As any reader of this blog knows, for #thereisnospoonfriday I love to do Top 10 or Top 20 lists of All Time for various different subjects. For this week, I am going to do another list – but this one isn’t about the “best” but rather the most underrated. As I was writing some of my prior Friday posts about music Top 20 Songs of All Time, Top 5 Rap Acts of All Time, Top 5 Albums of All TIme I kept coming back to some bands I always felt were vastly underrated. Yes – you have read me talking about my love for The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Beastie Boys, Prince and others. Most rational people, even if not fans of these artists, would list these groups in their top 20 lists out of respect alone. These groups get mass recognition by fans, critics and organizations like The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and publications like Rolling Stone Magazine. However, there are a ton of bands that have put out an absolutely amazing body of work that don’t get the same respect as the more commonly accepted “greatest of all time”. I am here in this blog to give these groups their props and just due. The following list is my Top 20 Most Underrated Bands of All Time. As with all my prior blogs – this is according to me and my musical tastes. This list can include any genre of music, but my criteria is that these bands a) do not get the respect they deserve and b) have a catalog of music that stands the test of time. With that out of the way – let’s get in to this.
20. Morris Day and The Time – As “Jay” from Jay and Silent Bob would so eloquently say – Morris Day and the Motherfucking Time! Protégées of one of my all timers, Prince, this group is as funky as funk can be. Their songs are catchy, dance funk with a huge dash of attitude and swagger. Their live shows are more than just jams – they put on a SHOW. From Morris preening in the mirror to the dance moves to the pure musicianship of the band – these guys are amazing. I definitely feel they don’t get their proper due and their music definitely stands up today – or any time for that matter. Play “Jungle Love” and set your day to awesomeness. Favorite song: Jungle Love
19. 3rd Bass – I love me some old school rap. Rap from before every song started talking about bling and bitches and booties. Back in the day, rap was really about talent and musicianship. Today it is about wealth, videos and appearance. Yep – I think the rap of today sucks big time. One band from the early days of rap that definitely does not get their due is 3rd Bass. Prime Minister Pete Nice and MC Serch can flat lay it down with really great rhymes – and the beats are outstanding. They actually had something to say in their songs, from ripping on posers like Mc Hammer to rapping about poverty and, of course, boasting like old school rappers should. When anyone’s list of greatest rappers comes up these guys will not be on it and I think that’s absurd. Favorite Song: Pop Goes The Weasel
18. Queensryche – They came out in the days of “hair metal” and were unjustly put in this category because they were never anything close to resembling that scene or style. These guys are AMAZING musicians and their music is more “Pink Floyd meets Queen meets Metallica” in style. Hard, driving guitars and drums matched with incredible vocals and lyrics. On the strength of the album “Operation Mindcrime” alone they deserve more respect, but their other albums also rock. People immediately think “Silent Lucidity” when they hear their name, but trust me – that is actually one of their weaker songs. Favorite Song: Empire
17. KISS – I know a lot of my musician friends say I am nuts for loving these guys but screw them. Yes – I admit they are not amazing musicians. What they are, though, is incredible songwriters and even better showmen. Growing up, I had the Kiss lunchbox and my brothers and I would play their albums in our basement and wear their masks pretending to be them. Look at the facts: they have had a very long and relevant career, sold more merchandise than just about anyone, and sell out every damn arena they play in whatever time period they tour. The music snobs look down on them for lack of “artistry” but those people clearly don’t get what millions of the KISS army do – these guys are awesome. “You wanted the best – you got the best. The hottest band in the world – KISS!!!!” Favorite Song: Detroit Rock City
16. Rage Against The Machine – Did they ever put out a bad album? The answer is an emphatic “NO!”. They really were quite innovative when they came out – from the guitar sounds that seem almost otherworldly to the rap/singing style of the vocals, to the absolute bad ass riffs. They were ANGRY – and every song felt it. I never understood why they don’t get more props in the music world. Maybe because they came out during the tail end of the Grunge era, or maybe because they were just a bit too angry for people’s tastes. Either way – they definitely meet both of the criteria for this list – big time. Favorite Song: Killing in The Name of
