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5 Rock Bands Made Better by Switching Vocalists

Iron Maiden
Iron Maiden
Photo by Groovehouse

Every now and then, switching things up in a band isn't the end of the world. In fact, recruiting a new singer can revitalize and expand the horizons of a band in completely unexpected ways, bringing them out of obscurity or to previously unheard of levels of success.

We've covered this ground before in the realm of metal, but what about rock and pop examples? Here are some of the greatest singer switches of all time in that expanded field, where it much less commonly works but has to great effect in the past.

Deep Purple

Deep Purple had already hit it big among the psych rock loving hippie movement of the late '60s with their fantastic cover of the song "Hush," but the only thing that stopped them from being one hit wonders actually happened to be the loss of original singer Rod Evans.

Recruiting the shrieking banshee of Ian Gillan completely changed the band's direction, reinventing them as a hard rock act alongside bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. They stripped the hippie trappings and started making songs like "Highway Star" and "Child in Time" that propelled them beyond anyone's wildest expectations into a classic rock band for the ages.

King Crimson

King Crimson is a weird example of this, because they made it work more than once. It goes to prove that the real voice of the band was always the instrumentation, not the singing. After striking right out of the gate with their classic album

In the Court of the Crimson King

with singer and bassist Greg Lake, the band faltered.

Lake quit after a lackluster follow-up and was replaced by lackluster singers Gordon Haskell and Boz Burrell. Then magic happened again when John Wetton took over and brought the band back to prominence once more with amazing albums like Starless and Bible Black and Red.

Amazingly, it happened all over again in the '80s when, after a long hiatus, guitarist Robert Fripp revived the band with Adrian Belew on vocals and rhythm guitar, completely changing the band's sound and bringing them into the future with their next classic album, Discipline.

 

Black Sabbath

Okay, okay, don't jump down my throat about this one. I think we can all agree that the early records with Ozzy Osbourne were the Sabs' best. That being said, the band had started really falling off by the end. Even Osbourne has called their final record together in the '70s, Never Say Die, the worst thing he had ever participated in.

If Ozzy's being honest with himself, he's done worse since, but at the time it was pretty dire. The band desperately needed a new approach, and they got it by replacing the Ozzman with Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio. Dio's work on Heaven and Hell completely revitalized the band and brought them into the '80s roaring.

Pink Floyd

Don't get me wrong here; I absolutely love the early Syd Barrett era of Pink Floyd. However, Barrett's sensibilities as a songwriter were far removed from what the Floyd would eventually become. Barrett wrote simple, folksy psychedelia, and seemed to heading in a more stripped down, acoustic direction by the time of his last recordings.

For better or worse, had they never lost Barrett and recruited David Gilmour as his replacement on vocals and guitar, with Roger Waters taking the reins as principal songwriter, the band would never have evolved through their many amazing later phases.

Iron Maiden

Truth be told, my personal favorite Iron Maiden album is their first with singer Paul Di'Anno. It has a raw, punk edge to it that appeals greatly to me. However, one cannot deny that the band grew as songwriters without Di'Anno, becoming one of the leading forces in hard rock and heavy metal.

They also recruited singer Bruce Dickinson, who completely changed the style of the band's singing from rough growling to operatic screaming. It changed everything for them, and it firmly placed them on the map in the '80s as one of the leading rock bands in the world.


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