The time comes for every band when they reach a crossroads. Tensions mount, creative differences start to boil over, and inevitably, someone decides it's time to go solo. It's a natural progression and some of the greatest albums of all time have come about as a result. But not all solo albums happen that way. Sometimes, people go solo for no damn good reason at all. For example...
5. DJ Yella from N.W.A. - One Mo' Ni**a To Go
"Yella Boy's on your team so you're losin'!" That line from Ice Cube's infamous N.W.A. diss track "No Vaseline" does a fairly solid job of summing up DJ Yella's importance to the history of the seminal rap group. Ice Cube and MC Ren wrote the rhymes, Dr. Dre made the beats, Eazy-E ran the record label, and Yella...he, um, he was the light skinned one. When N.W.A. disbanded in the early 90's, all of the important members released solo albums at one point or another, all with varying degrees of success. And Yella? He just sort of disappeared.
Fast forward to 1996. In the wake of the untimely death of Eazy-E, Yella resurfaced with the unfortunately titled solo album One Mo' Ni**a To Go as a tribute to his former bandmate. The album featured a bunch of half-assed rappers, none of whom happened to be Yella, spitting teary eyed raps in memory of Eazy-E. The critical response was such that, if there is a Heaven for a thug and it has a record store, Eazy-E probably didn't even buy that nonsense. Unsurprisingly, after the release of this album, Yella disappeared from the music business for good. Speaking of things that suck, he's now directing porn flicks for a living.
4. Mick Jagger from The Rolling Stones - She's The Boss
It's 1985, you're the lead singer of, arguably, the biggest rock band ever and, thanks to a surprise hit single ("Start Me Up") your band has coasted effortlessly into the MTV era. What to do now? Did you say "throw on some sequins, alienate my entire fan base and piss off my main collaborator for years to come"? Hey, you must be Mick Jagger! Because that's exactly what he did when he decided that, Rolling Stones be damned, it was time for the world to hear what HE could do.
And what could he do? Make one of the most instantly dated, synthorrific solo albums of all time, that's what. For tarnishing the mostly good name of the Rolling Stones, Keith refused to speak to Mick for years to come after the release of this album. You know what else Keith did? He released a kick-ass solo album a few years later which remains a favorite among Stones fans to this day. As for She's The Boss...well, just check out this video.
3. Keith Moon from The Who - Two Sides Of the Moon
As insanely talented as he was, Keith Moon was never one to be accused of making solid decisions. With bandmates Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle having already released solo albums and Pete Townsend in the process of writing one, Keith decided he would go ahead and crank out a solo album of his own. Probably a better decision than, say, driving a car into a swimming pool, but still probably not the best use of his time.
Granted, a chance to showcase his inhumane talent as a drummer in exciting new ways would have certainly made for a compelling album. Maybe. But Keith didn't go that route. Instead, he barely played drums at all on the album, opting instead to focus on his infamously horrid lead vocal stylings. The album amounted to 32 minutes of Keith warbling his way through a series of surf rock covers.
The critics panned it, the fans didn't buy it, and you've probably never heard it. And you probably never should. But if you're up for the punishment, the album was inexplicably re-released in 2006 with a whomping 41, count 'em, FORTY-ONE bonus tracks. Even Keith wasn't crazy enough to think up a stunt like that.
2. John Oates from Hall and Oates - Phunk Shui
Phunk Shui. It's not the worst name for a solo album ever. It's the worst name for any piece of recorded music ever. What exactly Oates's role in Hall and Oates is has always been the subject of debate. Is he just the guitar player? Does he write the music? Is he solely responsible for the clapping parts on "Private Eyes"? The fact that it took him until 2002 to crank out a solo album does nothing to settle the debate.
How remarkable was this solo effort? Check out the Amazon.com editorial review...
"The first solo album from one half of Hall & Oates, some of the songs on this 2003 release date back to 1991 and some were written more recently. 12 tracks. Liquid 8 Records."
Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit, I gots to hear that! It's worth noting that, much like Keith Moon before him, this album has the distinction of being purchased by next to nobody, but has been re-released four friggin' times. To Juan's credit, there was a bonus track added each time. That should help.
1. All Four Members of KISS...On the Same Day
It's debatable whether the world has ever needed a solo album from any member of KISS, ever. OK, maybe Ace Frehley or something. But Gene and Paul get plenty of voice time on any given album, and all Peter Criss was ever good for was "Beth." But what nobody needed was four KISS solo albums released on the same day.
Generally, what makes a band great is when its collective members can bring their individual styles and musical tastes together to form a distinct, cohesive sound. Break that cohesiveness down into its individual parts and what you get is Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley trying to continue to rock, just not doing it as awesomely as normal, Peter Criss cranking out an R&B album, and Gene Simmons covering "When You Wish Upon A Star" and collaborating with Cher and Donna Summer. Seriously.
When the albums were released in September of 1978, a whopping five million copies were shipped. That massive pre-ordering was quickly followed by a mad dash by retailers to return the albums after sales failed to meet expectations: apparently the public's thirst for a Peter Criss R&B joint was massively overestimated. According to the ever trustworthy Wikipedia, the combined sales of all four albums failed to match the sales of the group effort Love Gun. No sources are cited, but I sure as hell don't doubt that is true.
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