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Rolling Stone’s Greatest Guitarists List: Who’s Too High and Too Low

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There's nothing like a good list to spark a little debate among music fans. Today, Rolling Stone unveiled their newest 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list, and while there should be no complaints about who's Number One, the ranking of the other 99 can be disputed. Rolling Stone's list — which was compiled by votes from RS editors as well as bona fide ax-men like Tom Morello, Metallica's Kirk Hammett, Aerosmith's Joe Perry, and many more — measured guitarists by prowess, influence, and innovation.

Rolling Stone did a similar list in 2003, and on both, Jimi Hendrix is Number One, as it should be. In the past eight years, no one has emerged even worthy enough to stand in Hendrix's shadow, so his ranking shouldn't change, ever. He's the G.O.A.T., like Michael Jordan, Nirvana's 'Nevermind', and Dwight Gooden's 1985 season. However, The Amp has some issues with the rest of the rankings, as some guitarists didn't get the recognition they deserved, and others were placed ahead of other rockers who were perhaps more deserving. Here's the mag's Top 10:

1. Jimi Hendrix
2. Eric Clapton
3. Jimmy Page
4. Keith Richards
5. Jeff Beck
6. B.B. King
7. Chuck Berry
8. Eddie Van Halen
9. Duane Allman
10. Pete Townshend

The other 90 are here. Below, let's dive deeper into the list and let the debates begin.

(Note: When we say "Too low," it means the guitarist should be closer to Hendrix.)

Too Low

• Frank Zappa. Jimi is the best, but Zappa is our favorite. He might not have the commercial appeal of the Top 10 guitarists on the Rolling Stone list because of his sardonic, humorous lyrics and complex arrangements, but no one could pump out beautiful, transcendental solos like Zappa, who consistently turned his six-string into a one-man symphony.

Exhibit A, "Inca Roads":

Exhibit B, "Watermelon in Easter Hay":

Number 22 is way, way too low for Zappa, but it's an improvement over the despicable Number 45 placement he received on the 2003 list.

• Prince. The most underrated guitarist of all time. Prince is amazing at pretty much everything he does, so people often forget that he can absolutely wail when someone puts a (weirdly shaped) guitar in his hands. After being completely overlooked on the 2003 Rolling Stone list, Prince lands at Number 33 this time around, but even that is too low for one of the best alive right now. "The Kid is in rare form tonight."

• Bruce Springsteen. The Boss? At Number 96? Sure, Steven Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren carry a lot of the E Street weight, but if it wasn't for Bruce, all those classic riffs never would have been heard.

Too High

• Eddie Van Halen. Despite not releasing an album since 1998, EVH jumped from Number 70 on the 2003 list to Number Eight on this new 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Why the leap? Did Van Halen's talents suddenly multiply exponentially enough to propel him past 61 guitarists? Nah. It's probably no coincidence that Van Halen's rise comes when his namesake band is on the verge of releasing a new album, and that a certain magazine might be trying to get into his good graces by giving him better real estate on the list. (EVH adorns one of the four different RS covers to make the 100 Guitarists list, along with Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton. Speaking of Clapton…)

• Eric Clapton. There's no denying Clapton is an amazing guitarist. "Clapton is God" used to be graffiti in the streets of London before Banksy came around. Technically, he's a marvel. However, his overall influence on future generations is lacking. We've never met anyone who picked up a guitar because they loved "I Shot the Sheriff." He's like the Tim Duncan of guitarists: Smart, consistent, always gets the job done, wins MVPs and championships, and is among the greatest ever. But kids don't want the Duncan jerseys, they want the Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin jerseys, just like young rockers aspire to be Keith Richards, not Eric Clapton. The Cream/Blind Faith guitarist should definitely be in the Top 10, but not ahead of Jimmy Page (Number Three) and Richards (Four).

• James Burton. Number 19 on the Rolling Stone list, the innovator of the "chicken pickin'" style, a co-writer of "Susie Q"… but who? No doubt Burton had a major impact for future generations, but to put him ahead of legendary guitarists -- like Jerry Garcia (Number 46, down from Number 13 in 2003), George Harrison (Number 21), and Kurt Cobain (Number 73) — is extremely generous.

Just Right:

• Neil Young. After placing Number 83 on the 2003 list, Young climbs to Number 17 on the new list. "If I was ever going to teach a master class to young guitarists, the first thing I would play them is the first minute of Neil Young's original 'Down by the River' solo. It's one note, but it's so melodic, and it just snarls with attitude and anger," Phish's Trey Anastasio says of Young in Rolling Stone. He's right; no one could put more feeling into one single note than Neil.

• David Gilmour. Another of The Amp's favorites, the Pink Floyd guitarist finally gets his due at Number 14 after a cruel Number 82 ranking in 2003. "Comfortably Numb" alone is worth a spot in the Top 50.

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