Ritchie Blackmore is a feisty guitar player who performs many of his solos with liberated poise and precision. Stemming from within himself, he demonstrates a flair for the instrument that’s comparable to John Rambo’s penchant for gunfire. The rapid-fire attack on tunes ‘Smoke on the Water’ and ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ is that of a true master, presenting part of his soul into the work, his fingers pressed over the fretboards, every note pushed with good measure.
In a rare moment of confession, Blackmore mentioned some of the guitarists he admires most. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that he poured love on The Yardbirds Jeff Beck, considering that everyone from 10cc’s Graham Gouldman to Guns N’ Roses Slash loves Beck, but Shuggie Otis is a more surprising addition, as is Adrian Legg and Gordon Giltrap. Giltrap’s metier stems from early Celtic folk, and the tunes are built on a collection of towering riffs, which probably seeped into Queen during their progressive era.
“Jeff Beck is very good,” Blackmore said. “Gordon Giltrap, Adrian Legg are brilliant. Eric Johnson is very good, I love that instrumental he did, which reminds me, it’s interesting because I don’t if Eric was consciously aware of it. But it’s very similar to something that Les Paul did back in 1956 called ‘Little Rock Getaway’. For you guitar fans, if you buy that Les Paul & Mary Ford, you might hear a resemblance between Eric’s big hit and ‘Little Rock Getaway’. Not putting down Eric because he is a very good player.”
This isn’t the first time Blackmore has spoken in favour of Giltrap, equating the Kent-born musician to John Williams. “I suppose I have a high standard or a different standard,” he said, “where I don’t like too many people in the business from a musical point of view. I look up to someone like John Williams or Gordon Giltrap from a guitar point of view.”
In another interview, Blackmore hailed Giltrap for his prowess as an acoustic player. In a testimonial, Blackmore said, “Anyone who asks me knows that I think that Gordon Giltrap is one of the best acoustic guitarists in the world. He was always way ahead of his time.”
“He certainly gave me lots of hints into what strings I should use,” Blackmore continued.”Pre-amps, one of which bears his name I use a lot. And how to approach the acoustic guitar as opposed to the electric guitar.”
And then there’s Adrian Legg, another guitarist Blackmore considers “brilliant”. It’s harder to find other interviews in which Blackmore praises the musician, but it’s interesting to note that Legg is another guitarist who is best known for his acoustic guitar playing. At the end of the 1990s, Blackmore made a concerted effort to move from rock-oriented territories to compose material that was more medieval and pastoral sounding.
In an interview with Radio Veronica, Ritchie Blackmore explained his decision to change direction with the music. “I have adopted a different fingerstyle technique, and I play with all my fingers on the acoustic. When I play the electric, I play with a plectrum. So it’s totally different, the approach. Nothing is easy, but this music that we do in Blackmore’s Night is a lot more challenging. It’s like going on stage and you can’t hit them with volume and just jump around the stage. You’ve actually got to actually deliver something.”
Interestingly, Legg offered a similar opinion when he discussed the complexities of recording the acoustic guitar on stage. “It was very difficult to record because it demanded a certain level of technical perfection that’s not necessarily needed on stage, so I had to keep searching for a balance there,” Legg explained. “I think in the end, we managed to keep its spirit intact, and I’m very pleased with how it turned out on record.”
Blackmore seems to think Giltrap and Legg are “brilliant”, precisely because they demonstrate a mosaic of sound that operates on a completely different level to the rock riffs that he, Beck and Brian May exhibited in the 1970s. Clearly, he’s excited by their use of fretboards and cadences, as it presents a new type of challenge for him. In the same interview with Radio Veronica, Blackmore claimed that “turning the amplifier up and blasting away” was fun, but it doesn’t challenge him in the same way that acoustic music does.
Indeed, Giltrap and Legg are “brilliant”, but so is Blackmore, who has shown an eagerness to break out of the box hard rock set out for him, and dive into less commercial territories with his acoustic guitar.
Stream Gordon Giltrap and Adrian Legg in performance below.