Thursday, September 6, 2012

Now That's a Gravelly Voice...

Doug:  Lately we've been on a bit of a music kick in these parts.  In the past several days we've asked you about your favorite radio stations as a kid, and that versatile rocker (or is he living in the land of adult contemporary now?) Rod Stewart.  Well, Rod inspired me to do an extension of that Discuss post and ask all of our readers how they feel about similarly sandpaper-voiced crooners.

Doug:  Who first of all do you think has a great male voice?  You can throw out any names from Frank Sinatra to Elvis Presley to George Michael, I suppose.  Who are those guys that can really carry a tune, have a wonderful range, etc?  And then conversely, what do we do with "singers" like Stewart, Joe Cocker, and Bruce Springsteen?  Let's face it -- if we just do a case study of "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window", Paul McCartney is probably going to get the A from the vocal coach over Cocker.  But... I really like both versions of that song, and I'd be inclined to say that I like Cocker's better (man, I cannot even write about Joe Cocker without seeing John Belushi in my mind!).  Do you have other nominees for "scratchiest voice"?


Edo Bosnar said...

Captain Beefheart and Tom Waits are two personal favorites.
With reference to Rod Stewart, there's his 'female counterpart,' Kim Carnes, and Bonnie Tyler comes to mind as well...

david_b said...

Definitely love Kim and Bonnie.

They have that lovely raspy voice which sound great in the morning.

Doug said...

David --

...on 3 packs a day.

Doug :)

Anonymous said...

I love that kind of gravel voice. I guess what we’re into here is ‘vocalists’ as opposed to singers. I’m a huge Springsteen fan. Not sure if it made the news there, but he played Hyde Park recently (central London). The gig started late and they were not allowed to overrun due to the location, but Springsteen decided the fans were not to be cheated so played on regardless. He brought Paul McCartney on at the end, but halfway through Twist & Shout, the organisers pulled the plug and the stage fell into silent darkness.
Undeterred, Springsteen walked on stage at his next gig in Dublin and started the show in darkness & silence. A giant ‘on’ switch was wheeled onto the stage. The Boss threw the switch and the lights and sound roared to life. He said ‘now as I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted...’ and launched into the second half of Twist & Shout, picking up right where he left off. If you know your Irish history, you’ll know what that phrase means in Dublin.

Totally agree about Cocker. I much prefer his ‘Keep your hat on’ to the Tom Jones one they recorded for the Full Monty, I really couldn’t see why they didn’t just use the original.

I also love some of Rod’s vocals, esp. on the version of ‘Downtown train’ produced by Trevor Horn and Handbags and Gladrags. His stuff in the early 70’s is frighteningly good.

While we’re comparing cement mixers, I second the votes for Bonnie Tyler, whose voice I believe was once described as ‘torn satin’ and, of course, the king of the quarries, Tom Waits....part poet, part urban troubadour, mostly suffering from bronchial pneumonia, by the sound of things. What’s that Waltzing Matilda song called? Is it Tom Traubert’s blues? You seriously need to check your home insurance before you turn the volume up on that one.


david_b said...


No, not necessarily. I have extended family members with that quality without the terrible vice of nicotine-addiction.

(It's called 'brandy'...)


Karen said...

Anybody here with Sirius radio heard former MTV vee jay Nina Blackwood lately? She sounds like she's gargling with glass.

Dougie said...

For my money , the great male vocal talents in pop/rock music are, technically speaking: Al Green, Van Morrison and Tim Buckley. The ones that probably had the most impact on me as a Bronze Age Boy though are probably Bowie, Bolan and Elvis Costello.

I'm also keen on Curtis Mayfield and Prince.

humanbelly said...

Well, heck-- Muddy Waters, of course.

And Lou Rawls, to me, has a voice that is somehow both gravelly AND smooth as pudding. Don't know how he pulls that off.

Oh man-- how about Randy Newman? That poor guy was cursed with a voice that could never even approach his musical talent (and has lamented about it many, many times-!), and yet his vocal delivery is always so honest and true to what he's trying to convey that the his songs often are diminished when sung by better-voiced folks.


Doug said...

Love me some Al Green. Just evokes a mood, doesn't he?

RE: Lou Rawls. I love Al Wilson's "Show and Tell" -- great R&B song.

Fogerty's a little rough around the edges; sort of a nasal sound. Makes that swamp rock sound right, though.


Anonymous said...

Great male voice in general for me would be Sam Cooke...anything he sang sounded amazing.

As for gravelly-type voices...maybe Steve Marriott from Humble Pie, although there was a lot of early Rod Stewart sound in his voice. Or what about Lemmy from Motorhead? Classic rasp!

My favourite gravelly voice would have to be Brody Dalle (or Armstrong, if you prefer) from The, she's not male, but her voice was amazing. She doesn't sound like that her voice is a lot softer, but listen to any Distillers album and her "rasp" sounded great.

Mike W.

Graham said...

Some great names on these lists. Two of my favorite gravelly voices are Bobby Womack (discovered by Sam Cooke) and Gregg Allman.

Garett said...

I just picked up Elvis: 30 #1 Hits, first time hearing him since I was a kid. Very much enjoying it! He has a range to his voice from silly to heartfelt to soaring.

There's an outstanding singer in Edmonton named Ashanti Marshall--excellent bluesy-pop vocals, sometimes with a rough crackle.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I've always been a fan of Canadian rocker Bryan Adams' gravelly voice. His songs like Summer of 69, Everything I do and Heaven (my personal favourite) are staples of most soft rock stations worldwide.

Even though he doesn't possess a 'normal'rock voice, his songs are rock classics. If a music teacher heard him sing in high school, he would have been cut from the choir! However, I guess this is what makes rock and roll such a unique genre of music.

- Mike from Trinidad & Tobago.

Fred W. Hill said...

A very good friend of mine, Mike, is a musician told me that some time ago, in the late '80s I think, when he lived in Atlanta for a few months, he became acquainted with Steve Marriott at a bar and they were hanging out pretty regularly for several weeks, mostly talking about music and favorite blues artists and Marriott invited Mike to go on tour with him but then just a few days later Marriott disappeared and Mike eventually found out that he'd gone back to England, purportedly for another Humble Pie or Small Faces reunion which never took place. Marriott did some major league drinking which contributed to the accident which killed him.
Anyhow, I like a varity of vocalists, I'm even perverse enough to prefer Dylan's voice on many of his songs over the "better vocalists versions". IMO, some songs just work a lot better with a raspy voice than a pretty voice, although I do like some pretty songs too. I certainly loved the voices of Grace Slick and Stevie Nicks. Morrissey & Neil Young are other favorites.

david_b said...

Loved Dylan on 'Blood on the Tracks'..., even on 'Infidels' with tracks like 'Jokerman'.

Tony said...

Greg Allman, Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen, Joe Cocker for the gravelly voice. Fav male singers. Lou Gramm, Robert Palmer, Luther V, Boz Scaggs.

Anonymous said...

Chris norman, Peter criss. Awesome voices. Head east has unusual voices too

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