Being in a retrospective mood I thought I might share my top 3 favorite recordings of 2008. These are albums that I’ve found hard to take off of my MP3 player and keep going back to for inspiration. The choices may surprise you.

#3 Al Green – Lay It Down

The Reverend brings it on this album. Sure his instrument isn’t what it used to be but true artistry is about getting the most out of what you’ve got. The mellow thick guitar tones bring to mind Eric Gale’s guitar work in the late 70’s and early 80’s when he held court in New York’s session scene (check out Paul Simon’s One-Trick Pony). Rich grooving bass lines throughout. The drum sounds are played with nothing but feel, then run through outboard analog compressors, amp farm (on the hats believe it or not), and then compressed again. This combination forms a subtle backdrop keeping your focus on one of the greatest voices in R&B. Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson produced this great example of how an album can take on  distinctive analog sound in this modern age of pristine recording techniques. Recorded direct off the floor with the song writers, band, and vocalists all in the room together give this record a vibe somewhere between Memphis and Motown.

Many guitar players listen to guitar players for inspiration. For me its Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Al Green. If you can capture just a bit of that soul in your playing you’ve got something worth listening to.