10 Awesomest Guitar Riffs

OK. There are only two rules. It has to be a guitar riff and it has to be AWESOME. So here is my ULTIMATE Top 10 with the Awesomest Guitar Riffs. Feel free to comment with your own suggestions.

Muddy Waters – Manish Boy
In the beginning, there was The Blues.
The Rolling Stones – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
Well, they’re at their 80’s and still trying… At least back then they were honest.
T. Rex – 20th Century Boy
Two chords only.
 
Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water 
The most classic classic rock tune.
The Kinks – You Really Got Me
The first punk rock guitar riff… 15 years before punk rock existed.
AC/DC – Highway to Hell
The reply to Stairway to Heaven.
 
Iron Butterfly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
Probably the first heavy metal band. The tune is 17 minutes and 5 seconds long!
 
Led Zeppelin – Kashmir
The only riff as big as Godzilla.
 
The Troggs – Wild Thing
… I think I love you… Classic!
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
Well God heard this and decided that he wanted Jimmy in heaven…
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10+1 Classic Prog Rock Albums

 

  1. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
  2. Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
  3. Wishbone Ash – Argus
  4. King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King
  5. Jethro Tull – Aqualung
  6. Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Tarkus
  7. Yes – Fragile
  8. The Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery & Imagination
  9. The Moody Blues – Days of Future Passed
  10. Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells
  11. Rush – 2112

Brit Pop Classics

The Stone Roses – She Bangs The Drums
The Stone Roses – I Wanna Be Adored
The Stone Roses – Fools Gold
Happy Mondays – Step On
Happy Mondays – Kinky Afro
Happy Mondays – Bob’s Yer Uncle
The La’s – There She Goes
The House of Love – Shine On
James – Sometimes
James – Say Somethin
James – Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)
The Charlatans – The Only One I Know
Inspiral Carpets – Saturn 5

Primal Scream – Loaded
Primal Scream – Rocks
Suede – The Wild Ones
Suede – The Beautiful Ones

Oasis – Whatever
Oasis – Some Might Say
Oasis – Roll With It
Oasis – Wonderwall
Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger
Blur – There’s No Other Way
Blur – Boys ‘n’ Girls
Blur – To The End
Blur – In The Country
Blur – The Universal
Blur – Beetlebum
Blur – Song 2
Blur – Tender
Pulp – Common People
Pulp – Disco 2000

The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony
The Verve – The Drugs Don’t Work
Ocean Colour Scene – The Day We Caught The Train
Ocean Colour Scene – The Riverboat Song
Space – The Female of The Species
Space – Neighbourhood
Cast – Allright
The Bluetones – Slight Return
Supergrass – Alright
The Seahorses – Love Is The Law
Mansun – Wide Open Space
Manic Street Preachers – A Design For Life
Kula Shaker – Tattva

Reef – Place Your Hands
Toploader – Dancing In The Moonlight
The Thrills – Whatever Happened to Corey Haim
Travis – Why Does It Always Rain On Me?
Travis – Sing
Travis – Side
Travis – Re-Offender
Embrace – Gravity
Coldplay – Yellow
Coldplay – Trouble
Starsailor – Poor Misguided Fool
Starsailor – Fever

Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out
Franz Ferdinand – Matinee
Franz Ferdinand – Walk Away
Franz Ferdinand – This Fire
Arctic Monkeys – Do I Wanna Know?
Arctic Monkeys – When The Sun Goes Down
The Last Shadow Puppets – Standing Next To Me
The Last Shadow Puppets – My Mistakes Were Made For You

The Broadway Melody (1929)

Surprisingly engaging, “The Broadway Melody” is still entertaining today mostly due to its intriguing plot and its fine acting especially from Bessie Love, and less for the singing and dancing, marvelous though some of them numbers are.

