Jim was a stringy, glue-inhaling sort, prone to sudden stumbles into the styrofoam bin. He regaled me with tales of his on-the-verge metal band, the Snorkling Hamsters, and heaped praise upon an up-and-coming poet named David Coverdale by quoting liberally from "Slide It In," "Slow An' Easy" and "Spit It Out." Lazing away the afternoons with Jim impressed two things upon my adolescent mind: First, that Coverdale is a master of the subtle sexual quadruple-entendre; and second, that I better get my grades up, and fast.
Assuming Jim always remembered to open the garage door while revving the engine on his late-model party van, he's probably a huge fan of Guitar Edge nowadays. The mag, a throwback to the late, great Guitar, ranks as the leanest guitar title on the market. Ordinarily "lean" would mean "weak and/or devoid of creativity, wit and advertising," but in this case I intend it as high praise.
Guitar Edge, unlike the competition, understands that its readers don't want first-person columns by some random guy whose band opened for Mountain at the 1982 South Dakota State Fair ("when Leslie West quoted from 'Manic Depression' during his 'Mississippi Queen' outro, I realized that I was in the presence of greatness, even if he wouldn't let me use the toilet in his trailer"). No, it realizes that fledgling guitarists want tablature, tablature and more tablature, especially now that the ASCAP folks have gotten all pissy and litigious about Web sites offering transcriptions.
The mag delivers on its "less talk, more tab" tagline with 12 transcriptions in the September/October issue alone. Its choices are diverse and inspired, too, alternating between selections only playable by bona fide shredders (Stevie Ray's "Scuttle Buttin'," Steve Vai's "Bad Horsie") and those aimed at fraternity strummers and comparable neophytes ("Get Up Stand Up," Green Day's take on "Working Class Hero").
Of course, by devoting 72 of the issue's 108 pages to tablature, Guitar Edge doesn't leave a lot of room for much else -- and this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Maybe it's best, in fact, to examine what Guitar Edge doesn't offer in its pages: tens of record reviews (gee, good luck finding those elsewhere), gear reviews (ditto), best solo/guitar album/Frampton riff lists intended to foment horribly punctuated debate among uppity list-serv pundits (yup), etc.
What little non-tab content there is in the September/October issue is hit (the "Crash Course" on harmonizing guitar solos, the "Tip Jar" on B.B. King's phrasing) or miss (the overly worshipful Q&A, which includes the question, "Is it getting any easier for Lamb of God now that you've achieved so much success over the past few years?"), but that's besides the point. Guitar Edge recognizes what readers want and delivers it in a succinct package. That's all. This isn't hard.
For the record, the best harmonized guitar solo of all time is Steely Dan's "Reelin' in the Years." I'll also listen to arguments on behalf of the intro to "Bringin' on the Heartbreak." "More Than a Feeling"? No.
I'm an unbelievably double-super-ninja-awesome guitarist -- probably the best you'll ever hear play unless you have a relative named Yngwie -- so I tend to hold publications like Guitar Edge to a high standard. And to be honest, I doubt I'd read it regularly myself, as bands like Lamb of God make me want to perforate my eardrums with a serrated tuning fork. Still, there's more here for the average player than there is in just about any other guitar mag. Recommended.