Black Sabbath--the Ronnie James Dio version, with Vinny Appice on drums--just came out with a new album as Heaven & Hell. A couple decades back they were still calling themselves Black Sabbath when Mr. Osbourne flew the coop. Lead singers are a tough call. They're always seen as the focal point of the band and many of them leave their band to go solo and have incredible careers while the guys who hauled all the equipment and played all the musical notes end up playing for peanuts. Imagine what being a member of 10,000 Maniacs must've been like. Thanks Nat! Your new "sound" is so much different than when we provided it!
But some bands did change their lead singers and kept going. It's a bit like changing Darrens on Bewitched. If you have to do it, you do it. But don't think the people aren't going to notice. You can switch out your bass player and most people won't be able to tell the difference. But imagine R.E.M. without Michael Stipe. U2 without Bono. Led Zeppelin without Robert Plant. Well, on that one we may not have to imagine it, since it could come true.
Personally, I'd like to imagine Tim Petty and the Heartbreakers! Or Bill Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. Just as Creedence Clearwater Revisited was the place to be.
It's a crazy business.
Honorable Mention here goes to the German group Can, whom I've obviously been slighting for some unknown reason. But Malcolm Mooney and Damo Suzuki deserve their rightful place, I just haven't found it yet.
10) Jefferson Airplane--Signe Anderson and Grace Slick: Signe sang on the first Jefferson Airplane album Takes Off then had to go on maternity leave and had her place taken by Grace Slick who never relinquished the job and went on to perform in Jefferson Starship, Starship and whatever the hell else they called themselves.
9) Journey--Steve Perry, Steve Augeri, Jeff Scott Soto and Arnel Pineda: Steve Perry took Journey to the top of the charts once they figured out the big money wasn't in playing jazz-rock. Then he left and these other guys came in because they sounded like him. I think you're supposed to close your eyes and pretend it isn't happening.
8) Motley Crue--Vince Neil and John Corabi: Yes, Vince Neil is back in the saddle, but for one self-titled album back there in the 1990s, John Corabi got to bring Motley Crue into the "Corabi Years." You'd have to be a pretty hardcore Motley Crue fan to champion John Corabi or root for his returning. But what the heck, I'm still hoping Dave Navarro rejoins the Chili Peppers just so John Frusciante can focus on his solo career.
7) Bad Company--Paul Rodgers and Brian Howe: Another one of these where the original guys leaves, another guy takes his place, and then the original guy comes back and asks "What's this guy doing sitting in my chair?" At which point, everyone pretends it isn't happening.
6) Judas Priest--Rob Halford and Ripper Owens: Ripper Owens always had a dream of singing for Judas Priest and then got his dream and then eventually got kicked out to make way for the guy he replaced. Why doesn't anyone stay in one place anymore?
5) Deep Purple--Rod Evans, Ian Gillan, David Coverdale, Joe Lynn Turner: Hardcore Purple fans prefer the Rod Evans years, serious Purple fans root for Gillan and someone roots for Coverdale and Rainbow fans like Joe Lynn Turner. In any case, Deep Purple are one of those bands you have to watch out for, since next to no one from the original band gets involved with this project anymore. Ritchie who?
4) Van Halen--David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar and Gary Cherone: I've never met anyone who prefers the "Cherone" years. But there are people who prefer Hagar to Roth and while I find that fundamentally wrong, who am I to argue? To each their own. Some people like their cheese puffs fresh and out of the bag and others like them old and damp.
3) AC/DC--Bon Scott and Brian Johnson: Well here there wasn't much they could do. The singer, Bon Scott, died and they could either form a new band or continue to market the AC/DC moniker. They already had the logo and the business cards printed up, so they soldiered on and with Back In Black became even more popular.
2) Iron Maiden--Paul Di'Anno, Bruce Dickinson and Blaze Bayley: Oh, c'mon, you know where this is going! BLAZE BAYLEY! WHOO-HOO! Former Wolfsbane singer? Are you kidding me? I saw their CDs in every cutout bin known to man back when there were record stores. Dickinson obviously ruled the band when they peaked in popularity but Di'Anno has his loyal following as well. Not so much for Mr. Bayley. Except me, Blaze. You had me at "Uh."
1) Black Sabbath--Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio and Ian Gillan: I'll always take Ozzy first. But Dio proved himself to be a capable frontman and Gillan must've just needed the work. Haven't heard the new one yet, as Heaven & Hell, but we'll root for it. Just as we root for Daylight Savings Time to truly make a difference. Does it? It makes it an hour later!