Here are 10 top guitarists, from blues to metal, pop to rock, from stellar riffs to intense soloing. Add your own favorites in the comments!
A veteran of Thin Lizzy and jazz-rockers Collosseum II, Gary Moore went rather “metal” in his ‘80s solo career. But in the ‘90s he returned to his bluesy roots with Still Got the Blues (1990) and After Hours (1992). Moore’s technical skill was never in doubt, but he slowed down to play some aching blues rock on his rediscovered Gibson Les Pauls, even adding his own tribute to Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green on Blues for Greeny (1995) – Moore owned the fabled ‘burst LP Green played in early Mac. Moore’s “blues” were highly amped a la ‘60s Clapton – he even played the part of “Eric” in the short-lived Cream-alike trio Bruce Baker Moore (Around the Next Dream, 1994). Revered for his sustaining notes, Moore also recorded with Albert King, B.B. King and Albert Collins in the ‘90s.
Here’s Moore’s “Still Got the Blues” live in 1990, heavy blues with extra shredding.
For Pearl Jam’s glory days of the ‘90s, riff and rhythm ace Stone Gossard relied on Les Pauls. He has mainly used three different LPs – '54 and '73 Gold Tops, and a sunburst LP Custom he’s owned since his days in proto-grungers Mother Love Bone. Pearl Jam’s thick’n’soupy riffs always tend to feature a Les Paul somewhere, and with Gossard the primary music writer of ‘90s Pearl Jam classics “Alive,” “Even Flow” and “Black,” you can hear why.
Of course, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry would qualify for a Les Paul star of the ‘70s, but he got his mojo back in the ‘90s as "America's Greatest Rock and Roll Band” hit paydirt with a string of hits. Perry also worked with Gibson to launch his 1995 Joe Perry Signature Les Paul – a dark beauty in “translucent blackburst”, with black-plated chrome and a mid-boost circuit. It’s rare now, but Perry has since helped create the Boneyard Les Paul and his new Joe Perry 1959 Les Paul.
Here’s Aerosmith proving they still had it at ‘94’s Woodstock on the classic “Dream On.” Perry’s playing a Gibson Les Paul fitted with a TransPerformance self-tuning unit, an early “robot” guitar also used by Jimmy Page.
Like Perry, Page proved there was life in the ‘90s. He made the Coverdale/Page album with Whitesnake singer David Coverdale and reunited with Robert Plant for No Quarter and Walking into Claksdale. Gibson produced its first signature Les Paul with the Jimmy Page model of 1995 (a repro of Page’s #2 LP), with all its push/pull tonal options. Now rare, it nevertheless put Page’s tonal options in the hands of ordinary (if very rich) guitarists.
Here’s Page and Plant’s “Most High” (1998) with Jimmy playing a TransPerformance-fitted Les Paul in CGEGCE tuning.
U2’s guitarist changed his sound around for ‘91’s dark Achtung Baby album, introducing Les Pauls for thicker, FX-driven tones. In the ‘90s, Edge mainly played two white Les Paul Customs, from 1973 and 1975. He also has a 30th Anniversary Les Paul Gold Top from 1982 and, more recently, a 2005 Les Paul Standard. Edge has since donated his more “cream-colored” Les Paul Custom to a Music Rising auction, with Gibson then creating an exact 2008 Custom Shop replica for him.
Here’s Edge and Les Paul Custom in full flow on U2’s legendary Zoo TV tour of ’92-’93.
James Dean Bradfield
Manic Street Preachers’ equal inspirations of The Clash, Sex Pistol, Public Enemy and Guns N’Roses was always a challenging mix. Suffice to say, songs such as “Ifwhitemericatoldthetruthforonedayitsworldwouldfallapart” were not made for FM radio. But, behind the polemic, James Dean Bradfield (his real name) has proved himself a superbly good guitarist and music writer. His main LP is a ‘90s alpine white Gibson Les Paul Custom...a nod to the Pistols’ Steve Jones. From the late ‘90s, he fitted it with a micro piezo pickup to allow him to play “acoustic” parts of Manics songs. He’s also played Slash signature Les Pauls. He’s surely one of the U.K’s best guitarists of the last 20 years.
Here’s James Dean Bradfield on the Manics’ epic “Motorcycle Emptiness” (originally from 1992) recorded in 2000 at their Millennium gig in hometown Cardiff, Wales.
Wylde started his career with Ozzy Osbourne in the late ‘80s, but truly made his name in the ‘90s across Ozzy albums and his own career. Zakk rocked Les Pauls hard across the 1990s (and, of course, he still does). His short-lived project Pride And Glory (album released in ’94) remains a “win” of heavy riffs, flared jeans and Southern rock shredding.
Wylde got his own “Bullseye” signature Gibson Les Paul from 1999.
Young could again be a ‘70s Les Paul star, but we include him here for his roaring return to guitar form on the likes of Ragged Glory, Sleep With Angels and the monumental live album Weld. Young’s main guitar remained unchanged – his fabled “Old Black,” a refinished early ‘50s Gibson Les Paul Goldtop. Young acquired the guitar in 1969, and it has been customized a lot - the original bridge pickup was eventually replaced by mini-humbucker pickup from a Gibson Firebird. The neck pickup remains the original P-90 pickup, but it is covered by a metal P-90 cover, most likely from a Gibson ES-330. “Old Black” is fitted with a Tune-o-matic bridge and a Bigsby B-7 vibrato tailpiece.
Here’s Young plus Crazy Horse and “Old Black” in maximum Les Paul action in 1990 on the rifftastic “F!#*in Up.” Contains profanity. Also contains a helluva riff.
Yep, Slash was in Gibson’s Les Paul 1980s list. But he didn’t quit Les Pauls in the 1990s. His first Custom Shop Les Paul was from 1990: Snakepit, his brief band, gave birth to his first proper signature Gibson Les Paul Slash Snakepit in 1997. Only 100 were made. Slash himself has only one. “It's a gorgeous guitar. I only have one of those and they are very rare.” Indeed, these are now highly collectable.
Beatle-esque melodies and a roaring “brick wall” of Les Pauls made Oasis massive in the ‘90s. Debut Definitely Maybe was mostly recorded on Epiphone Les Pauls, as songwriter and lead guitarist Noel Gallagher couldn’t then afford a “proper” Gibson. In stepped friend and ex-Smith Johnny Marr, who gave Noel not one but two vintage Gibsons. The first, a ’60 Sunburst that Marr had bought off The Who’s Pete Townshend, was broken when Gallagher attacked a stage invader. The second, a black Custom, was Marr’s favorite from The Smiths’ The Queen Is Dead album. Below, Johnny Marr recounts the tale of “lending” Noel Gallagher near-priceless Gibson Les Pauls to record Oasis’s most famous songs. Noel now tends to rely on ES-355s.
Want more Gibson Les Paul stars?
10 Gibson Les Paul Stars of the 1970s
10 Gibson Les Paul Stars of the 1980s
And please add your own favorites.