Guitar World

I rock. Really, I do. I've got the tattoos, the liver cirrhosis and the war stories ("this one time, at the Ramada Inn in Portsmouth...") to prove it. My hair swishes to and fro, all Eddie Van Halen-like, in the rare instances that my bloated frame breaks into a gallop. I regularly gnaw on bat carcasses, just for sport.

Plus I can actually play a little geee-tar, which is why Guitar World has been an on-and-off companion since Guitar went under. And while the publication has gone out of its way to lure younger readers in recent years -- these kids, with the loud music and the fast cars and the dungarees -- it remains one of the few enthusiast titles that ably appeals to aficionado and newbie alike. This stands in direct contrast to its younger sibling, Guitar World Acoustic, which is only useful to neophyte players hoping to bait the ladies with sensitive campfire renditions of "Southern Cross."

The October Guitar World showcases just about all of what the mag has done well over the years. It includes the expected slate of mini-lessons, guitarist blurbs and transcriptions (even "More Than a Feeling," for those players unfamiliar with the enigma that is the basic D chord). It gets axemen like Dave Navarro to answer "Dear Guitar Hero" reader questions and sits down with lesser-known musicians, like underrated bluesman Joe Bonamassa, to get their quick-hit impressions on a range of riffs.

What elevates the October issue above the mag's usual standard is the cover feature on "The Greatest 100 Guitar Albums of All Time." While I'm generally not nuts about lists that exist solely to prompt debate and blog responses and such, Guitar World tries a different approach with the feature: it lets its readers do the choosin'. Judging by the choices -- "Led Zeppelin IV," also Mike Damone's pick for makeout sessions, tops the chart -- they took their responsibility quite seriously. The decision to allow readers free reign results in a host of interesting juxtapositions, such as "Highway 61 Revisited" turning up within a position or three of someone/something called "Hate Crew Deathroll." Maybe democracy isn't such a bad idea after all.

The mag buttresses the list with a smattering of smart sidebars, everything from Q&As to guitar-dork analyses of Pete Townshend's "Who's Next" wizardry to overly fawning examinations of the aforementioned Zep CD (note to music writers: please expunge the adjectives "astonishing" and "explosive" from your vocabulary). Better still are the in-depth looks at seminal guitar records like "Disraeli Gears," "Machine Head" and "Destroyer." If you need me to tell you which bands made those records, you're a total square, man. Get bent.

Guitar World could probably use a little help on the design front, especially in its overuse of several layouts: on six straight editorial pages, the mag stacks text atop two ads of the exact same size. Additionally, I wish the pub would exercise its critical faculties a bit more often, as nearly every instrument review heralds its subject as six-stringed manna delivered straight from the heavens ("The Babicz is a remarkable instrument. It's one of the most responsive and expressive guitars I've ever played"... and this isn't even the issue's most positive notice).

Two other random observations: First, I totally dig the forbidding, I-am-the-human-embodiment-of-evil cover shot of Metallica's Kirk Hammett. At the same time, I wonder what it would take to convince the perpetually stern axeman to pose in a baby-blue track suit with a puppy nestled on his lap, bathed in the soft-focus glow usually seen in People features on washed-up celebs going public with some personal trial. Second: a $7.99 price tag? Ouch. Good thing they pay me 8 cents per word for this column. I can afford a few pieces of taffy AND all my happy, lovely magazines.

So yeah, Guitar World still does it for me. When I plug in later today -- who's kidding whom, I have a guitar on my lap right now -- I'll actually have a few new phrasings and riffs to noodle around with. Given how few musician-oriented magazines provide legit fodder for thought, that's about the highest endorsement I can give Guitar World.

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