Six essential guitar solos from Ian Moss

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Six essential guitar solos from Ian Moss

Words by Will Brewster

Ask anyone in Australia who the greatest electric guitarist in the country is, and there's one name that's bound to pop up more than most - Ian Moss.

Since the ’70s, Mossy has been widely considered as a local hero among many of our country’s finest shred-heads, with his nimble fretwork never failing to impress after decades of playing on the live circuit. With a penchant for staunch, bluesy guitar tones, Mossy’s melodic playing and speedy scale runs have proved time and time again to be the perfect fit for Don Walker’s plinky piano and the gruff, soulful vocals of Jimmy Barnes, making for one of the greatest creative couplings in Australian music history.

Today, we’re looking back at Mossy’s legacy on the fretboard, checking out six of his greatest guitar solos from the peak of his influence in the ’70s and ’80s.

‘One Long Day’ – Cold Chisel (1978)

This jaunty number from Cold Chisel’s eponymous debut album is widely regarded among purists as being one of the band’s finest tracks, and honestly, it’s easy to understand why. ‘One Long Day’ marks the very first time Ian Moss appears as a lead vocalist on a Cold Chisel track, handling the first half of the song before delivering a smoking blues-inspired solo to segue into the song’s dramatic second half.

After a brief interlude from Barnsey, Moss gets the chance to shred yet again at the end of the song, thrashing out a searing virtuosic solo to close out the track and making for an incredibly memorable introduction to new audiences.

‘The Door’ – Breakfast At Sweethearts (1979)

As far as Cold Chisel tracks go, ’The Door’ certainly isn’t among the best-known of the bunch, and that’s a crying shame. The closer for Breakfast At Sweethearts traverses a number of key changes at a tempo that’s fast enough to give any punk band of the era a run for their money, and sees Cold Chisel at their absolute rawest – Barnsey’s vocals are off the chain, and the Don Walker-helmed piano in this song is beyond hectic.

Mossy’s performance, however, is cosmic: with Strat in hand, the guitarist churns out some of the most electrifying licks ever heard on a Chisel track. There’s also some delightful whammy bar action that proves Mossy is just as big a Hendrix fan as you’d pick him to be, and his scorching hot intro lead is worth a note of its own.

‘Standing On The Outside’ – East (1980)

If there’s any one album that solidified Cold Chisel as legends of Australian rock, it’d have to be East. With tracks like ‘Cheap Wine’, ‘Choirgirl’ and ‘My Baby’, it’s one of the band’s best known long-players internationally, and its success saw it become the biggest selling Australian album of 1980. While the band’s gambit for commercial success resulted in the album featuring less guitar heroics than the group’s prior efforts, there’s certainly no shortage of eye-popping Moss moments nonetheless, with one such example being heard on the opening track ‘Standing On The Outside’.

Mossy’s lead playing on this track reminds me of something you’d expect to hear from Queen’s Brian May, albeit all the more gritty and raw – there’s some mad unison bending going on in the bridge, and the pentatonic licks that slice through at the end are just irresistible.

‘Forever Now’ – Circus Animals (1982)

Every band is entitled to one over-indulgent, coked-up masterpiece in their career – for Cold Chisel, that one such album was Circus Animals. Released into the world in 1982 to commercial and critical acclaim, Circus Animals sees Chisel max out on overdubs and studio tricks to make for one of their most polished, clean sounding and overblown album to date, and nothing quite exemplifies that like ‘Forever Now’.

This song, which kicks off with a famous melodic lead lick from Mossy, boasts a rip-snorter of a chorus that’s almost tailor made for yelling out loudly in a packed country pub, but it’s also adorned with one of the most technically impressive solos Mossy ever put to tape. I’ve been trying to nail that run he does at the 3:57 mark for years with no avail, and I’m sure I’m not the only young budding Aussie who’s done the same. Sensational stuff.

‘Bow River’ – Circus Animals (1982)

A seminal Cold Chisel song by all accounts, and perhaps even one of the greatest Australian guitar tracks of all time, ‘Bow River’ encapsulates everything that’s great about Ian Moss and packs it into one tidy four minute track. Originally released as a B-side to ‘Forever Now’ before its popularity saw it receive significant airtime on Australian radio, ‘Bow River’ is a no-nonsense blues rock stomper that features Mossy on lead vocals and some iconic Barnsey lines peppered throughout, but it’s his guitar solo that takes the cake for this track.

For a hefty forty seconds in the spotlight, Mossy unleashes a blistering lead part that seems torn straight from the Jimmy Page playbook, fusing rapid slur licks with eye-watering unison bends for a mind-blowing display of virtuosity. We’d also strongly recommend any live version of this track to see just how hard Mossy can really go – the dude is a machine.

‘Mr. Rain’ – Matchbook (1989)

After Cold Chisel split up in the mid ‘80s to pursue other creative endeavours, it seemed for a while that Jimmy Barnes was the only member with enough star power to drive a solo career – that is, up until Ian Moss stepped up to the plate and delivered one of the greatest Australian solo records of all time. Packed with hits like ‘Telephone Booth’ and ‘Tucker’s Daughter’, Matchbook was a commercial smash hit and saw Mossy snagging no less than five ARIA awards in 1990, and as you’d expect, featured plenty of mind-blowing, fret-sweating moments to keep guitarists on their toes.

There’s many a highlight on this record, but nothing goes quite as hard as ‘Mr. Rain’, a deceptively funky number that sees Moss turn in an emotive, bluesy solo that’s dripping with nuance and technicality. If there’s anything to take away from this track, it’s that even while Mossy might be full of all kinds of surprises, you can always count on him to deliver a face-scrunching guitar solo that’ll leave you impressed time and time again.

Revist our interview with Ian Moss from last year, and while you’re at it, catch up on our picks for the greatest live guitar solos from John Frusciante.