Saturday, December 8, 2012

My picks for 2013

After drawing this out for much too long, I now present my prediction for the Class of 2013.  I’ve given them all seed placements, but the only real advantage of doing so is that if, like last year, they do induct more than five, the sixth is automatically my sixth pick, so that I’m covered there.  And of course, I’ve been horribly wrong before, having in the past seen those I’ve seeded dead last end up being inducted.  It’s a tough call for the most part, and while I have been 100% in the past, I’ve also been 40% before.  Speaking of percentages, most of them are pretty much pulled out of thin air, and not some mathematical calculation.  So, time to put up or shut up.


1. Public Enemy

Landmark hip-hop group, known for politically charged lyrics.  Newly eligible, thus first-time nominee.

Why they might make it: Highly influential in the hip-hop community, and highly respected outside of it.  The political and social themes in a heavy amount of their songs make them the standout darlings.

Why they might not: This is the ninth consecutive ballot to have at least one hip-hop act on it, and so far, they’ve only been successful just over a third of the time.  It’s also worth noting the embarrassment that has been hype man Flavor Flav’s public profile over the past decade, and coupled with the scandal of Professor Griff’s anti-Semitic remarks of the past, there’s some bad energy working against them.

Whom they’d pave the way for: Hip-hop and rap are pretty much a given to be on any ballot in the future, so take your pick of any such star.  Most likely, you’ll see the future nomination of solo Chuck D, and maybe even cause some waves for the recognition of earlier acts like the Sugarhill Gang, or a renewed effort for Afrika Bambaataa, hopefully including the Soul Sonic Force this time.

Who’s their biggest threat: It’s obvious, fellow rap outfit and newly eligible N.W.A. are the cut and dry competition for this crew.

In the end: We’ll be hoping for recognition, if not now then down the line, for their Bomb Squad.  When Bruce Springsteen lists your work among those that makes the earth shake and spit fire, the sky to split apart and for God to pour out—all while inducting U2 into the Hall—you’re in, first ballot.  Induction chances: 95%


2. Donna Summer

One of the key figures of disco during the 70’s and early 80’s.  Fifth-time nominee.  Seeded dead last (#9) in 2008, and #6 in 2010, 2011, and 2012. 

Why she might make it: She’s royalty… the “Queen Of Disco.”  She’s got the longest list of hit singles than any of the artists on the ballot.  Very influential female singer, influencing the already-inducted Madonna, as well as other starlets of dance music.  There’s also an affirmative action side to consider, as there’s usually an effort to induct at least one racial minority, and one woman.  She fits both bills nicely and conveniently.

Why she might not: Don’t kid yourself, there’s a bias against disco, with the Bee Gees, ABBA, and Earth, Wind, And Fire representing the style—and even then some would claim ABBA and Earth, Wind, And Fire aren’t really all that disco either.  She’s missed out on tighter ballots before, too, ones that had fewer nominees.

Whom she’d pave the way for: The biggest and most obvious choice is the diva who also died this past year, Whitney Houston.  She’s a lock for nomination once Donna is in.  Janet Jackson is also a strong possibility, and Mariah Carey will be eligible within the next few years, too.

Who are her biggest threats: Chic is really the only direct competition against her this year, though Kraftwerk is also quite renowned for their influence upon the dance music of today.

In the end: She’s been deserving for years, and now that she’s passed away, they’re gonna induct her, saying we lost a superstar too soon, while bemoaning that they didn’t get her in sooner.  I’d say that sentiment will be the theme of her presenter’s induction speech too.  Induction chances: 80%


3. Randy Newman

Artistic singer/songwriter with a distinctive vocal delivery.  Second-time nominee, previously unseeded.

Why he might make it: The Hall loves the super artistic singer/songwriters, and he fits the bill.  His gift for irony and wordplay as well as conscience that pours through the pores of his music make him a treasure among the higher echelons of the Rock Hall.

Why he might not:  The last time he was nominated, he lost out to two first time eligibles, a superstar act from the ‘70s, a major blues figure, and an act from the ‘60s basically known for only one song.  Good thing there’s nothing like that on this year’s bal—oh snap.  Being serious now, to use a fishing analogy, Newman’s nets are strong, but they don’t cast very wide or far.  Newman’s appeal generally tends to be either hipster or Disney, niche either way you look at it.  I said it then, I’ll say it again: his biggest assets are also his biggest liabilities. 

Whom he’d pave the way for: Being a former one-and-done nominee and singer/songwriter, Cat Stevens seems to be the next in line, though they might try and induct Carole King as a Performer again one of these years.  There’s a chance for others like Jim Croce, Don McLean, Carly Simon, or even Buffy Saint-Marie, Phil Ochs, and Tim Hardin, to name a few.

Who are his biggest threats:  With no other nominees particularly esteemed as singer/songwriters, though many of them did write their own stuff, his biggest threats are ultimately his fellow former one-and-done nominees.  In this case, Kraftwerk, the Meters, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band

In the end: Initially, I’d written him off as having no chance once again, but then I remembered 2009.  The first year the ceremonies were in Cleveland, and they inducted hometown hero Bobby Womack.  With the 2013 ceremonies set to happen in Los Angeles, it just seems a little too much of a call to come on home for the local lad.  In addition to the love of singer/songwriters of course.  Induction chances: 60%


4. Rush

Progressive and hard-rock trio.  First-time nominee.

Why they might make it: Hugely innovative, influential band with an impressive string of extremely well-selling albums and a fan following that borders on cultist, ranking among the likes of the Grateful Dead.

Why they might not: Because the casual fan’s opinion is not given the same weight and credence as the industry insider’s, and the industry insiders that have a vote in the proceedings are largely not fans of prog, and certainly not fans of Rush. Unless there’s a significant chunk of the voting bloc that are among the huge stock of fans, they’re relying on voting folks to put aside their personal tastes and vote for them (my sample ballot shows me failing to do this for Rush’s sake).

Whom they’d pave the way for: The Hall Of Fame does not discriminate or favor nationalities of origin (just nations they impact it seems), so anyone who says Rush opens the door for more Canadian acts is either an idiot or a Canadian exhibiting signs of stereotype.  The acts they would really pave the way for would include the likes of Uriah Heep, UFO, and X, as well as possibly prog bands like Emerson, Lake, And Palmer, or King Crimson.

Who are their biggest threats: The clear competitor is Deep Purple.  Other possible divisions would occur against the likes of Heart, Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, and even Kraftwerk,

In the end: When the band finally made the cover of Rolling Stone magazine a few years ago, it was a shock to much of the music world, since editor-in-chief Jann S. Wenner was suspected to be playing a role in keeping them out of the Hall.  Before the cover, they hadn’t even been seriously previously considered.  With them having finally been on the cover, some view it as Wenner giving his blessing for their induction, and Wenner’s word does carry weight with the voting bloc.  They’ve since been considered and are now a nominee, and I say the momentum’s enough to get them in.  Induction chances: 55%


5. N.W.A.

Pioneer gangsta rap group.  Newly eligible, thus first-time nominee.

Why they might make it:  They’re pioneers. Straight Outta Compton is a landmark rap album, and their subsequent albums, though few, were also hugely successful.  They were pioneers of gangsta rap, which almost completely obsolesced the older style hip-hop of the original hip-hop pioneers, as gangsta became synonymous with rap for a good portion of the ‘90s.  Also, as the launching point for the solo careers of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, and even MC Ren, and Yella, they could be considered rap’s first supergroup, or at the very least, the rap equivalent of the Yardbirds.

