Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan on Strange Kind Of Woman, from the live album Made In Japan, when he starts matching Blackmore’s guitar licks note for note until you can’t tell which is guitar and which is vocals - a breathtaking display of technique that always makes the hairs on my arms stand on end.
Another vote for Ian Gillan, on almost anything. I still think he’s what a rock singer ought to sound like. Incidentally, as well as all his mainstream work with Purple et el., he did a great job as Jesus on the studio recording of the ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ album.
I’d also like to give close-but-no-cigar prizes to Freddie Mercury (pick your own track, but I’d go for ‘One Vision’) or Peter Gabriel (‘Sledgehammer’).
I’ll offer up Paul McCartney on “Oh! Darling”, although it was not achieved in one take. Also, check him out on “Monkberry Moon Delight”. He went through a (short) period of using voice-as-instrument, and came up with some very impressive vocal feats.
Interesting. It sounds like some of you, at least, favor the raw, “I’ve been screaming all night and my vocal cords are shot” sort of vocal performance.
I have a confession to make. You know what song spontaneously started playing in my brain around the time I saw this thread? I hesitate to tell you, because I could lose serious Coolness Points. Just remember, this isn’t my own, carefully reasoned choice; it’s something that some part of my brain came up with. And I don’t know what my brain was thinking. I haven’t heard the song recently, and I have no idea what pushed it into my consciousness, but, for whatever reason, the vocal performance forcing itself into my head right now is… “Mr. Roboto,” by Styx.
From all accounts I’ve heard, personality-wise Dennis DeYoung is a complete and utter ass - but he’s got a great voice. I’m not sure Mr. Roboto is the best example thereof, but my brain is prone to coming up with weird shit, too.
Add my vote for Meat Loaf, for Heaven Can Wait. It’s a good performance throughout, but that final note is just way too cool.
Burton Cummings of The Guess Who - Undun, and These Eyes.
David Clayton-Thomas (Blood. Sweat & Tears) - Hi-De-Ho.
Midge Ure (Ultravox) - Vienna, and Dancing With Tears In My Eyes.
I don’t think Freddie Mercury ever did a bad job on any song, but there’s a solo track from his album The Great Pretender, called Exercises in Free Love. OK, not really a rock song, but since I’d classify him as a rock singer, it counts (my brain, my rules ) In Exercises In Free Love, Freddie sings soprano, and quite well. It’s mindblowing.
The most talented singing I’ve heard in American rock is probably Joshua Homme in Tangled Up in Plaid, though admittedly it’s not the best song nor the most emotional singing. Eventually I think he’ll be #1 though, he just needs to make more emotional songs.
I haven’t heard any of the other songs listed in this thread though, except Fred Mercury, who I would still rank Homme above. (Though Mercury played about more in different ranges.)
Not quite rock but, given that Aretha Franklin found her way in here, Otis Redding on his song A Change is Gonna Come is probably the song with the most emotion that I can think of which would be close enough to mainstream rock.