Why John Frusciante’s Solo Albums Made Red Hot Chili Peppers Guitarist A Legend

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During his two tenures as a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, John Frusciante rose the ranks to be revered as not only one of the greatest guitarists of a generation, but as one of the greatest rock guitarists period. Combining Hendrix-influenced chops with a Beatles-esque sense of melody, Frusciante lead the Chili Peppers’ ascent to a whole new level of critical and commercial success.

Frusciante, singer Anthony Kiedis, bassist Flea, and drummer Chad Smith, making up what is widely known as the “classic” lineup, released five studio albums between 1988 and 2006. Having performed on classic albums such as 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik and 1999’s mega success Californication, it would be understandable to assume that all of Frusciante’s energy and creativity had been poured into making the Funky Monks the kings of alternative rock. Think again.

For all the accolades he has received as a guitar player and member of the Chili Peppers, Frusciante is also a prolific, accomplished solo artist, having released an impressive 14 solo albums. Even more impressive, no two albums sound the same. Listening through his solo discography is the equivalent of a game of sonic Russian Roulette; you never know which emotion may be exorcised out of you. His solo music effortlessly sways from moody to dreamy to somber to aggressive. While not reaching the commercial heights of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, these albums are equally important in defining the man. They offer insight into the mind of a true artist and prove there is more than meets the ear. In honor of the musical–mad genius that is John Frusciante, Alternative Nation has decided to take a look at three of his greatest solo accomplishments, must-haves for fans of the Chili Peppers and alternative rock alike.

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To Record Only Water for Ten Days (2001)

Following the massive success of 1999’s Californication, Frusciante was in a good place: spiritually, physically and creatively. Freed from the depths of his mid-90’s dependency issues and reunited with his band, this album proved to be a turning point in his solo career. Unlike his first two solo albums, which sound like unproduced home recordings on a four track recorder, To Record Only Water for Ten Days showcased Frusciante’s multi-instrumentalist ability. Incorporating keyboards, synths and drum machines along with his signature guitar work, the marriage of sounds leaves the listener in a dream-like state. Hypnotizing melodies and synth-pop rhythms encompass most of the landscape on this album but in the most enjoyable way possible. While more recent Frusciante albums have distanced him from the funk infused sound of the Chili Peppers, this was the first time he went way outside of the box; and on this album, it worked perfectly.

Key Track: Going Inside

untitled (14)Inside of Emptiness (2004)

For this 2004 album, Frusciante went full-blown Alternative Rock. Loud guitars, drums and vocals scream out of the speakers, demanding attention. You can make the argument that his voice can come off as abrasive at times, but on this batch of songs, it could not be a better compliment to the music. On an album that sounds way more Nirvana than Red Hot Chili Peppers, Frusciante succeeds at showcasing a simpler is better approach throughout. Sounding like less of a virtuoso and more like a garage band musician, the album has all the accompaniments of early 90’s album from Seattle. Featuring future Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist and frequent Frusciante collaborator Josh Klinghoffer on drums, Frusciante’s material never sounded this free before; and really hasn’t since. He just goes for it with a raw aggression that as a fan, leaves you wanting more. But that’s not Frusciante; the man simply cannot repeat himself.

Key Track: “Look On”

untitled (16)Curtains (2005)

Curtains is simultaneously John Frusciante’s most beautiful and somber album. Sounding more like Cat Stevens than Jimi Hendrix, this largely acoustic album shows a side of Frusciante briefly hinted at previously, though never fully brought to fruition. Think Red Hot Chili Peppers tracks such as “I Could Have Lied,” Raod Trippin’” and “Dosed.” These tracks kind of explain the vibe of this singer-songwriter-esque collection of songs. While the guitar work on display is brilliant, it’s the lyrics that steal the show here. The way the melodies flow and the somberness in the lyrics fit in perfect harmony with the melancholy music underneath. Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez joins in with Frusciante on the tracks “Lever Pulled” and “Anne” to inject some hard rock edge and some swift guitar work as well. The real catch here, however, is the ability of this master craftsman to show how his chameleon like ways can consistently prove interesting, intriguing and immediate. Where other artists may stumble or miss the mark on an acoustic based folk album, Fruscainte makes it seem like this is his natural musical habitat.

Key Track: “The Real”