Classic Shred Guitar Albums

I love music, I’ve been fascinated by many different genre of music, different artists and different instruments. However, I do have a few particular favourite styles and eras. In this blog I want to take a look at (in no particular order) a few my favourite SHRED guitar albums from the 80s/early 90s. Before we get stuck in, there’s a lot of great Shred albums & artists in this era. For this blog however, I’m going to focus on 6 artists/albums that have shaped my playing personally. There are plenty more, but these are the albums I would spin on repeat (and still do!) Hopefully along the way we can pick up some inspiration from these great works of art aside from the monster licks (although, they are worth picking up on the way!)

1. Racer X – Second Heat (1987)

This fast, adrenaline pumped Speed Metal album featuring a very young Paul Gilbert and his prodigy student Bruce Bouillet on guitar. Jeff martin on vocals, Jeff martin on vocal, Scott Travis of Judas Priest on Drums and Jean Alderete (Mars Volta) on Bass.

This album features terrifying speed metal riffs, catchy song structures and riffs. And blistering fretwork. Not only did this album get released and listened to in the safety of your own home. They would play this in nightclubs around LA, their show featured bright coloured guitars, blow up dinosaurs and stacks of speakers! They would nail these solos and complex parts with ease. To the point many LA musicians from very notable acts (Slash was a fan of Racer X!) would be at their ram packed shows.

Reportedly Paul would wake up at 6am to go practice the at the local rehearsal rooms with Bruce for countless hours. This would be before band rehearsal where they would run the songs as a group. Practice + Passion pays off. Paul would go on to be one of the most inspirational and diverse rock guitar players and teachers of our current era.

Top Song Picks: Motor Man & Sunlit Nights

2. Jason Becker – Perpetual Burn (1988 Shrapnel Records)

Perpetual Burn was recorded shortly before Jason’s diagnosis with ALS in ’89. was only in his mid to late teenage years. The playing of course is astonishing. Yngwie had already put his flag up in neo-classical turf, however what Jason was doing here was extraordinary compositionally. Not only was Jason playing 3 octave arpeggio inversion sweep picking runs, following beautiful chord changes, with counterpart melodies in overdubs. But he would also have such vocal like expression in his melody playing, you could hear a voice, yearning through each note. Vibrant expression. He wasn’t afraid to push the boat out, but never at the expense of creating beautiful works of art. Jason would go on to appear on David Lee Roth’s 1991 album ‘A Little Ain’t Enough’ before complications with ALS sadly took his ability to play guitar.

Jason and his family continue to be inspiring to this day, Jason still writes music thanks to ground breaking technology in health care, MIDI programming and being surrounded by a group of talented, loving people. You can find out more about Jason, support his health and family by going to

Top Song Picks: Altitudes & Eleven Blue Egyptians

3. Marty Friedman – Dragons Kiss (1988 – Shrapnel Records)

Marty and Jason had been playing together in heavy metal super group ‘Cacophony’ for a few years before going and doing their own solo albums. In Jason’s documentary ‘Ain’t Dead Yet’, Marty recalls being quite intimidated by Jason’s ability on guitar. However, Marty focused on his own unique sound, using exotic scales, unique articulations/bends and really focusing on playing over the changes in a way that many metal guitarists hadn’t quite done before. Marty also has a great skill for writing bone crunching metal riffs and creating exciting musical arrangements. There are some real headbangers on this album, with fascinating oriental inspired melodies. Marty of course would go on to Join Megadeth, writing genera defining riffs and solos (Tornado of Souls, Hanger 18 etc) he is now incredibly successful with his solo out put and has become some what a household name in Japan. Awesome!

Top Song Picks: Dragon Mistress & Forbidden City

4. Andy Timmons – Ear X-tacy (1994)

Andy Timmons had already established a career playing in rock outfit ‘Danger Danger’ back in the late 80s. At the time, with all the super shred flying around at the time and grunge about to take a stand in America. Andy has something unique and powerful. Beautiful articulations, tone and melody. His solo work continues to inspire. There’s so much to learn from Andy in terms of song writing and tone. Even learning part of one of his phrases, listening to the nuances in his melodies is a masterclass. Andy is a dark horse however, when he wants to melt faces, he has some truly slippery phrases which awe inspire. They are also played at the right time, they are never put in for show, its always part of the arrangement, the dynamic of the songs movement.

Top Song Picks: Carpe Diem & Cry for You

5. Steve Vai – Passion and Warfare (1990)

It’s impossible to do this blog without mentioning Vai. At the time I was listening to the ‘Shrapnel Shredders’ Vai felt like a bit of an outsider to all that. He has a strong vision for what he wants to express in his music. No wonder Zappa saw so much potential in young Vai. After success playing in Alcatraz (replacing Yngwie last minute before a huge gig!) David Lee Roth and just after working with Whitesnake, Steve locked himself away to create this absolute masterpiece of an instrumental album. His playing, like many on this list, is totally unique and expressive. But he also had a concept, a message to humanity in this album that goes beyond the scope of dissecting in this blog! But I think it’s really important to remember here, music is an expression, it’s to say something that you feel. Not just to repeat what has come before. At the end of the day, what do you have to say on the instrument!? That’s quite an important thing to reflect on, it will effect your practice and your mindset. Check in with that daily!

Top Song Picks: Erotic Nightmares & The Animal

6. Greg Howe – Introspection (1993)

Fusion guitar has been around for a long time. Fusion is the mix of styles, but often focuses on Jazz roots. Greg Howe’s 1993 album Introspection features tones, melodies, and combinations of genera that have become the staple of Modern Fusion Guitar as we know it. Mixing incredible legato/tapping soundscapes with funky double stop riffs, ear catching wide interval riffs and melodies. Hybrid picking blues licks, funky chord progressions, fusion inspired arrangements, and riffs. The album is a melting pot of awesomeness. Greg isn’t afraid to mix up styles of playing, mixing written parts with heavily improvised parts. Not one instrumental guitar album sounded like this at the time, totally unique and totally setting the standard for todays fusion guitar landscape.

Top Song Picks: Jump Start & Direct Injection

6 of the best? The list continues so watch out for part 2 coming soon! Happy shredding!!

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