David Marsh 

Old music: New Radicals – You Get What You Give

You only need eight seconds to make a guitar solo really burn. Someone should tell Eric Clapton
  
  

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I've nothing against Eric Clapton; in fact my school satchel bore the blotchy felt-tip inscription "EC = God" for a few months in 1967 (before I saw Jimi Hendrix on Top of the Pops and realised I had been worshipping a false god). But let's admit it: Layla is bloody boring. I'm not just talking about the second part, which no one listens to, but the first part too. A decent enough riff, done to death. See also the interminable, insufferable Free Bird, Stairway to Heaven, anything by Ten Years After, and many more.

You can't blame the artists. Those of us who went to gigs in the 70s would have felt cheated had we been denied a 15-minute guitar solo – and not only because the longer the guitar solo went on, the longer before we had to suffer the 15-minute bass solo and the 15-minute drum solo. But who nowadays (including, one suspects, Clapton himself) would not find Robert Johnson's original Cross Road Blues more electrifying, honest and downright enjoyable than Cream's self-indulgent live version, complete with Clapton's technically good but emotionally empty pyrotechnics?

Now this is more like it: my all-time favourite guitar solo, by Rusty Anderson. It lasts for eight seconds (around 2:49 to 2:57), just four bars, and it's totally brilliant. A repeated flourish, then a single compelling repeated chord … job done. Further evidence that less really can be more is furnished by the whole song – built on two chords – and indeed the New Radicals' entire career: make one great album (Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too, in 1998), release one huge international hit single, break up. If only more bands had done the same the world would be a much better place.

Everything about this record is great: the inspiring lyrics ("What's real can't die … Don't be afraid to live"), Gregg Alexander's impassioned vocal performance, the piano continuo, the superbly fluid bassline. But most of all, that guitar solo. If only for eight seconds, Rusty Anderson = God.

 

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