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Monday, 17 May 2021


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How about just doing a list of "My top [number] favorite [guitarists/movies/songs/whatever]." At least a list like that might nudge someone to check out one of those on your list that they might not be familiar with.

A list that instead tries to rank the "best" subjective and especially artistic talents just gives rise to argument.

P.S. I've always thought Lindsay Buckingham was an interesting guitarist, especially with his fingerstyle technique applied to electric guitar. Can't say he's the "best" but I enjoy his work.

Well at least you didn’t try the list of all lists that don’t include themselves.

No doubt the guitarist who sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads is very good; but what I want to listen to is the one who went to the guitar showdown with the devil and won!

I think we like lists like these because we want to test our knowledge of specialized worlds against an outside standard. "Oh, he missed X." Or "Oooh, I have never heard of Y." That sort of thing. I was surprised about how many guitarists on your original list I had even heard of. But I was delighted by TOP's commmentariat, who listed many, many artists I'd never heard of. Gone are the days when a person can know all of human knowledge. Instead we have specialization-silos. It is a great thing to get a telegram from the next silo over with unexplored expertise. What a treat!

Well, I just saw a list on twitter that said that School of Rock was the second funniest movie of the 21st century. It also included Lost in Translation in that list.



Slightly off topic but there is an interesting history ( the first and only) of “lists” first cousin “ alphabetical order”.

A Place For Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order by Judith Flanders

Makes me think what would be the 20 best lists?

Why do you have to limit it by number? Just make a list. You can always add to it. It is not a competition.

Mike, how about crowdsourcing (from your readers) a list of photographers that photographically-literate people should take an interest in if they want to be up on photography as an art form. It could take the form of a series of blog posts, highlighting each photographer and their work in turn, and could eventually be compiled into a book. Let me nominate Ellen von Unwerth for the list.

Have you perhaps heard of Nina Gerber? A master of every style, every guitar. Unfortunately not many recordings.

[I'm not sure how I feel about people who can play in "any" style. There's a photographer named Ken Schles who is an astounding mimic--he can take pictures like anyone, in any style, and they're good, too. But the problem is that I have no idea who Ken is and what he cares about. If you go to his website, look through his portrait portfolio and then tell me what his style of portrait is. You'd never see a portrait and think "that has to be a Schles." It's my problem with Danny Gatton too. He liked rockabilly because it was fast and clangy but he played in all sorts of styles, always indiscriminately ornamented. The ornamentation is adroit and creative, but I don't get the sense that the playing serves the music...rather, that the music serves the playing. --Mike]

Lists are impossible ... but also can be source of wonderful things: 'High Fidelity' (the movie) is made of lists. Also has John Cusack so I am biased, but still, wonderful movie and lists. What are your 5 favourite movies with lists? What are your 5 favourite lists? Is that list on that list?

It is interesting how close you can come to the barber paradox of set theory this way while not falling into it. Here is another barber paradox.

In a town I will never visit there is a street, and that street is where are the barbers of the town. A man I know once visited the town and wanted to get a shave, so he walked down the street looking in the windows. First window sign: 'best barber in the town'. He walks on to the second window: 'best barber in the Land' (state: this is in Germany). He walks on to the third window: 'best barber in all the Länder' ('Länder' is plural of 'Land'). He is near the end of the street now (perhaps there were more barbers with increasingly grandiose claims) and there is one more, rather small, barber shop with a small sign. He peers at the sign: 'best barber in the street'. This is the one he goes in to.

This story was told to me about Mahler, but I think now it can be about Richard Thompson.

If one insists on making a list, make it a list of My Favorite Guitarists.

Related: Now that the internet gives us almost unlimited access to almost infinite numbers of recordings by artists known and new to us, we won't, intentionally or not, rank our favorites by where we spend our money.

Maybe the list thing is dead since we have fuzzy logic ?

"A list of 50 would naturally include female guitarists."

