Though guitar history is not the same as rock history, there is great overlap. The guitar, it could be argued, is the defining instrument of the genre, or at least the most visible. It makes sense then that many of rock’s biggest stars are guitarists. There are more important rock guitarists than one can count, more than could ever fit on any one of those Rolling Stone lists.
Still, some stick out. Whether it be because of innovations they’ve made or songs they’ve written, there are guitarists whose contributions to music demand another level of respect. Don Felder is one of those guitarists.
Known best for his tenure with the Eagles (1974-2001) as well as his strong solo career, Felder has written and performed some of the genre’s most iconic songs and guitar parts. He’s a real talent, a six (or twelve) string warrior in every sense.
Felder’s most recent album, American Rock’n’Roll, captures the guitarist at his most dynamic and versatile. From vintage high-voltage rock shredding to slower acoustic fare, the album has a little bit for everyone. It also has collaborations, lots of them. Slash, Mick Fleetwood, Bob Weir, and Alex Lifeson are among the A-list contributors to the album.
To the credit of everyone involved, the album is cohesive and well-constructed and never feels uninspired. The collaborators do their jobs extraordinarily well, and Felder’s songs hold up as well as they always do. It rocks, and rocks hard. For any rock fan, it’s a good listen, covering lots of ground while remaining grounded and cohesive.
Felder returns to Minnesota on Friday, July 12 as part of the “Buck Concert Series” at Buck Hill. At the show, you’ll hear Felder and his band play favorites old and new. It’s a can’t-miss show for fans of all varieties of rock. Any opportunity you get to see a living legend play a unique venue is worth taking, and this one will prove to be no exception.
Below are highlights from Music in Minnesota’s conversation with Don Felder. The following has been edited for consistency:
On playing with Joe Satriani:
We got Satriani to come in and play some of those guitar solos with me. It was so exciting to have somebody sitting there with me that I’ve never played with before, I’d met Joe before but never really played with him before, and just from nothing create, not only these solos or these harmonies together where I would play or he would play, but really have a fun exciting time of throwing myself into that pool to see if I could swim toe-to-toe with Joe Satriani.
On the title track’s connection to Woodstock:
I was actually at Woodstock. I saw the Grateful Dead, I saw Jimi Hendrix perform there, I saw Just about everybody that was on that bill for three solid days. I was one of the 400,000 soaked, mud-covered spectators. Carlos Santana was there, Janis Joplin and on and on. The talent there was just incredible.
I wanted to write a song that started at what I think is the biggest rock explosion in the history of the world, which was Woodstock. The influence that it had not only on me, but the following decade after decade after decade of artists that were influenced by those people and musicians that were there.
Every verse covers a different decade and mentions and points out the people that were so impacted by that event in 1969.
As a matter of fact, one of the lines in “Hotel California” says “There hasn’t been that spirit here since 1969,” talking about the spirit that was at Woodstock. That organic, unbelievable, powerful musical impact, really globally that took place as a result of that weekend there…
I wanted it to musically migrate from ’69 through the decades and up until it shifts when Chad (Smith) comes in and has a much stronger, more aggressive, which I thought was more fitting, as it changed fittingly as it moved through the decades.
On finding the right players for the record:
The thing about the record is not that it’s not just a selection of an all-star cast. It’s a selection of what I think are the right musicians to play on the right tracks. I could have had just about any session guys I wanted come in. I wanted the people I know and the way they play.
Same things with the technical aspects of the album, Bob Clearmountain mixed the record, and he’s made more Grammy-winning, multi-platinum selling records than probably any mixing engineer in the business…you name it, he’s done it…
Bernie Grundman mastered it. He’s probably the best living mastering engineer alive today. He’s done so many amazing records. As a matter of fact, he mastered Michael Jackson’s Thriller album, which was our arch rival. Prince. Steely Dan. Lots of great sounding records…Everybody on the record has a place in Rock history.