19 artists go in the cage…only 5 come out.
While I abhor the concept of tossing creative artists into the gladiatorial pit (art, prose, poetry, music and film are not competitive sports), my sworn duties as a pop culture critic occasionally require me to add my two cents worth of bread, in regard to such circuses.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced their 19 nominees for induction in 2018: Bon Jovi, Kate Bush, The Cars, Depeche Mode, Dire Straits, Eurythmics, J. Geils Band, Judas Priest, LL Cool J, The MC5, The Meters, Moody Blues, Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Nina Simone, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Link Wray, and The Zombies. Worthy artists all, but (this is what I hate about “contests”) how do I justify my 5 picks (the Hall’s yearly limit for new inductees) without seeming to denigrate the rest? By doing my job and plowing forward (alphabetically):
Kate Bush – While I fear she has a snowball’s chance in hell to actually get selected (I’ve noticed the Hall tends to snub artists who defy genre), I’m one longtime fan who is happy to see she has at least been nominated. Depending on what day of the week it is, you could file Kate Bush under singer-songwriter, performance artist, progressive rock, experimental, folk, chamber-pop, electronica, et al. By the time she was 16, she already had demos of around 50 compositions, several of which caught the ear of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, who shopped them to music execs, helping launch her recording career. Her music comes from a place of sharp intelligence and sublime aesthetic rarely matched (her 4-octave range doesn’t hurt). And she’s been doing this for 40 years…so I say, yes…let her in!
Best 3 albums: Never For Ever, The Dreaming, Hounds of Love
The Cars – It’s not the first Hall of Fame nomination for this iconic Boston band; odds are good that it will finally take. Their classic 1978 debut album was a breath of fresh air at the time; the perfect bridge between the stadium rock excess of the mid to late 70s and the burgeoning skinny-tie new-wave scene of the early 80s. They ingeniously mixed warm, Beatle-y power pop sensibilities with the cool detachment of Kraftwerk-influenced electronica-and it worked (as you can hear in the aptly-entitled “All Mixed Up” above). They have since built an impressive catalog, so I’d say they are due.
Best 3 albums: The Cars, Candy-O, Heartbeat City
Judas Priest – “Priest! Priest! Priest!” C’mon…let’s put the ROCK back into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Considering this U.K. outfit has been slashing power chords since 1969, and that their popularity has never waned, you can’t say they haven’t proven their mettle (metal?) by now. Not to mention that they are responsible for one of the best hard rock albums ever made…Sad Wings of Destiny. Great catalog of songs (many of them bonafide rock anthems), ace dual guitarists, and Rob Halford’s otherworldly pipes…I rest my case.
Best 3 albums: Sad Wings of Destiny, Sin After Sin, Screaming for Vengeance
The Moody Blues – Every year, there is at least one nominee that makes me do a spit take (did I get any on you?). “Are you kidding me? You mean they are not already in the Hall of Fame? Seriously?!” if 50 years of consistently top-shelf symphonic rock and chart-topping singles doesn’t make them a shoo-in, I don’t know what does. Jeez.
Best 3 albums: Days of Future Passed, In Search of the Lost Chord, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour
The Zombies – Another classic band whose time for induction is overdue. Founded by keyboardist Rod Argent in 1958 (!), they scored a string of hit singles in the U.K. and the U.S. in the early to mid-60s. Songs like “She’s Not There”, “Tell Her No” and “Time of the Season” are imprinted in the neurons of those “of a certain age” (ahem). Those hits are timeless, but the deep cuts have a lot of substance as well; informed by Argent’s unique jazz-rock chord shapes and Colin Blunstone’s breathy vocals. Argent and Blunstone still do the odd gig; so let’s give them credit for hanging in there!
Best 3 albums: Begin Here, Odyssey and Oracle, Decca Stereo Anthology