Why they might not:  Quick, ask someone who hates rap (or at least did in the ‘90s) why they hate(d) rap.  That laundry list that is their answer?  Most of that traces clearly back to N.W.A.  Even if they didn’t pioneer some of those aspects themselves, they did combine it all into a blend that is the main exhibit for hatred of rap: self-gratifying, gratuitous and prolific profanity; incredibly subversive lyrics that went beyond mere wake-up calls of socially conscious folk and rock, eschewing civil disobedience, opting instead for and glorifying bloody violence; self-aggrandizement that made “cockiness” look like “self-confidence”; plus the usual stock answers of how rap isn’t even music since what they’re doing doesn’t constitute singing.  And you don’t even have to be a stereotypical stuffy, White, conservative Christian to find that combination disturbing, or at the very least, inartistic.

Whom they’d pave the way for: The big ones are 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G., the martyrs and symbols of rap-gang warfare, but also rappers like Ice-T and Snoop Doggy Dogg, plus the solo careers of most of the members of N.W.A. themselves.

Who’s their biggest threat: Public Enemy, being more artistically revered, more literate, and more favored on this ballot than any other act are the serious contenders to keep N.W.A. out.

In the end:  All those things that people hate about rap is ultimately not all that far removed from the bad boy antics and personae of rock ‘n’ rollers.  Chances are those things all ultimately serve to get the musicians laid, preying on the bad boy image that ladies presumably prefer.  And if there’s any year where two rap acts can both get in on their shared first year of eligibility, this is the year.  Induction chances:  51%


6. The Marvelettes

R&B girl group that gave the Motown empire its first number one hit single on the Hot 100.  First-time nominee.

Why they might make it: Anything Motown has a serious shot.  The Hall loves Motown, and really helping make Motown a household name is strong credibility.  Plus, in the history of the Hall, only one year was without a strong presence of the ‘60s (and even that did have an artist that recorded albums in the ‘60s).  The Marvelettes would be the best candidate for this slot.

Why they might not: The Hall loves Motown, but they sure can take their sweet time showing it: Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and the Four Tops all needed two nominations to get in, the Supremes and Martha And The Vandellas both needed three, the Jackson Five came up four times before getting in, Gladys Knight And The Pips took five, the Miracles needed a special subcommittee to convene and break precedent to get them in, not to mention twice nominated but still not inducted Mary Wells!  Only the Temptations and Stevie Wonder got in on their first nominations, both in 1989.  (Also the Isley Brothers and solo Michael Jackson, but both of whom are much better known for their post-Motown work)  Plus girl groups also generally need a few nominations to get in, 2005 inductees the Ronettes the lone exception.  Lastly, despite having a solid string of hits in the Top 40, they tend to be summed up with their major hit, “Please Mr. Postman”.

Whom they’d pave the way for: Getting the Marvelettes in might get the NomCom looking at Motown again, where we have Junior Walker And The All-Stars and Mary Wells as the last two major ‘60s acts for the family, plus a peek into the ‘70s shows the Commodores, solo Lionel Richie, and possibly even solo Diana Ross.  They also might lead the way for other girl groups like the Chantels, Crystals, Shangri-Las, even the Chiffons to get some consideration.

Who are their biggest threats: Donna Summer is actually the biggest threat, seeing as she represents both female presence, and non-rap R&B, and is practically a shoo-in.  Don’t forget about the other acts that were around in the ‘60s, like Procol Harum, the Meters, Albert King, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and even Deep Purple.

In the end: If we could be certain that they’d induct six again, instead of only five, I’d still be leery, but a little more confident in their chances.  And if they do, I think they’re a solid pick for the honored half-dozen.  Assuming they return to five though, I think they’ll miss out, but they’re strong enough to be the upset special this year.  Induction chances: 49%


7. Albert King

Highly influential blues singer/guitarist.  First-time nominee.

Why he might make it: Blues players generally fare well on the ballot: Buddy Guy, B.B. Kiug, John Lee Hooker, etc.  Plus he’s a highly respected man among the echelons of blues musicians, as well as highly influential.  Additionally, after seeing last year’s blues pick, Freddie King, get inducted as an Early Influence, there may be a concentrated effort to cast enough votes for him so that they don’t have to back door induct him as an Early Influence.

Why he might not: On the other hand, there’ll be those who figure that if they’re just going to induct him even if he doesn’t get enough votes, why bother voting for him, since his induction is assured.  Additionally, some voters would prefer to keep the focus on living musicians to make a good televised program out of the induction ceremonies.

Whom he’d pave the way for: Albert King is the first known Previously Considered blues musician to be nominated in awhile, so his induction would possibly start the cascade to clear that queue, meaning keep an eye out for Junior Parker (hey FRL, you had the right idea, just the wrong guy this time!), Junior Wells, and Slim Harpo.

Who’s his biggest threat: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band is the other major blues act on the ballot, but other sixties acts like the Meters and Marvelettes might block his path.

In the end: It would be an awfully bad choice if they did induct him as an Early Influence, but it’s a wild card possibility that sadly has the chance of fruition.  Induction chances: 50%; induction chances in the Performer category: 45%


8. Deep Purple

Highly influential hard rock band.  First-time nominee.

Why they might make it: This is a band that has been heavily demanded to get inducted, right up there with KISS and Rush, and nowhere more heavily than on Eddie Trunk’s “That Metal Show”, but even without Trunk, they’re a band that has been loudly touted as among the biggest omissions because of their huge range of influence.

Why they might not: The reason they’ve been omitted for so long is simply because the powers-that-be don’t hold them in very high esteem, and those people have sway with the voting bloc.  Whether it’s because they just don’t care for their style, or think of them as a one-trick pony for “Smoke On The Water”, getting them recognized this much has been a major struggle.

Whom they’d pave the way for: Other hard and classic rock acts like Motorhead, Thin Lizzy, and Ted Nugent could all benefit from Deep Purple finally getting in.

Who are their biggest threats: Rush is the clearest present danger, but don’t entirely rule out Heart or Joan Jett And The Blackhearts.

In the end: Alice Cooper getting in on their first nomination may be a key sign that I’m not paying enough attention to, but I feel that this will be an act like Aerosmith, Queen, or AC/DC—absolutely deserves to get in on their first nomination but somehow ended up needing two or three—or will be like Black Sabbath or Lynyrd Skynyrd needing nominations in the high single digits before finally getting approval.  Either way, this won’t be their year.  Induction chances: 40%


9. Kraftwerk

European progressive act that pioneered electronica.  Second time nominee, previously unseeded.

Why they might make it: A truly innovative group, they are partially responsible for a lot of electronica music today.  Especially in the European club scene.

Why they might not: While the Hall Of Fame doesn’t discriminate against acts from countries other than the US and UK, they do strongly favor acts that were very popular in the U.S.A., which Kraftwerk was not.  If a voting member isn’t too familiar with their stuff, and sees five other names they like, they won’t bother researching Kraftwerk further.