15. Cypress Hill – they are, in my mind, one of the seminal rap groups. They are more than a “one hit” wonder by a long mile. Their albums were consistently great – and the best compliment I can give them is I never fast forwarded their songs. They were a different style of rap – hard but stoned and laid back, with a nasally style delivery. They were scary – but approachable. I will never forget seeing them live in NYC. They opened with a huge hand with a 10 foot long blazing joint in it. Awesome. Listen to their stuff people – great beats, great lyrics and just overall awesome rap. Favorite Song: How I could just kill a man
14. Tears For Fears – The 80s had a lot of different fads and trends, and also introduced several great bands. One that never gets the love they deserve is Tears For Fears. They weren’t hair metal, they weren’t pure pop – they were more 80s feel with retro songwriting style. These guys made GREAT music, and I defy you to listen to any of their stuff today and not like it – A LOT. The production on their music is amazing, but the songwriting is what makes their music stand out. I always think of this band as wildly underrated and unappreciated. Favorite Song: Sowing The Seeds of Love
13. Abba – The Swedish foursome that most people equate with a Broadway play these days was actually a group that put out great pop songs one after another. Just go back and look at their catalog – it is really impressive and they absolutely dominated the charts for a long period of time. Yeah – it’s cheesy – but it is also great songwriting and pure pop bliss. I am not ashamed to admit I like their stuff. Not a massive fan – but I have mad respect for their body of work. People are quick to dismiss them as “fluff” but how many “fluff” acts can boast their body of work? Yeah – I thought so. Total ear candy. Favorite Song: Take a Chance on Me
12. Steely Dan – I LOVE this group. They came out during a time when Rock was king – but these guys are most definitely not a “Rock” band. More jazz/pop – their songs are also incredibly catchy and extremely well written. Hardcore musician types “get it “– but these guys never get their respect from the masses like the other bands that came out around the same time. Their catalog of music stands up against anyone – and I bet you love their songs when you hear them on the radio, even if you don’t know it was them. For years I had thought “Reeling in the Years” was another band – that is the level of diversity they have in their music. Favorite Song: Peg
11. The Black Crowes – Pure, unfiltered Rock. No glitz, no glamour, no elaborate stage shows – just a bunch of dudes laying down some classic rock music – with a stoned twinge to it. These guys came out in the 90s, but they could have fit in nicely in the 70s too. Casual fans know their hits “Hard to Handle” and “She talks to Angels” but these guys made albums that from start to finish kicked major ass. The musicianship was great, the vocals amazing and the songs stand the test of time. Favorite Song: No Speak No Slave
10. Erik B and Rakim – yes – real fans of rap give these guys their due as one of the ground breakers in the game. Regrettably, outside of real rap fans they don’t get this respect elsewhere – and it’s a God damn shame. Rakim is one of the best rappers to ever touch a mic – FACT. Their songs are rap at its purest form – hard, driving and intelligent. They have so many great songs that are classics, but with the new age of rap today they continue to get ignored by the more casual rap fans. If they came out today I can guarantee they would be “Paid in Full”. Favorite Song: Microphone Fiend
9. Alice In Chains – one of the “grunge” bands to come out of Seattle – but these guys weren’t anything like Nirvana. To me, Nirvana was more punk/pop, while these guys were just balls out rock with some darkness to it. Their songs are heavy bass and guitar riffs, with Layne Staley’s incredibly unique voice on top of it. People forget how many great songs these guys have in their repertoire – and people also forget that “Dirt” might be one of the top 25 albums ever recorded. Go listen to that album and tell me if these guys aren’t amazing. Favorite Song: Man in The Box
8. Duran Duran – What? These guys on this list? You bet your ass. If you think their music isn’t great songs and even better musical skills then you are smoking crack. John Taylor is an absolute beast on the bass, and Simon LeBon is one of the best front men of the 80s. They have so many good songs. Go Wikipedia them and scroll through their hits – you will be absolutely amazed at how many songs they have that are great and that you loved listening to – admit it. I love the fact that when I jam in my basement with my buddy we will play “Hungry Like the Wolf” – that and so many other songs they did are really, really good. Favorite Song: View To A Kill
