Although he’s distinguished himself as a skillful keyboardist, songwriter and producer, Neil Giraldo first made the world take notice with his rhapsodic guitar playing on a boatload of Pat Benatar smashes. (Ms. Benatar, it should be noted, clearly knows a good thing when she sees one: not only has she collaborated with Giraldo since 1979, but their marriage three years later remains one of show business' longest-lasting unions.)
Giraldo's love affair with the guitar stretches back even further. Born in 1955 in Cleveland, Ohio, he picked up the instrument at the age of six. Thanks to his musically savvy Uncle Tim, only four years older, Giraldo was introduced to records by British Invasion groups like The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Who, among others.
"Timmy was more like my brother than my uncle," Giraldo says. "He had it all going on. He took me to concerts and exposed me to all the great bands of the '60s. And, of course, all of those bands had some amazing guitar players."
Giraldo honed his formidable chops by playing along to his uncle's albums, but he also developed a philosophy about what made a great guitar record; that the meaning behind a note being played is more important and revealing that the note itself. "It gets into your relationship with the guitar and how you interpret the instrument," Giraldo explains. "I always thought that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she plays an instrument – or what they listen to. Great guitar records are ones where you get inside musicians' hearts and souls."
On the following pages, Giraldo runs down his choices for what he considers to be 10 essential guitar albums (listed alphabetically by artist), a list that he admits could be subject to change at any given time. "Naming 'the best' or 'the greatest' can be tricky," he says, "because the the next day it's like, ‘Oh, man, I forgot so-and-so!’" But I do think it can instructive for young guitarists to know what successful players have listened to; maybe it can help them dig back and discover something they might have missed.”