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The BEST Recording Artist Ever...

Lee Marshall

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Raspy kicked it off with the best song thread which got me to thinking about the artists who record 'em... Who's the BEST? If 50 people respond to this thread I'd guess that we'll see at least 40, perhaps as many as 45, different answers....

There isn't ONE recording artist who satisfies my ears EVERY time...with every song. There are some from Eric/The Raspberries which don't measure up to the rest of their output from my point of view. And ones that I don't always 'get' might be YOUR favourites. Same with Brian Wilson/The Beach Boys. SOME don't make it for me. Led Zep...same thing. AC/DC? Love 'em but not everything they've recorded really does 'it' to their highest degree.

There is ONE artist who [after he searched and began to find his sound/his niche some 40 years ago] almost never lets me down. His songs, virtually without exception, touch a spiritual-like chord that reaches me deep inside my core. I may not subscribe to everything he did or payed homage to but still, lyrically, I would call him the MOST honest artist of the 20th century. Even today most of the words, thoughts and ideas he penned ring true. And I think that it is marvelous that the essence of his messages are so clear that even a young child can understand them. Someone once wrote that the words from one of his songs should be printed on the front page of our newspapers every day...a different song each day. Couple those words with terrific melodies, a striking HEARTbeat-like groove plus a wide variety of sounds and textures, moods and emotions and I 'feel' the entirety of his body of work. Time Magazine named one of his albums THE lp of the 20th century. [Exodus] The BBC named one of his songs THE song of the 20th century. [One Love/People Get Ready].

Obviously for ME...THE best recording artist EVER is Bob Marley. No other has cause me to pause, think and meditate like he has. I would even go out on a limb and humbly suggest that he had enough of an influence to make me a better human being. Hard to beat that. cool

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For me, this is difficult. While I love the Beatles and Stones, I don't care for most of the former's output from Sgt. Peppers on, and most of the latter's for the past 2 decades. Springsteen, I started souring on after hearing most of "Born In The USA" played ad nauseum on the radio...

In all honesty, the longer an artist records, the less "perfect" they generally become for me, and the better the chance of recording something I don't care for. That said.....

Rock & Roll - Buddy Holly, I'd guess, although the ghouls reissuing all of his posthumous material, including some very bad overdubbing, didn't help matters. Eddie Cochrane's limited releases were ungodly good, and, like Holly, he didn't live long enough to screw up the quality of his recorded output.

The original Byrds did it all in their first 2 LPs, then did another two killer albums as a foursome, sans Gene Clark, but then went downhill as the band changed radically. The Ramones nailed it their first 3 albums, and started going downhill when Tommy Erdelyi left as drummer/producer. The Stooges first 2 albums were excellent, as was their 3rd as a slightly different band, but their legacy has been tarnished by hundreds of awful bootlegs and Iggy's solo act. Had the Sex Pistols just recorded "Bollocks" and disappeared, they would have been a great candidate for me as best act...but they kept reuniting, and bad live boots kept resurfacing.

Raspberries - 4 albums, that's about as perfect as it gets, even though I'm not crazy about all of their songs.

Blues - Robert Johnson - recorded 29 songs in '36, died in '37, never really had the chance to record anything bad. (I love both Muddy Waters & Howlin' Wolf, but even they had their bad moments toward the end of their careers/lives - "Electric Mud" and "The Howlin' Wolf Album", the latter described by HW as "dogsh*t")

Soul/R&B - Otis Redding never, IMO, made a bad record, period. He could have sung the Memphis Yellow Pages and made it sound heavenly.

C&W - Hank Williams was about as perfect as it gets. Again, he really didn't live long enough to f*** things up too badly, recording-wise (his life, that's a whole different kettle o' fish!)

Others like George Jones, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn...each recorded hundreds of albums, with a large percentage of their material pure crap.

Folk - Early Dylan is unparalleled, but his post-60's releases have been incredibly inconsistent.

Bizarre/Insane music - Hasil Adkins, a true primitive, never strayed from his demented vision, as he didn't really have the musical talent to do so. Captain Beefheart - love his music, but he put out two abominations/LPs on Mercury in the 80's that were atrocious.

Reggae - Marley I like, but I prefer Toots & The Maytals (the closest thing to a reggae Otis Redding)....but am not crazy about a lot of either's material.

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So...no one really makes it over the long haul for you then John? [unless they had unnaturally short careers]

As for Toots...GREAT singer/GREAT sounds. BUT...loads and LOADS of covers. Still I rate him way up at the very top...and not for the genre called Reggae alone.