Eddie Kearns (Charles King) is a songwriter and performer working steady on a Broadway revue called “The Zanfeld Show”. After inviting his fiancee Hank Mahoney and her younger sister Queenie – who are also performing professionally as “The Mahoney Sisters” – in New York, he tries to land them a spot in the show. Seeing Queenie for the first time in years however, Eddie gets struck by her good looks and falls in love with her. On “The Zanfeld Show”, the good-looking Queenie gets liked almost instantly while hot-tempered Hank gets to stay only because her younger sibling secretly proposes to the producers that she and her sister will work for the production sharing a single pay. When Eddie reveals to Queenie his love, she, in order to avoid his advances and not hurt her sister’s feelings, begins to flirt with a malevolent rich guy called Jock Warriner (Kenneth Thomson).

Though a huge hit, one of the first Oscar winners for Best Picture, and a musical classic that spawned a long stream of pictures sharing the same name and theme (in 1936, 1938 and 1940), “The Broadway Melody” succeeds because it has a daring plot and a bold direction that due to the freshness of the industry, the conservatism that would soon follow doesn’t get a chance to succumb. Bessie Love clearly stands out with a thrilling performance as the older sister who while assuming to know the ways of the world fails to see the obvious and Harry Beaumont’s direction manages to balance the very strong tragedy with singing, dancing, gags and some screwball dialogue without for an instant losing control of both the dramatic material and his obligations to the genre.

Later famous producer Sam Zimbalist works here as a film editor while the villain’s name sounds dangerously close to that of Jack Warner’s, MGM’s then-rising competitor.

1967 was probably the most interesting year in Rock music

The Doors – The Doors (1967) (debut album)
The Beatles – Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
The Moody Blues – Days of Future Passed (1967)
Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow (1967)
Pink Floyd – The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967) (debut album)
The Rolling Stones – Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967)
Buffalo Springfield – Buffalo Springfield (1967) (debut album)
Cream – Disraeli Gears (1967)
Love – Forever Changes (1967)
Procol Harum – Procol Harum (1967) (debut album)
The Turtles – Happy Together (1967)
The Greatful Dead – The Greatful Dead (1967) (debut album)
The Box Tops – The Letter/Neon Rainbow (1967)
Leonard Cohen – Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967) (debut album)
The Youngbloods – The Youngbloods (1967)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced (1967) (debut album)
John Mayal – The Blues Alone (1967)
David Bowie – David Bowie (1967) (debut album)
The Velvet Underground & Nico – The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967) (debut album)
The Electric Prunes – The Electric Prunes(1967) (debut album)
The Equals – Unequalled Equals (1967) (debut album)
Janis Ian – Janis Ian (1967) (debut album)
Canned Heat – Canned Heat (1967) (debut album)
Richie Havens – Somethin’ Else Again (1967) (debut album)
Laura Nyro – More Than A New Discovery (1967) (debut album)
Gene Clark with The Gosdin Brothers – Gene Clark with The Gosdin Brothers (1967) (debut album)

King Solomon’s Mines (1950)

An astonishing picture, King Solomon’s Mines became one of the classics of the adventure genre standing clearly above most of its previous and contemporary peers due to its naturalistic style and the no-nonsense performances by Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr.
Allan Quartermain is a middle-aged English man working as a hunter-for-hire in central-eastern Africa. After completing a failed safari hunt during which one of his close associates, a native father of one, died, he considers returning to England and his estranged seven-year-old son. However, he decides to take on one last assignment when a countess with her brother approach him and offer him a large sum of money to help them locate the countess’ husband who disappeared looking for the fabled King Solomon’s Mines in an uncharted territory near Quartermain’s area of activities.
Despite being based on one of the most famous series of colonial adventure novels, King Solomon’s Mines succeeds exactly because it avoids almost all of the era’s imperialistic and racist stereotypes. Quartermain, marvelously portrayed by Stewart Granger, is being exposed as a tormented man finally admitting to himself that the reason behind his adventurous lifestyle is his denial to take on the responsibilities of the adolescent life. On the other hand, Kerr’s character stands out because of her own moral ambiguity trying to locate a husband whom she admittedly never loved in order to relieve herself of the guilt that her emotional denial was the reason behind him leaving and trying to prove himself.
But despite the strong drama, adventure is King Solomon’s Mines’ centerfold. The heroes will confront hostile tribes, wild animals, and harsh weather before engaging in a battle for survival and royal heirloom and their strides will leave the viewer satisfied while craving for more. This picture gave a new breath of life to the adventure-in-the-jungle sub-genre and showcased the images and sounds of the continent that was the cradle of life in a never before seen magnificence and realism so spectacular and unique that its footage was used as stock in numerous later MGM flicks.

