A Dozen Debut Albums that Failed Expectations, but are Deserve a Listen

Success in the music industry is fickle, a creature of timing, promotion, talent, and luck.

Here are five albums I own that sadly were neglected and passed into history.

Larry Lee, Marooned. The sweet, polished vocalist of “Jackie Blue” of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Offered a solo album where he wrote or co-wrote the songs, this is a very fine set of melodic, upbeat songs, great arrangements and playing. For some reason this album didn’t click. A shame. Lee would move to Nashville and have a successful career as a songwriter.

Richard Wright, Wet Dream. A solo album from Pink Floyd keyboardist Wright. Jazzy and soulful textured songs. No hard rock, psychedelic songs in sight. Wright is a soft, gentle vocalist, which worked well for this set. He wasn’t offered another solo album by the record company. A pity.

Neil Young, Neil Young. After departing Buffalo Springfield, Young recorded a slick, well-produced set of songs, some with strings, background singers and soulful ballads. This album was not so different from his songs for Buffalo Springfield. Young regrouped, saddled up Crazy House and delivered “Cowgirl in the Sand” and other rougher-edged classics.

Mick Taylor, Mick Taylor. One of my favorite albums, but a disappointment to the record company who signed this former Rolling Stone to a big contract. What they got was a sophisticated jazz-rock album, soulful and melodic, but a crunchy set of rock anthems. He didn’t get a follow-up album.

Tony Banks, A Curious Feeling. The chief composer in the group Genesis, Banks brought a lush, melodic and symphonic sound to their music. Banks’ solo album was hotly anticipated. What emerged was dense, atmospheric and not exactly commercial. Banks was also not really a singer. Music was changing and melancholy progressive rock was not in fashion. The next year, Genesis would release and album and drummer/ lead vocalist Phil Collins would release his debut solo album and begin a monster solo career.

Jimmy Page, Outrider. Page was a bit untethered in the 1980s after Led Zeppelin. He made an album with David Cloverdale, two albums with The Firm, and Death Wish film soundtracks. On his solo album, he doesn’t sing, turning that over to others, and doesn’t give you anything as creative as Led Zeppelin. From someone else, this might have been okay, but this is Jimmy Page!

Robin Zander, Robin Zander. The lead singer of Cheap Trick ventured out on his own. The band was in a career downturn, but still very active. Zander wrote some originals and recorded a few covers. Zander has a very solid voice and a mainstay in the band. His voice is very recognizable and the band is still going strong. His solo album was well-received by critics, some memorable songs, but no hit singles.

Steve Winwood, Steve Winwood. When Traffic finally broke up, band members moved on to solo projects. Jim Capaldi already has a solo career going, but main Traffic songwriting Winwood was slow out of the gate. The last Traffic album was released in 1974, but Steve Winwood did not hit the street until 1977. The album was soulful, jazz-rock, not exactly Top 40. Winwood played most of the instruments, which gave it sparse feel, and not exactly catchy songs. It would be three more years before Winwood released another solo album.

Robert Lamm, Skinny Boy. During the first half of the 1970s, Lamm was the predominant songwriter for Chicago. He was a songwriting machine. He was the first band member to have a solo album and unfortunately, it wasn’t very good. Self-indulgent and not very memorable songs. He returned to Chicago, but his songwriting decreased in quantity and quality. The band returned to popularity in the 1980s with Peter Cetera taking lead vocals and David Foster at the controls. Lamm is now one of only three original members left in Chicago.

Grace Slick, Manhole. This was after Jefferson Airplane but before Jefferson Starship. Since the Airplane’s recent work was a bit far-out, Grace took it a bit further on her solo effort. The album has a 15 minute orchestrated, psychedelic suite, and other songs that are closer to Yoko Ono. She received kudos for the effort, but few fans bought it. Grace joined Jefferson Starship for a big commercial period before resuming her solo career in the 1980s.

Daryl Hall, Sacred Songs. Unfortunate when your record label does not believe in your solo work. Hall stepped back from Hall & Oates to record his first solo album in 1977. Produced by Robert Fripp, this is quite an unusual direction for Hall. It has a decidedly David Bowie, Heroes, type vibe. The record company waited three years to release it, believing it had little commercial appeal. Not great, but not horrible. Hall regrouped with Oates and they began their most commercial period.

Tom Johnston, Everything You’ve Heard Is True. After leaving the Doobie Brothers during Takin’ It To The Streets, Johnston focused on regaining his health. This was the first of two solo albums, neither of which sold respectively, but weren’t hits. The songs were the rockin’ riff songs along with soulful ballads. Not terrible, but copies of better songs from his past. In the 1990s, he would get the original Doobie back together, returning to the guitar sound of the early 1970s.

Bonus

John Fogerty, The Blue Ridge Rangers (1973). After leaving Credence Clearwater Revival, Fogerty decided to distance himself from his former band by actually crediting the album to The Blue Ridge Rangers, which was Fogerty playing all the instruments. Instead of the driving, soulful rock, this album was covers of country songs. Not exactly what fans wanted to buy. Fogerty would release an album of mostly original songs in 1975, but it wouldn’t be until a decade later that he hit a homerun with the massive success of Centerfield.


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