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Posts Tagged ‘Boston’

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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1. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin: Originally hired as a bassist for the popular English band, “The Yardbirds”, Jimmy Page eventually came to share guitar duties with the legendary Jeff Beck. But as the group began to unravel, Page attempted to put together a new lineup, and tour as, “The New Yardbirds”. Allegedly, John Entwistle of “The Who” joked that this new band was going to go down like a lead balloon, so when the original band members forbade Page to use the Yardbirds name, “Led Zeppelin” was born. Despite the bumpy transition, Led Zeppelin’s debut album was an immediate success, and went on to become a rock classic.
2. Achtung Baby – U2: From the band’s debut album, “Boy” (released in 1980) until their classic 1987 release, “The Joshua Tree”, U2 had experienced a steady rise in both artistic and commercial success. It wasn’t until the release of their 1988 documentary, “Rattle and Hum”, that the band received its first notable criticism, with some describing it as, “bombastic” and “overly pretentious”. Disillusioned by the music industry in general, and bored with what had become their signature sound, the group’s 1991 album, “Achtung Baby” was a radical departure in almost every way.
3. Off the Wall – Michael Jackson: The Jackson Five’s departure from Motown records in 1975 seemed to mark the end of an era. Though the group continued to tour and release records, their popularity steadily dwindled. Because Michael was the main songwriter, and focal point of the band, there was no reason to believe that a new solo record would do much to change that trend. But the 1979 release of the album, “Off the Wall” set off a new era of stardom for the singer that eventually eclipsed everything that had come before it. An artistic leap forward, it laid the foundation for the phenomenal “Thriller” album, which was released just a few years later, and went on to become the biggest selling album of all time.
4. 1984 – Van Halen: The years that followed the band’s spectacular 1978 debut release, “Van Halen”, found the group steadily touring and recording. And though it would be difficult to argue their ongoing success, it was hard not to notice the progressively declining quality of their albums. Despite its commercial success, longtime fans couldn’t help but be dismayed by the remake filled album, “Diver Down” from 1982. Given those factors, there was no reason to expect the stunning return to form that “1984” represented. On many levels it was the band’s most successful album.
5. A Momentary Lapse of Reason – Pink Floyd: For long time fans, it didn’t seem possible to make a legitimate Pink Floyd record without founding member Roger Waters. But guitarist David Gilmour and company did just that with this 1987 release. Though not necessarily ranked with their best work, this album was highly successful, and proved to be a credible addition to the bands enduring legacy.
6. Fleetwood Mac (1975) – Fleetwood Mac: By the time that Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks arrived, “Fleetwood Mac” had already been a band for almost a decade, and had released nine albums. But the addition of these two distinctive artists radically changed the chemistry within the group, and propelled them to a whole new level of popularity. This album not only topped the chart, it sold over 5 million copies, and produced three big radio hits (i.e. Rhiannon, Over My Head, and Say You Love Me). More importantly, it set the stage for the group’s next album, “Rumours”, which went on to be one of the biggest selling albums of all time.
7. Infinity – Journey: Originally formed in 1973, the band was made up of veteran players from the San Francisco bay area; including Santana alum Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon. But after the groups first three albums failed to consistently connect with a sizeable audience, their record company recommended a change in direction, including the incorporation of another vocalist. This shift from a jazz/rock to pop/rock style, and the addition of Steve Perry’s striking vocals, proved to be a winning combination, as their 1978 release, “Infinity” went on to achieve platinum status, and set off a string of highly successful albums.
8. Back in Black – AC/DC: The death of lead singer, Bon Scott, seemed to signal the end for Australian rock outfit AC/DC. His charisma, and distinctive growl, were at the heart of the band’s sound, and looked to be irreplaceable. At that time, few could have anticipated the emergence of new singer Brian Johnson, and the release of what is arguably the bands most complete album.
9. Third Stage – Boston: Though not considered to be on a par with the band’s first two albums (i.e. 1976’s “Boston” and 1978’s “Don’t Look Back”), this album is notable for the eight year span that preceded it’s 1986 release. Multiple law suits, and techno-wiz/guitarist/producer Tom Scholz’s constant tinkering, led to the delay. Despite the gap, this album did manage to continue the bands string of multi-platinum success.
10. Heaven and Hell – Black Sabbath: Considering that Ozzy Osbourne was the face, the voice, and ultimately the stage persona of the band, it seemed unlikely that the group could be successful without him. But when his rampant drug & alcohol abuse caused the band to “fire” him in 1979, they decided to regroup with former Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Surprisingly, this new lineup reinvigorated the band’s music, and was well-received by die hard Sabbath fans. It’s interesting to note that it was the daughter of the band’s manager, Don Arden who recommended Dio as Ozzy’s replacement, and that years later she (Sharon Arden) became Mrs. Ozzy Osbourne.

