Why Neil Young Is Considered a Guitar God

Neil Young

Neil Young has to be rock’s most unconventional guitar god. Nobody sounds like the guy. Instead of scorching hot licks and Keef-style riff swagger, he’s all about piercing, one-note solos, fuzzy stoner-drift, and rhythm playing slathered in distortion squall that ripples through the atmosphere like shockwaves. On top of all that, his playing is shot through with a primitive, minimalist sensibility, a quality that has inspired J. Mascis, Thurston Moore, Curt Kirkwood, and dozens of other alt-rock guitarists who worship his eccentricity. Rust Never Sleeps, from 1979, generally gets the nod as Young’s heaviest guitar album, but don’t sleep on 1991’s Weld; his tone is so dirty and gnarled it sounds as though he kicked a hole through his amplifier. While the bulk of the cuts on our playlist feature Young front and center, a handful of other guitarists pop up, including his old pal Stephen Stills, Frank “Poncho” Sampedro and the late Danny Whitten, both of Crazy Horse, and Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard and Mike McCready. Young is no stranger to the long-ass guitar jam; best to buckle in and enjoy the epic ride.