Tuesday, May 6, 2014

My Top 3 Singers That Are Better Solo Than In A Band

I can't really take credit for this idea.  This was a question initially asked by a Facebook friend.  Blair Hook (of the internet).  It did get me to really think about this.  It set the wheels in motion  Mainly because the best that I could come up with was Attila / Billy Joel.  I needed retribution. What would be my Top 10?  This has taken a lot of thought but I was finally able to come up my Top 3.  All much better than my initial answer.

1. Heatmiser / Elliott Smith

It's amazing to think that the same man who wrote The beautiful 'Say Yes' was a collaborator in this loud, pop oriented, grunge band.  Heatmiser, based in Portland, OR, encompassed everything from the emerging Seattle grunge scene.  Everything but the 'Good' part.  The thing is, Elliott Smith knew it as well.

Elliott Smith went on to create some of the most beautifully tortured music of the era.  The same trait that also led to his eventual suicide.   He was nominated for an academy award for 'Miss Misery' on the soundtrack to 'Good Will Hinting.  In my opinion, signing to a major record deal altered his sound.  Either/Or was simplistically beautiful.  I think that the instrumentation and production took away from this.  Some say the music was depressing.  Elliott himself said on that topic that he had never been more happy than when he performed these songs. 

I miss him. He left us with such wonderful music.

2. Soundgarden / Chris Cornell

I am prepared to argue this.  And yes, I am a fan of Soundgarden.  I will base my decision on this fact alone.  Going solo forced Chris Cornell to show his versatility.  He has probably the quintessential rock voice.  Soundgarden showcased that.

We first saw this versatility with his Temple of the Dog collaboration.  This change started to culminate during in Soundgarden with songs like 'Black Hole Sun'.  But going solo brought a hole new melodic sound.

He brought melody to the members of Rage Against the Machine and took pure rock riff fury to the next level with Audioslave.  And yes, I even liked the Timbaland produced Scream.  It was better than most of the main stream music that populates today's radio.    These are sounds that could not have been nourished in a Soundgarden environment.  I love Soundgarden.  A major highlight of mine was seeing them perform 'Cop Killer' at Lollapalooza '92.  But I would take a solo show of a Soundgarden show any day.

3.  Whiskeytown / Ryan Adams

This was a difficult one to come to terms with.  Mainly because Stranger's Almanac is a top 5 album for me.  It is perfect.  Start to finish.  But if you look past that album I am 50/50.  Faithless Street is a looking glass into what will become.  Pneumonia was a transition into what will be.

Whiskeytown was essentially Ryan Adams.  He pulled the strings and he wrote the songs.  Even so, the culmination of sound made Whiskeytown special.  You could add Caitlin Cary to anything and it would be special.

Going solo gave Ryan Adams the control he craved.  He could explore and indulge.  Sometimes his quantity dilutes his quality but early on it was all good.  Even pissing him off would create a masterpiece like Rock N Roll.

Sometimes I wonder if going solo mentally was the best thing for him all of these years.  His last album was a return to greatness thanks to the help of Glyn Johns.  I am happy I got to see him live.  He did play Whiskeytown music at that show, and believe it or not...that wasn't the highlight.

What are your selections on this topic?  Let me hear them.  Comment or email.  Whichever you wish.  The conversation is still open.



  1. Oingo Boingo / Danny Elfman - Oingo Boingo is awesome and it's one of most beloved groups from my youth. But Elfman really came into his own as a composer.

    1. Craig - Danny Elfman is a GREAT choice. Not to take anything away anything from Oingo Boingo but Danny Elfman's accomplishments and body of work as a composer for eclipses anything else he has done.

  2. With ya on Elliott Smith + Chris Cornell.
    Awesome post, once again :)!


    1. Thank you Gita! You don't agree with Ryan Adams????? :)

  3. Box Tops / Alex Chilton
    Genesis / Peter Gabriel
    The Soft Boys / Robyn Hitchcock

    1. I agree with all three. You may want to record that.

      Peter Gabriel and Robyn Hitchcock were both brought up on the Facebook Page today.


Popular Posts