For shredheads, or those predisposed to bouts of gratuitous guitar-related madness, the buck stops at Vinnie Vincent.
And why shouldn’t it? Sure, the man’s solos can be thought of as excessive. But then again – he was a product of the times… or his own madness. Regardless, it doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of his work. That is to say – you don’t need to dig his licks to take in the splendor.
Still, though Vincent remains misunderstood, it’s not hard to see why, given that he’s all but disappeared from the public eye over the past 35 years, only coming up for air for few-and-far-between fan events and personal meet-and-greets.
Making matters worse, Vincent’s time in Kiss, while fruitful, has dogged him since he exited the band in 1984. In the years since, Kiss holdovers Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley have not exactly sung Vincent’s praises, despite his seemingly essential contributions to their now sturdy, but once-faltering, legacy.
While it’s up for general debate if Vincent ‘saved Kiss’, the man could shred in ways few could. What’s more, with a Jackson V in hand, Vincent ventured to places most of his contemporaries wouldn’t dare. Sadly, though, the guitarist’s intrepid nature had a price, and in the years since, he’s paid it.
Word on the street, however, is that Vincent has picked himself up off the deck and is fixing to rebuild his long-tortured persona. He’s not rebranding, mind you – bouts of lunacy via six-string can be still heard on his onstage appearance at 2022’s Creatures Fest and, reportedly, the ‘reminiscent of his debut’ form of his long-in-the-works incoming record, Judgement Day.
Though Vincent seems to be using a Carvin V these days, the image of the enigmatic rocker preening and prancing across stages worldwide with a technicolor Jackson V in hand will forever be burned in our brains. Love him or hate him, few names in the hard-rock guitar canon carry the retrospective weight and wonder of Vinnie Vincent. What’s more, few crafted as many memorable solos in such a short period of time.
To that end, Guitar World has returned to the ’80s to recollect 10 of Vincent’s wildest, and most explosive, solos.
10. Kiss – Killer (1982)
Vincent showed his worthiness as an incoming lord of shred – albeit in a slightly restrained fashion – throughout Kiss’s 1982 LP, Creatures of the Night.
Though many of the solos from that slow-burning LP are memorable, none possess as much of Vincent’s trademark grandeur and flash as the lead break that highlights the album’s penultimate track, Killer. Featuring Vincent’s guttural tone, fast fretwork, and a few monster swells for good measure, Vincent’s Killer solo was a harbinger of what was to come.
9. Kiss – Young and Wasted (1983)
As a newcomer during the Creatures of the Night sessions, Vincent perhaps held back, if only a little. But once the sessions for 1983’s Lick it Up were underway, it was clear that Vincent felt nice and cozy within Kiss’s ranks. Or, perhaps, his confidence overrode his bandmates’ chagrin.
Regardless, there is simply no denying that Lick it Up – which found the hard-rock titans publicly without makeup for the first time – has Vincent’s imprint all over it. The second to last track from the LP’s first side, Young and Wasted, features a particularly tasty bit of early hair metal lead guitar goodness from him.
8. Vinnie Vincent Invasion – Back on the Streets (1986)
Lord Vinnie might have gotten his start with a down-on-their-luck Kiss, but it wasn’t long before he broke ranks, taking his talents on the road to self-exploration. The first of his admittedly short catalog of solo exploits was his 1986 affair, Vinnie Vincent Invasion. And if you thought Vincent’s licks with Kiss were wild, oh boy, you’re in for a treat – or a shock.
Vincent’s first foray into solo shreddery was a success, to be sure. What’s most memorable, though, is the over-the-top nature of the album. There’s no better example of this grandiosity than the steeped-in-the-’80s cut Back on the Streets, which harbors one of Vincent’s most hair-brained yet breathtaking displays of six-string madness.
7. Vinnie Vincent Invasion – Breakout (1988)
One of the best parts of Vinnie Vincent’s guitar style was its unique quality. Sure, you could say that Vincent was ‘just another shredder’. To be fair, you wouldn’t be wrong, per se. Then again, though, there’s no denying that to this day – when you hear the man play – for better or worse, you sure as hell know it’s him.
