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Posts Tagged ‘Blind Faith’

OK, so I’m not losing sleep over who gets into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but the latest batch of nominee’s reminded me of how haphazard this process can be.  This year voters get to pick from a wide variety of artists, which includes overlooked bands like The Zombies and MC5, singer/songwriters like Todd Rundgren and John Prine, genre pioneers like Kraftwork, and Rage Against the Machine, 80’s phenoms like The Cure and Devo, dancefloor divas like Chaka Khan, and Janet Jackson, or popular favorites like LLCoolJ, Stevie Nicks and Def Leppard.  It’s not that I have a big issue with any of these artists, it’s that there are so many other deserving candidates who seem to have been forgotten.  USA Today ran an article in recent days naming what they considered to be artists that were “snubbed” (e.g. Blink-182, Bone Thugs N-Harmony, Jane’s Addiction?), and while they did name a few I hadn’t thought of (e.g. Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Snopp Dogg, Kate Bush),  they left off what I considered to be the more obvious choices.  The three groups that jump to my mind are the Doobie Brothers, Boston, and The Guess Who.  Each one of those bands produced at least a half dozen classic songs that are still being played on the radio 40+ years later.  Their credentials are far superior to many of the other artists who are already in the hall.

In many cases, members of popular bands are also enshrined for their individual careers (e.g. Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, John Lennon…).  Along those lines, I believe that a singer like Paul Rodgers should be admitted for his work in bands like Free, Bad Company, The Firm, and Queen.  Similarly, Sammy Hagar (Montrose, Van Halen, solo career), Ronnie James Dio (Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio) and Steve Winwood (Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith) should qualify for their stellar careers.  With bands like Journey and Cheap Trick already recognized, it’s hard to understand the exclusion of bands like Foreigner and Styx.  Similarly, if Deep Purple was worthy, so is Bad Company, and if Bon Jovi belongs, so do The Scorpions.  I don’t mind newer acts like Radiohead being nominated, but I don’t want to see some of these classic acts forgotten.  If you need further proof for the artists I mentioned, listen to the following:

