Unstrung Heroes is author/musician Pete Braidis’ love letter to guitar players and guitar playing. In doing so, he interviews 50 guitar greats whose work is familiar regardless if their names are not. Case in point: Vic Flick. Who? Well, that’s his iconic riff in the James Bond Theme first heard in Dr. No. Braidis possesses enough knowledge of these players and their works to, well, fill a book.
Calling Unstrung Heroes a dense read is akin to calling Andy LaRocque (King Diamond’s guitarist, and interviewed within) metal. Braidis, however, wants to give these players a well-deserved spotlight and does so by saying hell to any editing, which is truly this book’s only downfall. Featured within are such greats as Davey Johnstone, David Rhodes, Eric Bazilian, and Martin Barre, from Elton John, Peter Gabriel, the Hooters, and Jethro Tull respectively. Certain interviews were the result of email exchanges and play out with all the enthusiasm of a message board. Those in which a true conversation occurs makes for a more lively read allowing Braidis to mix in natural humor as he professionally plucks at those strings of those being interviewed in order to achieve a desired tune.
Paul Hammond, of the Zeppelin-tribute band Get The Led Out, and Steve Rothery, of the Scottish Prog vets Marillion, stand out as highlights of such conversation providing breadth, scope, and passion in their craft. Ironically, one of the book’s most recognizable names, Steve Hackett, of Genesis fame, comes across subdued. Fortunately, there are plenty of others’ who have an abundance of energy; looking at you, George Thorogood.
Unstrung Heroes makes for a great coffee table book and one that is accessible enough to pick up and jump through several interviews at a time. Mind, this is also a book about musicians for musicians, where guitar types, chord progressions, and timing signatures are all discussed, occasionally in great lengths. But there are also just as many cat jokes for the lay person to, well, lay their claws into when they want to shred.