An artist who either leaves a band to begin a solo career -- or as a self-induced ego trip while they are still a member of that band – does not reproduce the same magic they did as a band member in most cases. But sometimes they either equal or better that band’s output on their own. Some of the songs below are samplings of great solo work.
“Suburbia,” Butch Walker (Left of Self-Centered)
Butch really started to come into his own after his band, Marvelous 3, split up. Marvelous 3 ultimately did what their label (Elektra) told them to, and wound up putting out a shitty album that got them dropped. But all of that made Walker both bitter and focused, and the result was this solo album that is, in my opinion, one of the greatest rock releases of all time.
“We Just Disagree,” Dave Mason (Let It Flow)
Being in a band with Steve Winwood kept Dave Mason somewhat under the radar as a songwriter, but when he left Traffic he began a pretty decent solo career. This was a big hit almost 30 years ago and still sounds as good today as it did then.
“All By Myself,” Eric Carmen (All By Myself)
The Raspberries wrote some of the catchiest pop music in history, and since Carmen fronted that band, it’s no surprise that he would continue to write great songs after leaving the band. This track is pathetically sad and utterly beautiful at the same time, and Mariah Carey could never convey that same message when she covered it.
“Shine,” Patty Smyth (Patty Smyth)
This sexy front woman for the band Scandal grew up a little on her second solo effort. Not only does Patty have one of those “please jump my bones” voices that few chick singers have, but there’s some awesome guitar work on this album and in particular on this track.
“Trouble,” Lindsey Buckingham (Law and Order)
Fleetwood Mac always had a magic quotient way larger than the sum of its parts, but Buckingham honed his songwriting chops enough with them to be able to churn out a few hit songs on his own.
“I Keep Forgettin’,” Michael McDonald (If That’s What It Takes)
Some of you may have never taken to the monkey-like voice of pop icon Michael McDonald. But if you like him, chances are you really like him. And I have always liked his unique voice and masterful songwriting, from his days with the Doobie Brothers to much of his solo work.
“Driving Me Mad,” Neil Finn (One Nil)
When you go from fronting bands like Split Enz and Crowded House, how can you possibly improve on the melodic genius you created with those bands? Well, Neil Finn came pretty damn close with this album released in 2001, and this is the best track from it.
“Good Day,” Paul Westerberg (Eventually)
I’m going to go out on a limb here. As the chief songwriter and singer of the Replacements, Westerberg WAS and IS that band. So anything he did on his own is sure to just mirror his Replacements work. Still, Eventually was one of Westerberg’s best songwriting efforts, and this piano ballad proves it.
“Wake Up Call,” Peter Case (Who’s Gonna Go Your Crooked Mile?)
The Plimsouls’ 1983 self-titled effort is one of the best raw rock albums ever released. And most of front dude Peter Case’s solo career pales in comparison, though this track does come close to recreating the magic of his band.
“Solsbury Hill,” Peter Gabriel (Peter Gabriel)
Gabriel was a founding member of the band Genesis along with Phil Collins, but really came into his own as a solo artist. And while his biggest success was the 1986 smash album So, “Solsbury Hill,” from his solo debut, is still one of his best.
“Good Days, Bad Days,” Richard Butler (Richard Butler)
Coming decades after initially tasting success with the Psychedelic Furs, Butler puts out a really compelling solo effort, especially this heartfelt track.
“Eagles Fly,” Sammy Hagar (I Never Said Goodbye)
Though he had a pretty decent solo career before fronting Van Halen, Sammy is best known as the dude who replaced David Lee Roth, so any solo effort post-VH is going to be compared to anything he did with them. But luckily for Sammy, in between shots of tequila he found the time to write some more great songs, and this was one of them.
“Foolish Heart,” Steve Perry (Street Talk)
Okay, so this was a diversion from Journey before the band actually split up, but it was such a successful solo effort that it made leaving Journey a bit easier for Mr. Perry. This song might be one of those wuss-rock songs you hear in your dentist’s office or in the elevator, but it’s still one of Perry’s best songs with or without Journey.
“Falling,” Susanna Hoffs (Susanna Hoffs)
The Bangles were a group of hotties, but let’s face it: Susanna Hoffs and her hotness could beat the crap out of the hotness of the other three Bangles. Her cute yet sexy girl-next-door voice, as well as her knack for penning catchy pop/rock, has never changed in twenty-plus years.
“Have You Once Recalled the Days,” Warren Zanes (Memory Girls)
Zanes started his rock career as one of the main dudes in The Del Fuegos back in the 80s. He didn’t release his first solo record until 2002, but Memory Girls borders on brilliant and this song is the most timeless of the bunch.