  • The Doobie Brothers: Long Train Running, Black Water, China Grove, Jesus Is Just Alright, Taking it to the Streets, Listen to the Music
  • Boston:  More Than a Feeling, Foreplay/Long Time, Piece of Mind, Don’t Look Back, Rock and Roll Band, Feelin’ Satisfied
  • The Guess Who:  American Woman, These Eyes, Undun, No Time, Share the Land, No Sugar Tonight
  • Paul Rodgers:  Alright Now (Free), Bad Company (BC), Ready for Love (BC), Shooting Star (BC), Feel Like Making Love (BC), Satisfaction Guaranteed (The Firm)
  • Steve Winwood:  Gimme Some Lovin’ (Spencer Davis Group), Can’t Find My Way Home (Blind Faith), Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (Traffic), John Barlycorn Must Die (Traffic), Arc of the Diver
  • Sammy Hagar: Bad Motor Scooter (Montrose), Heavy Metal (solo), I Can’t Drive 55 (solo), Dreams (Van Halen), Right Now (Van Halen)
  • Ronnie James Dio:  Man on the Silver Mountain (Rainbow), Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath), The Mob Rules (Black Sabbath), Holy Diver (Dio)
  • Foreigner:  Cold As Ice, Long Long Way from Home, Feels Like the First Time, Hot Blooded, Urgent, Juke Box Hero, I Want to Know What Love Is
  • Styx:  Lady, Suite Madame Blue, Come Sail Away, Fooling Yourself, Blue Collar Man, Renegade
  • Bad Company:  Bad Company, Ready for Love, Seagull, Shooting Star, Feel Like Making Love, Rock and Roll Fantasy
  • The Scorpions:  Holiday, The Zoo, No One Like You, Rock You Like a Hurricane, Still Loving You, Winds of Change,
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  • Ambrosia:  People who’ve only heard their Top 40 hits have no idea what a brilliant and bizarre band this was.  Their first album was engineered by Alan Parsons (of Dark Side of the Moon fame), who went on to produce their second LP (Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled) as well.  After two records filled with symphonic pop opuses and medleys that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Broadway cast album, they turned to a sparkling jazz pop fusion for their most successful records Life Beyond LA and One-Eighty.  The originality, musicianship and vocals on these four albums rank them amongst my favorites of all time.
  • Steve Winwood:  This talented singer has been around for decades and I’ve enjoyed his work through every phase of his career.  Whether it was the blue eyed soul of the Spencer Davis Group (Gimme Some Lovin’), the eclectic improvisation of Traffic (Low Spark of High Heeled Boys), the rootsy blend of Blind Faith (Can’t Find My Way Home), or even the pop sheen of his solo work (Arc of the Diver), he’s proven himself to be one of rock music’s most enduring and talented vocalists.
  • Ricki Lee Jones:  Despite the popularity of her first hit, “Chuck E’s In Love”, it was really her appearance on Saturday Night Live, singing “Coolsville” that grabbed my attention.  I don’t know too many other 15 year old boys who were mesmerized by her blues/jazz/funk/folk/beat poet blend, but something about her startling honesty resonated in my soul.  All these years later, it still does.
  • Dire Straits:  Though Mark Knopfler and his band eventually became a hugely successful pop group, it was the rich textures and soundscapes of their non-radio songs (e.g. Water of Love, Follow Me Home, Romeo and Juliet, Telegraph Road, Brothers In Arms…) that really struck a chord with me.  Perhaps their least commercially viable album, Love Over Gold was, for me, the pinnacle of their catalog.
  • Crowded House:  Born from the ashes of the successful 80’s band, The Split Enz, Neil Finn and his mates (occasionally including brother Tim) produced four memorable albums (Crowded House, Temple of Low Men, Woodface, Together Alone) of smartly written, skillfully performed pop music.  Both witty and wistful, even twenty years removed, much of this music still sparkles.
  • Peter Gabriel:  After a sterling start with art rock pioneers Genesis, this multi-talented artist forged a highly successful career as a solo performer.  His music was always original (Games Without Frontiers), sometimes peculiar (Shock the Monkey), frequently poignant (Biko, Don’t Give Up, The Book of Love) and consistently compelling (Solsbury Hill, San Jacinto, In Your Eyes, Blood of Eden).
  • Til Tuesday:  Though the band’s singer had the look of a punk rocker, and their first big hit Voices Carry was an MTV sensation, it was ultimately the unpretentious distinctiveness of lead singer Aimee Mann that made them memorable.  After the stir caused by their debut release, their follow up albums Welcome Home and Everything’s Different Now were considered commercial failures.  Yet, artistically they were both a giant leap in texture and tone.  Upon the breakup of the band, Mann went on to have an admirable solo career.
  • Tears for Fears:  Though the band featured numerous talented musicians and collaborators, it was essentially the creative vehicle for singer/songwriter Roland Orzabal.  Their 1982 debut The Hurting chronicled his painful childhood and largely featured a moody synthesizer sound, not unlike The Cure.  Their second record, Songs from the Big Chair, featured a much less subdued tone and became a huge international pop hit.  Orzabal continued his evolution with the soulful, and at times beatlesque, release Sowing the Seeds of Love, and a fourth release Elemental, which was essentially a solo album.  Despite the changing styles, the music remained fresh and compelling.
  • The Innocence Mission:  This Pennsylvania based folk band featured husband and wife team Karen and Don Peris, who garnered a fair amount air time on Alternative radio stations in the early to mid-1990s.  Though their records did not achieve platinum success, the hauntingly beautiful songs featured on their first three releases (The Innocence Mission, Umbrella, Glow) make them a standout amongst their contemporaries.
  • Steely Dan:  To call the musical musings of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker unique would be a vast understatement.  Fagen’s distinctive vocal style, combined with wry lyrics, complex jazz influenced arrangements, virtuoso musicianship (e.g. Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Jeff Porcaro), and pristine production values resulted in a sound that could not be duplicated.  Though they seemed an unlikely pair for pop radio success, they managed to create a string of successful and memorable records that spanned the 1970s and 80s.

