Jun 112016

My oldest son, who recently got his first turntable for his 19th birthday and who has proceeded on a heart-warming (mine), wallet-emptying (his) vinyl binge, sent me the following text while I was at the gym this morning:

When I go to record stores I see lots of solo albums by different artists but I never want to buy them cause I’m not familiar with the music and I know lots of artists suck when they go solo. For example, Ive seen lots of Fogerty solo work and McCartney solo work but I don’t know if it’s good. Can you think of the best artists who went solo so I know what to buy and what to avoid?

Good question, right? One of those questions I sometimes get from people young enough to be my kid that makes me think we need to follow Rock Town Hall with a next-generation spinoff. I’m not sure, myself, whether Pete Townshend’s Empty Glass is actually good. I can advise him on solo John Fogerty (“Eh…”). His question reminds me that I need to warn him to tread lightly with any other solo (or in any way post-Move) album by Roy Wood beside Boulders, which he borrowed from me last week and liked a lot. I’ve had mixed feelings about Pete Townshend, the Occasional Solo Artist, for years. Should I finally buy a used copy of Empty Glass? I’ll have a talk with him about McCartney and let him know that there’s really no difference between McCartney solo and Wings and that there’s nothing McCartney has done post-Beatles that is worth anything but a greatest hits collection beside the nearly amazing Band on the Run. (I know some of you stand behind Ram, as well. I’ll be fair and represent your thoughts on that album.)

What solo albums by musicians primarily associated with being members of a long-running band would you recommend my boy check out? Don’t suggest Van Morrison, because he spent his first couple of years in Them. Likewise, as I remember perceiving things at his age, my son still thinks of and likes Lou Reed as a solo artist before thinking of him as the guy from the Velvet Underground.


  38 Responses to “When Band Members Go Solo”

  1. jeangray

    Hey Mr. Mod!

    Ric Ocasek had a debut solo album that was pretty great & both Roger Waters & David Gilmour’s solo albums have their moments, although they are basically just doing their versions of Pink Floyd. Mark Eitzel’s solo albums are phenomenal, but I doubt your Son has heard of him or the American Music Club for that matter.

  2. I remember liking some of the songs off a David Gilmour solo album from the late-’70s. It did sound like Pink Floyd. Similarly there was a Chris Squire album that I used to hear in high school and wondered if I’d like it better than Yes. I bought the album last year. It made me appreciate Jon Anderson.

    My son wouldn’t have a clue about AMC. I remember a fuss being raised over them in the ’90s. The music made no impression on me, but then a few years later I saw Eitzel solo in a songwriter sit-around show with Graham Parker, Jill Double, and Gordon Thank. Eitzel was excellent. I still haven’t checked out his solo recordings. Lame of me!

  3. Well, a timely thread as I saw Ian Hunter at City Winery in NYC last night. Maybe it’s not really what you are looking for since Hunter was the songwriter, vocalist, and generally the focal point of Mott the Hoople, and so his solo work is in many ways a continuation but his solo work easily eclipses Mott.

    His album Rant from 2001 is the best thing he’s done. And if it’s not my favorite album of the last 15 years it’s right up there (I’d have to check to be sure for something might be slipping from my aging memory). All his releases since then are worth having. And you couldn’t go wrong with his first and self-titled album.

    Or you could wait a little as he apparently has one of those ginormous 30 CD box sets coming out later this year, which includes everything and then some.

  4. BigSteve

    I think that first John Fogerty album is as good as any CCR album. After that, definitely meh.

  5. BigSteve

    The first Phil Manzanera album Diamond Head is really terrific.

  6. BigSteve

    I have not heard the Keith Richards album that came out late last year, and I’m not sure why that is, because I really loved Talk Is Cheap and Main Offender.

  7. That’s an interesting one. Almost an anti-solo solo album. Five of the nine songs are co-writes. Vocals on the four songs with vocals are handled by the co-writer. Various tracks feature line ups nearly identical to other groups he was involved in, either early Eno ensembles, Post Eno Roxy or Quiet Sun. It’s as if Manzanera went solo to show what a team player he really was.