A true masterpiece, King Solomon’s Mines leaves even the most demanding viewer with a taste of quality that is now, in the modern CGI-generated spectacle that is today’s adventure movie, long-lost much like the fabled destination in the film’s title.

For Black

Who do you think you are?

Who gave you permission to cry? To mourn? Someone you truly didn’t know at all…

For you, he was just a singer… A memory from your pre-teen years.

Oh yeah. You remember the song… That beautiful song… And it’s follow up. Everything’s Coming Up Roses it was called. You remember when you first heard its chorus and thought that it was kinda weird for a song title. You still think it’s weird. But most of all, you clearly remember the first time you heard his voice.

It was a Saturday morning and your father was showing you a record he bought… Yeah, your father was a record collector… An enthusiast music lover and the main reason you love music today – one more reason to thank him and remember him every fucking day from that summer Sunday when your mom called you and said that he wasn’t well… Half an hour before she’d tell you that he passed…

But there and then he was alive. And he was talking to you about that song… And that voice. And you listened suspiciously. “How good can it be?” you were wondering. Well, it had to be some fucking good to move your father, him having grown up with the Beatles and the Stones. And it was… It was that fucking good. The kind of songs that you listen to the chorus once and when you listen to it again you already know the lyrics. And then the follow up with the weird title. And that was the last chance that you would give him. And when you read the good review in a magazine for his third album you wouldn’t be bothered.

But this man was so much more than your memories. This was a father. And a husband. He had three kids that they are now about the age you were when your own father played you that record. He was also a struggling musician. A struggling professional. He was on his way to the airport when the accident happened. He wanted to catch the plane to a place far from home because even though he was in his fifties he still had to gig to continue making his living. To continue to provide for the ones he cared about. His wife and his kids. And you remember your own decision to give up your dream. You had to find a job. You had to abandon (what a sad word) music because you didn’t have the nerve to continue to gig in your fifties.

But then you remember that you don’t have the fucking right to be sad. You weren’t a fan. You weren’t even a friend. You weren’t one of his kids. But somehow you still are sad. Somehow, you feel that his life was a bit like your own and that deep down you never forgot him. Nor that time when your father played you that record. And you heard that voice. And that song. And then you picked up the sleeve and saw his name, his alias anyway, and you saw his picture. His name was Black. And the name of the song “Wonderful Life”. And you think that it must be some kind of a fucking irony for a guy to die sooner than his time and still be remembered for a song called “Wonderful Life”.
But again, deep down, you know that it’s not an irony. That he may have lost his life but he gained a place in your heart. Deep down. Along with the memories of your late father. And that from here to eternity he will be remembered singing. And that you know now as well as you knew then… That there’s no need to run and hide… It is a wonderful, wonderful life. And that you have to cherish it. Hold on to it as long as you can. Because you will be missed… like Colin… A husband and a father of three. And the writer of “Wonderful Life”.
So, goodbye Colin. Goodbye, Black. You will be missed.

A brief history of audio

In the beginning, there was Bill Putnam…

…Him, and a few noble fools, who believed in that intangible thing called Sound Quality. And to that day & age – the 1940’s and the 1950’s – most people thought Sound Quality – much like the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Shankara Stones – to be something that didn’t exist. Well, it was the same time when some people believed that many of the best Hollywood writers and directors were Soviet spies, so these were strange times indeed.