50 greatest is 50 greatest, no need for a qualifier.

As a way of keeping things light, maybe we should take a stab at a more obscure list sometime. A list where no one has a heartfelt favorite. A list where everyone needs to scratch their head to come up with a candidate. Something like a list of nice feel good songs or falsetto songs or songs with the same name as a famous album.

Angus and Julia Stone - Yellow Brick Road

Chris Rea - On The Beach

Chris Staples - Dark Side of the Moon

It's impossible to create a GOAT list of guitarists that is going to satisfy more than a handful of people, including yourself. The "guitarist" category is just too expansive. I figured you were attempting to show your eclectic likes or preferences and then felt obliged to fill in some tokens to balance out the "skew" that was materializing. You deserve credit, for sure, for stimulating others to think and get involved. We shouldn't disagree with you if the roster is understood to just be players YOU know and like. The problem is, some will scoff and question your judgement or limited expertise on the subject. You wouldn't put out a list of the twenty best motorized wheeled conveyances and not expectsomeone to challenge you for leaving out a 1969 600cc Triumph bike or a '58 Dodge Power Wagon. The field is too broad for ANYone to create a GOAT list for that broad heading. Your readership has a remarkable depth of knowledge, though, and it might be a future feature to focus more closely on something like Ten Jazz Guitarists everyone should know. Or, Ten Blues guitarists who accompanied their own vocals. Over the years you have motivated me to investigate books you've recommended, tea I've sampled, and images I've contemplated. I'd enjoy a good FYI feature on some consensus exceptional niche guitarists.

Most guitar players would have put Richard Thompson in the top ten best, if not in the top five. Then again, I suppose it is apropos since RT may well be the best musician that most people have never heard of. :)

[Sometimes it seems that music is more than a matter just of "taste," which is at least somewhat volitional--it's more like it's a matter of "chemistry," in the colloquial sense, which is a mysterious matter of deep or instinctual affinity and aversion. I've always been pretty clear that RT is just not for me. His stuff doesn't speak to me. I know a lot of people really like and admire him (including people I like and admire), and as a consequence I've made numerous attempts to "let him in." But every time I listen to him I just want to turn it off. It's a reaction that's been very consistent with me over the years.

Then again, one of the musicians I've engaged with the most in my life is Neil Young (although I don't like all of his stuff by any means), and I know a lot of people feel the same way about NY as I feel about RT. Chemistry! --Mike]

A theory provoked by a recent discussion about poets is that in many fields there seem to be two basic categories of "greatness"--those who make the art/craft accessible to outsiders (without cheapening or dumbing-down), and those who are revered by insiders but seem to have little appeal to casual attendees. And then there are the rare birds who break that "rule".

One thing I'm grateful to have learned (and regret not learning much sooner) is that when it comes to fun, the pointlessness is the point.

But if the point (or pointlessness) of a list is to provoke engaging discussion, I'd say you succeeded, Mike!

I'm with you 100% on Thompson vs Young, and I can't explain it either.

For no reason except that you mentioned one of them, my unordered list of "greatest" active female classical guitarists (that I know of):

Ana Vidovic
Thu Le
Antigoni Goni
Xufei Yang
Natalia Lipnitskaya
Stephanie Jones

For what's it worth, I find Robby Krieger's solo on the Door's song Peace Frog very memorable.

I completely hear you, Mike. It either works for you, or it doesn't. Richard Thompson, strangely enough, is the only artist whose new work I generally can not stand until I hear it two or three times and then something clicks. Weird.

Its somehow also reminds me of how jazz is completely indigestible to most non initiates because jazz is a language that requires an appreciation of the vocabulary - the riffs and themes and feel of all the jazz that preceded it.

Have a listen to Tina S playing Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. You can find it on You Tube. If you just Google Tina S.She did that piece when she was 16 and I think she is around 20 now. She also covers a lot of well known rock pieces but I think what she does with the Beethoven piece is amazing.

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