Friday Night with Guitar George: X Japan Edition

Please allow me to explain how I got from point A to point B (or point X, if you will). As all of you should know, BGS staff writers Bennett (@garland_angst) and Kyle (@KylesLife27) are doing an excellent weekly feature in which they are counting down Rolling Stone magazine’s list of Top 500 Albums of all time. Each week Bennett and Kyle listen to ten albums from the list, and then discuss the albums and the artists in an hour long podcast. You need to check it out every week if you are not already doing so.

It is in the very nature of a list such as RS’s Top 500 to be subjected to intense scrutiny, which inevitably leads to the exposure of the list’s flaws. As evidence of such, a few days ago a lively conversation ensued on Twitter in which members and friends of BGS pointed out some deficiencies in Rolling Stone’s list. The most common complaints were that the list is too conservative, too British and American, too preferential to traditional classic rock, too predictably enamored with a select few artists, and “too white.” Yes, we know that Dylan and the Beatles were important. Yes, we understand that each new release by them was a landmark, a game-changer in the early days of rock music’s transition from Elvis and doo-wop towards what we came to recognize as contemporary rock music, but that doesn’t mean the top of the list needs to lean so heavily in the direction of those two artists. Random side note: are the editors of Rolling Stone Magazine the only people on the planet who still have not acknowledged that Revolver is better than Sgt. Pepper? Not to mention (to the surprise of nobody who is familiar with my musical bent), I believe any list that does not place Exile On Main Street in the top three puts its credibility in jeopardy. But I digress. I mention the Twitter discussion because it made me take a look at my own preferences and tendencies in the Guitar George segment of BGS. With my ongoing series about the Delta bluesmen, and artists such as Hendrix and Prince being among my featured artists, I doubt I will be accused of being “too white.” However, there is a recognizable slant toward classic rock and British or American artists. Thus, I decided to go out of my way this week to find a video of a current international band that would demonstrate a cosmopolitan and non-preferential view of what constitutes quality examples of rock guitar performances.

The ensuing YouTube journey down roads heretofore untraveled by Guitar George led me to this stellar video pieced together from several live performances by a band called X Japan. I was so proud to have found a current Asian artist—but wait—further research revealed that not only has X Japan been around for a long time, one of the guitarists featured heavily in the video montage has been dead since 1998. So much for recent. But check the box next to international.

One note about the video: usually these montages are poorly edited—just botched together in a random and clumsy fashion, with the inevitable non-sequiturs along the way that break what little “flow” might have manifested purely by chance. By contrast, this montage is very nicely put together—watching and listening are equally enjoyable. I thought such impressive audiovisual expertise was capable only by the editors and contributors of Brave General Store.

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