Crucial to every great band is the guitar player who can take a great song to another level. From Duane Allman to Frank Zappa there are so many incredible solos that compiling a list like this is an almost impossible task . Not ones to refuse a challenge, we decided to stick our necks out and pick our five favourite solos of all time but for slightly different reasons than you would expect.
Steely Dan - "Reelin’ in the Years"
From their 1972 released album Can't Buy a Thrill, Reelin’ in the Years has to be one of Steely Dan's greatest solos. Elliot Randall takes this groove-ridden song to another level with his intricate and unorthodox playing. What's more it was one of, the first tracks he played with Steely Dan and it was recorded in only two takes!
“They played the song for me once – the changes are not very complex. Then we took two passes. The first pass, which some of us to this day say was better, wasn’t recorded. It was a run-through and we all went, Whoah! Then we looked at the assistant engineer who had turned ghostly white, and he said, ‘Oh, sorry, I didn’t press the button’. So my second pass was what you hear on the record – it was completely unedited. It was just from top-to-bottom all the way through. And it worked – we all just laughed afterwards.”
The Eagles - "Hotel California"
Joe Walsh is commonly mistaken for having written this harmonically beautiful and alluring song but was actually written by the legendary Don Felder.
“That’s how it was with ‘Hotel California.’ I had just leased this beach house in Malibu and was sitting in the living room with all the doors wide open on a spectacular July day, probably in ’75. I was soaking wet in a bathing suit, sitting on the couch, thinking the world is a wonderful place to be and tinkling around with this acoustic 12-string when those ‘Hotel California’ chords just oozed out. I had a TEAC four-track set up in a back bedroom, and I ran back there to put this idea down before I forgot it.
“I set this old rhythm ace to play a cha-cha beat, set the right tempo and played the 12-string on top of it. A few days later, I went back and listened to it and it sounded pretty unique, so I came up with a bass line. A few days after that, I added some electric guitars. Everything was mixed down to mono, ping-ponging back and forth on this little four-track. Finally, I wound up with a cassette that had virtually the entire arrangement that appeared on the record, verbatim, with the exception of a few Joe Walsh licks on the end. All the harmony guitar stuff was there, as was my solo."
Jimi Hendrix - All Along the Watchtower
Voted as the best cover song of all time by Total Guitar Magazine, Hendrix took Bob Dylan's original to a completely new level. In fact Dylan once said he preferred Hendrix's cover stating that "It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn't think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using. I took license with the song from his version, actually, and continue to do it to this day."
Not only did Jimi play one of the most recognisable solos of all time but he also played the bass instead of the Experience's Noel Redding.
Lynyrd Skynyrd - I Know a Little
I Know A Little is a song from the album Street Survivors released three days prior to the tragic plane crash that took the life of three of the band members. The solo was written and played by the late great Steve Gaines who joined the band late in 1975. It’s a commonly mistaken belief that Gaines played a Fender Stratocaster on the track but he actually used his Gibson Les Paul Custom from 1958. What's more there's a Piano Solo! One can only dream of what Lynyrd Skynyrd would have gone on to create.
Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven
We know this is an obvious and clichéd choice for a guitar store but Stairway is never denied in Regent Sounds. It had to be on our list as it's in its own league for being so astoundingly beautiful. Page, commonly mistaken as using a Gibson Les Paul actually used a '59 Fender Telecaster, gifted by Jeff Beck. the guitar was plugged into an old Supro amp which created one of the most recognisable tones of all time. All the other parts were played using his Fender XII and Harmony Sovereign H-1260, not a double neck in sight. Jimmy Page famously described the solo as "it kept on going like an orgasm". Make of that what you will.
Here is how it should be played:
And here is how it really shouldn't be played: