Tuesday, September 13, 2011

THE BATTLEMENTS AND BARLEY REVUE: For his 60th birthday/25th-ish anniversary of going solo, Sting is doing a stripped-down-band-in-smaller-venues tour this fall.

added: Okay, here's a question: while I don't believe it's true of Sting himself, surely you can list artists who were, indeed, produced their best work after going solo. I'll start the list with Michael Jackson, Neil Young and Annie Lennox.


  1. JosephFinn8:41 AM

    Checking the list, the area venue (sorry, Hitfix, the Rosemont Theatre is not in Chicago, but in the suburb of Rosemont) is a quite good mid-sized venue that I've found to to have excellent acoustics.  If it's typical for the tour, Sting's people have done a nice job of finding places not too small so only 400 can get in and yet not too big as well (it seats about 4000).

  2. Three there are arguments for:

    1.  Clapton--better as a solo artist than in his early bands, I think.
    2.  Paul Simon--A tougher call, since Simon and Garfunkel are great together, but "Graceland" tips the scales, I'd submit.
    3.  Phil Collins--This is a borderline indefensible call artistically, but certainly, much much more COMMERCIALLY successful after he went solo, though the Genesis albums from Invisible Touch on are basically Collins albums anyway.

  3. Chuck9:28 AM

    Matt's comment easily leads me to submit that Peter Gabriel's solo work was the best part of his career.
    I'm not sure I agree on Annie Lennox, though the Eurythmics were short -lived, they did have some great songs in Sweet Dreams and Here Comes the Rain Again.  I think Sweet Dreams might be the best thing she ever did.  This may be complicated by the fact that I sort of can't stand Walking on Broken Glass.

    How Ozzy Osbourne?

    I don't like George Michael or Wham very much, but . . . .
    I'm not a huge Rod Stewart fan but he was probably both better AND worse than The Faces.  That could be a good essay topic.

  4. Chuck9:31 AM

    I note that I have considered and rejected the idea that George Harrison's best work was done as a solo artist.  But I'm throwing it out there because it may develop a good discussion.  For me, as good as some of his solo work is, I think Something and Here Comes the Sun are his greatest artistic achievements.  I think reasonable minds can differ.

  5. Watts9:49 AM

    Aimee Mann, even though I love "Voices Carry"

  6. Watts9:55 AM

    Paul Simon is a tough, tough call.  If I were stacking the S&G catalog against the Simon solo one, I give the slight edge to the duo. Even though Graceland is one of my desert island discs. But if presented with the hypothetical situation: You can either never hear Graceland again or never hear "America" - I'm taking the single.

  7. Meghan9:59 AM

    I was going to say Peter Gabriel too.

  8. Good call on Aimee Mann. I think just Bachelor No 2 beats out anything she recorded with Til Tuesday. (Although I share your love for "Voices Carry.")

  9. Jim Bell10:10 AM

    Bridge Over Trouble Water.  No contest.  As much as I love Simon, and I do, the duo is better.

  10. Jim Bell10:11 AM

    Voices Carry.  Wow.

  11. Jim Bell10:11 AM

    Watts, I think maybe you and I are sonically compatible.  If you like Country and Western too that is.

  12. Paul Tabachneck10:13 AM

    Curtis Mayfield.  For real, so so good with the Impressions, but seminal afterwards. 

    Lionel Richie? 

    I second Chuck in defending the Eurythmics -- "Touch" was the first modern pop album I ever owned, and to this day I'm proud of that fact.  Great album from start to finish, whether or not you like the dated sound.

  13. Paul Tabachneck10:14 AM

    Word.  So many good songs from Aimee Mann post-Til Tuesday that the dichotomy doesn't make sense to me (and I'll see your "Voices Carry" and raise you "The Other End of the Telescope.")

  14. justin timberlake

  15. Paul Tabachneck10:25 AM

    When I saw Paul Simon in concert this year, I felt that he gave a stellar performance, but that I kept wishing Art would come out from the wings and we'd hear the early stuff.  It's tough, because I love him so much and respect his body of work, but the songs that I sing when I'm idling around are "Homeward Bound" and "The Boxer" way more than the solo stuff.  

    That could be a preference built around preferring collections of songs to concept albums, as well -- sometimes conceptual work can get a little overwrought with self-importance and songs get lost in the production trappings (which is why I prefer Spike, Trust, and When I Was Cruel more than the other EC albums).  Maybe my sole exception is The Wall, which dispensed with the idea that a concept album had to be thematically complex on the compositional side.

  16. Paul Tabachneck10:27 AM

    Sorry, "which is why I prefer Spike, Trust, and When I Was Cruel to the other EC albums."  Sorry.  Sorry.  Sorry.

  17. Isn't the argument of all Genesis fans that the early albums (Peter Gabriel-era) are the *real* Genesis albums? I think the question is Peter Gabriel solo, not Phil Collins solo (which, blurgh). 

  18. Whoops, responded too quickly above.

  19. She's also fantastic in concert - very funny, chatty, absolutely worth seeing if you get the chance.

  20. Paul Tabachneck10:39 AM

    Oh!  Bjork.

    Tanya Donnely (if we consider Belly as her first 'solo' project, after splitting away from the Breeders/Throwing Muses)

  21. I could not decide on Simon, and as such left him out. It's like the Bill James line about Rickey Henderson, that if you could split him in two you'd have two Hall of Famers.

  22. Not really the thing around here, but CHER! (I would say leaving Sonny = going solo, yeah?)

  23. Meghan11:11 AM

    How about Morrissey?

    And, though I know it's not what was asked, I have to say that Belinda Carlisle is the exact antithesis of the question at hand.

  24. Paul Tabachneck11:26 AM

    That's maybe laughable.  Ah ha hahaha ha ha hahaha ha ha hahaha haaaaaaa.....

    (Seriously, we can agree to disagree, but I'll take "Ask" and "Please Please Please" over "The More You Ignore Me" and "We Hate It When..." any day.)

  25. Meghan11:40 AM

    Honestly, I was just throwing it out there.  I wasn't a big enough fan of either The Smiths or Morrissey to have an opinion grounded in anything.  But now that you've put it in concrete terms for me, you're right.  I'm on your side.

  26. Paul Tabachneck11:46 AM

    I wasn't overwhelmed by the concert I went to in Pittsburgh, but that's probably because Patty Griffin opened and after that I was emotionally wiped out.

  27. Big Joe11:50 AM

    Gwen Stefani and Darius Rucker could be contenders.  But I would also put Sting in here.  Those 5 Police records are great, but I think his best writing has been on the solo records.

  28. victoria11:53 AM

    Ryan Adams?

  29. Anonymous12:11 PM

    Got one.

    Fatboy Slim (Norman Cook) after The Housemartins.


  30. lisased12:37 PM

    I'm here to defend the Sting of 26 years ago, but only because "Dream of the Blue Turtles" was the first concert my older, musically cooler brother took me to. We saw him at Merriwether Post Pavilion, and it was an incredible show. I will never forget him singing "Roxanne", accompanied only by Branford Marsalis on sax. If he can put on a show like that again, it'll be worth it.

  31. lisased12:43 PM

    For the parents here, Dan Zanes.

    Natalie Merchant?

    Steve Winwood. Tina Turner.

  32. Does Danny Elfman post-Oingo Boingo count? Or not, because it's a completely different kind of music?

  33. I considered Merchant, but it's pretty much a wash--yes, Tigerlily and Ophelia are fine albums, but after that, she's basically disappeared (admittedly, partially of her own choice), and the Maniacs stuff holds up pretty damn well too.

  34. Paul Tabachneck1:21 PM

    The improvement of that band album-to-album was staggering, and it's sad to see the state of its current affairs -- they definitely suffered from her absence.

  35. J.OConnor1:39 PM

    A bunch more:

    Van Morrison
    Diana Ross
    Teddy Pendergrass
    Jerry Butler
    Ben E King
    Smokey Robinson
    Damon Albarn
    Lauryn Hill

    Of them, I think only Morrison, Butler, and Hill were clearly better as solo acts (and Butler left the Impressions after their first big hit, so he may not really count).  I haven't heard enough Blur (or Gorillaz) to have an opinion about Albarn.  Teddy Pendergrass and Ben E King strike me as equally good solo or group;  I couldn't choose between Wake Up Everybody and Love TKO or Save the Last Dance for Me/Stand By Me.  I like Robinson and Ross's solo work alot less than their work with the Miracles and Supremes, but an argument could be made.

  36. Tosy and Cosh1:48 PM

    Man do I love Aimee Mann. That's really all I wanted to say.

  37. Tosy and Cosh1:50 PM

    Me too! (I was afraid to say so). When the Angels Fall is a top ten all time song for me.

