one would say 2010’s, “Mojo,” that had Campbell front-in-center of the songs, with Jimmy Page-style leads like on, “I Should Have Known It,” but then you would be forgetting his melodic 12-string Roger McGuinn-style precision that he demonstrates on many Petty albums, like “Damn The Torpedoes,” “Full Moon Fever,” & “Highway Companion.” So, yeah, “The Live Anthology” is the best “album” I would say that fully displays Campbell’s virtuoso playing + it’s Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers LIVE!

Key Songs:

  • “A Thing About You”
  • “Here Comes My Girl”
  • “A Woman In Love (It’s Not Me)
  • “Goldfinger” (1964 James Bond film theme; Instrumental)
  • “Oh Well” (Fleetwood Mac cover)
  • “It’s Good To Be King”


“Live In Japan ’65”The Ventures

The Ventures are the greatest rock instrumentalist group, period. Most people know of their hit song, “Walk Don’t Run.” “Live In Japan ’65” has that plus alot of their staples up to that point. Instrumental covers of “House Of The Rising Sun” and The Beatles “I Feel Fine” make it on this album. Their speed and the guitar playing is a whirlwind, and they do it with such ease.

Key Songs:

  • Honestly, ALL OF THEM!

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