Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Voice

Doug:  Today we're talking favorite singers -- from screeching rockers to crooners from the golden age of radio.  Throw out some great voices, performers who always bring a smile to your face or whose work you regularly play to pass the time.

Doug:  David_b and I have long voiced an affinity for the vocals of Karen Carpenter, who unfortunately left us all too soon.  I really like her mellow so-'70's sound, but at the same time I appreciate the fact that Robert Plant's voice was as much a part of Led Zeppelin's sound as was the instrumental talent of any of his three mates.  Elton John is a performer who managed to stay relevant a decade past his prime by embracing the fact that he could no longer hit the notes that were a famous part of his sound in the 1970's; while still clearly Elton, his vocals on That's What Friends Are For were powerful.

Doug:  And as long as we're talking, how about blended vocals?  I'm thinking of the Beach Boys, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.  Do you like harmonies?

Doug:  As a thought toward physical exercise, is it possible to listen to Sinatra sing "The Way You Look Tonight" or "I've Got the World on a String" and not snap your fingers?

Doug:  This ought to be enough to get us rolling today.  Don't be afraid -- it's all fair game.

Doug:  Jeez, and what about Freddie Mercury?!?


Anonymous said...

You've named some great vocalists here... I might mention Ann Wilson, or Sam Cook.

Edo Bosnar said...

First off, I have to say Freddie Mercury = pure vocal awesomeness (and he also left all too soon).

Your point about Robert Plant made me immediately think of Jon Anderson, the long-time lead vocalist for Yes. His voice is as integral to their sound as Chris Squire's innovative bass playing and Steve Howe's unique guitar work.

And running with your suggestion about blended vocals, I love those B-52s songs in which Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson sing harmonies. Heck, I like their voices in general. And Fred Schneider's not that bad, either. Perfect voice for their off-the-wall music.

ZIRGAR said...

Freddie Mercury will always be my favorite frontman/singer, but let's not forget the quavering warblings of Bryan Ferry. He was as integral to Roxy Music's sound as any vocalist was to any other band's sound. RM is a band that just never got its proper due here in the States, which is a shame as it is a truly great band.

Redartz said...

So early, and already so many favorites already mentioned!
Edo- good call on the B-52's. the ladies' harmonies were a perfect counterpoint to Fred's wonderfully unique vocals.

Also must echo the love for Sam Cooke. Add Lou Rawls, and Bill Withers to my list of favorites. And from the current scene, I must give Adele high marks for her potent, emotional singing. And somehow she seems to get by without auto tune!

J.A. Morris said...

I've always loved Eddie Kendricks' vocal on 'I'm Gonna Make You Love Me' (a duet by the Temptations & Supremes). He hits some amazing high notes, probably his best vocal, I still get chills when I hear it.

Of the one's Doug mentioned, I'd say Mercury is my favorite.
It may be a sacrilege, but Led Zeppelin has always been hit & miss with me. But Plant's vocals on 'Over The Hills & Far Away' are amazing.

Geddy Lee was easily one of the most distinctive voices you'd hear on Album Rock Radio.
Since "anonymous" mentioned Ann Wilson, I have to say I've always appreciated the way she turned the word "yeah" into a 5 or 6 syllable word on 'Magic Man'.

Debbie Harry & Ric Ocasek are two 70s vocalists who still sound great 30+years later.

Doug said...

We've got this thing rolling -- great job so far!

J.A. -- I think I've favored many of the Cars songs sung by Ben Orr over those sung by Ocasek, notably "It's All I Can Do".

Also a shout out from me to Ann Wilson. One of the '70's truly distinctive female voices.

Al Wilson's biggest hit, "Show and Tell", is great!


Anonymous said...

Wow! So many great ones already and so many others out there. I'll throw in Roger Daltrey. Pete Townshend may have been the mastermind of the Who, but I can't imagine anyone else singing songs like Baba O Riley, Love Reign Oer Me or belting out the "Yeah!!!!" at the end of Won't Get Fooled Again.