Whom they’d pave the way for: There’re a couple avenues to go here.  Fatboy Slim, Daft Punk, and many more famous electronica acts are still a few years off.  The Art Of Noise are a left-field possibility, though possibly too much of a novelty act to get in.  But Kraftwerk’s induction may help more acts who were huge, just not in the States, get some recognition, such as Cliff Richard And The Shadows, Status Quo, Johnny Hallyday, or Fela.  Both paths are a bit of a stretch, but if the road really dead-ended with Kraftwerk, they probably wouldn’t be worth inducting anyway.

Who are their biggest threats: Rush and Deep Purple are jockeying for the attention in experimental music, and Donna Summer is the clear choice among artists that influenced the world of dance music, and Chic is also in the mix too.  Other former one-and-done nominees, such as Randy Newman, the Meters, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band may also detract.

In the end: It’s been ten years since they were last nominated, and they’ll need another turn or two before finally getting in.  Induction chances: 35%


10. Heart

Rock band from the late ‘70s and ‘80s led by sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson.  Second-time nominee, seeded #8 in 2012.

Why they might make it: They’ve got significant name recognition and a string of hit records that still get played on classic rock and retro-music stations.  They also fall very neatly into the “classic rock” category that public outcry claims gets significantly snubbed.

Why they might not:  Their later material consists heavily of power ballads, which doesn’t strongly favor them.  It’s hard to say: the value of power ballads is relatively untested waters, but all current indicators point toward liability status.  Also, the stadium-rocker kind of candidate has mixed success getting inducted.

Whom they’d pave the way for:  Pat Benatar is someone who might get consideration in the wake of their induction, but you could also go for stadium-rock acts with lighter later works like Foreigner, Styx, and Journey.

Their biggest threats: Joan Jett And The Blackhearts are the biggest threat, but Deep Purple and Rush are also candidates to hurt their chances.

In the end: Heart may pull a Donovan on me (who was seeded #10 last time and got in), and it wouldn’t be a bad thing if they did, but then again, I was shocked when Donovan missed his first time in 2011; I wasn’t shocked when Heart missed last year, and I won’t be if they miss again.  Induction chances: 33.3%


11. Procol Harum

British invasion group that first appeared in America in the late ‘60s, considered a progenitor of prog-rock.

Why they might make it: Prog rock has slowly been making progress in getting recognition, and as one of the originating bands to regularly combine classical and baroque themes into rock and roll, Procol Harum would be a great act to use to build momentum for it.  Another reason is because the Hall loves the British invasion of the ‘60s.  The past five classes have had four such acts inducted.  Lastly, Robin Trower is a venerated name in some guitarist circles.

Why they might not: Of all the acts on this ballot that might qualify, they are the most rightly accused of being a one-trick pony.  While they did have other revered songs like “A Salty Dog” and “Conquistador”, so much of their credibility still comes back to “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”.  Also, for proto-prog British acts, the outcry has been far greater for the Moody Blues.

Whom they’d pave the way for: The Moody Blues are the biggest act waiting in the wings, as are both other British invasion acts such as Manfred Mann, the Zombies, the Spencer Davis Group, and even possibly Herman’s Hermits; and also prog rock acts like Yes and Jethro Tull.

Who are their biggest threats: Rush and Kraftwerk both threaten their prog prestige this year, while the Marvelettes are the biggest competition from the ‘60s, as well as others like the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the Meters.

In the end: If the Hall thinks inducting Procol Harum will placate the prog crowd, they’re crazy, especially if they think it’d make them forget about the Moody Blues.  Either way, the pattern for British acts recently has been one act needing multiple nominations, then one gets in on their first, then multiple, then first… this time should mean this group misses out.  Induction chances: 30%


12. Chic

R&B/disco group fronted by a crackerjack production team.  This is their seventh appearance on the ballot, not seeded their first two times, seeded dead last (#9) in 2007, #7 in 2008, #5 in 2010, and #10 in 2011.

Why they might make it: Their records were sampled far and wide back in the early days of hip-hop, so the influence factor is definitely in their favor.  From a musical standpoint, their bass and guitar lines are considered very tough to imitate or duplicate. The men in the group were all production geniuses.  Also, Nile Rodgers was on the Nominating Committee back when the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame was first founded, so politically, this an attempt to repay the favor to him.  Lastly, we know of Nile Rodgers’ struggle with cancer; they may try to get him inducted before it becomes another posthumous induction that will be rued for not having happened sooner.

Why they might not: We Rock Hall Monitors have a term we call “Chic Syndrome,” which is used to describe a musically proficient act that many are turned off from by the cerebrally detoured lyrics, which you see in Chic songs, though they are hardly the worst offenders.  It’s simply called “Chic Syndrome” because aside from the near alliteration, Chic’s the group that’s been repeatedly nominated and denied.  “Le Freak,” “I Want Your Love,” and “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowzah, Yowzah, Yowzah)” wouldn’t make any list of “Best Lyrics”, even if that list went to one million.  And as we see with Donna Summer, disco isn’t popular with the voting bloc.

Whom they’d pave the way for: Other disco groups waiting in the wings include the GAP Band, KC And The Sunshine Band, and maybe even the Ohio Players.  It could even lead to inducting more soul-funk groups like the Bar-Kays, the Average White Band, and Charles Wright And The Watts 103rd Street (Rhythm) Band.

Who are their biggest threats: This isn’t the first time that Donna Summer and Chic have appeared on the ballot together and both fell short of the mark.  Donna’s the biggest threat, practically being a shoo-in.  Kraftwerk factors in as well, for reasons explained above.

In the end: If Donna were still alive, I’d say it’d be lucky seven for them.  As such, Chic will be the sole, current leader of acts with the most nominations, but still not in.  Induction chances: 25%


13. The Meters

Funk band that did much session work, rooted firmly in New Orleans.  Second-time nominee, previously unseeded.

Why they might make it: The Hall loves the sound of New Orleans.  In 2011, they inducted Dr. John, and in 2012, they inducted Cosimo Matassa, an engineer who helped record and shape the New Orleans sound.  Additionally, the Neville Brothers have been starting to get some consideration as well, and two of those brothers were one-time members of the Meters.  This group might be able to ride those waves into the Hall this year.

Why they might not:  They’re one of the more obscure names on this ballot, never really breaking through the glass ceiling, commercially speaking.  No real signature tune that they’re instantly linked to by John Q. Public.  Also, this is the act on this ballot that has the greatest time elapsed between nominations.  They just seem a little out of the blue.

Whom they’d pave the way for: The sound of New Orleans could be carried on in the future with the Neville Brothers, Buckwheat Zydeco, and even Virginian Gary U.S. Bonds, whose sound drew big from the New Orleans style.  Beyond New Orleans, the Bar-Kays would be another great instrumental group that also did session work.

Who are they’re biggest threats: They’re one of four former one-and-done acts on this ballot, and they’ll all be vying for attention, so consider Randy Newman, Kraftwerk, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band the closest threats, as well as the ‘60s R&B act the Marvelettes.

In the end: When you bring back a nominee that has gone more than five years since their last nomination, getting them in this time doesn’t usually happen.  ABBA managed to do it after a seven year absence, getting inducted in 2010, and with four such acts on this ballot, one of them is bound to break through, but I’m betting that will be Randy Newman, not the Meters.  Induction chances: 20%


14. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

Blues-rock band from the mid-‘60s.  Second-time nominee, previously unseeded.

Why they might make it: They’re a formative blues-rock act.  Their sound is considered to be a pioneer sound.  A few of its past members have some amount of fame to their own names.  Also, they were name dropped by none other than Jann S. Wenner as an act he’d like to see get in.  If you don’t think that means something, you don’t know the Hall. 