  38. I'm not sure -- yes, Ryan Adams has been very prolific since going solo, but the work Whiskeytown did on their few albums was just great.  There's a discipline with the band that I'm not sure he's had alone, at least not in his early-solo days.

  39. Tosy and Cosh1:53 PM

    I have no idea, but film scomposer Elfman is awesome. I thought he was kind of tapped out, but the Alice theme is simply great.

  40. The Other Kate2:08 PM

    Aw, I was at that show at Merriweather too! A great night and the capper to my fanatical middle school/early high school love for the Police (and crush on Sting). Soon the posters came down, and I moved on. By the time Sting's next solo album came out, I had no interest in it at all. Was it the one with the lutes?  

  41. The Other Kate2:10 PM

    Although "Happy Hour" rolled around on my iPod the other day, and man, what a song! Instant energy.

  42. I see your Tanya Donnelly and raise to Juliana Hatfield.  Maybe.

  43. Marsha2:27 PM

    I'm shocked we haven't seen a Beyonce/Destiny's Child debate in this thread.

  44. The Pathetic Earthling2:38 PM

    I'm likely attending a conference in Schaumberg at the end of October for an entity which is trying to sell the conference as being in Chicago.  *I* know better, but I'm guess the folks coming in from elsewhere in the world who want to see Chicago are going to be a bit miffed at the $90+ cab ride.

  45. The other day I was trying to think about picking the five best Beyonce songs, including both solo work and Destiny's Child.  It would be really, really difficult.  Single Ladies, Baby Boy, Crazy In Love, Say My Name and Survivor would be my picks at this very moment, but I could swap out nearly all of them.  

  46. Squid2:53 PM

    I'll see your Belinda Carlisle, and raise you a Lita Ford.

  47. Genevieve2:58 PM

    I was going to cite "Sail This Ship Alone," which is so lovely, but then realized it was by The Beautiful South, so it's other non-Cook Housemartins.

  48. Jenn.3:25 PM

    How in the world did everyone forget ALOTT5MA fave Justin Timberlake?

    Otherwise:  I admit that I quite like a lot of the solo Sting oeuvre.  So there.

    I also agree that Ryan Adams is a hard call.  Probably, if you threw a good editor into the pile of Ryan Adams CDs, you'd come up with a set of, say, five CDs that are totally awesome, which tilts the balance toward the solo career.  But he throws in a lot of filler into his solo CDs, unlike the Whiskeytown CDs, which were generally strong throughout.

  49. lisased3:28 PM

    My devotion ended there too. I think my younger self knew to move on. I like to think the Police were my gateway drug to Angry Young Men like Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson.

    Do you remember when you absolutely had to declare your devotion to Duran Duran or the Police? Good times.

  50. Fred App3:38 PM

    I think Paul Simon is a tough call, but clearly Art Garfunkel would NOT qualify for this list. In terms of other duos, I'd mention Kenny Loggins, although frankly I don't care much for him with or without Messina.

    For the ex-Genesis members, Phil Collins if we're talking commercially, Peter Gabriel if we're talking artistically.

    I second the early mention of Eric Clapton, and from the same era, I'd throw in Rod Stewart.

  51. Paul Tabachneck3:50 PM

    I'll see your Lita Ford, and raise you a Joan Jett.

  52. Paul Tabachneck3:52 PM

    I love Love on Top so much that I think it just trumps everything.

  53. Meghan3:55 PM

    lauri posted him above.  It's small but he was not forgotten!

  54. lisased4:02 PM

    Do we include Jeff Beck?

  55. Jenn.4:02 PM

    Heh.  I swear I'd read looking for it!

  56. Squid4:38 PM

    Getting away from the solo artist question for a moment, can we please pledge never to put "Sting" and "stripped down" together in an entry again?  I think my wife had a little crisis there for a moment.

  57. Christy in Philly4:43 PM

    Where is Lauryn Hill? I was just lamenting this the other day.

  58. Christy in Philly4:44 PM

    I think it's completely amazing. I wish it had been the song of the summer. It just seems like a summer song to me. That didn't stop me from listening to it at least 5 times today though.

  59. Christy in Philly4:44 PM

    JT was my first thought as well. I did see that it was listed above.

  60. LDP in Cincinnati5:08 PM

    Neil Young, significantly better without the rest of the Buffalo Springfield or C, S, or N.

  61. Benner5:20 PM

    Mark Knopfler, Gram Parsons.

    Lou Reed would be an interesting discussion.  He certainly has more good songs post Velvets, but the highs of the collaboration with Cale and Morrison exceed his work with Quine. 

