These musical artists have their own pages on this site. They are all bands or solo artists that I consider worth getting to know; they all have multiple strong albums that I enjoy.
After supporting Bob Dylan on his controversial 1966 electric tour, The Band went to earth and developed their unique blend of rock, folk, country, and blues.
Brian Wilson was one of the most talented musicians from his era, with an ear for sophisticated chord progressions, studio arrangements, and vocal harmonies.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr will stand unchallenged as the world’s greatest rock and roll band.
The tuneful guitar pop of Big Star was spectacularly unsuccessful during the 1970s, but has since earned a deserved cult following.
Born David Jones, and changing his name to avoid confusion with Davy Jones of The Monkees, Bowie pottered around as a solo artist in London with unsuccessful material like ‘The Laughing Gnome’. He eventually gained some attention with his 1969 single ‘Space Oddity’ and with 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, became a superstar.
The talented Jeff Buckley drowned in 1997, leaving him with an extremely slim recorded legacy.
Her 1978 debut album, The Kick Inside, released at the age of 19 during the height of punk, was improbably accomplished and successful.
The Byrds’ ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ crystallised their distinctive sound; gorgeous harmonies and Roger McGuinn’s ringing twelve string guitar.
While his former Velvet Underground bandmate Lou Reed has enjoyed a far higher public profile, John Cale has always been like an invisible hand guiding the alternative music scene. He started his career in the early 1960s in the contemporary classical scene – he worked alongside composers like John Cage, Aaron Copland, and LaMonte Young.
Perhaps the most celebrated band to emerge from the 1970’s punk movement, The Clash started as a straight-out punk band. But their music soon expanded, incorporating the reggae and dub they were hearing on London’s streets, as well as venturing into rock and hip hop.
Detroit’s Marshall Crenshaw is a talented craftsman, whose deft guitar pop is likeable and accessible.
David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash all started their careers in other notable sixties bands; Crosby left The Byrds after disagreements over counter-cultural songs like ‘Triad’ and ‘Mind Gardens’, Stills’ Buffalo Springfield broke up after tensions with bandmate Neil Young, while Nash left The Hollies after their decision to record a Dylan covers album.
Neil Finn retained drummer Paul Hester from the final Split Enz lineup and created a more streamlined band, releasing their first album of guitar pop in 1986.
Portland Indie folk quintet The Decemberists are the band most likely to win a Scrabble tournament.
A gentle sounding English folk-singer, Nick Drake hardly caused a ripple during his short life-time; he was too shy to play live, and barely sold a record. Posthumously, his small catalogue has earned plenty of attention; his delicate and measured approach produced some of the most timeless music of his generation.
Brian Eno started his musical career as a member of Roxy Music, where he used his synthesiser to treat Phil Manzanera’s guitar and Andy Mackay’s saxophone and oboe. After leaving Roxy Music he built up an impressive catologue as a producer, with significant albums for David Bowie, Talking Heads, Devo, and U2.
Fairport Convention are the focal point for 1960’s British folk rock, with the sumptuous vocals of Sandy Denny and gifted songwriter and guitarist Richard Thompson.
Fleetwood Mac transitioned from a blues band to a pop band, and relocated from the UK to California.
After leaving Genesis after six albums at the age of 25, Peter Gabriel’s solo career initially felt like an attempt to distance himself from his former band.
Genesis produced some great music in the 1970s, with their very English blend of progressive rock, 12 string guitar folk, and densely humorous lyrics.
It’s difficult to explain the appeal of The Go-Betweens; Robert Forster and Grant McLennan are neither strikingly talented guitarists nor vocalists. But despite their limitations, they made some great albums during the 1980s, eloquent, literate, melodic, and honest.
New York’s The Hold Steady blend classic rock guitar riffs with dense, interconnected, hip hop inspired lyrics.
Hüsker Dü started as a hardcore punk in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in 1979, with Bob Mould on guitar and vocals, Grant Hart on drums and vocals, and Greg Norton on bass and occasional vocals. Over their first few albums, they opened out their sound from super fast hardcore punk to more melodic popcraft, but still kept their punk aggression and edge.