Why they might not: They’re arguably the most obscure name on this ballot, having no hit singles and no album making the top quarter of the Billboard 200.

Whom they’d pave the way for:  I’m operating on the assumption that they want to get as many important blues and blues-rock names inducted before they go after the big draws of Stevie Ray Vaughn And Double Trouble, and possibly even George Thorogood And The Destroyers.  The best bet for next in line in this vein would be Johnny Winter.

Who are their biggest threats: Albert King is the bigger blues name this time around, and as I’ve said three other times already, Randy Newman, the Meters, and Kraftwerk are threats for reasons I’ve stated enough times already.

In the end: As much clout as Jann S. Wenner has, I think he’ll have to continue to call this group an act he still wants to see in, because it ain’t happening this time.  Induction chances: 15%


15. Joan Jett And The Blackhearts

Harder-rock-but-not-quite-metal band from the ‘80s.  Second-time nominee, seeded #13 last year.

Why they might make it:  They’re good time, fun rock and roll, and who doesn’t appreciate that?  And when an artist has an anthemic rock and roll song, the artist has a tendency to get recognized, and if they have a few hits aside of that, so much the better. 

Why they might not:  They made very little waves besides their one major hit, “I Love Rock ‘N Roll”, and what they did have was largely covers (including said major hit).  The Hall Of Fame usually prefers to honor originality.

Whom they’d pave the way for:  As well as the obvious Pat Benatar, they might also clear the path for more classic rock acts with just a few, but well-remembered songs.  Maybe Thin Lizzy or Blue Oyster Cult?  And it’s way too soon, but Jett may quite be the precedent for a future induction of P!nk.  Or even Jett’s previous band, the Runaways.

Their biggest threats: The most obvious one is Heart, but don’t overlook the roles of Deep Purple and Rush either.

In the end:  Being good time rock and roll will always make them popular on your party playlists, but it won’t get them into the Hall.  Not this time, at least.  Induction chances:  10%


So after much procrastination, I finally have my picks put up.  Some picks may be unpopular, but I’m going to stand by them.  And I’ll probably fall hilariously facedown with these picks, since I haven’t averaged better than 2/5 since 2009.  Time to wait and see.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The subcommittees' picks for 2013

Most Rock Hall Monitors have already made their predictions for the Class of 2013’s Performer inductees.  A few of us haven’t.  I myself am having a particularly tough time solidifying my final five.  Nonetheless, the Performers aren’t the only inductees, and if the year was 2010, they weren’t even the majority of the inductees.  And if the year was 2012, the additional Performer inductees were almost as big a story to us hardcore followers as the elected six, or the pigeonholing of Freddie King (Axl’s antics kept the spotlight, of course).

Before I post my Performer predictions, I like to analyze who the top candidates are for the other categories.  In some ways, particularly in the case of 2010’s Ahmet Ertegun Award recipients, or 2000’s announcement of the Sideman category’s creation, announcing the other categories’ selections can be as much of a correction of injustice as finally getting Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Sex Pistols inducted.  Some of us even have queues and pet picks for the Ahmet Ertegun Award (Non-Performer), Early Influence, or Award For Musical Excellence (Sideman… we think) inductions.  Some are almost whispered as loudly among us hardcore followers as prog and metal acts are shouted.  Either way, they’re a part of the celebration as well, and we should also be trying to predict them.  Unlike the Performers, though, there is no nominee list that gets made public and we don’t know who the strongly contended names are for these other illustrious awards.  So trying to predict them is like hunting at night: unless you’ve got some infrared inside information, you’re lucky to hit the target.

Nevertheless, we do venture guesses, and for the Ahmet Ertegun Award, a.k.a. the Non-Performer category, the biggest odds go to Don Cornelius.  The man behind Soul Train passed away sometime between the induction announcements for 2012 and the induction ceremonies, and when big names like that die, they become the bouncing ball to follow for induction.  It worked for Don Kirshner last year, although not as much for the songwriting duo of Ashford And Simpson, whose substantial career as recording artists may be the key hindrance in that regard.  There’s still the outside chance that the Fox News prediction of Doug Morris will also come true, though Fox News predicted that would happen in 2011, and it still hasn’t happened.  Still, they nailed David Geffen correctly for 2010, so Morris’s name will loom as a possibility semi-ominously for several years.  Nonetheless, Cornelius is likely the only serious candidate this year.

After inducting Freddie King as an Early Influence last year, the Foundation caused some eyebrows to arch pretty severely when the NomCom named Albert King as a nominee, and with good cause, as subcommittee members are also on the NomCom.  Was it just Wanda Jackson, you could call it a fluke.  Freddie King, they’re pressing their luck.  Albert King?  Now you’ve definitely established a pattern of just shoehorning them in when they don’t get enough votes, and it badly besmirches the Foundation’s credibility.  Meanwhile, the two big outcries for this category, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the Ravens are constantly pressed up against the glass of our Monitor minds.  It all depends on whether or not Albert gets enough votes to be called a Performer this year.  The field’s pretty strong, and he’s not the only blues presence on the ballot.  Meanwhile, it would likely be less fraudulent while simultaneously opening up a whole other can of worms if they did induct him in this category, but dropped the “Early” from the category’s name.  They’ve renamed the other two categories, what’s keeping them away from this one?

Which brings us to the other major category… we think.  To be honest, we’re not quite one hundred percent certain whether or not the Award For Musical Excellence really is a renaming of the Sideman category.  You’d think so if you read this category’s inductees’ bios from the past two years, but we’re just really not sure still.  Leon Russell was indeed a high-demand studio musician during the sixties, but he’s also quite revered for his status as a performer as well.  And you’re getting into philosophy when you talk about engineers being like musicians, and big, frustrated kudos to Robbie Robertson for his such philosophical speech likening the engineers’ abilities to manipulate and control sound just as if the mixing board were an electrophonic instrument itself, a speech that sufficiently keeps us in the dark as to what the Hall’s intentions are with this category.  Needless to say, it’s just as intelligent to shrug your shoulders and say “Uhono” as it is to actually try and predict this category.  I’ll do both.  I’m without clue, but I still maintain the best candidate to induct and still maintain this perpetually perplexing puzzle, this unnerving, annoying enigma would be Ry Cooder.  It’s like this category is a hybrid of Sideman and Lifetime Achievement, even though Lifetime Achievement has always been used almost as a subset of the Non-Performer category.  Sidebar, I’d also like to see DJ Hurricane and Mix Master Mike eventually get some love in this category.

