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Underrated Rock

When people look at rock’s greatest instrumentalists and vocalists, they always have the same select group of guys. However, a lot of people don’t talk about the other guys who weren’t as big, but were just as talented. That’s what I’m doing here. It’s time to see rock ’n’ roll’s all-underrated band. Plus, I’ll go through songwriters and the most underrated band ever.

Consensus Best: Freddie Mercury (Queen), Steve Perry (Journey), John Lennon (The Beatles), Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin), Paul McCartney (The Beatles)
Underrated Nominees: Paul Rodgers (Bad Company), Lou Gramm (Foreigner), Burton Cummings (The Guess Who), Brad Delp (Boston), Van Morrison (Them)
Winner: Brad Delp
When it comes to vocalists, range is a key. That’s why Freddie Mercury and Steve Perry are so famous. They have or had incredible range. And that’s why Brad Delp deserves more respect. Boston’s lead vocalist had it all. Incredible tone, passion and great control of the higher range all define his style. Just listen to any Boston song, and you can hear the greatness of Brad Delp.

Consensus Best: Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), Eric Clapton (Cream), George Harrison (The Beatles), Keith Richards (Rolling Stones)
Nominees: Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen), Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits), Randy Rhoads (Ozzy Osbourne), Terry Kath (Chicago), Steve Lukather (Toto), Joe Walsh (The Eagles)
Winner: Terry Kath
I was going to include Stevie Ray Vaughan, but he technically wasn’t a rock guitarist. He was blues, so this one goes to Terry Kath in a close race. His style was a mix of blues and rock, and you can definitely hear his skill and passion on Chicago’s early records. That solo in “25 or 6 to 4”? Absolutely stunning, and it came from my most underrated guitarist ever. He was even said to be an idol to Jimi Hendrix. For a rock guitarist, there is no higher honor.

Consensus Best: John Entwistle (The Who), Geddy Lee (Rush), Paul McCartney (The Beatles), Jack Bruce (Cream), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Nominees: John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Peter Cetera (Chicago), Donald Dunn (Booker T & The M.G.s), Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead), Timothy B. Schmit (The Eagles)
Winner: Peter Cetera
I stated in an earlier column, that I thought Cetera was the greatest bass player ever, so it’s only fitting that he wins here as well. His style was very simple, but he still had a tone and a style that made the music great. Just listen to “Saturday in the Park” and “Lowdown” and you’ll see what I mean. The closest was John Paul Jones, and he’s only underrated because of his bandmates.

Consensus Best: John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Neal Peart (Rush), Keith Moon (The Who), Ringo Starr (The Beatles), Ginger Baker (Cream).
Nominees: Jeff Porcaro (Toto), Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake and Palmer), Tris Imboden (Chicago), Alex Van Halen (Van Halen), Bun E. Carlos (Cheap Trick)
Winner: Jeff Porcaro
Drummers are a lot harder to judge, because the guitarist or vocalist overshadows a lot of them. But there are a few men who are tops in their field, including Peart, Bonham and Moon. But the most underrated was Jeff Porcaro, who was a great session man before forming the band Toto. His grooves were top-notch, and he invented new beats constantly. His most popular, the shuffle from “Rosanna,” is copied all over the world. If he hadn’t died of a fluke gardening accident, he might be known as the greatest drummer who ever lived.

Consensus Best: Lennon/McCartney (The Beatles), Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys), Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger/Keith Richards (Rolling Stones), Pete Townshend (The Who)
Nominees: George Harrison (The Beatles), Carole King, Elton John/Bernie Taupin, Paul Simon (Simon & Garfunkel), Buddy Holly
Winner: Elton John/Bernie Taupin
This one was the closest yet. All the underrated songwriters were absolutely incredible, but Elton John was one of the greatest artists ever. Period. And he couldn’t have done that without some great songwriting. None were better than “Your Song,” a classic ballad that touches to very bottom of the soul. Bernie Taupin also deserves it because of his collaboration with John on all of his hits.

Consensus Best: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who
Nominees: Chicago, Elton John, The Kinks, Cream, Simon & Garfunkel, Boston
Winner: Chicago/Boston (tie)
This one is a tie. I think that these are two of the top bands ever, but I can’t decide who is more underrated. Chicago is one of the longest-running bands that constantly sell out arenas, but doesn’t get any respect from critics because of the group’s style of rock with horns. The band clearly deserves to be recognized as one of the best ever. Boston is only underrated because it has a limited output. While Chicago has put out approximately 30 albums, Boston has four. Both are deserving, so I declare this category a tie.

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  1. Stella March 10, 2011

    How are any of the people you named “underrated”? They’re all incredibly famous, popular, and amassed hours and hours of airtime on popular radio stations — especially Elton John! His net worth today is estimated at more than $500 million!

    Also, I take issue with this statement: “When people look at rock’s greatest instrumentalists and vocalists, they always have the same select group of GUYS. However, a lot of people don’t talk about the other GUYS who weren’t as big, but were just as talented.” [emphasis mine]

    Your list doesn’t include a single woman. In a column supposedly aimed to discuss underrated or under appreciated musicians, that’s not only ironic but hypocritical. What about Janis Joplin? What about Nancy Wilson and Ann Wilson from Heart? What about Blondie? Or Joni Mitchell? Or Pat Benatar?

  2. cookie March 10, 2011

    I so agree with your choice of Brad Delp, he voice was amazing and the range right up there with the big dogs. I still get the chills listening to Boston and it brings back wonderful memories of my youth on Cape Cod in Mass. when Boston ruled.

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