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  1. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin:  From the opening notes of the first track (Good Times, Bad Times), Zeppelin’s debut album hailed the coming of one of rock-n-rolls greatest bands.  Mixing bruising rock with heavy blues, and sprinkling in a touch of folk, it was an instant hit that set off a string of now classic albums (e.g. Led Zeppelin II, III, IV, Houses of the Holy, and Physical Graffiti).  Cuts like “Dazed and Confused”, “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and “Communication Breakdown” stand amongst the best in Zeppelin’s catalog.
  2. The Cars – The Cars:  On the front of what was aptly called the, “New Wave”, the Cars debut record was a heady blend of synthesizers, crunchy guitars and quirky lyrics.  Though the band went on to score numerous radio hits, no album in their catalog ever approached the consistent quality of this one.
  3. Appetite for Destruction – Guns N’ Roses:  Looking back, it’s hard to remember that this record didn’t initially sell very well.  It wasn’t until the radio got a hold of “Sweet Child o Mine”, that sales began to take off.  Along with the popularity of tracks like “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City”, the album went on to sell almost 30 million copies worldwide.
  4. Crosby, Stills & Nash – Crosby, Stills and Nash:  Despite their notable success with other bands, David Crosby (The Byrds), Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield) and Graham Nash (The Hollies) never sounded better than when they joined their voices together in this super-group.  Their 1969 debut album stands as one of the greatest records of that turbulent era.
  5. Van Halen – Van Halen:  The Van Halen brothers arrived with a bang on their 1978 debut record.  Featuring tight rhythms, David Lee Roth’s distinctive howl, and Eddie’s virtuoso guitar work, it was a gritty counterpoint to the synth-pop sounds that ruled the airwaves.  For die-hard fans, this album still represents the pinnacle of their catalog.
  6. Whitney Houston – Whitney Houston:  Though originally released in 1985, it took almost a year for this landmark debut album to reach a worldwide audience.  But Whitney Houston’s dazzling voice and stunning beauty were impossible to ignore; as the record went on to produce three #1 singles.  It was a remarkable beginning for one of pop music’s most amazing voices.
  7. Boston – Boston:  Though their debut album seemed to explode onto the music scene in 1976, it was actually years in the making.  Techno wiz Tom Scholz essentially began the process of recording with the core of the band in the early 1970’s, repeatedly reworking the demos until he felt they were ready.  The finished product became one of the biggest selling debut albums of all time, and nearly forty years after its release, songs from this record can still be regularly heard on rock radio.
  8. The Pretenders – The Pretenders:  Though formed in England, the creative core of the group was primary songwriter, and singer, Chrissie Hynde; who was originally from Akron Ohio.  More gritty than the typical New Wave band, and more accessible than the average Punk band, their music was a compelling blend of influences.  Even decades removed from the context of the early 1980’s, this record still sounds fresh and relevant.
  9. Ten – Pearl Jam:  Just as band mates Stone Goassard and Jeff Ament’s previous group (Mother Love Bone) was set to release their debut album, lead singer Andrew Wood died of a drug overdose.  Just a year later, they regrouped with a new lead singer (Eddie Vedder), renamed the band (Pearl Jam), and released their ground-breaking debut album “Ten”.  Despite it’s rather dark themes, rock radio gravitated to cuts like, “Alive”, “Evenflow”, “Jeremy”, and “Black”; as the album went on to sell over 13 million copies.
  10. The Doors – The Doors:  1967 proved to be a pivotal year in Rock-n-Roll history, and the release of The Doors self-titled debut record proved to be a significant part of that.  Whether it was the irresistible keyboard hook of “Light My Fire”, the rocking “Break On Through”, or the haunting, “The End”, this record was an instant classic.

