Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ritchie Blackmore - A Wizard On His Guitar And Still The Most Underrated Guitarist Of All Time

Ritchie Blackmore is very likely the most fascinating guitarist in this world. The combination of his incredibly sophisticated performance and his sheer endless and brilliant creativity in my opinion make him the most magical guitarist the world has ever seen.
He probably is one of the most beloved guitarists on this planet, but still only very few people know, or do understand what a great and incredibly talented genius Ritchie Blackmore really is.
Always being far ahead of his time (yes, even in the late sixties), he never was an egomaniac, and never tried to show off like: "Hey look, I am so great, check out my skills, cool huh?!" In fact, he always appears as the somewhat shy but also very mysterious black man who does a great show on stage, and always surpasses himself live.
Interestingly, he seems to be the exact opposite of Yngwie Malmsteen. Unlike Ritchie, Yngwie creates the impression of wanting to be admired. And by that he unfortunately ruins his live performances because through the way he acts he doesn't at least grant his 'band' a little space and attention. His message seems to be: "Like me!", while Ritchie either whisks off his audience to a magical and beautiful illusive place (seemingly together with him), or he totally rocks the hall in which his audience gets carried away by supernatural forces. Ritchie plays with all his heart, and he puts all his love into the music and his performance -- it's just him.
You always get the feeling that he plays for you and that he brings up all the power and magic for anyone who is part of his audience.
Yngwie's shows have more something of a showing off, and meanwhile appear sterile and so to speak 'clinical'. Everything seems perfect -- and while it's too perfect the show sometimes tends to be taxing. Please don't get me wrong, I really think that Yngwie is a great, impressive guitarist with outstanding skills, too, and some of his stuff really rocks. But personally, I would say that he focuses too much on the technical part of playing, and thus he unfortunately doesn't challenge his inspirational side so much.
If you start studying Ritchie's solos, you also begin to realize what an infinite genius he is. And oftentimes you'll wonder how the heck he plays especially difficult passages so incredibly fast and fluently and how he, being a pioneer of the classic rock guitar, invented that stuff so early, when no one else had ever done it before. The funniest thing about all this is that nowadays there are a lot of guitarists who are very good at 'shredding', but most of them have not basically mastered the guitar like Ritchie had back then.
Most 'shredding' skills are based on very clearly structured patterns. I do not say they are easy to play or nothing worth -- this is definitely not the case! But the important thing with these patterns is that they are patterns. And many guitarists are sort of stuck in these patterns, so playing kind of becomes 'comfortable'.
Ritchie never contented himself with playing in patterns. Actually he always developed new kinds of crazy triplets like you can find them in the solos of "Light In The Black" and "You Fool No One", or sophisticated licks composed of oriental scales and mean three strings crossing forward-backward played arpeggios like in the middle section of "Spotlight Kid" with following triplets, or nasty scale shredding in which the scales are a combination of irregular triplets, chromatic, pentatonic, jazz, and regular scales. These passages and solos are very 'uncomfortable' and difficult to play, for normally your fingers are not used to that kind of irregular combinations of string attacks and require loads of practice, even for experienced guitarists, before they can at least be played three-quarters as fast as he plays them. The especially 'mean' thing about Ritchie is not only that he develops these kind of licks and solos, but he plays them live even one and a half to two times faster than on the recordings -- effortlessly.
It's absolutely fascinating and impressive how neatly he plays and records his tracks despite his hardly distorted sound. I want to add here that he is a guitarist who always records only very few takes.
Beyond that he has an extraordinary background which becomes obvious when he throws in something from J. S. Bach, and he plays acoustic guitars perfectly, too. Even more astonishing are his extensive skills regarding to very complex and sophisticated picking patterns that never had become clear until he started his current band Blackmore's Night.
To me it feels next door to blasphemy that some people actually compare him and his skills with Jimmy Page, or even claim that Jimmy Page is actually the better guitarist. Don't get me wrong, I do absolutely like Led Zeppelin, and Jimmy Page is a good and legendary guitarist with diverse skills, but he is not really comparable to Ritchie Blackmore. In fact, their skills are worlds apart.

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