Technical personnel called Sound Engineers would continually strive to push the technology boundaries further, and improve on that intangible thing that, much like high art, only a select few could feel and appreciate. They must have found something important, though, because even today we are marveling to the quality found in recordings like that of RCA’s Living Stereo series, or of Bill Putnam’s with Nat Cole (the first King in the business).

It was the noblest of times. All engineers were audiophiles, and no experiment was too weird. After all, it was Sound that made Hollywood an empire, and the next big thing in audio tech was constantly on the back of investor’s minds as a great opportunity to, possibly, stellar profits. McIntosh began its business in those days, and, at a time when people would listen to music through cardboard boxes which happened to have a speaker attached to them, its mention of things like amplifiers, dedicated turntables, and high-quality loudspeakers was truly revolutionary.

Then came the 1960’s, and the age of independent studios. Like one Stevie Wonder put it, some artists wanted to get away from the record companies’ offices and control, so they would choose to work and create in a recording environment which was not owned by the label they had a contract with. The studio market translated that aspiration quite literally. You see, back then, for an indie recording establishment to be successful, it had to be located as far from the record company’s offices as possible. But the technology of the day would not allow for significant achievements, and creative freedom often meant a serious compromise in the quality of an artist’s or band’s recordings. Just compare the sound of The Fab Four, who were working in the secure environment of the EMI-owned Abbey Road Studios, to that of any other contemporary band like, for instance, Led Zeppelin who chose the narrow path of creative freedom and made their records away from the recording company’s headquarters.

However, the demand for better sound was there, and soon the hardware companies would strive to meet it. As science was solving one analogue sound’s problem after the other, it became gradually possible to built a recording studio without compromise in quality, and without a record company’s financial backing. Listening equipment companies followed suit. In the middle of the 1970’s manufacturers like Mark Levinson, Wilson Audio, and Electrocompanient made their aspiring debuts with the ambition to change, once and for all, the way the audience would appreciate Sound.

It was the best of times. Artists would demand that the quality of their recordings was as good as it could get, and at the same time, listeners would invest serious money in enjoying music in the highest quality possible. Hi-Fi was born then, and everyone who loved music, either listening to it or wanting to create it, was eager to jump on board.

Then came the glorious 1980’s. Golden-eared engineers, in gold-plated equipment, would record golden hits, only to be enjoyed in systems paid with gold. Who can forget unbelievably sounding milestones like Dire Straits’ Love over Gold or Toto’s IV? Even releases targeting the top of the charts would boast superb sound quality like Michael Jackson’s top-selling Thriller, engineered by none other than the great Bruce Swedien who would later reveal his close – at the time – relationship with hi-end companies like Monster Cable, Kimber Cable, and Electrocompanient.

But then came the 1990’s, and the first major war between sound quality and ease of use began. Until then, ease of use, both from the engineer’s perspective as well as that of the listener’s, would never put sound quality in the line of fire. But with the arrival of Digital Audio and the Compact Disc, the professionals and the public had to face a serious dilemma: Ease of Use or Sound Quality? Well, Ease of Use, and subsequently Digital Audio and the Compact Disc, won, mainly because, for most consumers, the CD sounded better than their dreadful, cheap turntables, and their worn-out, dusty, old, vinyl records. To put it bluntly, digital offered a better sound to the masses. Larry Fishburne was right: Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.

All these until 1995, when the internet came, and people stopped buying music because they could easily get it for free using peer-to-peer downloads of poorly sounding, even for the masses’ quality standards, .mp3 files. The huge revenue stream that was giving life to the music and sound industries stopped. People stopped buying Hi-Fi and started paying for Wi-Fi.

And it was a shame because in the 2000’s all problems plaguing analogue sound, and most problems with digital sound, were solved. Both the professionals and the public could choose the best possible solution for their music, regardless of the nature and form of the recorded medium. A recording studio would record to a digital audio workstation, mix in an analogue board, with digital automation, using digital effects, and analogue processors. Suddenly, it was natural to record music digitally, using vintage tube mics from the 1950’s, feeding computer sound cards clocked on 24bit/192kHz, and then pass everything through a class A solid state mixing console. Daft Punk’s recent masterpiece titled “Random Access Memories” is the perfect example of this paradigm, and it did indeed give life back to music, even if it was only for a brief period.

