Every time I listen to music I pick up something different. I go through phases where I notice one instrument more than the others. For some groups that I listen to it's the guitar, for others the bass, for some it's drums, and with other groups it depends on the song or album...
Lately I've been on a guitarist kick. Running errands after work the other night I was listening to Arie on Chicago VII. A jazzy instrumental piece. Chicago VII hasn't been one of my favorites in the past... but for some reason, lately Terry Kath's guitar playing has been leaving my jaw on the floor. The guitar solo in Arie is one of his better ones, and for some reason-- at least by me, it's been one of his more oft overlooked solos. It's very soulful and passionate and I was reminded once again why I fell in love with the music of Chicago.
Yesterday, while working, I was listening to Genesis Selling England By the Pound CD. I always pick up on Steve Hackett's solo in Firth of Fifth but this time I was picking up on his subtle accents in other songs and admiring his work even more than I already do/did. I was moved by how his subtle guitar work in More Fool Me matched the melancholy feel of Phil Collins' voice (one of the few Genesis songs he sang lead on when Peter Gabriel was still in the band).
I'm also, of course, a huge Dream Theater fan... While it was the insanely brilliant drumming of Mike Portnoy that initially caught my ear, and later on it was jaw-dropping classical piano chops of Jordan Rudess-- I've come to develop an ear for John Petrucci's guitaristry. And "guitaristry" is the best way to describe it. Normally when people think of prog-rock or prog-metal they think of technique at the expense of feeling. That isn't the case with Petrucci at all. From his softer more relaxed work on Liquid Tension Experiment's State of Grace or Hourglass to his hard driving solos on Fortune in Lies, As I Am and Home the man plays with passion and feeling in a musical genre not necessarily known for exemplifying either of those things.
Despite the extreme differences in the playing styles of all three, lately I honestly can't say I prefer any one of those styles over the other... It's all a matter of the mood I'm in. There's a time and place for each of them.