Jason Isbell launched a country music career as a solo artist after leaving The Drive-By Truckers in 2007.
San Francisco’s Jellyfish were under appreciated, but their intricate power pop has since gained a devoted following.
Not just a one hit wonder for 1994’s ‘Bad Reputation’, Freedy Johnston is a skilled craftsman dealing in minimalist, engaging songs.
Joy Division were one of several prominent bands who were inspired by the Sex Pistols’ famous 1976 gig in Manchester. They started as a punk band, but producer Martin Hannett was instrumental in shaping them, drenching them in reverb.
Mark Kozelek has created introspective slo-core music since 1992, with The Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon.
With their virtuosity, Jimmy Page’s excellent production skills, and great songs on each of their eight albums, Led Zeppelin are the archetypal hard rock band.
Joni Mitchell isn’t always given the respect she deserves. It’s easy to see her in terms of her famous boyfriends or as a simple folk singer. But in the 1970s, she released a string of great albums that should place her as among the most important musicians of the rock era
Van Morrison Album Reviews Van Morrison began his career as the vocalist for the garage band Them, scoring hits with … Continue Reading Van Morrison
Gram Parsons, or as 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die describes him, “Keith Richards’ citrus-heir drug-buddy”, is remembered as a country-rock pioneer. It’s not country-rock as sanitised bands like the Eagles have produced, but is much more rooted in traditional country.
Pavement’s slacker image and post-modern approach encapsulates the 1990s, and they’re a contender for the best band of their decade.
Pearl Jam’s rock music, fronted by charismatic Eddie Vedder, has out-lasted the grunge era of the early 1990s.
Sam Phillips started her career as Christian pop singer Leslie Phillips in the 1980s where she was marketed as the Christian Cyndi Lauper.
Charles Thompson made the right decision in 1986, when he opted out of taking a trip to New Zealand to view Halley’s comet, and instead formed a band.
Formed around the songwriting talents of Durham’s Paddy McAloon, Prefab Sprout enjoyed success in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Releasing their first album in 1973, Queen were brimming with talent from flamboyant vocalist Freddie Mercury and distinctive guitarist Brian May.
Named after a Talking Heads song, Radiohead are the most critically acclaimed band to emerge in the 1990s.
R.E.M., from Athens Georgia, emerged in the wake of punk in their early 1980s, an insular Indie band, with cryptic albums.
Yet another great musical act to come out of the state of Minnesota (see also Bob Dylan, Prince, Hüsker Dü, and The Hold Steady), The Impediments changed their name to The Replacements after they were banned from the majority of Minneapolis’s bars. The group was led by guitarist and songwriter Paul Westerberg.
Like most celebrated bands, The Stones earned their reputation, and their run of albums between 1968 and 1972 is magnificent.
Nebraskan born singer-songwriter Josh Rouse writes introverted yet poppy music, with a penchant for 1970’s soft rock.
With the creative forces of Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno, Roxy Music made experimental, decadent, and futuristic music in the 1970s.
Todd Rundgren is a skilled musician on multiple instruments, a strong vocalist with a hint of blue eyed soul, a gifted studio technician who’s produced landmark albums from The New York Dolls, Patti Smith, The Psychedelic Furs, Meat Loaf, and XTC, and a capable composer and arranger.
New Zealand’s Bic Runga reigns supreme as the queen of New Zealand pop music.
Simon and Garfunkel met as teenagers in a school play, where Simon played the White Rabbit and Garfunkel the Cheshire Cat.
It wasn’t surprising that Paul Simon launched a successful solo career after leaving Simon and Garfunkel, given that he wrote all of the group’s original material. There’s definitely a school of thought that enjoys Simon and Garfunkel but dislikes Simon’s solo career, a mindset that I don’t share.
The unlikely pairing of the awkward Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr, formed the nucleus of Manchester’s beloved 1980s’ band The Smiths,
New Zealand’s iconic band, fronted by Tim Finn, Phil Judd, and Neil Finn, played art rock in the 1970s and new wave pop in the 1980s.