  62. The Other Kate9:30 PM

    Oh, I do! And I remember the where: 8th grade homeroom.

  63. The Other Kate9:31 PM

    Oh, I do! And I remember the where: 8th grade homeroom.

  64. The Other Kate9:37 PM

    Oh, I do! And I remember the where: 8th grade homeroom. I moved on to those very same AYM, if you can believe it.

  65. You're going to have to make the case for Knopfler. I love the Local Hero soundtrack, mind you.

  66. JosephFinn10:13 PM

    I don't know about it being 90+, but it's a Metra ride to be sure.

  67. JosephFinn10:14 PM

    Hell, yes.

  68. exmundelainer10:15 PM

    Maria McKee!

    Hear hear for Aimee Mann.

    Oh, and Brian Setzer.

  69. I Know Someone Who Knows Someone Who Knows Alan McGee Quite Well2:41 AM

    Thanks for opening the floor on Lou Reed and the Velvets.  I agree; by now, Lou's solo oeuvre has more "career value," while the Velvets surely have more "peak value," to borrow Bill James's concepts from sabermetrics.  On the other hand, while everything the VU ever put to vinyl is worth having -- save for 1973's Squeeze, with no original Velvets -- Lou Reed has released more album-length clunkers for someone of generally high artistic merit than anyone this side of Dylan or Van Morrison.  And I'm not talking about misguided experiments like Metal Machine Music, either.  Somewhere there must be some Lou fans holding a brief for Rock and Roll Heart or Mistrial -- but I've never encountered them, thank G-d.

    So: in nearly four decades as a solo artist, Lou's never matched "Rock and Roll" or "Beginning to See the Light" as a rocker, or "Pale Blue Eyes" as a balladeer.  And yet: Transformer, a wonderful LP from beginning to end, with nearly perfect pacing to complement a strong batch of songs and Mick Ronson's playing and arrangements.  Lou needs talented collaborators to challenge him and tell him when he's full of it; unfortunately, he tends to drive those people away after a short while.  (Ask John Cale about it sometime.)  So The Blue Mask and Legendary Hearts, with the late, great Robert Quine (z"l), stand as another peak in his solo career, a peak that was over far too soon.

    Speaking of John Cale, he's probably had a stronger solo career than Reed's, measured album by album, although again, Cale's made plenty of awful records that, thankfully, have gone deleted and forgotten.  (Please tell me no one's rushing to reissue The Academy in Peril or Caribbean Sunset.)  But Cale's been more consistent over a period of years, e.g., the Island trio of LP's (Gun, Slow Dazzle, Helen of Troy), the first of which came about a year after Paris 1919, still his finest solo record. 

    So from '73 through '75, Cale made four keepers in a row.  When has Reed ever done that?  For every Berlin you get a Sally Can't Dance; for every Street Hassle you get a Rock and Roll Heart; every Blue Mask gets its own Mistrial.  (Let's not even consider how Metal Machine Music got a "re-creation," at, of all places, the Berlin Opera House.  What was that about history repeating itself, the second time as farce?)

    Another juicy dispute over peak value vs. career value: Robyn Hitchcock has had a long and distinguished solo career, with probably a dozen LP's I can recommend to novices.  Yep Roc has required two separate 5xCD box sets just to document his 1980's output before signing to A&M near the end of the '80's.  But has any solo Hitchcock record topped his old band (the Soft Boys) and their 1980 Underwater Moonlight, an album that is likely responsible for R.E.M.?  Mind you, I keep up with Hitchcock's current solo work, even the limited edition solo acoustic records.  Fegmania! is about as close as he's ever gotten to Underwater Moonlight.  And he hasn't come close to Fegmania! in years.

    Oh, and by the way: to whomever named Curtis Mayfield as an example of someone whose solo career exceeded his group output (the Impressions) -- nice call.  As soon as I saw Adam's query, Curtis is the first one who came to mind.  Glad to see someone else thought so, too.

    Finally, I note that no one has stepped forward to argue for the relative merits of the solo careers of Tom Verlaine, Paul Westerberg, Bob Mould, or Robert Pollard.  I'd stump for Verlaine, as he's made one solo masterpiece -- Dreamtime -- that equals Adventure, and a second (Flash Light) that comes close, although nothing Verlaine does will ever top Marquee Moon.  As [...]

  70. Marsha11:43 AM

    Yes, but YOU can find a way to see friends in Chicago, yes?