"He who dares not grasp the thorn
Should never crave the rose" - Anne Bronte
Axl W. Rose was in the news again!
All of this talk is thanks to the detailed list of popular singers with the greatest vocal range. Now, if you Google "Axl Rose" you no longer see the video of him awkwardly talking to Jimmy Kimmel, or see the photo of he and Lana Del Ray leaving a hotel. Instead you get some evidence that thousands of us rock fans have known for years. Axl Rose has the greatest vocal range in rock.
We are the same Rock fans that love the fact that Mariah Carey and her emotions are a second on this list to the tattooed, hot-tempered boy from Indiana. Because, at the time these acts would have shared the charts together; leaving many of us questioning how one blinged-out diva could be singing that "There's a hero, if you look within your soul" while the other bandanna-wearing Siren sang about your Daddy who loves his Porno, now that Mama's not around.
Thankfully awards for having the greatest vocal range will not be presented since Axl would either arrive six hours late or write a cryptic and detailed letter explaining why he chose not to attend. So instead, fans of the great Guns N' Roses can enjoy this victory, because we knew this fact already.
To me presenting this list to a rock fan and looking for a shocked response is like telling Al Gore the ice caps are melting. Anyone who had Appetite for Destruction knew in the first verse that this was a voice like no other. Axl quickly told the listener in his gravelly, angst-filled voice where they were and then kindly informed them they were going to die. Layer that atop a descending Slash riff on his Les Paul and that my friend is the way to hook a teenage boy.
The song Welcome to the Jungle could act as the only sample size you need for this list. Not only could it be listed as one of the greatest "Side A-Track One" songs of all-time, but the wails that lead to the solos, the killer vocals in each chorus and the way he brings his voice down; so down made Axl an instant rock god. It awakened many ears to what would be a defining voice in rock. I hate to refer to them as specifically a Metal band, because when I think metal, I think Black Sabbath, Metallica, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. When I think of rock I instantly think of Guns N' Roses and sometimes I need to recall just how infatuated I was with them and how great they were.
For a teenage boy in the 80′s I can think of no greater album to revolutionize you love of rock music. They had a sound that was reminiscent of bands you were aware of, but they lacked the noticeable pop hook elements of Aerosmith, and unlike a similar substance-fueled band of misfits-the Rolling Stones, they didn't show their country influences until later in their career (You Ain't the First, Patience, Used to Love Her). What they did have on Appetite was a full-blown, attack on your senses. Guitar riffs are littered throughout every tune with even the most beautiful sounding ballad, Sweet Child O Mine, ending up in a crescendo of Steven Adler's snare hits and crash cymbals while Axl cried out, asking "Where do we go?"
This lighting in the bottle could not have been possible if it was not for that voice. Without Axl's range and power, Guns N' Roses would by no means have become such an iconic group. Slash is undoubtedly one of the greatest riff masters out there and the other (original) member complimented this cocktail perfectly. Duff with his hunched over playing style and Punk Rock cred, Izzy (who, to this day, is my ideal image of what a rhythm guitarist should act and play like) held his own in the shadows, at times with only the burner on his cigarette to make you aware of his location on stage and hammering away at the back on the skins was Steven Adler; who always appeared to be the one riding this wave and enjoying the party.
We soon learned, he did enjoy the party a little too much.
But even with these components in place it did not complete the Frankenstein-Rock-Beast, it needed a face, a heart; but most of all a voice. Axl was a perfect mix of anger, screams, wails, mellow baritone; encapsulating at times someone on the verge of a meltdown of nuclear proportions; yet always in tune.
To me Axl's voice is great because it is so recognizable. I also know this is the voice that can turn so many people off (see: my wife). They cringe when he hits his falsettos, they think he sounds too whiny, they hate his vibrato and the runs he seems to add to every line.
Ignore these people. They are lost, confused souls that, I pray, will spend their afterlives listening to Rob Thomas and Santana play Smooth on repeat.
What they fail to see is the power and emotion a singer like Axl gives a song. There is a power in making your fans believe your words. I have a hard time nowadays listening to Jay Z rap about "moving freebase" while he dines with Michelle Obama, but I sure as hell believed every word he said on Appetite for Destruction. There is no doubt in my mind he was strapped in the chair of the city's gas chamber. I know for a fact he gets up around 7 and gets out of bed around 9 and there is no doubt Axl means it when he says "my way, your way anything goes tonight."
Give a Guns tune a listen in there very near future. Turn it up and realize why this list is not flawed. Recognize the truth Axl gives these tunes, no matter if some will write them off as cheesy, schlock rock. Listen to the venomous, buzz saw tone to his harder songs like Out ta Get Me, Night Train and Mr. Brownstone. But also take the time to enjoy the gentle side of Bill Bailey's vocal range with songs such as So Fine, Don't Cry and of course Patience.
This list of the greatest range in Rock singers came as no surprise for many of us who slept in rooms wallpapered with posters from RIP and Circus magazine of this Zeus of Rock mythology. We loved his voice the minute we heard it. It is the voice of straight forward American Rock and Roll and it will always be there for us. Axl told us so..
If you need a shoulder,
or if you need a friend
I'll be here standing
Until the bitter end
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