I was recently sacked from Musicscramble for a few minutes because I don’t like Travis. To aid in my recovery I ventured to YouTube in what usually starts as a few tracks here or there then into a huge treasure hunt and ending up with a rare Bee Gees bootleg recorded in Namibia in 1972. Either that or cats playing an organ. On this occasion however I stumbled on Merry Clayton’s isolated vocal for Gimme shelter and it was one of the most powerful things I’ve ever heard. Then I thought ‘I wonder what some of the best isolated vocal tracks are’ (as you do) and set out to find the best; here are my findings…
Merry Clayton – ‘Gimme Shelter’
I adore this track anyway, so stumbling upon the isolated vocal (featured in her 20 Feet From Stardom documentary) was a real victory. What I wasn’t prepared for however was the sheer power of Merry’s vocal on its own. The raw passion in her delivery got the goosebumps raised almost immediately with her pained “Rape and murder – it’s just a shot away, it’s just a shot away” then her voice cracks and it just blew me away, it was so real. It cracks again and Jagger lets out a “woo!” in appreciation. I don’t mind admitting I was almost welling up. True, raw and heartfelt, it is a stunning piece.
Queen – ‘Somebody To Love’
Freddie Mercury is arguably the greatest frontman to ever grace a rock band, it’s really as simple as that. He had it all with his presence, charm, charisma, mustache and an exemplary vocal range. ‘Somebody To Love’ as an isolated vocal is just incredible, displaying why he is still worshiped to this day. The harmonies an builds in ‘Somebody To Love’ are up there with the best ever recorded.
Marvin Gaye – ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’
Soul, baby. Big Marvin had it running through his veins. His heart used to beat to the rhythm of the bass and his vocals were always warm and pure. With one of his most famous numbers it’s a case of hearing a master at work. Pained, heartfelt and armfuls of passion it’s a superb performance from Marvin.
Adele – ‘Rolling In The Deep’
Although when hearing her speak is a bit of a shock her singing voice is one of the most powerful of our generation. A masterclass in vocal runs, ‘Rolling In The Deep’ as an isolated vocal is an outstanding body of work. I’ve never heard anything weak from Adele and this vocal shows why she’s one of the best at what she does.
Beyoncé – ‘Best Thing I Never Had’
Some of the lyrics are very questionable “…you showed your ass an’ then I saw the real you” but the delivery is airtight brilliance. I could listen to Beyoncé singing a phone book and enjoy every second of it. Not my usual jam I must admit but just listen to what she can do! Even the backing singers are better than everyone else!
Corey Taylor (Slipknot) – ‘Wait And Bleed’
Anger, passion and a brilliant delivery all made the hairs on my arms stand up when I heard this vocal isolated. Corey Taylor is a magnificent frontman and vocalist with this track showing off the early promise he had by the bucket load. Extremely powerful, the vocal is a real treat when exploding into the verses.
Liam Gallagher (Oasis) – ‘Rock And Roll Star’
Every note is absolute perfection on what was to be arguably the best opening track on a debut album ever. Littered with social commentary the song is great but Liam’s vocals sell it completely. His voice at this time was one of the best, a cross between Lennon and Lydon and this isolated vocal shows why he was the voice of a generation for so many.
Dead Prez – ‘Hip Hop’
A superb commentary on their views of hip hop with a perfect flow throughout, Dead Prez shows off their ability to merge bars perfectly on this track. Switching flows several times, it’s a great example of their work and why this track in particular is held in such high regard.
Paul McCartney (The Beatles) – ‘Helter Skelter’
An unbelievable vocal from Paul which shows off his brilliant rock and roll ability. Known perhaps a bit too well for his ‘nice singing’ this is an absolute balls-out-push-it-to-the-limit effort which is up there with Lennon on ‘Twist And Shout’. Remarkable brilliance.
Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac) – ‘Go Your Own Way’
Probably my favourite of them all, the isolated vocal for ‘Go Your Own Way’ sounds absolutely incredible. I’m almost at a loss for words as to how brilliant this is, just sit back, listen and enjoy.