Now it’s the 2010’s, and looking beyond the Katy Perrys and the Chris Browns of this world there are little gems like Pharell’s and Lana Del Rey’s latest albums which, quite surprisingly, carry a lot of high fidelity on their backs. It seems that that era when the professionals had to compromise the quality of their work to get convenience and meet budgets, is gone for good. Now, record companies have realized that to succeed in the incredibly hard task of winning the audience back, they have to present works with high production values, all the way to the mastering process. That is why large digital music retailers like iTunes bother to host and promote audio files made with lossless compression algorithms.

But now the ball, as they say, is in the audience’s court. Will we, the audience, invest in serious audio equipment for our homes, and thus seriously upgrade our enjoyment of one of the very few pleasures in life that the more one tastes, the better it gets? Should we take our eyes off of screens and once more connect with that realm of the senses that our sight doesn’t need to go?

I think we should… I’d love to know what you think.

Audiophiles and Audio Files

We audiophiles – “persons enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound reproduction” as Wikipedia defines us – are a weary breed.

Who could blame us?

In the 1970’s the Compact Cassette came out and while everyone was raving about its convenience and little size, we were oh so eager to dismiss it because it lacked that precious thing we cherish so much: sound quality. And even though giants like TEAC and Nakamichi were presenting marvelous machines capable of updating the cassette to being a real hi-fi medium, we just ignored all that and stuck to our vinyl records.

When history proved us right, we became even more suspicious towards technology’s next proposition for the future of sound reproduction: the Compact Disc. When the CD came out in the early 1980’s it took quite a while for it to take off and one of the reasons was us audiophiles’ reluctance to adopt it. This time, we were wrong, but it wasn’t entirely our fault. Early digital audio machines, both in the consumer and the professional realms, were cold, bright, harsh sounding contraptions that were so far from our warm, beautiful analog systems that we just didn’t choose to go the distance. Another problem was that, for many serious music collectors who already owned enormous amounts of vinyl records, the idea of replacing their collections with the same music on CD was just too big an undertaking to take on.

Now, facing the option of leaving the physical world completely behind to explore the new final frontier of computers, operating systems, folders, and files, we are reluctant once again. After all, now, most of the problems that plagued the CD in its infancy, are solved. Now, we have CD transports and DACs that possess such high sound quality and rich features, that they can confront our turntable beasts head-to-head and quite often emerge as clear winners. Why should we even bother with investing time and money on FLACs, WAVs, OS X, Windows, and Android? Why should we take on the enormously time-consuming operation of transferring our CD collection on a hard drive transforming their content into computer files?

Well, there are many arguments for it, and they are pretty convincing.

First, there’s the issue of the quality of sound. Choosing to play back an audio file instead of a disc gives us the advantage of reducing many mechanisms and the different types of distortion they introduce to the signal. Without a spinning device, all related distortions and digital errors relating to them are omitted. Jitter still exists but is far less when we use a computer to listen to music instead of using a disc, either a CD-DA or an SACD. Furthermore, in the realm of computers, we have more ways to fight jitter and more chances to be successful. Software like Audio Engineering’s Fidelia and foobar2000 can significantly upgrade the quality of the sound stemming from our sound cards while giving us many weapons to fight distortion caused by digital errors.

Second, there are the advantages of filing. Audio devices exist for the sole purpose of giving us the pleasure of listening to music at home, without the need to have real live players in our living rooms. Many audiophiles, if not all, are serious music collectors. And all collectors have, at one time or another, faced the task of filing and organizing their vast accumulations of albums and singles on Vinyl Records, CD’s, SACD’s, DVD’s (Video and Audio) and – more obscurely – Compact Cassettes, Reel-to-Reel tapes, MiniDiscs, and DAT’s. In the computer world, intelligent and intuitive software like MusiCHI and Serviio enable us to gather information about a collection of music files from the internet, organize them, and then access and enjoy them almost instantly. Imagine someone owning thousands of CD’s wanting to find a particular piece. It could take him quite a significant amount of time, couldn’t it? But with a computer things become easy. One would just have to type the name of the piece or the artist performing it to be able to enjoy it in a few seconds.

