Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Replacing Freddy:

Over at Positive Liberty, Jason thinks Queen's forthcoming reunion with Paul Rogers is a terrible idea.

Bad Company was a talented but formulaic 1970s cutout band with absolutely none of the originality and flair that Queen once had. Hitting the notes is one thing--but projecting the image is quite another.

Yes, but Paul Rogers has the vocal chops to pull it off, and not that many other prominent male rock singers do. Perhaps the three others in Queen can supply the "originality and flair." Jason suggests Peter Gabriel or David Bowie. The problem with them is that neither have the vocal chops of Freddy Mercury. From a technical standpoint, even Rogers can't do everything that Mercury could; but he will come closer than Bowie or Gabriel.

I also object to Jason categorizing Gabriel's Genesis as "very much like a workingman's Queen." No, Genesis were much more than that. I think that they made an artistic statement that far surpassed Queen's. (And sadly, I was going to see The Musical Box -- a Genesis tribute band that perfectly reproduces The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway -- last Saturday, outside of Philadelphia, but the show was sold out. My fault for waiting to the last minute to get tickets. But they were playing three nights in a row at this venue, I had no idea they would sell out. Oh well, there's always next time.)

Whoever is picked has to have vocal chops (and Paul Rogers does). You don't necessarily need vocal chops to be a "good" rock singer (you just need a "cool" sounding voice). Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, Lou Reed, John Lennon, Jim Morrison -- countless others were never "singers" in the technical sense. I remember a (classical) guitar teacher of mine, who loved jazz and classical music, but hated rock, complaining after listening to an REM CD that even though they were good songwriters and the music (melodies) were good, rock singers like Michael Stipe reminded him of "guitar players" who get to the microphone and sing. And what he meant by that is that these were folks who had a good sense of musicianship and could carry a tune, but didn't know how to use their voice as an instrument. He contrasted them with a jazz singer Peggy Lee, who mastered the voice an instrument in every sense of the word.

Well not every rock signer is as untechnical and limited in what they can do with their voices as Kurt Cobain or Bob Dylan. Some rockers actually can sing. And Freddy Mercury epitomized the rock singer who could.

Some other prominent rockers who can sing and who also may have been good choices:

Steve Perry (Journey)
Klaus Meine (Scorpions)
Ronnie James Dio
Geoff Tate (Queensryche)
James LaBrie (Dream Theater)
Gary Cherone (Extreme and Van Halen. Maybe -- he was good at the Queen Tribute concert)
Steve Walsh (Kansas -- he had the chops before his voice changed in the 80s).

I'm not sure if any of these would be able to pull off Freddy's act or image, but they are all examples of rock singers with strong vocal chops.


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