Thus having briefly addressed the possibility of Lifetime Achievement inductees, we’re left with the final sub-category of sorts, and one we only address now because of what happened last year: will any other of the “left behind” groups be inducted this year as Performers by selection of special subcommittee?  Last year, the Hall treated seven cases of Front Man Fever, six of them by this means (the seventh being the induction of Faces, which at the time I’d called a mild case, due to Stewart’s staggering solo career).  Currently the hottest rock-era fever still untreated is the Wailers, who’d be excellent inductees, and also open the door for Peter Tosh to be a Clyde McPhatter Clubber.  There’s also the ever-present murmuring of inducting the E Street Band this way, since Little Steven and Jon Landau are both NomCom members who might also be on this subcommittee, and with the big man, Clarence Clemons gone, they may want to do it before losing another cog from this pristine rock and roll machine.  Other similar veins expose the possibilities of Crazy Horse and the Mothers Of Invention getting this side door Performer induction.  However, none of these seem likely when you consider that all the acts from last year that this happened to were from the early years of rock ‘n’ roll.  If you’re going this route, this is where to look.  You might get the Jordanaires, Ray Charles’ orchestra or Rae-letts, the Tennessee Two, or the Gliders.  Still, the biggest name draw would be the Belmonts, which would be a bad call because unlike Smokey Robinson, Dion’s eligibility as a solo artist was definite, and his solo career lasted longer, which gave us more hits.  Still, the only Dion song inducted as a song that shaped rock ‘n’ roll is “A Teenager In Love” which was with the Belmonts.  However, the best route in this case would be to nominate Dion And The Belmonts in the future and make Dion a double inductee, but with the backlog of harder rock that gets bigger every year, nominating them would irritate a lot of fans and followers, and thus probably won’t happen.  Hence, it is ultimately most likely that there’ll be no inclusions in this category this year.

Which means all that’s left is the Performer nominees, and picking the inductees from that list.  We’ll see if I can finally pick my five.

Monday, November 26, 2012

No accounting for taste on this ballot

As promised in the last blog, I will now rank the 15 nominees for the Class of 2013 by my personal tastes.  I do this for a couple reasons: one, I do it to show that when I rank artists by objective merits, I really am trying to be objective (last year, I ranked the Red Hot Chili Peppers most objectively deserving and worst to my ears); two, if I got a ballot where my vote was one vote and not one minute fraction of a vote, I’d like to think that my choices wouldn’t simply be one scale or another, but a combination of factors; three, in some ways, I have a sick predisposition for ranking, but I suspect I’m not alone in this regard either.  Since there wouldn’t be much here if it was just my tastes, I’m also going to add in the ranks of the previous blog and see which sets of top five averages would be the most accurate representation of how I would likely vote.  Since my fiancé doesn’t feel she’s familiar enough with a majority of the nominees, she declined to rank them by personal taste.  So when you see “taste” below, it’s mine.  Feel free to comment with your personal tastes on this ballot, as well as any other thoughts you may have.

1. Joan Jett And The Blackhearts: Who doesn’t love good time rock ‘n’ roll?  And honestly, this is why they stand a chance of induction any given year now, now that they’ve been nominated twice.  I gave them lowest merits, while the fiancé had them at seven.

Average of both merits: 11
Average of hers and taste: 4
Average of all me: 7.5
Average of all three: 7.67

2. Albert King: I’m not a major blues aficionado, but there’s something about the way Albert plays the blues for me like he promised that just sounds so good.  My merits placed him smack dab in the middle at eight, while she gave him a lowly thirteen.

Average of both merits: 10.5
Average of hers and taste: 7.5
Average of all me: 5
Average of all three: 7.67

3. Public Enemy: Masterful production.  While I’m not a huge fan of rap altogether, their style just works for me, whether it’s “Welcome To The Terrordome”, “Fight The Power”, “911 Is A Joke”, or the more mellow “He Got Game” with Stephen Stills.  Top merits from me and six from the missus-to-be.

Average of both merits: 3.5
Average of hers and taste: 4.5
Average of all me: 2
Average of all three: 3.33

4. Deep Purple: The hooky riff from “Smoke On The Water” is powerful indeed, but let’s not forget “Hush” and “Woman From Tokyo”, or any other that you’re yelling at me via your computer screen for omitting.  Rank of two from both parties of the engaged couple makes them shoo-ins to be voted for no matter which set of averages used.

Average of both merits: 2
Average of hers and taste: 3
Average of all me: 3
Average of all three: 2.67

5. The Marvelettes: As I said on the Future Rock Legends forum, I’m ecstatic about the Marvelettes finally getting the nomination, but I also said that I’m not even that huge of fans of theirs, really.  Knowing that, seeing them fifth on this list should give you understanding why this ballot didn’t really thrill me too greatly, despite elating many others, who’d likely vote all hard rock and prog..  Still, I enjoy their ‘60s style.  The fiancé felt they were most deserving, while I put them seventh.

Average of both merits: 4
Average of hers and taste: 3
Average of all me: 6
Average of all three: 4.33

6. The Meters: I guess when you get down to it, the sound of New Orleans is hit or miss for me.  Don’t care for Dr. John or Buckwheat Zydeco, but I love Fats Domino, and also get a kick out of the Meters, as well as a number of Neville Brothers songs.  Eleven and twelve from the merit ranks:

Average of both merits: 11.5
Average of hers and taste: 9
Average of all me: 8.5
Average of all three: 9.67

7. Randy Newman: I don’t feel fully or even adequately researched on his stuff, but what I do know is why some do consider him a credit to the singer/songwriter trend of the ‘70s.  But merit-wise, he sank like a rock, coming in fourteen and fifteen for me and my gal, respectively.

Average of both merits: 14.5
Average of hers and taste: 11
Average of all me: 10.5
Average of all three: 12
8. Heart: As I said last year, the voices of the Wilson sisters just don’t do it for me.  Their guitar work is great, but when the vocals lay in, I’m not too thrilled.  A few songs I do love though.  The fiancé likes them, and she ranked them four, while I went ten.

Average of both merits: 7
Average of hers and taste: 6
Average of all me: 9
Average of all three: 7.33

9. Donna Summer: Again, it should tell you why this ballot leaves me lukewarm, considering Donna Summer has jumped up five places in taste (last year, she was fourteenth out of fifteen) when my feelings about her music haven’t changed.  I placed her fifth, third from my fiancé.

Average of both merits: 4
Average of hers and taste: 6
Average of all me: 7
Average of all three: 5.67

10. Chic: Their rhythms are infectious, and I do like “Good Times”, but some of the lyrics just make the songs less than enjoyable, particularly the “yowzah, yowzah, yowzah” on “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowzah, Yowzah, Yowzah)”.  I mean, why?  Rank of nine from the soon-to-be-married couple.

Average of both merits: 9
Average of hers and taste: 9.5
Average of all me: 9.5
Average of all three: 9.33

11. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band: Another act I want to spend more time getting to know better, but as much as I love blues-rock, there’s kind of a reason why the first go at something is often referred to as the “rough draft”.  The harmonica playing is a bit caustic at times, but the rhythms are steady, and Butterfield is an exciting front man.  I put them at lucky thirteen, while the fiancé went one step below that.

Average of both merits: 13.5
Average of hers and taste: 12.5
Average of all me: 12
Average of all three:  12.67

12. N.W.A.  You’re probably asking yourself, how could they be so distant on the taste list from Public Enemy when they’re both rap?  A good part of the answer is the same reason they got higher credentials in innovation: the lyrics.  It’s not that I find it all that offensive, just that it gets to be monotonous.  After a continuous string of obscenity that became obvious awhile ago wasn’t really for any other reason than its own sake, it just got to be boring.  It’s ennui, and it’s the exact reason why “Express Yourself” is my favorite track off Straight Outta Compton.  Three from me, and my betrothed ranked them fifth.