Anonymous said...

Oh and love me some harmonies - Beach Boys, CSN, Beatles...


Anonymous said...

Reading about all the great singers talked about here has made me remember some great songs I forgot about. It's nice to read that somebody remembers Ben Orr and the Cars. My favorite singer was always Roger Daltry but I gotta admit I always liked Sinatra and I really liked Abba. Those soaring harmonies just do something to me..

Bruce said...

Robert Plant is way up there for me. Also, Steve Perry from Journey. And I agree with Redartz about Adele - she's amazing!

david_b said...

Too many to think of now.. As for 'Voices' I think of, Toni Tenille had a great voice (did a lot of backup for the Beach Boys, early '70s..), her 'Do That To Me One More Time' is very delicious as a sexy voice. I just wish she had more good tunes on the AM band.

Um.., others that I love are BJ Thomas, Glen Campbell, Don McLean (American Pie, y'all..).

Actually cool thing with American Pie, his song 'Babylon' is cool because I've heard that the human brain can typically distinquish up to three distinct vocals at the same time.. 'ol Don dubbed/layered his voice FIVE SEPARATE TIMES by the end, echoing himself repeatedly. The song itself was based on the canon 'By the Waters of Babylon' by Philip Hayes. I can't find the amazing album track but here it is live...:

Diane Krall is pretty awesome. Thinking of 'We Are the World' (perhaps another fun '80s column.....), Paul Simon's voice is SOOOOO calming.., like a tender caring hand over your hand. Honorary mention for Belinda Carlisle and those great Go-Go's vocals. Adele has some great songs of late, but I'm kinda getting overexposed to her (wife is playing her a lot..).

And you know those songs you hear that only ONE person really 'owns it', I don't care WHO does 'Bridge Over Troubled Waters', Art Garfunkel definitely owns it. Period.

As for Doug's mention of Karen.. It was 1973, my Dad just picked me up and we went to a comic shop where I instantly found Avengers 120 with Zodiac.. I remember riding in his big car with leather seats listening to Karen's 'Top of the World'.. It's a snapshot of time I'll never forget..

"All my love to long ago..."

Matt Celis said...

Dennis Wilson's raggedy style was very distinct and served his music wonderfully. Check the live performance of "Angel Come Home" on youtube, this is the Beach Boys you seldom hear. His solo album is great all the way thru.

Paul McCartney had incredible range and versatility. if you didn't know it was the same singer, would you think Yesterday, Helter Skelter, Long Tall Sally, Let It Be, Jet, and Get Back were all the same guy?

I'm surprised how few black singers have been mentioned given their amazing contributions to American music: Marvin Gaye? Aretha Franklin? Smokey? Etc.! Too many to even start a list!

And of course there's Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin...

And how about Bing Crosby?

i'll come back with female singers...gotta tend to crying baby.

david_b said...

Ah, harmonies live.., anyone..?

"Nowhere Man", Munich 1966..

Matt Celis said...

Otis Redding could take pretty much ANY song and make it your favorite unil he sang the next one. Al Green never fails to make me feel good, and affer hearing an NPR interview with him I feel like he is one of the nicest, sweetest guys on the planet and incredibly humble especially given his fantastic talent.

Neil Finn always sounds like he means every word. Debbie Harry's looks were only outclassed by her voice and phrasing. Dionne Warwick sure knew her way around a song. Mamas & Papas recorded a lot of duds on their LPs, but their singles were all excellent and their singing was amazing.

John Lennon always sounded fully committed and is
another unmistakable voice. I hear him so often sometimes it seems like he's still around. Very strange to suddenly realize he was murdered over 30 years ago yet I hear him daily.

Four Tops & Temptations were all great singers, can't look up their individual names to praise them right now.

Pete Ham from Badfinger was a great writer and rock singer. A tragedy.