  8. misterioso

    You’re not sure if Empty Glass is good? Let me talk you through this one: Yes, it is good. Clear enough?

  9. That is a good one – and it’s a good example of a guy stepping out from his regular gig to show a different side of himself.

  10. I’ll pass along your recommendation and let my son know that BigSteve has been known to have sound opinions that are worth considering over just his father’s recommendation to steer clear of Keith Richards solo albums. (I did, for the record, tell him that Ron Wood’s Give ’em Enough Neck, or whatever that album is called, is worth a listen.)

  11. Let me put it this way: does Pete let Roger sing two thirds of the songs? I remember thinking the songs, individually, when the album came out and they used to play a number of songs on the radio, were good. My age-old issue with Pete’s voice is that if I have to hear too much of it I usually remember what’s so great about Roger. I pledge to finally buy that album based on your counseling!

  12. 2000 Man

    Man, I thought it was BORING. I think his first two solo albums are terrific, and I was so underwhelmed with Crosseyed Heart. It’s too long, the rockers are too generic and the ballads are utterly nondescript. Maybe my hero is finally an old man.

  13. 2000 Man

    Keith’s Talk Is Cheap is not only a great album, it’s also one of the best sounding records I’ve ever heard.

  14. 2000 Man

    I think I got a real clean copy for two bucks. I even played it once or twice. It’s not bad.

  15. Now that’s a ringing endorsement!

  16. I just thought of one, although I can’t recall the solo artist’s name: the guy who got kicked out of Wilco and then killed himself or otherwise met an untimely death made a solo album that I liked as much and, even better, than most Wilco albums. Some of the songs sounded like lost Rockpile songs.

  17. I’ve got a few — a couple of oldies are Dave Davies’ first two solo records — “Glamour” (my favorite of the two) and “AFL1-3063” (you may remember seeing the latter album cover of Dave with a bar code logo on his shirt). Purchased in the cut-outs, these made a young funoka realize the Kinks were more than just Ray.

    Another older oddball is The Cars’ Elliot Easton’s “Change No Change” — it has several numbers I liked better than what the Cars were doing at the time — like “(Wearing Down) Like a Wheel” and throwback girl’s name song “Shayla”

    Some solo records of more recent vintage are Albert Hammond Jr.’s “Yours To Keep” which is full of songs he evidently was keeping away from The Strokes.

    I don’t know if there are any Old Crow Medicine Show fans here — but Gill Landry’s self-titled album from last year is worth checking out.

  18. I know your talking about Jay Bennett and you may be talking about “The Magnificent Defeat” — there’s a few rabble-rousers on that.

  19. mockcarr

    If he likes the Replacements, he probably won’t immediately hate Paul Westerburg solo albums.

  20. Have to throw Joe Strummer out there for this discussion. “Streetcore” I have really enjoyed as well as what I have heard of his others, The Mescaleros was a good band behind him. Wish there had been time for more. “The Hellcat Years” looks like a great compilation I will need to get.

  21. misterioso

    With the exception of “Keep on Working,” which I don’t care for, I think all the songs on the record are strong. But many, if not most of them are unthinkable (for me) as being sung by Roger, even those that sound in many respects like Who songs, such as Cats in the Cupboard, Gonna Get You Anyway, and A Little Is Enough.

  22. misterioso

    Tell your son that his father’s all wet on solo McCartney/Wings and that he should pick up McCartney, Ram, Band on the Run, Venus and Mars, and Back to the Egg.

  23. BigSteve

    David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name is a stoner classic, and any of Gene Clark’s records would be good used purchases.

  24. cliff sovinsanity

    Michael Nesmith released a couple of albums I really like: “And The Hits Just Keep on Comin'” and “Pretty Much You Standard Ranch Stash”.
    I’ve been told Magnetic South is decent.

    Your boy would have to reckon with a little twang to appreciate these ones.

  25. Don Henley solo may be better than the Eagles, but that’s kinda damning with faint praise. The gold standard for artists who’ve gone solo is Peter Gabriel, but in the US, he’s barely known for having been in Genesis, so that probably doesn’t count a whole lot.

  26. Funny, I think Henley manages to be even worse without his bandmates. I did tell my son that, surprisingly, Peter Gabriel is much better solo than he was in Genesis. My son has already checked out Genesis and shares my extreme dismissal of them. He doesn’t even appreciate the worthwhile song they did with Gabriel, “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.” Someday I’ll test him out on the relative merits of Phil Collins-led Genesis.

  27. Love Peter Gabriel, love (almost) all eras of Genesis, even have a serious fondness for Phil Collins, but I have to say that, while the title track to The Lamb is one of my 20 or so favorite Genesis songs, I actually think it’s much better live with Phil singing than the original studio recording: the tempo’s about 20% faster and once you’ve heard it with that much energy, going back to the more deliberate, stately pace just makes it seem sodden. (To me.)

    I have a love-hate relationship with the Eagles. As a fan of melody, I can’t help but admire, like and even love a handful of their stuff. On the other hand, Henley and Frey were and are such pricks. Even so still, I think “Boys of Summer,” “End of the Innocence” and especially “Heart of the Matter” are absolutely phenomenal songs, better than anything the Eagles ever did, except maybe “Hotel California” which, massively overplayed as it is, really is an amazing song.

    Y’all are some of the few people who’d understand this: my 15-year-old and I sat down in front of the Klipsch speakers a few nights ago and listened to the first side of Peter Gabriel’s third solo album really loud–just the lyric sheet and the music, nothing else. When it was over, she said, “that…was AWESOME.”

  28. Great moment with your daughter!

    By the way, Scott, if you’re the Other One, who’s the primary one?

  29. The last place I worked, there were two other guys named Scott who’d already been working there for something like 10 and 15 years when I joined. And just about everything place I comment online, there’s usually already a Scott already commenting. And then, finally, about 14 years ago now, there was an asshole with my first AND last name who killed his wife and unborn kid. So now I’m the other one.

  30. Chiming in yet again to say I really liked David Gilmour’s first two solo LPs–in fact, I think I like them more than he does. Same with Pete Townshend’s solo work; I really, REALLY like his voice, but have often thought that one of the many things that made the Who as great as they were was that they had three singers, which allows so much extra musical room to play around in and with.

    But another one occurred to me: Morrissey. I’d have bet and lost cash money that after the Smiths broke up, Johnny Marr would’ve been the successful one. And don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have had the career he’s had. But that Moz has been as big as he has–and often as good as he’s been–was and remains something of a pleasant surprise to me.

  31. BigSteve

    I quite liked that Johnny Marr solo album from a couple of years ago, The Messenger. I had previously found his post-Smiths work good but underwhelming. The reviews of the follow-up to The Messenger did not inspire me to check it out.

  32. misterioso

    Regarding the Eagles & solo Frey and Henley and the Smiths and solo Morrissey, I can honestly say that I get exactly as much listening pleasure from the solo works as from the group works.

  33. Zero I presume.

  34. misterioso

    You know what happens when you presume…

  35. I make a pre of you and me?

  36. ladymisskirroyale

    I second giving a listen to Eitzel. I’ve seen him live and he’s a good performer, too.

  37. ladymisskirroyale

    Blur’s Damon Albarn has done a (seemingly) million solo/side projects (Gorrillaz; The Good, the Bad and the Queen; his own darn self). Graham Coxon (guitarist of Blur) has a good solo record.

    I’ll also listen to anything Terry Hall has recorded. He’s had his post-Specials groups (Colourfield, Vegas, etc.) and has done guest vocals on other musicians’ works (for example, Tricky). I don’t know if your son likes his “Mum, I want to go home” whine, but if he can stand some nasal vocals, Mr. Hall is good to go.

  38. These comments seem to run the gauntlet from ‘heavily caveated’ to ‘not really’.

    I guess people in bands generally need to be in bands. Equally David Bowie needed to be David Bowie and not in Tin Machine.

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