“Great albums can span categorizations, but I’ve always leaned toward listening to and enjoying guitar albums," explains six-and-12-string icon Don Felder. "Whether it’s Chet Atkins or Jeff Beck or whoever, my fascination has always been on what people can do with an electric or acoustic guitar."
A self-taught musician, who first became interested in the guitar after seeing Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show, Felder developed a discerning ear at an early age, studying the backs of albums for the names of players. "It was an exciting time when I came up," he says. "I was hearing a lot of guitarists who refined their skills on the guitar to a very high degree. The dexterity was there, but more important, there was a lot of imagination and invention."
In Felder's view, that last thought can't be overemphasized: He placed a premium on creativity and expression when compiling his list of 10 Essential Guitar Albums. "We've all seen people who can play fast, but after a minute of that, it gets repetitious," he says. "You've got this piece of wood and some wires, pickups and some strings. How somebody uses that configuration to make something memorable, that's what's interesting to me."
With only one exception, all of Felder's picks date before 1980. The guitarist points out that he's not a traditionalist ("I love watching the late-night shows and seeing the new groups"), but he laments what he calls "the Guitar Hero syndrome. Playing a video game isn't the same as playing the guitar. And this reaches out to other technology, as well, with the focus now on Pro Tools and Auto-Tune. Something's getting lost."
But Felder insists that he's still hopeful for new breakthroughs. "We've been there before," he says. "For a while there it was synths and drum machines, and it came back to real players again. All it takes is somebody doing something new. It'll happen.”
On the following pages, Don Felder runs down his choices for 10 Essential Guitar Albums. On March 25th, he will an extended edition of his 2012 album, Road To Forever (click here to purchase). And on May 14th, Felder hits with road with Styx and Foreigner for the Soundtrack Of Summer Tour (click here for dates and ticket into). The guitarist recently got together with both bands to record a new version of the Eagles' classic Hotel California (which he co-wrote), which will be released soon.