Hello Mountain Timers, after the great reaction to my last
column on the "frontmen" of rock and roll, I started thinking about
voices in music, you know the ones that as soon as they come on you
know who it is? This is truly the mark of a great singer, that
"signature" sound. So let's wind up the old Victrola and review the
four most recognizable voices in Rock 'n' Roll. Please note, these
are not my favorite singers just ones that stand out as unique.
I'll try not to pick the obvious ones, just for fun.
#1. Mickey Thomas.
Mickey started his career singing lead with the Elvin Bishop
Group. And it was the 1976 single "Fooled Around and Fell in Love"
that jetted Mickey Thomas to the top of the rock singer hierarchy
immediately. From the first note of the song to his falsetto peak
towards the end of the song, it was a performance to build a career
on. Mickey left Bishop's band in 1979 to join the Jefferson
Starship after former Jefferson Airplane lead singers Marty Balin
and Grace Slick left the band. Grace rejoined the band and had a
few duets with Thomas, one of which was silly 80's schmaltz "We
Built This City." But Mickeys performance on "Jane" more then made
up for it.
#2. Tom Waits.
When it comes to left of center sounding singers, Tom Waits takes
the cake. More known as a songwriter then a singer, Tom Waits has a
loyal following of fans who prefer his guttural sounding versions
of his songs to the usually more well known cover versions of his
compositions. A few of these are "Jersey Girl" by Bruce
Springsteen, "Ol' 55" by the Eagles, and "Downtown Train" by Rod
Stewart. I always thought vocally he was a cross between blues icon
Howlin' Wolf and the weirdly genius Captain Beefheart, but he is
truly unique and always entertaining.
#3. Stevie Winwood.
The emmensly talented Mr. Winwood is probably the most underrated
rock star of the sixties. His premier on vinyl in 1965 was a run
away hit with the Spencer Davis Group called "Keep on Running," but
it was his smash hit "Gimme Some Lovin" that he co-wrote that had
people comparing him to Ray Charles. By the way, Stevie was
16-years-old when he sang and wrote "Gimme Some Lovin."
Stevie left the SDG to form Traffic with Dave Mason, Jim
Capaldi, and Chris Wood in 1967, and Stevie's vocals can be heard
on the great song "Dear Mr. Fantasy." Stevie left Traffic to form
rocks first "Supergroup" with Eric Clapton And Ginger Baker, called
Blind Faith. Although they only made one album, its stands up even
today as one of the era's most underrated records. His full voice
high range vocal is so unique and strong that you rarely find cover
bands being able to cover Traffic and Blind Faith tunes. (Present
company excepted of course.)
#4. Captain Beefheart.
Born in Glendale, California, Don Van Vliet took up the moniker of
Captain Beefheart in 1964 and formed the Magic Band soon
thereafter. Beefheart was encouraged by a teenage buddy of his to
explore his musical talents which encompassed aside from singing
and reciting his own poetry, playing harmonica and several wind
instruments. Oh, and for the record this teen-year friend was a
quirky aspiring composer named Frank Zappa. For a good taste of
Beefhearts genius check out "Trout Mask Replica," "Safe as Milk,"
and "Ice Cream for Crow."
I warn you these albums are not for the faint of heart, they are
avant-garde tour de force recordings that are musically complex,
funny, and thought provoking. If you wanna get some Zappa/Beefheart
collaboration, check out Frank Zappa's "Bongo Fury" album, it
actually might be a great Beefheart starter kit.
Well I could go on here forever, but you know the old show biz
adage "always leave them wanting more." Well if you do, join me
here for my next column of "Leone's Legends."
Peace, love, and tolerance. Joey