Michael Jackson, anyone? I can't say I always liked his affectations and choice of material, especially post-80s, but is there any doubt about his singing and phrasing abilities?

I always liked Carole King's smooth & mellow nasal tones. Always thought she and Paul Simon should have done an LP together in the early 70s.

Anybody familiar with Baby Huey? He could sing his a** off, shame he didn't record much while he was with us.

Youssou N'Dour...Edith Piaf...Francoise Hardy...Keely Smith...

Phil Collins on "In the Air Tonight"...

Lionel Richie is blessed with a beautiful voice. Can't say I like all his songs, but he sure can sing.

Shirley Bassey! Nothing against Adele but James Bond themes belong to Shirley.

vancouver mark said...

For me, THE voice is David Bowie.

Tony said...

Foreigner's Lou Gramm was always one of favorites, as well as Ben Orr from the Cars. Bill Withers is a great singer. And I really think Stevie Ray Vaughn was underated as well as BB King.And i have to fully agree about Roger Daltry and Geddy Lee. Awesome. Can't forget Luther Vandross either.For females, Pat Benatar, Cher, Amanda Marshall and of course the Wilson sisters (Heart). I've always wondered why Nancy doesn't sing more. Jennifer Holliday is one of the best.

Anonymous said...

david_b, on my way to work I listen to an FM oldies station that was on AM in the 60s and 70s. The DJ always recognizes bithdays of old stars. Today is Toni Tenille's birthday and he played "Do That To Me One More Time".


Karen said...

Great to sign in and see so many comments already! I've got a ton of work waiting for me, so I will just quickly throw out some favorites:

Robert Plant -rock god, capable of highs and lows and everything in between.

John Lennon -I heard him singing "Twist and Shout" the other day and thought to myself that might be the best damn rock and roll singing performance ever. Rough and raucous and totally perfect in every way.

Debbie Harry - punk goddess

Etta James -down and dirty!

Johnny Cash - the man in black-authentic American music

Linda Ronstadt - I think she gets overlooked nowadays but she has a gorgeous voice.

Lou Rawls - is there anyone smoother?

Paul McCartney -as Matt said, incredibly versatile

Eric Carmen (Raspberries) -this guy had a great pop vocal style

Mick Jagger -say what you will, in his heyday, the man could flat-out rock

Tom Jones - I can't help it, Mom played him incessantly

Otis Redding - what emotion...

And finally -

No Elvis????

J.A. Morris said...

"No Elvis?"

When I was a kid,I always thought Elvis was creepy and and a bit strange. My introduction to Elvis was "the Vegas Jumpsuit" era, it took me until the 80s to appreciate his music. I imagine some of the other "regulars" discovered Elvis during his schmaltzy showbiz phase.

I love the early stuff now,but I'm not a fan of his 70s songs.

Garett said...

Funky duet with powerhouse singers Tom Jones and Janis Joplin:

On the opposite side, the gentle singing of Angie Hart on Bizarre Love Triangle:

Edo Bosnar said...

Man, I knew when I posted my first comment I was forgetting someone important, and so many comments and nobody's mentioned him (for shame): Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott - someone who fits into both the "departed too soon" and "voice integral to band's sound" categories. There's something about the quality of his voice, it's not only perfect for the type down & dirty, hard rocking songs that Thin Lizzy did - it's also kind of archetypal, the way you'd think a rock singer should sound like.

Agree with many of the singers mentioned above, esp. Toni Tenille, Johnny Cash, Lou Rawls...
Here's a few more favorites I thought of:

Fela Kuti - Nigerian sax player with a wonderful booming voice

Grace Jones - not only was she a better barbarian than Arnie, she could belt out a tune with the best of them

Ofra Haza - she had this amazing, tonally versatile voice - if you haven't heard any of her solo stuff, you might be familiar with her backing vocals in "Temple of Love" by the Sisters of Mercy (she's also, sadly, no longer with us)

Joe Strummer - perfect punk rocker voice (again, also deceased - this is getting depressing...)

