This is a new thing I’ll be doing, listing all the musicians I consider to be underrated in their respective instrument. Starting off this week with the guitarists.
Top 15 Underrated Guitarists
Disclaimer- *This list is solely opinion, also, guitarists whole are talked about a lot for their guitar playing are left off this list so there’s no place for the likes of Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page or even John Mayer.*
15. Noel Gallagher (Oasis/Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds)
To an outsider, Gallagher and Oasis might not have that many technically difficult songs to play but Noel also contributed the songwriting to most of Oasis’ catalogue as well alternating lead vocals with his brother Liam. His solos on songs such as “Live Forever”, “Don’t Look Back in Anger” as well as his guest appearance on the Coldplay track “Up&Up” aren’t too bad either.
14. Peter Buck (R.E.M.)
Peter Buck can be considered to be an underrated guitarist as many picture Mike Mills and Michael Stipe, when they think of R.E.M. whereas Buck’s jangly guitar style, was just as upfront as Stipe’s vocals and Mills’ melodic bass lines. More than just a guitarist as well, Buck contributed the mandolin part to the all popular hit, “Losing My Religion” as well as other songs such as “Man on the Moon” and “Half A World Away”.
13. Steve Jones (Sex Pistols)
I know what you’re thinking, what’s a Sex Pistol doing on this list? Hear me out a sec, while it can be argued that punk rock is just three chords and the truth, and whilst singer John Lydon is ranked with some of the worst singers in mainstream music (do you really think he’s bothered though), guitarist Steve Jones provided more than just three chords as he provided a solo on almost every track of “Never Mind The Bollocks” as well as playing the majority of the bass tracks on said album.
12. Kim Thayil (Soundgarden)
Soundgarden were one of the biggest names in the Seattle grunge movement though their sound can be described as more alternative metal. Thayil’s playing fits in well with the alternative tunings and time signatures hugely influenced by Black Sabbath. Not to mention to the solo on “Black Hole Sun”. Holy mother of god.
11. John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
RHCP are a band where the rhythm section hog the spotlight most of the time. However, John Frusciante is considered in higher regard than a lot of other RHCP’s other guitarists. Frusciante doesn’t always use distortion on his solos on songs like “Californication” and “Easily”. Rather than focusing on guitar skill, he tends to put more emphasis on the melody and tune. Now embarking on a solo career where he plays more electronic music, it’s a shame we don’t hear his guitar playing more often now.
10. Johnny Marr (The Smiths)
One of the first and most influential indie/alternative rock guitarists, the jangly sound of Marr’s playing played a key part in the sound of The Smiths, along with Morrissey’s unique vocal tone. Marr said in an interview that he avoids rock guitar cliches such as power chords and lengthy solos, instead, using arpeggios to build his on his own guitar sound. We can safely say it’s definitely worked.
9. Steve Rothery (Marillion)
Most people who aren’t fans of Marillion are probably thinking, who? Marillion often get overlooked by the media due to their unorthodox image but that doesn’t mean their music is necessarily “unfashionable” as some sources like to call them, especially guitarist Steve Rothery whose mix of jangly and Edge-inspired clean playing along with emotional solos in songs such as “Warm Wet Circles”, “Easter” and “Dry Land” make him a truly underrated guitarist.
8. Chris Shiflett (Foo Fighters)
Foo Fighters are a band with three guitarists, they have Dave Grohl, who could’ve also made this list, Pat Smear, who also played guitar for Nirvana as a touring member but we’ll go for Chris Shiflett here, the lesser known of the three. Shiflett’s guitar highlights include “Times Like These”, “Long Road To Ruin”, “Rope”, Shiflett may have a calmer presence than some of the other Foo Fighters’ members but still rocks as much the ex-Nirvana drummer.
7. Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac)
The “Rumours” album could solely be why he’s on here but then there’s also “Big Love” and “Landslide” as well. Unlike most guitarists in this list, Buckingham doesn’t use a pick, instead solely using his fingers. Other Buckingham highlights include “Never Going Back Again”, “Go Your Own Way” and “Gypsy”.
6. Matt Bellamy (Muse)
I can probably guarantee all three of Muse will be on these “underrated” lists. I don’t think I need to explain why Matt Bellamy is underrated. Just listen to songs like “Assassin”, “MK Ultra”, “Psycho” and of course “Plug In Baby”. Bellamy alone just oozes talent.
5. Mike McCready (Pearl Jam)
Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready is a name that doesn’t come up too often, which is a shame as he is up there with some of the best. Never far away from a brilliant solo, some of McCready’s best moments include “Go”, “Yellow Ledbetter” and “Alive”. Pearl Jam are one of the bands where people know the lead singer/frontman and that’s it whereas it can be argued that the rest of the band do more than hold it tight.
4. Daron Malakian (System of a Down)
Why Daron Malakian is not mentioned in the same sentence as other guitar greats is anyone’s guess. Malakian’s style of playing is the centrefold of SOAD’s fast, angry thrash/alt metal whilst also contributing joint lead vocals with Serj Tankian. Malakian’s guitar playing was also featured on Linkin Park’s. If the intro to B.Y.O.B. doesn’t get you pumped, I don’t know what will.
3. Prince R.I.P.
Could also make the multi-instrumentalist list as it’s hard to find an instrument he didn’t play, he’s on this list as his main instrument is guitar. Though his music is considered more pop than rock compared to some others on this list which was maybe why he was so underrated but it doesn’t take away from what a truly magnificent guitarist he was. Some of Prince’s best ever solos, in my opinion, include “Purple Rain”, “Let’s Go Crazy” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover” as well as his cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
2. Jeff Hanneman (Slayer) R.I.P.
The other member of this list sadly no longer with us. Hanneman, along with other Slayer guitarist Kerry King contributed largely to Slayer’s fast-paced thrash metal. Fans of Slayer liked nothing better than Hanneman and King duelling solos. As the pair alternated solos, some of Hanneman’s best, in my opinion, include “Antichrist”, “Dead Skin Mask” and “Seasons in the Abyss”. The reason why he’s on the list and King isn’t is because I feel Hanneman was talked about much less than King.
Before I reveal the no. 1 underrated guitarist (imo). Here are some honourable mentions.
- Wes Borland (Limp Bizkit)
- Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains)
- Kyle Gass (Tenacious D)
- Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age)
- Ryan Peake (Nickelback)
1. Alex Lifeson (Rush)
Like the Chili Peppers and The Police, Rush are one of the few examples of bands, when the guitarist isn’t as noticed as the bassist (Geddy Lee) or drummer (Neil Peart) who are both considered to be up with some of the best at their respective instruments. Some highlights of Lifeson’s guitar playing include “The Spirit of Radio”, “Freewill”, “Limelight”, “The Analog Kid” and of course the epic “2112” as well as solos in songs such as “The Camera Eye”, “The Pass” and “Cut to the Chase”. Lifeson is a true guitar legend in my eyes.
But let me know what you guys think, is there anyone I’ve missed out? Leave a comment and make sure to like and share if you’ve enjoyed this list.
Stay tuned for the next one where I talk about underrated bassists. There should be a lot of those.