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Top Ten Vocalists: Part Two - Five through Two

Wow. The debate I stirred with Ten Through Six was high.  I never realized how passionate people were about their singers.  Click here if you missed Top Ten Vocalists: Part One - Ten Through Six.

Here comes Part Two - remember the rules.  These singers just aren't a distinctive voice or a sound, they have to have talent. They must be able to use their voice as an instrument.

#5 Sting. While many rock vocalists are influenced by blues, Sting did something slightly different. He brought jazz to rock n roll, creating haunting melodies that are burned into our memories. His phrasing sounds like a jazz guitar soloing over a driving rock n roll beat. There's no one like him. Two video clips here - one is him singing at Live Aid with saxophonist Bradford Marsalis. He had just left The Police at this point.  You'll be able to hear his raw jazzy rock vocals of Roxanne intertwined with counter melodies from a soprano saxophone.  Bonus track: Eddie Murphy's  rendition.

#4 Jon Anderson. Lead singer of the Prog Band, Yes, Jon has the most angelic voice in rock history.  Seriously, when I die I expect to hear Starship Trooper blasting over the speakers as I enter the pearly gates - that's how I know I've gotten into rock n roll heaven. The most amazing thing to me is that he sings these high beautiful melodies with calm and ease. I equate his melodies to a butterfly fluttering around on a warm summer morning near the ocean. As his phrase ends the butterfly finds his destination, settling on the tall grass just above the dunes, the sun glistening through it's wings.

There's lots of clips of Yes that shows off his voice, but most have about two minutes of instrumental music before the vocals hit. So here's the classic I've Seen All Good People. He's about 57 in this clip. Any other Tenor his age would be way past their prime. His voice is still magically angelic.

#3 Robert Plant This is a voice that gets you laid. Over and over and over again. Sex just oozes out of his melodies. It's rock n roll with a heavy helping of soulful blues. He can climb up a phrase with a perfect attack then gently release it with an airy bliss that melts up into the clouds. He can change up the melodies and phrasing to capture the mood of the song but still maintain his signature blues-rock style. Here's my favorite - Kashmir.

#2 Steve Perry. Love Journey or hate Journey, what's undeniable is the strength and power of Steve Perry's voice. He brings beautiful blues to corporate rock. Many tribute bands and vocalists have tried to copy him. But if you listen closely there are nuances to his phrasing and melodies than make it almost impossible to duplicate.  Be it an extra breathe here or there, or a few grace notes that lead into the power note, or parts of the phrase that build up into a climax - Steve knows how to use his voice as an instrument. A typical singer with his range just hits the high notes and wails away (e.g. Dio, Brian Delp from Boston, Rik Emmett, Dennis DeYoung, the Bee Gees), instead Steve finesses the note, plays with it, and makes it his own.  Take a listen to this bonus track from Frontiers, a song called Liberty. It marries his bluesy phrasing that grows into his power pop, then releases it - letting it subside back into a blues phrase.

Want to know who number one is?  You'll have to check back in a few days to find out.

Wal Ozello is the author of Assignment 1989: The Time Travel Wars and was the lead singer of the Columbus hairband Armada. He's a resident of Upper Arlington, Ohio and a frequent customer at Colin's Coffee.

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