By the way...I'm a big vintage/classic Blues fan as well...but not nearly so much re: country and western. Some great songs but that hanky-honkin', nose pinchin' sound...ARGH!!! To each his own though.

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Marley...Every song sounds the same

Springsteen...Vocals suck, melodies suck,arrangements suck


If you want to pause/meditate...Then go to church...Dont put your eggs in Springsteen/Marleys basket...These are songs we are talking about...Not Biblical passages...

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I give you Revolution Number 9 for starters. THAT disqualified them right then and there.

Dismissing, out of hand, someone else's choice...particularly if "it all sounds the same" is a tad ridiculous. THAT only illustrates that you haven't really taken the time to LISTEN to it and as such aren't truly qualified to critique it.

Not that I'm suggesting that you HAVE to listen to something that doesn't strike your fancy. This is a POSITIVE thread. Not one to chop down other people's tastes. Questions though are welcome.

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Lew you're preaching to the choir buddy. There's no doubt in my mind that without the Beatles, many of the acts that came after them might not have happened. In the same vein, if not for Elvis, Little Richard, etc., the Beatles might not have found their way either.

We'll never agree on Springsteen's merit, but he's the 'real deal' for me.


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It disqualifies them FOR ME. That they remain a favourite for many is terrific. I get THAT. But it ain't about hair...it's about MUSIC...the entire body of work. They rank very high on my list of the elite few. Just not at the very top. I don't want to get into listing songs they recorded that were [to my ears] album filler. But there are tunes of theirs that I feel belong on the cutting room floor. To each his own. That's what this thread is about...Discovery...not circling the wagons and shooting down honest choices.

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Just wait till the dog days of summer ---- testosterone will really fly!!

Babe Ruth hit over 700 home runs but struck out

over 1000. He's still known for hitting the home runs ---- lets focus on the positive again guys.

I try to remember to call a 'red' light a traffic light ---- because it's really green about the same amount of time as it is red!!

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"So...no one really makes it over the long haul for you then John? [unless they had unnaturally short careers]"

Well, if I were stranded on the proverbial desert island, and were told that I have just one artist's music to keep me company the rest of my life, I would cherry-pick from either The Beatles' or Rolling Stones' catalogs.

If asked to grade the overall quality of an artist's total output as far as my personal preferences, I'd go with Buddy Holly or Otis Redding. Unnaturally short careers, perhaps....but they also crammed a lot of music, all of it, IMO, high quality, into those short years. (6-7 albums' worth for Holly, 8-9 albums for Otis.)

Other artists I forgot above - Jimi Hendrix's recordings, while alive, were unbelievably phenomenal....after his death, the posthumous releases - not so much.....

Bob mentioned the Pernice Bros. above - another act who, to date, have never made anything other than very good to excellent LPs....

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I think there are two complete schools of thought going down here, greatness, and consistency. It's like brainstorming in a board room, you don't judge, but the more you put out the better there is chance for a gem. So many "rich" people have failed several times but they hang in there and keep pushing.

Same with music. If you keep cranking out dozens of songs, you're more likely to find a gem, than a guy that works on 6 songs for 20 years.

Like him or hate him, Bruce is pretty consistent, and has the benefit of a tight band that stayed together, (Aerosmith, Stones, Billy, Jovi) There are thousands of people with a "better voice", singing at the Holiday Inn. Why? American Idol has proven it, lot more to this biz than chops. Songwriting, band (tightness and dynamics), ambition, cultural timing, idiots at the label, etc. He's consistent and comes up with greatness.

Boston was consistent, not great, but very good.

Someone said on an other post if Paul had released some songs today that he did when he was essentially God with the Beatles, he'd been critically murdered. People rip his new single Dance Tonight, but the same guy that wrote

Maxwells Silver Hammer and C Moon, wrote Let It Be, Hey Jude, and Maybe I'm Amazed. Dance Tonight would have thought of as fun on a Beatles album cut in the day, nobody ripped Her Majesty back then,

The Stones are all over the map as well,

The consistent people play it safe, but genuises are all over the map, and put together some mighty fine greatest hits. IMHO

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For me it's Elton. I "discovered" him when I was 14. From the first time I heard "Crocodile Rock", I was hooked. From then on all allowence money that I received went to buying his albums. Every album of his held something different. "Elton John" was orchestral, "Tumbleweed" was Country (or at least His and Bernie Taupins version of it), Dont Shoot Me" was pop. I really believe he's the reason why I've liked different kinds of music all these years.


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