Joan Armatrading - what Tracy Chapman will sound like when she grows up ... ;P

Anonymous said...

Like J.A., I got into Elvis late and now love the old stuff. And now that we're (I'm) on Elvis, has anyone else seen Million Dollar Quartet? It's a musical about the night Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins all got together at Sam Phillips' Sun Records for one night back in 1956. If it's playing near any of you, I highly recommend it.


mr. oyola said...

I thought this was going to be about comics and of course immediately thought, Alison Blaire! :)

There are too many great voices to even think of them all.

Freddie Mercury was amazing (as has been mentioned), and I think almost underrated in a way - if that is possible.

I am a huge Prince fan, and I love his 3 octaves of voice plus falsetto, plus the way he manipulates it.

Roger Daltry also has one of my favorite voices of all time.

I think Robert Plant's voice is overrated.

Let's not forget women: If aliens came down and forced the Earth to choose a singer to convince them not to destroy the planet, I would say we should pick Patti LaBelle.

And then there is Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston (RIP).

Many people would not mention Bob Dylan when discussing awesome vocalists, but I think he was a very conscious and amazing singer and close attention paid to how he attacks notes I think proves that he is actually (or was. . these days not so much) an accomplished singer.

Karen said...

How about Howlin' Wolf? Sort of sounded like he'd gargled razor blades but man was that distinctive.

From my college years, Chuck D.'s booming voice was like the voice of God.

With the Rat Pack, I'll take Dean Martin any day over Sinatra.

Doug said...

Bobby Darin and Frankie Valli are two singers from the '60's who were very talented, Valli able to extend his recording career into the late '70's.

Elvis Presley should be on this list, yes. A quick listen of "Merry Christmas Baby" should change any doubters' minds.

How would you feel about a post in the future on artists as showmen(-women)? You've mentioned Elvis and Michael Jackson -- two of the best. Springsteen comes to mind in this potential category. Anyone game?


Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, Howlin' Wolf is quite good - and I'm pretty sure another favorite of mine, Captain Beefheart, was inspired by him - but personally I'm much more partial to Muddy Waters and especially John Lee Hooker.
But I definitely agree with you about Chuck D.
By the way, mr. oyola, I think those hypothetical aliens would only pick Patti LaBelle because Ofra Haza's no longer alive...

Steve Does Comics said...

It's a shame Slade aren't really known in America because, in my opinion, Noddy Holder has by far the best rock voice of any British singer.

Kate Bush has a phenomenal voice that seems way too big for her.

I'd agree with those mentioning McCartney. To think that Mother Nature's Son and Helter Skelter are on the same side of the same album is mind-boggling.

I'd also throw in a mention for Kiki Dee. It's a shame that that duet's overshadowed everything else she's ever done because it's when you get to hear her other stuff that you discover she really does have a terrific voice.

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree on Sam Cooke...I don't think he ever had a bad song. For contemporary stuff, I think Pink has a great voice and a lot of range. I also like Brody Dalle/Armstrong from the Distillers and Spinerette. Joss Stone has a great voice, although her style of music doesn't do much for me.

Mike W.

david_b said...

I'll throw in Nesmith and Jones, no not just because they're Monkees but any country rock song Nesmith's done like 'Papa Gene's Blues' or 'What Am I Doin' Hanging Round', he's easily got that Nashville vocal down. For Jones, just put on 'Daydream Believer' or 'I Want To Be Free'..

Ahhhh, Macca.. A great vocal outing for him was on the 1976 'Wings Over America' triple album..

Just spin up his '76 live versions 'Maybe I'm Amazed' or 'My Love' from that tour album.

He hits notes most singers only dream of...

Doug said...

Speaking of Howlin' Wolf, I've been a sucker lately for songs used as tracks in television commercials. I just have to try to find out what they are!

