Since this is a guitar forum, I may as well make one of these.
NOTE: For me, guitar solos don't have to always be a thousand notes a second, really fast, and all of that sports related bullshit. To me, music comes first. If it fits in the song (as a lead into it or as a climax or even if the song is just this solo, it can work) and if it sounds good and is full of carried out emotion, then chances are I will appreciate that more. However, some fast guitar solos can achieve both (and I have two on here that follow that).
Anyways, these aren't in any order, but without further notice, here are my ten favorite guitar solos of all time (I think. I could have left something out but fuck it)
1. Television-Torn Curtain (Tom Verlaine, Richard Lloyd)
Starting out with a pummeling drum and a Tarantino-like riff (before Tarantino was even an employee at a movie house), Torn Curtain acts as this cinematic, pseudo-punk-prog masterpiece. There are two guitar solos; one in control, practiced and contained piece in the middle, and one solo that starts off the same way but ends up going out of control and spastic at the end of the song. Like a torn curtain, something stunning and appreciative gets ripped apart, exposing the true nature of the song outside of its element. Such a fantastic way to end such a guitar-driven album.
2. The Jimi Hendrix Experience-All Along the Watchtower (Jimi Hendrix)
I know. This is a very common song on most of these lists, but really, can you blame it for being on most of them? As soon as you hear the jangling chords at the beginning underneath the serpentine lick Hendrix lays down, you know you are going to go down an adventurous guitar path. As different as this cover is to Bob Dylan's original version, there is one thing Hendrix kept: The folk mentality. Most of his other solos are full of fuzz, distortion, and carnivorous attack. Not in this song. Hendrix tried a new kind of solo, trying to make the guitar tell its own story amongst Dylan's words. It never goes in for the kill until the very end, and the lead up to that throughout literally the entire song is what makes this song and solo special.
3. Brian Eno-Baby's on Fire (Robert Fripp) Brian Eno is best known for his influential production work, but his solo albums were no laughing matter either. His first album, containing this song full of sarcastic snarl, has such an attitude. Robert Fripp, best known for his gorgeous guitar tones and intricate playing, ends up following suit under Eno's command. He does so a number of times on Eno produced tracks (David Bowie's Heroes is another example), but not quite as viciously as he does on Baby's On Fire. In fact, with Fripp's most barbaric solo, I don't think he knew when to stop. Eno starts the song singing, Fripp doesh is part and just keeps going, leaving Eno with just under a minute to wrap up the song at the end. You can almost hear Eno's shocked face as he sneaks his way back into the song, and really, I think most of us had the same reaction after hearing this solo for the first time. Just when was Fripp so damn raunchy?
4. Between the Buried and Me-White Walls (Paul Waggoner, Dustie Waring)
After an album long song, you'd expect it to be stale. It is anything but. Apart from everything else Colors has to offer, the outro soloing, consisting of Waggoner facing the tenacity of the album alone and then with Warring to accompany him. The thing that sets this band apart from most modern metal bands, and most modern bands even, is just how many influences this band is not afraid to share with us. In the ending solo(s) alone, you hear a bit of Neil Young, a bit of Weather Report, some Dream Theater, and even King Diamond. Most of their other solos try to show off just one style of music that has influenced this band, but not at the end of White Walls, with an appropriate solo to end off an appropriately named album, showing a full spectrum of guitar oriented solo work.
5. Prince-Purple Rain (Prince)
Prince is anything but humble, as we all know. Is he as big of a rock star as he makes himself out to be? To me, yes. He's extremely prolific, musically gifted, and has a stage presence like no other. His guitar solos often mimic how he sees himself and are these quick, fast paced slurs down the fret board. One that stands out, however, is the solo that ends his song and album named Purple Rain. We all know it. Once Prince finally succumbs to the fact that he is maybe not invincible, he tries to let his guitar do the talking for him. The guitar feels the same pain he feels, and, just like Prince, it cannot play an unstoppable hero for long. This is the most vulnerable Prince may ever sound, and it's captivating to hear the human side of a man who thinks he is anything but.
6. Funkadelic-Maggot Brain (Eddie Hazel)
Ah yeah, another song that ends up on most of these lists. Before there was Steve Vai or other guitar virtuosos, Hazel braved the stage and opened up a Funkadelic album essentially alone. He did so for just over ten minutes. You'd think a solo that long would sound brave, but it starts off meek and unsure of its worth. As it gets more comfortable, it explodes into an unstoppable force. Once it realizes its power, it decides to sprinkle a little bit of it all around the audial spectrum, savoring it. There are just so many ideas and emotions conveyed here in this musical monologue, it's impossible to ignore, and the fact that this kind of song opened an album when it would usually end one means Funkadelic thought the exact same way.
7. Talking Heads-The Great Curve (Adrian Belew)
Amongst rhythmic patterns and world beat mixtures, when all seems to be going well in this full-speed-ahead whirl, Belew creates this musical version of a car crash. It soars, crashes and burns with such a droning quality, looming above the rest of the celebration. Not only does he do this in the middle, but he's enough of a cynic to come back to do it again at the end of the song. Only once this audial demon comes back, it decides, hey, why crash a good thing, and instead tries to fit in, mimicking the happy finicky tones of the song. It's abrasive but it fits so damn well.
8. Steve Vai-For the Love of God (Steve Vai)
Steve Vai is the closest thing to a magician a guitar player can be without being an actual magician. He's got the look and he's got the finesse, but most importantly he has the mystery. I am not a fan of this kind of music at all, but Vai does nothing but pull me in. This song feels like a modern day Maggot Brain, experiencing the ups and downs of life and the burdens and triumphs we face, and how each of those can be blurred into one single emotion. I know this is one of his most common songs, but really, can you see why? It is never fast for the sake of being fast, and it seems more like a well textured audial painting more than it does showing off. It's an illusion recorded onto disc and distributed to us, and we are fortunate enough to hear it captured in such a way.
9. The Rolling Stones-Shine a Light (Keith Richards)
Richards is sometimes called the laziest guitar player ever, and yes, sometimes his guitar lines do seem very laid back. On Shine a Light, near the end of a double disc blues-country-jam phenomena, Richards does just that. He finally takes center stage on that album with a solo that finally says "yeah, so what?". His other solos, while being good and still captivating, never quite have the same amount of confidence and power as the one Shine a Light has. It seems very short, but it says its piece. It wails and screams, but then subdues to a calm pant after its rage. It then works its way around the end of the song, still hiding to come out again. However, it ends up just staying amongst the shadows, leaving us to wonder what could have been. We will never know, and this open ended solo will forever leave us wondering.
10. Radiohead-The Tourist (Jonny Greenwood)
We all know Greenwood isn't the most orthodox guitar player in the world, but he doesn't have to be. Ending an album full of bizarre bloops and rings that constitute as new age guitar solos is the song The Tourist, where singer Thom Yorke begs for us to "slow down". Greenwood decides to participate, and at first shyly comes in with a miniature guitar solo that finally sounds like one we're used to. Then the song begins to end, and Greenwood returns with a slow, soothing guitar solo that slowly becomes more and more robotic sounding. The album name, sounding like a surrender to Greenwood's direction, definitely broke ground and was the first album showing Radiohead's new path in the musical world, but the first sign of Radiohead's love for the digital world was definitely through Greenwood's inability to return to tangible, organic composition, and this self discovery in The Tourist is probably his most beautiful moment yet.