Mag Review: Guitar Player Print
Friday, 23 February 2007 05:57
By Larry Dobrow
For serious six-stringers, Guitar Player is the Robert Fripp to Guitar World's Richie Sambora (I say that as a guy who does not consider Bon Jovi the musical embodiment of pure evil). GP takes the task of educating and informing its readers quite seriously, serving up the best-rounded mix of riffs and tips of any guitar mag I've surveyed in recent months.

The cover of the December issue lets readers know they're in for something a bit more expansive, showcasing Allman Brothers/Government Mule mainstay Warren Haynes and extending shout-outs to Wes Montgomery and Ike Turner. The topical diversity extends throughout the issue, whether a "No Guitarist Left Behind" appreciation of Jim McCarty or an evaluation of the Steve Miller catalog from a guitar-guy perspective (please fire, with great prejudice, the copy editor who missed the beyond-blatant typo in the mention of FM radio mainstay "Rockin' Me" -- it's "Rock 'N Me," goldarnit). The mag also devotes considerable space to lesser-known and eminently worthy players like Kaki King and Liona Boyd, affording each ample opportunity to discuss her craft.

What I like best about Guitar Player is that, for lack of a more elegant way to phrase it, the mag doesn't fuck around. As opposed to the usual maelstrom of sidebars and punny section names and lower-case headlines, it presents its every item with a minimum of fuss. "Feedback" contains letters, "Rants & Raves" contains reviews, etc. On the contents page, the mag shoots for clarity above all else: "Page Hamilton resurrects Helmet with a punishingly heavy new album." Me, I don't need meticulously worded story teases and exclamation points; I need to know whether a story will be worth the 107 seconds I may or may not devote to it. In this regard, Guitar Player delivers.

The expansive Q&A features work pretty well, despite PROVOCATIVE INTERVIEWER statements like "Your guitar tones are gargantuan." Overall, however, the writing stands out as Guitar Player's major weakness. Especially in its reviews, the mag limits itself to simple, passive declarations ("'Until We Felt Red' is a lush and surprising album," "'Tribute' is a masterful and electrifying celebration of rock guitar"). The piece on Carver's 60th anniversary comes across as the print equivalent of an infomercial, while the front-of-book "Songwriting" introduction to Andy Rinehart doesn't make a whole lot of sense at times: "Rinehart has written hundreds of songs, but has only published a handful, because his selection process goes far beyond satisfying the requirements of craft." Snuh?

To sum up, then: Guitar Player is the publication for serious, involved players, Guitar World is the one for beginners / mainstream fans, and Guitar World Acoustic is the one for those who would attempt to bag floozies at a campfire with a sensitive rendition of "Southern Cross." Rock on.