Based on his radio hits I once classed Bruce Springsteen as a lame rocker, responsible for lowest common denominator anthems. But there’s a reason why he’s so respected, and 1984’s huge selling Born In The USA album was simply the commercial culmination of an excellent body of recorded work stretching back more than a decade.
Sufjan Stevens is nominally an alt-folk singer, but that’s underselling his talents – he’s also a talented and sophisticated arranger.
Conventional wisdom is that Gordon Sumner surrendered his credibility when he left The Police.
The transition from 1982 synth-pop debut and 1991’s jazz and ambient influenced Laughing Stock is one of the most stunning transformations in popular music.
New York art-rockers Talking Heads began their career in legendary New York club CBGB, effectively the focal point for American New Wave; The Ramones, Television, Patti Smith Group, and Blondie also launched their careers there. While these groups all came from the same place and time, they’re a diverse bunch, and Talking Heads have their own niche as an arty and endearingly dorky band.
The pivotal part of Television’s sound is the guitar interplay of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd – both players are top drawer with their interlocking riffs and impressive solos.
Richard and Linda Thompson Album Reviews Richard Thompson left Fairport Convention after 1970’s Full House, his reputation secured as an … Continue Reading Richard and Linda Thompson
Trinity Roots, a Wellington based trio, fuse dub and soul into arty, spacey songs while infusing a distinctly New Zealand atmosphere.
From a high profile Texan oil family, Townes Van Zandt was groomed as Texas governor, but inspired by singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan, he dropped out of college in the 1960s to pursue a musical career. Of MENSA level intelligence, and diagnosed as a manic-depressive in his early twenties, Van Zandt rejected wealth and comfort, seeming to consciously fill his life with pain and instability to fuel his art.
1960’s underground New York band The Velvet Underground have been cited as an influence by a legion of followers.
Tom Waits Album Reviews In New Zealand we have a sporting cliche, “a game of two halves”. This certainly applies … Continue Reading Tom Waits
Lurking beneath all the silliness is an ace duo who are students of popular music, paying homage to everything from Jimmy Buffett to Prince.
His work in the 1980s with the beloved Replacements left Paul Westerberg with colossal expectations to meet with his solo career.
Jeff Tweedy went from junior partner in the alt-country band Uncle Tupelo, to the leader of the critically acclaimed Wilco.
It’s very difficult to discuss this enduring 1970’s acoustic soul singer without referencing one of my favourite jokes, so let’s get it out of the way first, shall we?
Stevie Wonder is one of the most outrageously talented figures to emerge from the popular music era. His first song to hit number one was recorded when he was 12 years old, and he continued to have hits through the 1960s as a teenager, as part of Motown.
Formed in Swindon around songwriters Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, XTC started their career as an abrasive new wave band with their 1978 albums. Once keyboardist Barry Andrews was replaced by guitarist Dave Gregory, XTC became a more conventional, guitar based band and built their reputation with strong albums like Black Sea and English Settlement.
With their dazzling instrumental chops, lengthy songs, and lush harmonies, London’s Yes defined 1970’s progressive rock.
Neil Young was born in Canada in 1945, where his father was a famous sports broadcaster. Before fame, he played in the Mynah Birds, with a young Rick James, before relocating to Rick James where he joined Stephen Stills in Buffalo Springfield.
This page collects album reviews for artists who don’t quite qualify for their own page. The following 1960s artists have … Continue Reading 1960’s Reviews
This page collects album reviews for artists who don’t don’t have enough good records for their own page, or who … Continue Reading 1970s’ Reviews
These bands all started their careers between the second half of the 1970s and the early 1980s, and to at … Continue Reading Punk and New Wave
The following 1980s’ artists have their own dedicated page: Kate Bush Marshall Crenshaw Peter Gabriel Pixies Prefab Sprout R.E.M. The … Continue Reading 1980s’ Reviews
This page collects album reviews for artists who don’t quite qualify for their own page. The following 1990’s artists have … Continue Reading 1990’s Reviews