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Supersingers - Advancing the State of the Art in Classic Rock Vocals

On any given day, at any given time, classic rock radio is spinning some of the finest vocalists to ever come down the line. While there were (and are) a great many singers who found there way onto the airwaves, there are comparatively few supersingers who not only make hits in their heyday, but manage to command respect years later, having advanced the state-of-the-art in recorded vocal performances.

While the last article covered the likes of Boston's Brad Delp and Toto's Joseph Williams, we now find our way to Peter Cetera's (a supersinger in his own right) replacement in Chicago, Jason Scheff. Stepping into some of the biggest shoes of the 80s (and having to cover Cetera's 70s hits as well), Scheff had an unenviable task at hand in 1985 after Cetera went on to pursue a solo career. While Toto had also courted Scheff for vocal duties, Chicago was absolutely desperate to get the San Diego singer, as his ability to cover Cetera's unique vocal style was readily apparent. What was wholly unexpected was for him to create phenomenal vocals that were all his own (to say nothing of his incredible chops on the bass guitar). Having come from a musical family (Scheff's father was actually Elvis' bassist), there could likely have been no better choice for Chicago than Jason Scheff.

Another incredible vocalist/songwriter (also pursued by Toto) was Mr. Mister's Richard Page. With absolutely golden vocal tone, a hefty range and acute jazz-rock intelligence and musical sensibilities, Page politely declined earlier interest from Chicago (is there a pattern forming here?) and then Toto to forward his own band's ambitions through hits like 'Broken Wings' and the soaring 'Kyrie'. Years later, Page's work still finds its way onto classic rock radio, when he's not touring with Ringo Starr's All-Star Band or writing hits for Madonna and others.

Taking an abrupt left-turn, we head to Canada to get a listen to British Columbia's own vocal wunderkind, Devin Townsend. Having cut his teeth in the world of metal, Townsend took his heroic tenor into the post-Zappa world of guitarist, Steve Vai, lending his considerable vocal talents to Vai's 'Sex & Religion'. After that short stint, Townsend became the resident mad scientist of modern music, crafting brain-boiling stunt vocals with Strapping Young Lad and the absolutely masterful Ocean Machine, but then turning right around and creating the haunting, lush 'Ghost' as the Devin Townsend Project. To say Townsend is a great vocalist is like saying Tesla was a 'pretty good inventor'. Easily one of the greatest vocalists/composers of the last 50 years, Townsend is a creative and performing force to be reckoned with.

As the list goes on, supersingers of various genres come to the fore. In the next article, we'll mine even more genres for the greatest supersingers of the modern age.

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