Tuesday, April 17, 2007

MY Favorite Singers

As Dave Berman once said, 'All my favorite singers couldn't sing'. I pretty much agree completely. Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, and Captain Beefheart are the three singers that add something to their music with their voices. I've heard many people say that those guys aren't good singers, and while I can understand this on a technical level, they are my favorite voices. When I listen to most other music I'm aware of good singing, but it doesn't make or break the song for me.

I can, however, think of some songs that wouldn't be any good sung by someone else. 'Oh Darling' would be crap if McCartney hadn't sung it. 'It's a Man's World' would come across terribly if James Brown himself didn't concede that 'it wouldn't mean nothing without a woman or a girl'.


Little Earl said...

As I suspected, you're proud to take the position of the criminally insane. If "great singing" talk sounds like a bunch of nonsense to me, I can't imagine what it must sound like to you.

Here are my opinions that you can probably ignore:

Tom Waits: I think his voice is perfect for his style of music. On its own I would not gravitate toward it.

Bob Dylan: Dylan actually has several different voices, and I feel differently about each of them. I really like his Nashville Skyline voice, which was apparently his "natural" singing voice according to childhood friends. I know it's like heresy to say this, but I kind of wish he would have used his Nashville Skyline voice more often than he did (not ALL the time, of course, but more often). Then there was his early, imitation Woody Guthrie voice. The more I learn about the young Dylan, the more I feel like his early voice was kind of contrived and unnatural. Then there's his "middle period" voice, which to me varies from song to song. When he keeps a strong melody, as in "The Times They Are A'Changin'" and "It Ain't Me Babe" he sounds perfect. When he just sing-talks his songs, as in "Just Like A Woman" and "I Want You," I don't like it as much. Then there's his later voice, which works only to the extent I think Tom Waits' voice works: it fits the style of the music. This might really piss some people off, but often I get the (probably erroneous) impression when listening to Dylan that he doesn't take his own songs very seriously, or that he doesn't really care whether I listen to his song or not. Then when I hear someone else sing the same exact song, suddenly I can take the song seriously. That's just me, though. I know Yoggoth is not the only one who doesn't understand why people complain about Dylan's voice.

Captain Beefheart: Basically the same deal as Tom Waits. His voice is great for his style of music. I just wish I liked more of his post-"Safe As Milk" music.

Why didn't you mention Lou Reed while you were at it?

I agree on McCartney and "Oh! Darling". Paul certainly had his moments of glory, but I wouldn't say he's one of my "favorite" singers because he changed his singing style so often and sometimes seemed like he was thinking about it too hard. With John and George, they always just sounded like John and George.

yoggoth said...

I don't know why I never think of Lou Reed. I guess his voice just sounds normal to me. Shows you how odd my taste is.

Paul isn't my favorite singer, I was just saying that if he hadn't sung that song the way he sang it, it wouldn't be worth listening to. John is probably my favorite Beatles singer.

Little Earl said...

John, John, John. Always with the John. Why don't you just make out with Yoko and get it over with?

It's funny but John once wondered if he might have done a better job singing "Oh! Darling" than Paul did, since it was more his kind of song. It's pretty hard to imagine anyone doing better than Paul, but if anyone could have, it probably would have been John. It certainly would have been interesting to hear John's version for the sake of comparison.

So what about all you other people out there? Anybody else have any favorite singers?

Herr Zrbo said...

I've always enjoyed Andrew Eldritch from Sisters of Mercy. He's got a nice dark and deep voice that's perfect for singing gloomy goth-rock songs, and though his voice can sound rather pretentious there's always that slight hint of tounge-in-cheekiness hiding underneath.

I also enjoy Peter Murphy's voice (of Bauhaus fame). He has quite the unique voice (I'm mainly talking about his solo career, his voice actually sounded a bit more normal in Bauhaus), most people either love it or hate it. I can't really describe it, you have to hear it.

My last favorite is Ronan Harris of VNV Nation. Even though he has a very limited vocal range, the moment I hear his smoky voice I instantly know it's him, and I especially love the spoken word tracks where his great Irish accent can be more easily heard. VNV Nation's new album Judgement just came out last week and it's one of their best!

yoggoth said...

I haven't actually heard the Sisters of Mercy. The guy from Bauhaus does have a good voice, but I've never heard him solo. I've never heard of VNV Nation.