The Top 40 Most Underrated Singers in Rock Part 2
Okay, here we are for the 2nd installment of the 40 vocalists that deserve far more credit then they’ve been given by the music industry at large. If you missed part 1, catch up here. I’ll have Youtube links to specific songs highlighted in the list. If you want to pick up or preview any of the songs or albums mentioned, click on their album image to purchase from Amazon.
[amazon_image id=”B000T00PE2″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Mezzanine[/amazon_image][amazon_image id=”B002ZPIC1M” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Heligoland[/amazon_image]
Andy has strong roots in reggae, but he’s better known as one of many vocalists featured on albums by Massive Attack, the great pioneers of trip-hop. His androgynous, alien delivery sounds like no one else, and it’s used to amazing effect on their standout track ‘Angel‘.
22. Andy Bell/Alison Moyet
[amazon_image id=”B002T921R0″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Innocents – 21st Anniversary Edition [2CD/DVD][/amazon_image][amazon_image id=”B00124FSX2″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Upstairs At Eric’s[/amazon_image]
When Vince Clarke ditched Depeche Mode to start-up Yaz (or Yazoo depending on your preference), he found Alison Moyet, whose brassy, slightly masculine emotional vocal performances gave the music some much-needed soul and depth to counter balance Clarke’s synth-pop arrangements. When Yaz folded, he started up Erasure, and found a new vocalist Andy Bell. What’s strange is that no one else in the world sounds like either of these singers, yet for some strange reason they are strikingly similar. Bell’s vulnerability endeared him to fans the world over. I believe Moyet’s best performance is on the lesser known track ‘Winter Kills‘, while Bell’s remains the classic ‘A Little Respect.’
21. Richard Ashcroft
[amazon_image id=”B000000WF0″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Urban Hymns[/amazon_image]
Ask most folks about the Verve, and they remember them for the hit ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ and nothing else. Longtime fans know better. The Verve were old souls, creating songs mixed with earnestness and psychedelia, and Ashcroft’s personal lyrics and aching delivery perfectly compliment the bands spacier textures. Sadly, he’s also a bit of a kook, and has been the major catalyst for breaking up the band 3 times over. Maybe one day he’ll get it together. My personal favorite song is ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’. Give it a listen and you’ll see why he deserves inclusion.
[amazon_image id=”B000002LH4″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Floating Into The Night[/amazon_image]
Cruise was discovered by film director David Lynch, who along with (the aforementioned) Angelo Badalamenti, used her talents to stunning effect in his films and the TV show Twin Peaks, and also produced her 1st 2 albums. Proof that an understated performance can be powerful, her calm, measured delivery is unique. Check out the excellent ‘The World Spins’.
[amazon_image id=”B0000931OQ” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Way To Blue – An Introduction To Nick Drake (Remastered)[/amazon_image]
Drake has been on the hipster radar for over a decade now, ever since ‘Pink Moon’ was used for various advertisements. Sadly he died far too young of an overdose back in the 70’s, but the little material he left us with was a unique body of work; the mix of his unique guitar style and hushed vocal delivery. His music is a mental massage, deeply soothing. Too bad he couldn’t gain the same solace from his own work.
18. Billy Idol
[amazon_image id=”B0007DII8G” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Devil’s Playground[/amazon_image]
I thought Billy was the coolest growing up, and wore out my Rebel Yell cassette fairly quickly given its permanent place in my stereo. Like several on this list, he was a devotee of Presley and Morrison. Creating a unique fusion of punk and new-wave (with help from excellent guitarist Steve Stevens), his voice gave his songs the perfect mix of menace and charm . His album released a few years back ‘Devil’s Playground’ was unfairly ignored, give it a listen.
17. Chris Isaak
[amazon_image id=”B004THWH9M” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Best of Chris Isaak[/amazon_image]
Chris Isaak brought back the 1950’s vibe in a big way in the early 90’s. With a strong Orbison influence, he made some great atmospheric torch songs which still hold up to this day.
16. Matthew Bellamy
[amazon_image id=”B002O1TMI4″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Resistance[/amazon_image]
While I had to axe Thom Yorke from this list due to his inclusion in Rolling Stone ‘s top 100 singers, Bellamy is an obvious beneficiary of his vocal style, but mixed in with a touch of Freddie Mercury. His amazing range and delivery helps separate Muse from many of their less rocking contemporaries.
15. Frank Black
[amazon_image id=”B00008YJHC” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Bossanova[/amazon_image]
While Black doesn’t have great vocal chops in the classical sense, his ability to yell with a mix of derangement and bewilderment has helped make the Pixies one of the most original (and influential) post-punk bands of all time. To get a sense of his manic ability, listen to ‘Rock Music‘ from their underrated album ‘Bossanova’.
14. Robert Smith
[amazon_image id=”B000002H70″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Disintegration[/amazon_image]
13. Scott Weiland
[amazon_image id=”B000002IU3″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Core[/amazon_image]
Stone Temple Pilots may have become huge rock stars, but they were critically panned. Accused of stealing bits from all the grunge heavyweights, Weiland in particular was singled out for plagiarism, due to his constantly shifting vocal style, which would sound like a little Cobain here, and a little Eddie Vedder there (his Vedder style eye rolling in the ‘Plush’ video didn’t help matters). In the end it’s irrelevant, because it was the songs that made STP, and they still hold up. And Weiland’s mimicry turned out to be an asset. Few vocalists can change their style around so completely (in the end Bowie remains his biggest influence), which gives their body of work more diversity than it otherwise could lay claim too. Sadly, this guy is his own worst enemy, causing both STP & Velvet Revolver to crash and burn. But his pipes are solid.
12. Beth Gibbons
[amazon_image id=”B000001FI7″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Dummy[/amazon_image]
Portishead are an amazing band. Along with Massive Attack, they spearheaded the trip-hop genre, giving it shades of James Bond score-ish glamour mixed with a dismal, bleak worldview. And what drives it all home is Gibbon’s delivery. This woman sounds tortured. Vulnerable and seductive, broken yet still standing, she has an amazing presence. Thankfully this group is still going at it, even if their output is maddeningly slow. My favorite track? ‘Wandering Star‘. It still sounds perfect.
11. Marc Bolan
[amazon_image id=”B000069V25″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]20th Century Boy: The Ultimate Collection[/amazon_image]
T Rex would have had a larger rock presence if not for the untimely death of lead singer/songwriter Marc Bolan. A friendly rival of David Bowie, his charming, whimsical delivery peppered with lyrics of mysticism and tongue in cheek wordplay, gave his music a free-spirited feel that few others could capture. Influencing everyone from Bono to Axl Rose, Bolan’s vocals are infectious (and he had great guitar chops too). It’s one of many reasons ‘20th Century Boy‘ remains badass to this day.
Well that’s it for this installment. Now check out the Top 10! And then you can weigh in with your own top 40.