Average of both merits: 4
Average of hers and taste: 8.5
Average of all me: 7.5
Average of all three:  6.67

13. Kraftwerk: And here’s where the rockists and Europeans get pissed at me.  If there’s anything you’ve noticed about me, it’s that the voice is the most important instrument to me.  Many of the artists I don’t care for, it’s because of their singing voices.  In the case of Kraftwerk, some of the instrumentation doesn’t strike a chord with me either, but the emotionless singing really turns me off.  It’s the same reason I don’t like Joy Division or New Order, or for that matter the Thompson Twins, and especially not Cake.  I ranked them at four; she slotted them at eleven.

Average of both merits: 7.5
Average of hers and taste: 12
Average of all me: 8.5
Average of all three:  9.33

14. Procol Harum:  “Conquistador” is actually an exciting song, and I do like “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”, but only because I’ve listened to it enough times that I can make it all the way through.  Listening to Procol Harum’s other work… well, it just bores me.  I get it: it’s experimental and that’s why it’s hailed so exultantly.  But I need to down a 5-Hour Energy shot before listening to them in larger doses.  The woman in my life placed them at ten, I put them at twelve.

Average of both merits: 11
Average of hers and taste: 12
Average of all me:  13
Average of all three: 12

15. Rush:  And here’s where I piss off the rockists and the entire nation of Canada.  I’m sorry, but it all comes down to the voice again.  Geddy Lee’s piercing vocals just hurt.  He kind of reminds me of Pinky from Animaniacs (and the spinoff Pinky And The Brain).  Seriously, I’d love for Rob Paulsen to do an entire album of Rush covers using the Pinky voice.  “Fly by night, NARF!”  I gave them a six, she gave them an eight.

Average of both merits: 7
Average of hers and taste: 11.5
Average of all me: 10.5
Average of all three: 9.67

With all those ranks and averages now in place, we can now draw some composite sketch of how my official ballot might look.

So the five highest average ranks of both merits only:

Deep Purple
Public Enemy
The Marvelettes
Donna Summer

Five highest averages of her ranks and my personal taste:

Deep Purple
The Marvelettes
Joan Jett And The Blackhearts
Public Enemy
tie between Heart and Donna Summer

Five highest averages of my ranks and tastes, excluding the fiancé’s input:

Public Enemy
Deep Purple
Albert King
The Marvelettes
Donna Summer

Five highest averages of all three metrics taken into account:

Deep Purple
Public Enemy
The Marvelettes
Donna Summer

As is evident, there is a strong consistency among the averages’ lists.  Deep Purple, the Marvelettes, and Public Enemy are solidly on all four, while Donna Summer makes three of the four, and the fourth in a tie for the fifth slot, so she’d probably win the tie-breaker against Heart.  The fifth spot shows two counts of N.W.A. making the cut, one of Albert King, and one of Joan Jett And The Blackhearts.  Even though they didn’t make the cut on any averages’ list, I’m tempted to say the fifth slot might still go to Kraftwerk since I ranked them at number four in merits, and to give the ballot a little more balance.  But for the sake of this entry, it’s going to go by the numbers, and my vote would probably go for Deep Purple, the Marvelettes, N.W.A., Public Enemy, and Donna Summer.  That’d make a good class for sure.  Not that that’s how it’ll turn out though.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A possible pecking order for 2013

Now that the initial wave of wonderment has passed, and even before that wave passed, fellow monitors have been evaluating the candidates from personal tastes, seemingly objective merits, trends in the Hall’s actions of late…any kind of metric really.  Recently, Digital Dream Door posted their evaluations of the nominees, which Terry Stewart called something along the lines of “subjective bullshit” (perhaps it had something to do with Randy Newman being rated a two on a scale of one to ten).  Well, Mr. Stewart, given that “unquestionable musical excellence” is supposedly the only factor, other than the 25-year rule, it seems like it’s all subjective: I myself absolutely love U2, but I wouldn’t watch Madonna in concert if it meant peace on Earth, enough money in my bank account to retire and live lavishly, and front table tickets to every Rock Hall induction ceremony from now until I croak; but both got in without much effort.

So those of us who are not on the same wavelength with the voting bloc of the Rock Hall are left to try and measure the merits of candidates are more measurable, though still somewhat intangible criteria.  The most common ones are innovation, influence, and impact (including but not limited to commercial success).  As I said last year when I did the same thing, I know myself well enough to know that I wouldn’t vote strictly on attempted objectivity, nor on my personal tastes.  Still, it helps to flesh out them both just to see how a potential vote from me would look like (in this case, a real vote on the Rock Hall’s website).  Since personal taste is easier to determine, let’s start with the harder path.  How do they rank in terms of merit?   I’ve also included the numerical ranks as given by my fiancé, because why not?  Here’s my attempt. .NOTE: This is NOT an actual prediction.  Just examining the candidates further.

Influence: Tremendous.  One of the most frequently cited rap acts as influences upon other rappers. 
Impact: Six gold or better albums (two of them going top ten on the Top 200, three on Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums list), thirteen hits on the R&B charts, plenty of critical acclaim.  As one writer put it, Public Enemy may not have been the first to do what they did, but they felt the most important.
Innovation: Not the first to incorporate social, political themes in rap, but perhaps one of the first to be overwhelmingly so.  Also, a specifically designated hype-man was seldom heard of before or since Public Enemy.
Intangibles: Three of the four core members had hit albums and singles, most notably that of Chuck D.  The fourth had a hit reality TV show.  Will the Bomb Squad be included if voted in?  I hope so.
The fiancé’s rank: 6, just because it’s hard to sort out the really high ranks.  The distance between first and sixth can be a foot at most, but it still falls in that order.

Influence: Extremely influential.  One of the most influential groups in heavy metal and hard-rock bands to come after.  I’ve also heard them referred to as being influential to prog, but I’m not sure how true that is.
Impact: Not hugely successful in terms of singles, but they were a part of the rock scene that focused on albums as single entities.  On the albums front, the chart entries are so-so at best, but five gold, three platinum, and one double platinum perhaps speaks to their standing the test of time where the chart numbers don’t seem to match.
Innovation: Can’t speak to it much, but there’s probably some of it in there.
Intangibles: The other projects that members of Deep Purple have been involved with speak to the further and more direct influence of the band.  Blackmore’s name is one of the most revered among rock guitarists, and the riff from “Smoke On The Water” is considered to be one of the rites of passage for guitar playing.
The fiancé’s rank: 2, one of two times we agree exactly, though we’re very close many other times.

3. N.W.A.
Influence: Gangsta rap is what it is because of these guys.  In fact much of the stereotype of what being a rapper means, or at least what it supposedly meant when Tupac and Biggie got shot, is based on the image projected by N.W.A.
Innovation: I’m loathe to put lyrical innovation on the same plateau with rhythmic and instrumental innovation, but this is one of the few times when it’s deserved.  Ice-T may be the O.G., but Ice Cube and company really put it on the map.
Impact: Minimal on the singles charts.  For albums, three platinum (one doubly so) studio albums (one that hit #1 on the Billboard 200), and one gold greatest hits compilation.  But that’s also about all they had.  No cache of lesser known/celebrated material behind that.
Intangibles: With notable and big solo careers of some of their members, they might be called the first rap supergroup.
The fiancé’s rank: 5, just eking out Public Enemy because gangsta became synonymous with rap for so long.