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This article is not intended to be a list of the “most distinctive voices of the rock era”, because with all due respect to folks like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Axel Rose, Janis Joplin, Bjork… distinctive is not necessarily synonymous with high quality.  This also isn’t a list of the best vocalists of the era, though a couple of these might qualify for that one as well.  Instead it is meant to highlight some truly unique vocalists who made a mark on the music of their era.

1.    Roy Orbison (solo, The Traveling Wilburys):  Few could boast the vocal range of this rock pioneer, whose natural baritone was perfectly capable of reaching into the high tenor range.  Though best known for his classic, “Oh, Pretty Woman”, hits like “Crying” and “Only the Lonely” were an even better showcase for this special vocal talent.

2.    Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin, solo):  Despite being known as a hard rock vocalist, Plant has shown himself to be equally adept at singing the blues (e.g. “Since I’ve Been Loving You”), folk (e.g. “That’s the Way”), pop standards (e.g. “Sea of Love” w/The Honeydrippers) and even bluegrass (e.g. the “Raising Sand” LP).  Regardless of the genre, he makes every song uniquely his own.

3.    David Gates (Bread, solo):  Though the radio friendly pop ballads of his band “Bread” aren’t necessarily esteemed in rock circles, few would argue the tender, expressive quality of David Gates vocal delivery.  Decades later, his body of work continues to find an audience through Oldies stations around the world.

4.    John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival, solo):  Though it’s tempting to group Fogerty’s raspy vocals with the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, his voice actually had a sturdier and more musically credible quality to it.  Undoubtedly, his unique delivery was a key element in creating some of the most memorable records of that era.

5.    Steve Perry (Journey, solo):  While the pop leanings of the rock band Journey were likely a turn off to some purists, they still managed to produce a string of highly listenable and memorable albums.  Though the band boasted a roster of notable musicians (e.g. former Santana members Neal Schon & Gregg Rolie), it was Steve Perry’s pristine vocals that ultimately distinguished them from the rest of the pop rock pack.

6.    Art Garfunkel (Simon & Garfunkel, solo):  Blessed with one of the purist voices in pop music and partnered with the amazingly talented Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel was a part of several now classic performances.  One listen to “Bridge Over Troubled Water” will tell you all that you need to know.

7.    Brad Delp (Boston):  Though (guitarist/keyboardist/producer) Tom Scholz’s often talked about studio wizardry was the basis for Boston’s unique brand on rock and roll, it was Brad Delp’s soaring vocal style that ultimately defined their sound.  After more than 30 years, there is still nothing that’s come close to duplicating this combination.

8.    Robin Gibb (The Bee Gees):  Though all of the Gibb brothers possessed unique vocal talent, Robin’s quivering falsetto could at times be described as otherworldly.  Early recordings like “I Started a Joke” or “Massachusetts” and later disco hits like “Staying Alive”, are prime examples of his one of a kind vocal delivery.

9.    Annie Lennox (The Eurhythmics, solo):  Though much of pop music from the 1980’s was set against a backdrop of synthesizers and outlandish fashion, it was the timeless quality of Annie Lennox’s vocals that elevated her work above the din.  Incredibly versatile, her voice was at times deep and sultry (“Who’s That Girl”), at other times haunting (“Here Comes the Rain Again”); sometimes playful (“Would I Lie to You”), sometimes soulful (“Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves”) and even at times, emotionally raw (“Why”).

10.  Michael McDonald (The Doobie Brothers, solo):  After breaking into the music business as a backup singer with the band Steely Dan, McDonald had the good fortune of being asked to join the already popular Doobie Brothers.  His arrival ushered in their most commercially successful years and set the stage for what has been a long and fruitful career as a solo artist.  His distinctive brand of blue eyed soul has continued to resonate with audiences into the new millennium.

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