Third, using computing devices to listen to music is more flexible. Desktop and laptop computers, tablets, and smartphones can automatically collaborate with our expensively acquired DAC’s, Pre-Amps, Amps, and Speakers and integrate instantly with our systems. The only additional device that is required to incorporate a computing device in the audiophile world is a good sound card, and even that may not be necessary if your DAC has a USB port and the appropriate drivers. Furthermore, with the development of Internet cloud services, and with intuitive software like Serviio, you could leave your computer at home on, and access your music collection from anywhere in the world as long as you have internet access. It’s like having your own YouTube or Spotify but with your personal collection as a feed.

Quite a few years ago I began buying my favorite vinyl records on CD. It was the early 2000’s, and the CD was just becoming a commodity making back-catalog milestones as cheap as 6.99€. Because many of my records were quite worn out, I finally had the chance to seriously update the quality of my collection with a minimum cost. Now, I import my CD’s as .flac or .wav files using high-quality software like EAC. Serviio automatically imports the files’ metadata, that is their title, covers, and credits including the names of the composers, producers, etc. Then, I enjoy my collection on a media player or my Sharp Aquos TV, feeding my Benchmark DAC1. To my surprise, I found out that the quality of playback coming out from my TV (Sharp Aquos LC-40LE830E) was astounding. It easily beat my Marantz DV6600 universal disc player because its mechanism was simpler than the Marantz’s, and it incorporates better and newer chipsets that can handle digital audio data much more efficiently.

So, stepping into the world of digital files sounds better and is more convenient. All one needs is a computer with enough hard drive capacity, a good sound card or a DAC with USB, and the right kind of software. I suspect that most of us audiophiles have already jumped aboard. Your comments are welcome.

Note: Many thanks to my friend Dimitris Stamatakos for his lecture on the subject a few years ago. He was the main inspiration behind this post.

Why a web designer and a graphic artist are and should be two entirely distinct roles.

Back then when the internet was young, I was searching for a way to have a website created, on behalf of a friend. In my search, I came across some articles, which I found using the AltaVista search engine, describing the process and expertise needed to create a website.

There were three different jobs described in those articles. The first was that of a web-developer, that is the person responsible for writing the code behind the website, in HTML of course. The second was that of a graphic artist who would be the one designing the graphics of the page. The third was the most interesting and was describing a person whose job would be to plan the user’s experience when exploring the website. This expert would figure out what the user’s demands would be, in relation to the website, and would predict his journey through and interaction with it, and had to make sure that the website would get built as to allow the perfect and easiest journey for the user. This expert’s title would be “the web designer”.

The years passed and somehow these job descriptions stuck with me. But that didn’t happen with everyone else. Nowadays, most people refer to the title “web designer” meaning the graphic artist behind the creative artwork of the website.

But to me, it still makes sense to have a different person, responsible for the designing of the user’s journey through a website. A graphic artist, though talented as he/she may be, cannot focus on two totally different things: the artwork and the interaction of a website.

Planning a user’s interaction with a website is similar to designing a blueprint for the provision of a service. It requires predicting the needs and wants of the user, imagining his points of contact/interaction with the service/website, figuring out what his most desired path towards the completion of his desired task would be, and making sure that the website will allow for the easiest and most logical path to that completion.

On the other hand, the graphic artist’s job would be to experiment with shapes, sizes, colours, images, titles and all the important elements that will make a website appealing and aesthetically attractive to the user.

For me, these are two totally distinct responsibilities and I would suggest to my clients/colleagues to keep thinking about these two jobs as separate processes in the successful creation of a website. Exactly like those archaic articles from AltaVista suggested.