Innovation: As a prog group, they pioneered what is now known as electronica.
Influence: Again, electronica artists that have come since all tip their hat to Kraftwerk, particularly those from the European scene.
Impact: I don’t know how big they or their particular heyday were in Europe.  In North America, their heyday was strongest in the disco/dance music scene, as odd as that may seem, given what the rest of that scene during that time were putting out.
Intangibles: Only in the recent years has electronica music been getting taken seriously as an art form, at least in terms of coverage from the trade publications.
The fiancé’s rank: 11, because she hadn’t really ever heard of them before I made her listen to the full almost-23-minute version of “Autobahn”.

Impact: An incredible string of catchy and memorable disco classics.  Tremendous crossover between the Hot 100 and the R&B charts.  It more than makes up for the fact that she was a little bit of a latecomer (at least when it came to hitting her stride) to her particular scene.  Singles-wise, the most successful nominee on the ballot.  Albums charts, second place.
Influence: Only almost the whole dance music scene of the ‘80s and beyond, as well as upon her contemporaries of the time.
Innovation: Not much.  Again, latecomer to the disco scene, but she’s responsible for helping give it a much more sizzling pace and flavor.
Intangibles: She’s royalty: the Queen of Disco.  That’s the kind of nickname that really should mean something.  Plus disco’s representation in the Hall has been pretty paltry.
The fiancé’s rank: 3.  Can’t disagree too heavily.

Impact: Not impressive in terms of singles’ charts, but the biggest nominee from an albums chart perspective.  Their first twenty-two charted albums all went either gold or platinum.
Influence: Insanely influential in Canada, they probably didn’t even need the 35% programming rule to help them.  Even outside the Great White North, many bands cite Rush’s influence.
Innovation: Not too shabby either, despite being relative latecomers to the prog-rock scene, their experimentation with sound opened new sonic doors.
Intangibles: A cultish following that rivals the Grateful Dead’s speaks to the band’s lasting power, which is an important message to spread about the power of rock ‘n’ roll.
The fiancé’s rank: 8, and she’s Canadian!

Impact: “Please Mr. Postman” being the first #1 single for the Motown empire is just the icing on the cake.  In terms of the singles’ charts, the Marvelettes are the third biggest act on the ballot.  Albums chart-wise, dead last, but that’s because they were a singles group from a time when the singles were the standard. 
Influence: Being the first Motown group to grab the brass ring doesn’t come without influence.  They served as the template for Martha And The Vandellas and the Supremes to follow.  In fact, either “Where Did Our Love Go” or “Baby Love” was written with the Marvelettes in mind.
Innovation: None really.
Intangibles: The only nominee whose prime predates the British invasion, they’re considered by many as one of the most overdue candidates.  In fact, they’d probably be near the top of most people’s lists for “most deserving acts that aren’t guitar bands.”  Also two eras definable by styles: the more upbeat era with songs like “Please Mr. Postman” and “Playboy”, and the smoother later work like “Don’t Mess With Bill” and “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game”, both eras respected.
The fiancé’s rank: 1, because she was feeding off my excitement when I heard they’d finally gotten nominated.

Influence: There’s a reason he, Freddie, and B.B. are known as the triumvirate of blues Kings, and it’s not just the same last (stage) name.  He’s also not the only nominee to use King as a stage name despite being born a Nelson, by the way.  But many blues guitarists and blues musicians in general have followed in his footsteps, including Stevie Ray Vaughan. 
Impact: A decent share of hits on the R&B charts, and a few on the Hot 100, plus a nice number on the album charts.  Beyond that, not a whole lot of name recognition outside the blues world.
Innovation: Presumably some. Best known for bringing (or resurrecting, maybe?) a  kind of perfectionism to blues music.
Intangibles: In addition to his stage name as a King, there’s always the impending possible horror of sequestering him as an Early Influence.
The fiancé’s rank: 13, just not as much name recognition power.

Impact: The impact of “Good Times” upon hip-hop is huge.  Also, respectable runs of hits in the disco, R&B, and pop charts, plus a good run of charted albums.
Influence: Again, on the world of hip-hop, having a heavily sampled record does say a lot.  Plus, the influence on funk and dance music is sizeable.
Innovation: Not entirely devoid here, as the technique of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards have proven different and difficult to duplicate.
Intangibles: By now, Chic may just be wearing down resistance of the voters.  A seventh nomination?  The Nominating Committee must be seeing something that not everyone is.
The fiancé’s rank: 9, the second and last time we agree.  Just a tough field for Chic this year.

Impact: Plenty.  A good span of chart success, songs that are still memes due to commercial usage, we even remember the names of the female members.
Influence: Somewhat niche, but there with the likes of their contemporaries such as Pat Benatar and fellow nominee Joan Jett And The Blackhearts.
Innovation: Not much to speak of.
Intangibles: Their part in the rise of power ballads is unquestionable, even if the value of power ballads themselves is.  Also, songs like “Dog And Butterfly” and “Dreamboat Annie” well display their versatility and keen musicianship.
The fiance’s rank: 4, because she’s a sucker for power ballads, and because they’re big name draws.

Influence: They helped carry on the New Orleans sound, and bring it into the ‘70s and beyond.
Impact: A couple handfuls of hits in the singles charts, and they had a few hit albums too.
Innovation: A little bit, alongside Sly And The Family Stone and the JB’s, helping shape and update the sound of funk.
Intangibles: Two of the members of the Meters were named Neville… as in the Neville Brothers, who have also been looked at as potential candidates.  Perhaps the Hall wants this group in first, then have two more members of the Clyde McPhatter Club.
The fiance’s rank: 12, not too far off from mine.

Innovation: Their baroque-rock sound helped shape what would be known as prog, combining the music of pre-recording era into the rock scape.
Influence: As progenitors of prog, they’re right alongside the Moody Blues in terms of influence on prog bands.  Big.
Impact: Maybe five singles across the different singles charts, their albums are a bit better, and a couple of them are pretty well-acclaimed, even if only in hindsight.
Intangibles: Being British invasion always adds a certain amount of Hall cred, even if you’re an act with no chance of ever getting in, like the Unit Four Plus Two.  For Procol Harum, this gives them a leg up they wouldn’t have if they were an American act, counterintuitively.
The fiance’s rank: 10, and I almost had them there too.  Went back and forth between them, Heart, and the Meters.

Influence: Brought straight-out blues music to a new audience, and helped pave the way for future blues players.
Impact: A good handful or so of hit albums that are well-respected, no hit singles, but they have tracks that are still considered absolutely classic.
Innovation: Perhaps added a new dynamic to the blues-style, but beyond that, I don’t think there’s much.
Intangibles: The band behind Butterfield has a few recognizable names that perhaps add to their credibility.
The fiance’s rank: 14, again, close to mine.

Influence: Some.  I think all singer/songwriters kind of influence each other.  I see ways he might have influenced the likes of Tom Waits, Cat Stevens, and others, as well as how they might have influenced him.
Impact: The original Toy Story movie introduced him to a new audience, but his catalog before that includes some well-selling and highly respected albums.  A couple hit singles, but that was never his forte anyway.
Innovation: Nope, but singer/songwriters aren’t exactly known for that anyway.
Intangibles: His works are considered pretty high art by music critics.  That’s been both his greatest asset and his greatest liability.
The fiance’s rank: 15, perhaps it’s his singing voice that makes it hard to take him seriously, perhaps it’s the way they lampooned him in an SNL sketch several years back that just seemed to peg him a little too well.

