Alex Lifeson’s Greatest Studio Solo on Wesley’s “Once a Warrior”

Written by Brant David

John Wesley’s “Once a Warrior” features special guest Alex Lifeson on the guitar solo. This one will blow your mind. — On April 1st, 2014, John Wesley’s Disconnect album was released in North America. Wesley is a guitar player, vocalist, and songwriter best known for being the live guitarist, co-vocalist, and studio guitar engineer for the progressive metal band Porcupine Tree.

What’s so special about Wesley’s latest solo record, other than his own great playing and songwriting, is the special guest appearance of legendary Rush guitar player Alex Lifeson, who plays a guitar solo of the song “Once a Warrior.”

Wesley tells us:

Seven years ago I was fortunate enough to meet and spend some time with one of my early guitar heroes, Alex Lifeson of Rush. He’s been a huge influence on my guitar playing throughout the years, and he’s also one of the kindest human beings you’ll ever meet. Now, seven years later, he’s performed a mind-blowing guitar solo on my song, ‘Once a Warrior.’ “

John Wesley Disconnect

John Wesley. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

To the ears of this guitar player and Rush worshiper, Lifeson plays much more than a “mind-blowing guitar solo.” At age 60, lifeson has recorded what I consider to be the greatest studio solo of his long and illustrious career. In this exceptionally-good song, which you can hear for free at Rdio, Lifeson’s solo begins at the 3:57 count and ends at approximately 5:40, making it one of the longest studio solos he has recorded since the mid-80s. It is chock full of every element that has ever made a great Lifeson solo: lots of jazz-horn-inspired bent notes, pinched harmonics, ineffably tasteful whammy bar, slurs, some pick-hand-heavy shredding, and phrasing so perfect that you would swear he spent a whole year composing it in advance.

Although he is widely recognized as an unsurpassable riff-meister, Lifeson is equally underrated as a lead guitar virtuoso — even by Rush fans. But guitar players everywhere know that Lifeson is simply one of the absolute-best soloists in rock music history, equal to any other great — from Blackmore to Beck to Satriani to Vai.

Alex Lifeson

Alex Lifeson, Rush guitarist. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

What makes Lifeson at once such a virtuoso and yet so underestimated by non-guitar players is the fact that he is always playing for the sake of the song and never tries to show off — not even a little bit. This has led him to eschew playing solos at all in some Rush songs. Lifeson’s oldest and dearest friend and bandmate, bassist Geddy Lee, has said that Lifeson is one of those almost-unheard-of rock guitar players who actually listens to what the bass player is doing when he solos.

To this writer, some of Lifeson’s other greatest solos are found in the Rush songs “Limelight,” “Turn the Page,” “Grand Designs,” “Free Will” and the instrumental “La Villa Strangiato.” Lifeson also performs two of this greatest solos on the live versions of “Halo Effect” from the Clockwork Angels tour and “Working Man.”

At the time of this writing, Rush has plans to go on tour (without a new studio album) in the Spring of 2015. Lifeson says of the plans:

We haven’t really talked seriously about what we want to do. But I think we’re probably going to lean towards making it a real sort of fan event, and really try to put something together that’s very pleasing for the fans across the board. That’s always been difficult, for us to sort of balance things.”

Make sure to catch Wesley’s new album Disconnect — specifically track #3. Lifeson has done it yet again, and from one Rush fan to a host of others (I know you’re out there), let’s celebrate!

For, I’m Brant David.

Based in New Jersey, Brant David is a senior writer for Follow him at +Brant David on Google+ and