Is this topics like shooting fish in a barrel? Yes, unless we restrict ourselves to artists who released no more than TWO (2) releases before some hotshot producer polished them up and helped them become wildly successful. This limit, mind you, will rule out the likes of Soul Asylum, comeback-era Aerosmith, and lord knows how many other fish in a barrel you’re dying to shoot.
A second limitation in this discussion is that some artist’s underground “cool” phase under a different name or in a different band does not count. If the debut by The Cars, for instance, strikes you as overproduced slop relative to earlier music some of the band members put out under a different name, that earlier band you thought was cooler without all the glossy production doesn’t count. The Cars started out with a heavily produced first album…as The Cars. (For the record, if you feel like arguing, I have no problem with the incredibly polished production of that album.)
My first thought on this topic goes to The Bangles, originally The Bangs before another band claimed ownership of that name. Although their music wasn’t that much different on their debut EP, I enjoy it so much more before some producer gussied them up and helped them get wildly popular. Bless that producer, mind you, for helping them enjoy the sweet life of Top 40 success, but I wish they could have received a government grant to continue making music like “The Real World,” their initial single.