Impact: With “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” being the huge smash it was (#1 song of the entire year 1982), and it still being anthemic, subsequent songs including “I Hate Myself For Loving You” help make Joan Jett arguably the woman you first think of as proof that women could rock just as hard as the boys.
Influence: Again, the anthemic nature of “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” was so impacting, it evolved somewhat into some influence in the female rockscape.
Innovation: Minimal, if any.
Intangibles: Seriously… no one else thinks she looks like the rebellious twin of Joyce DeWitt from Three’s Company?  Not germane, but kinda awesome.
The fiance’s rank: 7, because she’s heard of them, knows why they’re being nominated, and who doesn’t love good time rock ‘n’ roll?

So that’s trying to rank the nominees by relatively objective merits.  Keep in mind, that I purposely refuse to do “tied for (such-and-such a spot)”.  No ties here by design.  The distance between one spot and maybe six spots down or up can be razor-thin, but they’re ranked.  Personal tastes next time.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

2013 Ballot - initial reactions

Now that the nominees have been announced, we’re all buzzing about who’s on the ballot, who’s not, who should get in, who will, and anything in between.  Now that I’ve got some time to actually lay down my thoughts in full, here are some reactions on my part.

-No Whitney?!  Whoa!
-Can’t believe Deep Purple and Rush got on.
-Boy they’re sure going back for previous one-and-done nominees.
-I suck at this prognosticating bit.
-No Clyde McPhatter Club potentials here.
-No love for soul this year either.

Expanding further on some of those thoughts… so yeah, no potential to join the Clyde McPhatter Club this year, though as has been pointed out, Dr. Dre could very easily do it if N.W.A. makes it this year, and then Dre solo down the line. 

Well, it was no surprise that Donna Summer, N.W.A., Chic, and Public Enemy all made the ballot this year.  What was surprising was that Whitney Houston didn’t get nominated.  Really a huge surprise.  Her death was a much higher profile deal than Donna Summer’s.  But then again, George Harrison died in late 2001, and he wasn’t nominated for the class of 2003 (the ballot for 2002 was already out when he died), so maybe that’s what will happen here as well.  Besides, with four previous nominations, it’s pretty evident that the Hall wants Donna in first, and doesn’t want another dead diva dividing the decisions against her.  So, if Donna does finally get inducted, look for Whitney to join Nirvana as first time nominees for the 2014 ballot.  Still, since disco has tended to divide against itself as well, it seems odd that Chic is back on the same ballot, having shared a ballot with Summer twice before.  While we all know of Nile Rodgers’ current conflict with cancer, it still stands as a possibility that they’ll divide against each other again.  Which may also happen with Public Enemy and N.W.A.  Last year was the first year that one rap act got in when there were two nominated, so it’s interesting that they’re taking this gamble again. Public Enemy and N.W.A. are both extremely high profile hip-hop outfits, and if there’s any chance for two rap acts to get in the same year, this is the year for it to happen.  And these four were the only four I correctly predicted, which forces the confession of how bad I’ve gotten at picking ‘em. 

As I said, soul doesn’t seem to have much love on this year’s ballot.  The closest approximations are also our two nominees filed under “M”: the Marvelettes are on the ballot, making them the first major Motown act to be on the ballot since some form of Michael Jackson’s musical career, and are also the second most commercially successful act on this ballot, in terms of the singles’ charts (second to Donna Summer); meanwhile, former one-and-done R&B nominee the Meters are back for their second bid.  Given that only recently the Neville Brothers were added to the Previously Considered list, and Art was an original member of the Meters (and if I’m not mistaken, Cyril was a later member), it seems like maybe the Meters’ stalling out in the past is also keeping the Neville Brothers from even getting to the ballot.  For those who participated in the Revisited and Projected projects on the Future Rock Legends site, the Meters were placed in the Sideman category, while the Marvelettes were one of those groups that I was proud of us for recognizing when the actual Rock Hall hadn’t.  But now that they’re on, I haven’t decided how I feel this will go.

Eerie echoes from last year’s ballot have already abounded, as Albert King appears on the ballot for the first time.  A bluesman who was around from the early sixties and had a pretty respectable career, and whose last name is also King.  A lot of murmurs indeed comparing Albert to last year’s nomination of Freddie King, and the eventual induction of Freddie as an Early Influence, despite not having a release until 1959.  People have good reason to worry and believe that the same thing will happen to Albert King this year.  If I actually thought the powers-that-be paid attention to what I said, I would strongly warn them that in addition to Freddie’s EI induction being a horrible call, there are two more reasons not to go that way this time:  one, Albert King isn’t even necessarily the earliest debuting artist on this ballot like Freddie King was last year, that honor arguably goes to the aforementioned Marvelettes; two, Albert isn’t the only blues act on the ballot this time, like Freddie was last year.  The Paul Butterfield Blues Band is also on the ballot, another former one-and-done getting a second look, and they debuted on the scene a short four years after Albert King.  There’s been speculation regarding what’s pre-rock and what’s not going back to the earliest classes, but with these two additional factors in place, it’s just not wise to backdoor Albert King as an Early Influence.

Rounding out the mysterious reappearances are European electronica pioneers Kraftwerk and singer/songwriter Randy Newman, nominated in 2003 and 2005 respectively.  Kraftwerk will be relying on their cache in the European theater, outside the limited recognition from Joe Q. U.S.A.  Randy Newman will be relying on his status as a bohemian singer/songwriter, which the Hall absolutely eats up, and his connections to other inductees like Billy Joel and John Cougar Mellencamp.  Along with the Meters and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, these four reappearances are probably more shocking than the omission of Whitney Houston.

As predicted, the ‘60s British Invasion does indeed have presence once again.  Not as predicted though, was the act itself.  I had predicted the Spencer Davis Group, and some worried that Little Steven’s influence would culminate in a Herman’s Hermits nomination.  Both counts proved wrong as Procol Harum, another previously considered name, emerged as the front-runner among British acts this year.  It’s somewhat a surprise as prog is generally reviled, and they were pretty much proto-prog.  Parenthetically, to those who are glad that Little Steven didn’t get his way this time, let me ask… you don’t think the Marvelettes are an act that would be up his alley?  I can’t say for certain that they were one of his three, but I’m fairly sure he’d back this nomination heartily and vocally.

Back on track, another huge surprise, though much more pleasant, was the announcement of Deep Purple and Rush.  While this isn’t the runaway ballot of guitar gods that rock’n’rmetal purists pine and whine for every year, these are incredibly surprising and very good calls.  However, I’m going to say it right now: don’t get your hopes up.  We’re all too familiar with the critics’ distaste for these two acts.  And while there’s almost always a solid guitar-rock band or soloist in every class, don’t be surprised if both these bands miss out and your guitar rock band representative turns out to be either Heart or Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, two carryovers from last year that I passed over in favor of predicting the Spinners and War.  Critics still compose a good chunk of the voting bloc, and it’s very possible that our guitar god inductees this year will turn out to be guitar goddesses.  And if you try to argue that it’s not the same, or that neither one is anywhere near as deserving as Deep Purple or Rush, you’ll be labeled a sexist, even if you’re a woman yourself.

So those are our nominees.  I’m embarrassed to have only correctly predicted four, especially when a couple of the people who beat me read like enraged fanboys in their predictions (“OMFG!  How LONG are they gonna ignore this absolutely LANDMARK group?!?!”)  Maybe I’ll try it myself next year.  The push for the Tokens goes into overdrive in about 48 weeks.