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5 Underrated Guitar Players

MatthewJ Swanson MatthewJ Swanson
June 25th, 2008 9:00am EDT
John FruscianteWhenever one creates an "underrated" list, it often sparks an argument. Maybe that's because it's such a hard concept to define. Some might say an individual is far too under appreciated, while another might say, "Nope. He's rated right where he should be."

With music it's all about a person's ear and what he or she digs on. After all, there are no statistics to back a person up (unlike a topic such as sports where one might say that the importance of Dennis Rodman's rebounding was overlooked, and he/she would have the 20 boards a game stat right in front of him/her).

In a lot of ways, there is no point to a debate about rock music at all, since there is no final word on it, but that's part of the fun; anyone can weigh in. A lot of names came up during the piecing together of this list, but following are the ones we could make the strongest case for:

5. John Frusciante

John of the Red Hot Chili Peppers has a wide spectrum from funk, to hardcore, to just plain gorgeous melodies. His absence during the recording of the underwhelming 1995 effort "One Hot Minute" made it clear just how important a member of the band he was. Cleaning up from a heroin addiction, Frusciante made a triumphant return for 1999's "Californication." Often during Peppers' live shows, he will play songs by himself, showcasing his fine singing voice as well as his stellar guitar playing.

Listen To: Solos on "Scar Tissue" and "Californication," both off of Californication



4. Mick Taylor

When Mick Taylor joined the Rolling Stones in the late 1960s, he helped them record some of their finest work, including a string of the first three records he would play on that most would agree are among their very best: "Let it Bleed," "Sticky Fingers," and "Exile on Main Street." It is also believed that a lot of his songwriting was not credited. Whatever the case, it is simply implausible to believe that the band was peaking at this time simply by coincidence, and not due in part to the accomplished playing of Mick Taylor.

Listen To: "Solos on Dead Flowers" off of "Sticky Fingers" and "Time Waits for No One" off of "It's Only Rock and Roll"



Frank Zappa3. Frank Zappa

Just because a guy has songs called "Broken Hearts Are for Assholes," "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee," and in one song references a "pre-moistened dumper" does not mean that Frank Zappa should be regarded as a novelty act like Weird Al, because, in fact, he was an extremely gifted musician and composer.

Listen To: "Willie the Pimp" off of "Hot Rats," "Watermelons in Easter Hay" off of "Joe's Garage," and "Black Napkins" off of "Zoot Allures"


2. Eddie Hazel

This guitar player for George Clinton's Funkadelic got a lot of comparisons to Jimi Hendrix, and it wasn't just because he was black; The guy could play like a mutha.' Many will remember his playing on the instrumental "Maggot Brain," where it is said George Clinton instructed him to think of the saddest thing he could think of, his mother dying, but perhaps his finest overall playing can be found on 1974's "Standing on the Verge of Getting It On," where he cowrote most every song, giving writing credit to Grace Cook, his beloved mother, rather than himself.

Listen To: "Maggot Brain" from the album with the same name, and all of "Standing on the Verge of Getting It On"


Doug Martsch1. Doug Martsch

This singer/songwriter from the Boise, Idaho, indie rock band Built to Spill is perhaps the most unassuming looking genius you'll ever see. When you see him live, with his bald head and beard, he sets up all his own guitar equipment, plugs in, plays some of the most powerful music you'll ever hear, and besides saying "thanks a lot" in between songs, he barely says a word. Built To Spill hits you with a symphony of guitars, sometimes with three at once, and their songs take you on a sonic journey. There may be better guitar players or better songwriters going right now, but there is no one doing both of them simultaneously right now as well as Doug Martsch.

Listen To: "Carry the Zero" off of "Keep It Like a Secret" and "Broken Chairs" off of "Live"


Honorable Mentions:
Joey Santiago from The Pixies
Dean Ween from Ween
Dave Gilmore from Pink Floyd
Mark Ford from The Black Crowes
Mike Campbell from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

What do you think, readers? Who else has done things with the old guit-fiddle that people aren't recognizing as rocking and amazing? Make a comment!

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Matthew Swanson
Story by Matthew Swanson
Starpulse contributing writer