Next week I’ll write about Mad Men, but today, as it’s Sunday. . . .
I’m not sure which female singer first caught my attention. Back in the late neolithic period I can remember Suzi Quatro appearing on Top of the Pops singing Can the Can and being christened Tin Tin Suzi by my sister. (Very droll.)
In the intervening years there were the occasional nutters coming and going, but none of them were rock singers. It wasn’t until Doro appeared in the pages of Kerrang that female fronted bands, on my radar at least, stepped up a notch. (See How I Discovered . . . Doro for the full story.) The blue eyed whispy haired blonde from Dusseldorf had a shriek that could set off car alarms.
In the eighties there were tons of female artists knocking the balls off the men. Some of them glowed like supernovae for a criminally short period, one of whom was Sandi Saraya. Why she gave up, I don’t know. She never reappeared thirty years later in any of those weird MTV reunion shows where ex-famous people are found in barns in Wyoming and brought out for one last gig.
Saraya released two albums: Saraya and When the Blackbird Sings. They weren’t exactly groundbreaking; more a product of the times, but something about them touched a neural network and I still listen to those songs to this day.
One artist from the 80s who did make a comeback, after a period singing jazz – and singing it very well, it has to be said – is Lee Aaron. Cheeky faced Aaron slowly evolved from big-sword wieldy metal queen to melodic rock imp, surrounded by hair-metally men. I suppose she hit her peak at a period in rock’s history when everyone was hitting their peak. Inevitably, some superb artists would be lost in the babble. Lee Aaron’s voice was always one of the best.
Her Canadian contemporary, Ann Wilson, enjoyed something of a second coming in the 80s when Heart went all glam, stopped playing Barracuda and instead bothered the charts with a string of hits written by the likes of Dianne Warren. If there was a note Ann Wilson couldn’t hit it probably couldn’t be heard by the human ear. Whilst sister Nancy threw herself about on guitar, big sister Ann delivered the goods to such an extent even Lemmy was moved. (Describing her as Morticia in one interview.)
Honourable 80s mentions to Pat Benatar, Terri Nunn (Berlin) and Andrea Schwarz in Rosy Vista.
And while were on the subject of female vocalists in the 80s, was there ever an answer to the Alexa Anastasia controversy? Did Paul Sabu fake his own vocals to record that Alexa album in 1988? We may never know.
I don’t remember the nineties so I probably wasn’t there, but when I started to recover I found a rock scene awash with extraordinary singers. If I were to write an article called How I Discovered . . . Symphonic Metal it might start with William Orbit!
You see, William Orbit’s remix of a classical song sent me down the trance road which ultimately arrived at Armin van Buuren’s collaboration with Sharon den Adel. In and Out of Love was a cracker in it’s own right, but van Adel’s work with Within Temptation guided me towards a casket of artefacts that included Nightwish and Nemesea and Delain and Lacuna Coil and the contagion spread from there.
Tarja was up next, via Anette Olzon who was the Nightwish singer when I discovered them. (Tarja along with Nemesea and Delain have their own articles.)
From Nightwish and the Showtime, Storytime dvd came the voice, or should that be the floor scraping growl of Alissa White-Gluz. Now I have to say I just don’t get this growling business, and a female growler perplexes me even more, but when I saw the film Please Learn the Setlist in 48 Hours, the way White-Gluz and Elize Ryd stepped up to the challenge of performing with Nightwish at such short notice brought home the difference between a professional and the millions of pub bands who never quite make it off the amateur circuit.
In terms of sheer vocal richness few come close to Lacuna Coil’s Cristina Scabbia. If her voice was haute cuisine it would be something cooked in red wine. And how clever to team up alongside the grainy voice of Andrea Ferro to produce the distinctive Lacuna sound.
Honourable mentions to Charlotte Wessels, Manda Ophuis, Simone Simons. Leave a comment if you want to add others to the list.
I can’t finish this piece without a nod to four women who are possibly nutters in the true sense of the word. God bless Crucified Barbara. Two of them play Gibson Flying Vs and Explorers, just like Toten Herzen’s front two. Crucified Barbara don’t use their real names, unless Mia Coldheart, Klara Force, Ida Evileye and Nicki Wicked are their real names. They play superheated classic rock with lead vocals that sound like Lee Aaron after a night drinking caustic soda. I wouldn’t like to be trapped in a lift with them, but they seem a fitting way to round off this quick exploration of women who step up to the mic and scare the vicar.
Take it away ladies. A one, a two, a one two three four. . . .