Howlin' Wolf -- endorsing Viagra with a little "Smokestack Lightning"!


Pat Henry said...

Tom Waits.

Johnny Cash.

Grace Slick.

Tangerine Dream's Edgar Froese.

Scorpion's Klaus Meine.

Pat Henry said...

...oh, and Nazareth's Dan McCafferty.

Pat Henry said...

...Oh, and Roy Orbison's four octave range.

Pat Henry said...

One more: The Righteous Brothers, and how they built on one another's ranges.

Pat Henry said...

...and who could forget Harry Nilsson?

Matt Celis said...

Tom Waits' real voice or the one he invented later?

Redartz said...

Can't believe I neglected to mention Ray Charles! Even today, when I hear his stylings on "What'd I Say" I can almost feel the steam rising in the room...

humanbelly said...

Ooh, Pat Henry, there, had a streak that swiped a lot of my add-ons. . . nice job, Pat!

You could kind of break the discussion down into two categories, I imagine: Best Vocal Instrument, and Best Stylist. And, naturally, they're not at all mutually exclusive. My personal tastes probably tend to favor the better instrument over the better stylist, though, just by the narrowest of margins. But someone like Ella Fitzgerald kinda reigns supreme in both categories. There are very, very few who had such easy, fluid, perfect control over their instrument as she did.

Patti Labelle? Oh my gosh what a great voice. She did a number on Sesame Street (!!!) titled "How I Miss My X" (get it?) that she could have retired after singing-- with her reputation fully made and confirmed. She sings the absolute bejeepers out of it. . .

Elvis? Like him or don't. . . respect him or don't. . . under all of the hype and fame and showmanship, that is a TERRIFIC lyric baritone voice doing the heavy lifting for that career! Think about the climactic point of "It's Now or Never"-- where he takes the word "Love" (won't wait) 'way up? That's whatcha call a Money Note when yer doin' musical theater. It's a beautiful, clear, legitimate sound.

Paul McC's voice-- yep, an infuriatingly great instrument. The Beatles, though, are a great example of that blend that's been mentioned. . . where a vocal gestalt is created. Paul's voice was legitimately lovely; John's less so-- but he was great with pitch, and definitely had more resonance (albeit a bit on the nasal side); George's voice was thin, but had an unusual quality to it that he sounded both a little like John AND a little like Paul. Plus, his voice had a "high" quality to its sound even when he was singing the lower parts in harmony. I've noticed over the years that even the best Beatles tribute bands have trouble recreating the innate harmonic magic that they had.

Of all the great 70's supergroup front men, I feel like I might give the "Best Instrument" ribbon to Stephen Perry. . . just by a whillisker over Freddie Merc. I mean, the guy had the purest, clearest high tenor this side of a heavenly choir. And it just never sounded like he had to work at it at all.

Roy Orbison, yes.
Righteous Brothers, yes.
Of the Monkees (oh boy, here we go), I honestly think ol' Mickey had the best legit voice, although both Mike & Davey were terrific singers in their respective "styles".

Of the Rat Pack? Pfft-- sorry, Sammy's really got the edge on all of 'em in my book. . . even Frank. Oh man, some of his stuff from his years on broadway is simply transcendant.

Pat Benatar, absolutely.
Harry Nillsson. . . sort of. But it's a thinnish voice, more suited to the recording studio-- although immensely versatile. And that would be, of course, before he ruptured a vocal cord w/ a very destructive lifestyle.

Boy, the list really wouldn't end, would it? It's possible to go on for hours and hours--!


Kid said...

Oh behave. The really great vocalists are:

Jim Reeves, Bing Crosby, Mel Torme, Nat 'King' Cole, Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Dean Martin, Matt Munro, Sammy Davis Junior, k.d. lang, Patsy Cline, Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Dorothy Lamour, Rosemary Clooney, Julie London - and a few others I can't think of right now.

Anonymous said...