That said, when you take a step back to casually observe the devil-may-care soundscapes that Vincent created on songs like Breakout – from the 1988 Vinnie Vincent Invasion album All Systems Go – perhaps you should take in the splendor with renewed focus and a slightly different mindset. Or you can take it at face value: a sublime yet utterly ballistic product of its time.
6. Kiss – A Million to One (1983)
The word ‘tasteful’ is rarely used when we reflect on Vinnie Vincent and his playing. Nevertheless, here we are, calling the Ankh Warrior’s solo from A Million to One – from Kiss’s 1983 Lick it Up album – just that.
Don’t get us wrong, there are plenty of Vincent’s signature touches here – weighty riffs and a solo that spits its fair share of noxious venom. Still, though, there’s what one might call a gentler (yet still erratic) approach here than can be found on any of Vincent’s other Kiss solos.
5. Vinnie Vincent Invasion – Boyz Are Gonna Rock (1986)
Fans of Vincent’s ’80s exploits will recall the utterly ridiculous yet endearingly fun music video for 1986’s Boyz Are Gonna Rock. The song’s most ear-catching element, however, is the shred-tastic solo Vincent unfurrows smack dab in the middle of the festivities.
Few conjured demons from hell with a frost-white Jackson V in hand as Vincent did, and make no mistake, he’s in fine form here. The display of outright bombast, coupled with second-to-none precision, make the Boyz Are Gonna Rock solo one of Vincent’s most memorable.
4. Vinnie Vincent Invasion – Animal (1986)
In general, Vincent showed blatant disregard for restraint, subtlety, or any form of respect for the wellbeing of his listener’s hearing. Instead, Vincent dimed his Marshalls within an inch of their capacity, pushing gobs of air forth as he provided sweeping swells of turbulence through his six-string theatrics.
Sounds pretty cool, right? Well, it was… as evidenced by the sinful bit of brutality that serves as Vincent’s solo on the 1986 Vinnie Vincent Invasion track, Animal. Listener beware: this one is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for those who treasure quiet moments spent in careful reflection.
3. Vinnie Vincent Invasion – Ashes to Ashes (1988)
Yet another example of Vincent’s pursuit of greatness through the use of a neon pink V, 1988’s Ashes to Ashes is easily one of Vincent’s most high-flying solos. Though Vincent’s musings often led to seemingly aimless meanderings, if you’re able to set aside a wee bit of on-brand ’80s narcissism, there are still bits of melody and musicality to be harvested… if you’re willing to throw your hardhat on and go mining for it, that is.
Musical turgidity aside, Vincent’s Ashes to Ashes solo is a true snapshot of ’80s virtuosity. All Systems Go, indeed.
2. Kiss – Fits Like a Glove (1983)
When one looks back on Kiss, the word ‘demonic’ is usually associated with the band’s mouthy bassist, Gene Simmons, rather than in association with their guitar-related exploits. However, Vincent’s tone on what has become known as one of Kiss’s finest ’80s cuts, Fits Like a Glove, can really only be described as ‘demonic’.
Vincent’s rage-filled riffage is all killer, no filler, and the solo he lays down is inspiring, with spiffy technique. It’s a prime example of what the guitarist was capable of when he took his gift for songwriting and applied it directly to his soloing. Without a doubt, Fits Like a Glove features the best solo Vincent recorded while with Kiss. But it’s not his best solo in general…
1. Vinnie Vincent Invasion – Heavy Pettin’ (1988)
We can think about what might have been had Vincent chosen the safe route. We can also hypothesize the reasons as to why he didn’t. But ultimately, would you want hear Vinnie Vincent’s playing take on any other form than general hysteria? We think not.
With that in mind, we point you to the blinding solo Vincent lays down on Heavy Pettin’. Plucked from the 1988 Vinnie Vincent Invasion record, All Systems Go, it’s off the rails, in the best way possible.
Vincent wields his Jackson V like a weapon of unholy destruction, bludgeoning listeners over their heads with far-out distends of feedback-laden noise. There’s no denying that Vincent’s style had ballooned to wild heights by this point, with nowhere to go but down. Perhaps that’s why the snakebitten anti-hero has hardly been heard from in the 35 years since.
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