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1. Art Garfunkel (Simon & Garfunkel):  Undoubtedly Art Garfunkel possessed one of the most distinctive voices in popular music; but despite his moderate success as a solo artist, it was really his collaboration with Paul Simon that allowed his gifts to be fully realized. Simon’s amazing songwriting and his deft vocal interplay were the perfect vehicle for Garfunkel to shine. While Simon’s career continued to soar as a solo artist, Garfunkel never again scaled the heights he visited in this partnership.

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2. David Crosby (The Bryds, Crosby Stills Nash & Young):  Like Art Garfunkel, David Crosby possessed a truly unique and beautiful voice. Though he was also an able songwriter and musician, it was his collaborations with people like Roger McGuinn (The Byrds), Gene Clark (The Bryds), Graham Nash (The Hollies), Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield) and Neil Young that created a lasting impact.

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3. Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen):  Eddie Van Halen is not only a tremendous guitar player, but a multifaceted musician and the creative force behind the band “Van Halen”. Yet despite his ample talent, it is unlikely that he would have ever achieved the same level of success without finding someone to be the face and voice of his band. Needless to say, he found two of rock’s most memorable showmen in David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar.

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4. Freddie Mercury (Queen):  Almost the polar opposite of Eddie Van Halen, Freddie Mercury was a quintessential showman, in need of collaborators to create the proper setting to showcase his talent. He found that in Brian May and the other members of the band Queen. This highly underrated group of musicians provided an accessible context and added valuable substance to Mercury’s eccentric persona.

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5. Ric Ocasek (The Cars):  Undoubtedly the quirky pop genius of Ric Ocasek was the driving creative force behind the music of “The Cars”. And while it seems unlikely that they would have had been noticed without him, the band’s best work occurred when Elliot Easton’s edgy guitar and Benjamin Orr’s emotive vocals were allowed to balance out his off beat lyrics and synth-pop sensibilities.

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6. Dennis DeYoung (Styx):  Like Ric Ocasek of the Cars, Dennis DeYoung of the band “Styx” was the pop visionary behind their most successful music. His creative flourishes fueled the concept albums and stage productions that distinguished the band from its peers. But at its core, Styx worked best as a rock band and in those moments, Tommy Shaw and James Young were essential in balancing DeYoung’s more theatrical sensibilities. Neither DeYoung nor the remaining members of Styx (who perform without him), have been as compelling since they parted company.

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7. Elton John:  Without question, Elton John is a tremendously gifted musician, singer and performer in his own right; but it is through his 40+ year songwriting collaboration with Bernie Taupin that his most memorable work has been produced. It is difficult to know what his career would have been without Mr. Taupin’s contributions.

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8. Roger Waters (Pink Floyd):  Certainly Roger Water’s dark cynicism and disdain for standard musical conventions were at the heart of Pink Floyd’s most memorable recordings, but without the balancing contributions of his band mates (most especially David Gilmour), his solo work has been erratic and far less compelling. Considering his sizable contributions to the band’s collective identity, the remaining members have made some surprisingly worthwhile music without him.

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9. Eric Clapton:  Though Eric Clapton has enjoyed a long and successful career as a solo artist, his most notable moments have almost always come through his collaboration with other artists. His contributions to bands like “The Yardbirds”, “John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers”, “Cream”, “Blind Faith” and “Derek & the Domino’s” were legendary and even much of his most memorable solo work showcased other songwriters like J.J. Cale (After Midnight), Robert Johnson (Crossroads) and Bob Marley (I Shot the Sheriff).

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10. Lennon & McCartney (The Beatles):  While inferring that either one of these musical legends wasn’t talented enough to stand alone would amount to sacrilege in the minds of most people, I would submit that both benefited greatly from their collaboration. Though they each created some classic music on their own, neither consistently produced anything that rivaled their work together.

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