My personal favourites -

Freddie Mercury - someone once said that God put Freddie on Earth to do just one thing,i.e. sing. Amen, brother, amen.

Ann Wilson of Heart - sure, her sister Nancy can play a mean guitar, but it's older sister Ann who was blessed with those magnificent pipes. Great, powerful voice.

Steve Perry of Journey - come on, who doesn't love those classic power ballads like Open Arms or Faithfully? If you don't, you probably are one sad, soulless human being. :)

Marvin Gaye - Two words : Sexual Healing, probably the grooviest song I've ever heard. What's Going On was controversial but no one can deny that dude was gifted. RIP Marv.

Peter Cetera - hey, guess what? He's actually coming to Trinidad for a concert, along with 80s icons Christopher Cross and Air Supply. Whether as a member of Chicago or as a solo act, he's always been one of my favourites.

Bryan Adams - love the guy from the Great White North. I literally grew up listening to him on the radio.

Sting & the Police - classic rock pop from the men from jolly ol' UK.

Barry Gibb & the Bee Gees - hey, gotta give love to the falsetto guy! Who says disco is dead? Still, I loved their ballads most of all.

- Mike 'got tons more favourites but that blog will be wayyy too long!' fro Trinidad & Tobago.

Graham said...

Nice to see the Wolf getting some love here. :) He IS the blues and there's nothing cooler than driving down a dirt road on a late Saturday night with a Wolf song blaring on the radio.

I have so many that I could never list them all, but I agree with many of them already listed and everyone has covered a lot of ground already and hit a lot of my favorites (Sam Cooke, Lou Rawls, Bill Withers) and would add Otis Clay and O.V. Wright to those names.

Edo Bosnar said...

Gosh, although I like a few of Journey's more rocker-like songs, I cringe just thinking about Open Arms and Faithfully. Guess I'm sad and soulless .... :(

By the way, Mike from T&T, watch where you're throwing around those accusations: if I recall correctly, one of our illustrious hosts whose name isn't Doug has a pretty active dislike for all things Steve Perry.

Rip Jagger said...

I said it before and I'll say it again--Paul Rodgers of Free, Bad Company and later The Firm, is "THE" iconic voice of era. Others were more famous, but his pipes are the very essence of the time.

Rip Off

Doug said...

I had a couple of the examples we've mentioned in my ear on the drive to school today.

"Join Together" by the Who with a strong lead by Daltrey and perfect backing from Townshend.

"Drive My Car" by the Beatles with Paul on lead and nice backing from John. When I got to my room I turned the tables and played "One After 9:09" with John's lead and great backing from Paul.

Great stuff!


Matt Celis said...

I'm sad and soulless too. I skip the ballads when I put on "The Essential Journey" CD.

Anonymous said...

Rip, to follow up on your comment, no one could replace Freddie Mercury but I thought Paul Rodgers and Queen was a great idea!


Matt Celis said...

My wife saw Queen with Rodgers and thought it was pretty good although no one can fill Freddie's shoes.

Karen said...

Edo has accurately described my feelings towards the rat-faced one.

Teresa said...

Keeping it in a BAB framework, (otherwise I would be here all day editing my list):

Paul McCartney
Linda Ronstadt
Carol King
Doobie Bros
Grand Funk Railroad
Righteous Brothers
Carly Simon
Bee Gees

These represent what still gets turned up when they come onto the radio.
There is so much more.

david_b said...

To this day, I STILL hang my head when I forgot to mention ol' Phil and Don, the Everly Brothers..

It was SO COOL to hear 'em on Paul Simon's 'Graceland' on backup.

I liked their EB40 release back in the '80s, especially the McCartney penned, 'On the Wings of a Nightingale', such a lovely tune, I've been wanting to perform it live several times, but you really need some beautiful tenor range for that number.

Whenever I hear John and Paul doing 'Words of Love', they match the Everly's harmonies flawlessly.

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