7. Motley Crue – Vince, Tommy, Mick and Nikki make up, for me, the best metal band to come out of the 80s. From the early days of “Shout at the Devil” to the later days “Primal Scream” these guys are straight ahead rock with a major attitude. Like a lot of other bands on this list, you tend to forget just how big and amazing their body of work is. From the ballad “Home Sweet Home” to the drug dealer anthem “Dr. Feelgood” these guys consistently made great music and deserve more respect than they get. Favorite Song: Kickstart My Heart
6. Soundgarden –this group is awesome. Again, like Alice In Chains they get lost in the whole “Nirvana” and “Grunge” hype – but in my opinion both of those bands were superior to Nirvana. I know I am in the minority on this one, but to my tastes I like their music better. Soundgarden was something like Led Zeppelin meets Metallica. Chris Cornell is just plain awesome, and the musicianship of this band is off the charts. “Bad Motor Finger” is an absolutely epic album, and these guys have a huge catalog of just really great tunes. Favorite Song: Outshined
5. Genesis – The first concert I ever went to was Genesis on their “Invisible Touch” tour. This was my intro to them, but their body of music is way more than “Land of Confusion”. People always seem to forget these guys when talking about the greats and I cannot understand why. While I don’t care much for the early Peter Gabriel led incarnation (though I love me some Peter Gabriel) the moment Phil Collins took over they started to crank out great album after great album. Songs like “Abacab”, “Turn it on Again” and “Man on the Corner” are just a few of their fricking awesome songs. Favorite Song: Abacab
4. Jethro Tull – for whatever reason, people shit on this group. They never quite fit in to any particular rock genre – after all, there is a flute in this band – but their music is still awesome none the less. Take the Wikipedia challenge on these guys too and you will see they have some really great songs in their arsenal. “Aqualung” might be their opus that most people know, but they have many other great song too you should listen to (and probably already know without realizing it). Favorite Song: Locomotive Breath
3. Def Leppard – yes – they were a pop metal band. So what. They were an amazing pop metal band that, whether you want to admit or not, stood above almost everyone else from their era. To this day the sell out when they tour, and whenever you hear their songs you a) know them and b) love listening to them. People also forget that their earlier stuff, while “pop” was also just really good metal. Joe Elliott is a master frontman, and this band sure could crank out great tune after great tune. Give them their due folks. Favorite Song: Photograph
2. Rush – they finally got in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but the fact that it took this long shows you how wildly underrated these guys are. Each of the trio (Peart, Lifeson and Lee) are the absolute peak of their respective instrument playing, and their song catalog is one of the best of any band ever. From the early days to present day, they have a massive and faithful fan base that “gets it”, but for some reason the mainstream has been slow to catch on. As a drummer, listening to them is like listening to perfection. Oh yeah – their music kicks ass too. Favorite Song: Subdivisions
1.The Bee Gees – Barry Gibb is a songwriting machine. Look – you may think they are the symbol of Disco cheesiness, but you cannot deny their staying power and the fact that they have been literally cranking out hit after hit since the 1960s. What you might also not know is that Barry Gibb has also written hits for many other artists over the years too. Great harmonies, outstanding music and catchy tunes make them my most underrated band of all time. Favorite Song: Night Fever
As a special feature to this blog, I give you my most overrated band of all time – Phish. I just don’t get it. Maybe I need to be tripping on shrooms and 5 joints deep, but this “music” just seems like noise to me. Their fans swear they are the second coming, but I think they sound like a bunch of clowns and their music is neither catchy, well crafted, or even good. I am sure a lot of their fans love the “experience” of going to a show, but I can get high at home with friends too. OK haters in the comments section – tell me how wrong I am. Don’t care. In my mind I can respect them for having such a huge following, but from a pure music perspective I think it sucks.
There you go and I hope, if nothing else, you give some of these bands another listen. Have a great weekend and until next week – there is no spoon.