So you're the egotistical member of a band who was recently fired for being a total dick, or your the caged artist who left the band to spread your creative wings to new heights. What do you do? You make a solo project! Whether you're the vengeful Dave Mustaine or the bored Rob Halford, the only thing left to do with your talent after leaving your previous band is to spawn a new one. But just because you left a great band, does that automatically make your solo project a success? The answer is no, as I discover below after closely analyzing the solo projects of four musicians who have been in the rock/metal world longer than I have been alive.
Bruce Dickinson - Sizzler:
To be fair and balanced, I will say that I could listen to Dickinson sing the phone book, so anything that spews out of his mouth is bound to be gold in my book. By the beginning of the 1990s, you could tell he was putting forth only a fraction of effort in his live performances (see Live at Donnington), so rather than hollowly live the rock and roll lifestyle, he left Iron Maiden in 1993 to focus on his solo work--which he actually started while still in Maiden. Now most people will tell you (including me) that Maiden is nothing without Dickinson, and even though I think his solo stuff is enjoyable and interesting, he isn't much with Maiden.
That said, Bruce decided to stay within the genre that made him famous, but he also tinkered with genre mixing and odd song themes and concept albums. No other song sums up the weirdness but still catchiness of his early solo better than the following song.
*WARNING: the following video contains the best voice in heavy metal rapping some verses*
Over the decade, you can see that Dickinson eventually ditched the weirdness to align him self as more of a Maiden Clone, as most of his songs sounded like they could be on a Maiden album. This was probably a huge clue to the rest of the band that he wanted to come back (in 1999). Overall, Bruce Dickinson's solo project had some quirky weird songs and some memorable Maiden-esque tracks, but we all know in which band he belongs.
Paul Di'Anno - Fizzler:
You have to respect this man for laying the foundation for a band that would be imitated through three decades, but when Di'Anno was ejected from Iron Maiden (due to drug/alcohol abuse), he just could not get back on his feet. I will frequently hear some of his "remastered" versions of Maiden songs he helped write (Killers, Wrathchild, Prowler, etc.) and there really is not much to take from them. The vocals are a bit rougher, but you can tell the instrumentalists are much less skilled than the ones on Killers and Iron Maiden albums.
In addition to the Maiden remakes, Di'Anno has also covered other artists, and he even gave writing his own music "the college try." Living in America is probably his weirdest cover--not only because his voice can't save that bland song, but because his personality just does not seem like one that would be fascinated by the big cities of the country across the pond. As for his own created songs, you can easily lock on to the decade they were made, because they bleed 80s cliches from every orifice. To me, his songs sound like Poison with a rougher vocalist.
Save your time for the first two Iron Maiden albums and skip Di'Anno.
Robert Plant - Fizzler:
Even the Richard Suckers at Rolling Stone Magazine can't argue that Led Zeppelin is in the top 5 of greatest rock bands of all time, and this was made possible in portion due to Robert Plant's golden pipes (and his tambourine playing too!). With the death of John Bohnam, it's no surprise why my generation will never get to see the band live. As for Plant's current activities, he's still out on tour, but in a different direction.
Plant made waves in 2007 with his solo album Raising Sand, a duo project with bluegrass musician Alison Krauss, which ended up winning album of the year at the Grammys. Personally, after listening to some of the singles (Rich Woman and Fortune Teller), it's just not my cup of tea. It could be his obvious aging vocals, or it could be the country tone to the songs, but I did not enjoy the album.
Plant is now touring with his Band of Joy, and though I have not heard anything from this band of joy, I know from a few jilted Zep fans that not a single Zeppelin song is played at these shows--not even re-genred classic songs (easy listening Immigrant Song, anyone?). It's probably a bit ignorant to dismiss this Band of Joy because of their refusal to give us even one classic, but that's just, like, my opinion, man! I respect the man to death as a singer, but I wish he didn't have to venture away from the genre I love.
Ritchie Blackmore - Sizzler:
The man traded social skills for musical talent when he made his deal with the devil. Renowned by fellow rock musicians as a man who is short on fan appreciation, Blackmore saves his energy for writing some of the most famous riffs in rock history (dun DUN DUNNNNN, dun dun Da NUNNNN). Starting by co-founding the what I like to call "Hippie Metal" band Deep Purple, he later moved on to the just as successful band Rainbow, known for unearthing the legend Ronnie James Dio. Hopefully you know at least the bare minimum about Rainbow, because they will not be the focus of this section.
After his marriage to singer Candice Night, Blackmore crafted more gold with Blackmore's night, a medieval/Renaissance themed band with rock roots. The band has been known to make unannounced visits to Renaissance fairs across America--which is one of the big reasons I go to Bristol Renaissance Fair in Kenosha at least once a year--and like to play smaller venues. What follows is an example of their folk-rock majesty:
If you listen to one solo project after reading this article, I strongly recommend making it Blackmore's Night. It's folk-rock at its best, even if some of the videos are a bit silly.
*Bonus Section* - Kevin Federline, great solo artist or GREATEST solo artist?:
After being a backup dancer to Britney Spears and then husband, the Fedster decided his overflowing talent was not being utilized properly. Under the the recommendations of his loving wife, KF dropped some bombs on us of epic proportions!
...Okay, I can't keep that up. Any douchebag with sideways hat seems to think he's good at rapping these days, and the word douchebag would not exist in its current manifestation if it weren't for K-Fed. I admit, I can't say he's the worst rapper of all time (youtube search T-Baby - it's so cold in the D), but just because you date someone who is a pop-culture colossus, does not mean you have a green light to make middle school rap songs. Hot tip: YOU ARE NOT AMERICA'S MOST HATED, GET OVER YOURSELF. Just listen to the lyrics, and if you don't hate him by the end...well, congratulations! You are an expert at maintaining your anger.