Doug Scarratt's 5 Essential Guitar Albums
Saxon guitarist Doug Scarratt picks five albums from five axemen who broke the mould
Saxon guitarist Doug Scarratt blames Slade for awakening his love of the guitar.
“When I was 10 or 11, I was listening to a lot of pop on the radio, and then I heard Slade, which was the first time that I had really noticed the guitar in a band. I suppose while people called Slade and also The Sweet pop bands, they were both actually more rock than anything else.”
It was then that he heard Mick Ronson play,. And his life changed.
“I listened to Bowie's The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars album, and when Moonage Daydream came on, and I heard Mick Ronson's guitar solo... I was just transported to another dimension. His playing just reeled me in. I had never heard anything like it before. From that point on, I stopped listening to bubblegum pop – although you can't called either Slade or The Sweet exactly 'bubblegum'.”
Scarratt, though, is far from being a guitar freak to the exclusion of all else.
“I am a huge music fan. And as such I love songs from all genres. These days, there are so many shredders around, and a lot of them overdo it. Just go on Youtube, and they are all over the place, competing with one another to try and be the fastest alive. But that doesn't interest me. What I love is a tasteful solo within a song structure that enhances what's already there. That's why I have huge respect for a band like Iron Maiden. For them, it's the songs which matter not the shredding overkill.
“So, my selection is based more on how the guitar works within an album, rather than just those records where a guitarists lets fly for the sake of it.”
Below, Doug picks his Five Essential Guitar Albums.
Robin Trower - Bridge Of Sighs (1974)
“I saw Trower play on his 1975 tour supporting his For Earth Below album. That was at The Dome in Brighton. And I had never heard such a huge sound coming from what was a trio. For me, it was a spiritual experience. So, I went out and bought For Earth Below and also Bridge Of Sighs.
“Listening to the latter, I was immediately hooked by the way Trower played, and where the music went. I have to be honest and say that I prefer the way Trower plays to what Hendrix does. I know that is blasphemous to many, but I liked the songs on Bridge Of Sighs so much, and the way Trower interpreted them just got into my system.”
Steely Dan - The Royal Scam (1976)
“I know this will raise some eyebrows, but when I was a progressing guitarist, I heard the album and it made a huge impression on me. It was different to anything I had heard before. When I listened to the solo Larry Carlton did on Don't Take Me Alive, it was superb.
“As I said earlier, I love great solos within songs, and that's what Carlton did on this song, and throughout the album. His style is so clean, concise and articulate. The way he brought rock, fusion and jazz together was a lesson for me. Steely Dan dared to stand apart, and I loved them for it.”
Van Halen - Van Halen (1978)
“Oh. My. God. When this came out, nobody – and I mean nobody - had ever done what Eddie Van Halen did here! At the time I heard the album, I was into jazzy stuff, but what he did was mindboggling. It was a new style of guitar playing.
“I was teaching myself at the time, and learning as I went along. I spent ages trying to emulate what the man did on a track like Eruption. But I might as well have been attempting to learn Chinese! It was so out of my league. Eddie Van Halen transformed the whole concept of the guitar on this album. When you watch him playing live from those days, his style is... well, it's absurd!”
Yes - Close To The Edge (1972)
“The first 10 minutes of the title track are just unique. The randomness and strangeness of the scales Steve Howe used here really caught my attention.
“I was really into the heavy guitarists like Jimmy Page. Ritchie Blackmore and Tony Iommi back then. But when I heard what Steve Howe was doing, it gave me a completely different angle on the guitar. It made a big difference to what I wanted to do.
“I have to say that I lost interest in yes around the time of Tales From Topographic Oceans, and I only saw the band live for the first time very recently. However, the power and innovative approach Howe had here has never been diminished. It remains a sparkling example of how to be inventive and creative, while never losing sight of what the song requires.”
Steve Vai - Passion & Warfare (1990)
“I know I said that I would avoid putting in a shredding guitar album. And then, what do I do? I include this one. But I love what Steve Vai did here. He rewrote the rule book for guitarists, and what he did here is still extraordinary.
“When I first heard Passion & Warfare, it wasn't the technical expertise that stood out for me. Of course, he is an amazing technician. No, it was his imagination that caught my attention. That's why he stood apart from all those other shredders over the years who have followed in his wake. For him, it's never been about being faster and crazier than anyone else. He has avoided going into competition with huge number of guitarists who've followed in his wake. That's what makes this album so different to every other shredding album which has come out since.
“I saw Vai live very recently in Brighton, when he played the whole of this album, and it was tremendous. He showcased and highlighted just what an amazing album it still is. The imagination and creativity he invested into everything here was to the fore. It's a brilliant exception to the rule of how shredding guitar albums usually sound.”