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Top Ten Obscure Rock Artists

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The following rock artists never made any kind of significant impact commercially. However, their obscurity is undeserved, and I believe you'll find their recordings worthy of tracking down. Soon I'll try to provide info on how to find recordings by these artists.

  1. The Coolies - These jokesters from Georgia released only two albums. Their second, "Doug!" (1988) is a hilarious rock-opera about a skinhead who murders a transvestite cook, publishes the cook's recipes and becomes famous, and then succumbs to paranoia and drug abuse, causing him to fall back into penniless obscurity. This crazy story is told through spot-on parodies of the Who, the Replacements, the Beastie Boys, John Lennon, and others.

  2. Marie Claire D'Ubaldo - Marie Claire is an Argentinian singer/songwriter who had a massive 1994 hit in portions of Europe and Latin America with "La Magia de Ritmo" ("The Rhythm is Magic"). The song, which opens her only album, "Alma de Barro," is a driving, infectious blend of pop-rock, flamenco guitar rhythms, and passionate vocals. The remainder of the album continues this successful stylistic blend, with songs ranging from the yearning ballad "Y Caigo Un Poco Mas" to the exotic "Tanger." Sadly, Marie Claire's record company failed to capitalize on the success of the single, and they inexplicably dropped her from their roster in 1995. Some time thereafter she relocated to England, where she continued to write songs, recorded some guest vocal spots, and performed occasionally at the Kashmir Klub. Although some of Marie Claire's songwriting efforts have met with commercial success, she has yet to release another album of her own. If you think that Shakira is something, you really owe it yourself to track down "Alma de Barro."

  3. Jo Mama - No, this is not a gangsta' rap group from Compton. Jo Mama was an early '70s band that got its start backing Carole King on her early albums. On their own they released two albums. The first, "J is for Jump," was quite unique and is well worth seeking out - if you're lucky enough to find it. It's jazzy rock sound was an influence on Steely Dan, and when vocalist Abigail Haness sings, you may be reminded of the '80s band Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians. Songwriter/guitarist/singer Danny Kortchmar later found fame as a producer (most notably for Don Henley's "Building the Perfect Beast").

  4. Thomas Jefferson Kaye - This songwriter's original claim to fame was that he wrote "One Man Band" for Three Dog Night. His second album, 1974's "First Grade," was produced by Steely Dan producer Gary Katz. In addition to Kaye's own songs, it includes two otherwise unreleased Becker & Fagen songs, and it's quite a musical success despite its lack of commercial impact.

  5. Phil Keaggy - Phil is a Christian rock artist with a voice very much like Paul McCartney's. His songs range from uncannily Beatlesque pop to flat out guitar-heavy rockers. Probably the world's best unknown guitarist, Phil is a master at his instrument. He's capable of playing subtle rhythm accompaniment or the fastest leads imaginable.

  6. Microdisney - If you like Britain's Prefab Sprout, you might like Microdisney. This '80s band (which spun off the totally dissimilar High Llamas and Fatima Mansions) played a smooth, orchestrated pop style which was balanced by the bitter, sometimes misanthropic lyrics of singer Cathal Coughlan.

  7. Nash the Slash - Nash The Slash is an electric violinist and mandolin player who emerged in the '70s. Along with a partner who played bass and synthesizer, this Canadian artist wrote and performed experimental instrumental music similar to that of Brian Eno. According to a City of Fear press release, Nash the Slash's concert appearances feature an "assault of projected visual images and electronic instrumentation from the stage that put the audience on its ear."

  8. Shonen Knife - This is a very charming Japanese rock band that consists of three cute girls: Atsuko, Naoko, and Michie (who left the band in late 2000). They're sort of like a female Ramones but poppier, with a heavy Beatles influence. Lyrically speaking, they often sing about such unusual (for rock) topics as tomato juice, bass fishing, and butterfly collecting. Konnichiwa!

  9. Rebecka Törnqvist - Rebecka is a Swedish pop/jazz singer somewhat reminiscent of Rosie Vela, only bluesier in style. Like Rosie she's a very talented artist who hasn't received the recognition she deserves. She's actually even more obscure than Rosie, as she's hardly known outside of Europe. Rebecka has released four albums on her own plus one with with a group of Swedish jazz artists and another with the Swedish "supergroup" Gloria. Unfortunately, all of her recordings are hard to find outside of Sweden.

  10. Rosie Vela - Rosie is a successful model who released an album of jazzy pop called "Zazu" in 1986. In addition to showcasing a unique talent, the album is noteworthy because it marked the first time in five years that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan worked in the studio together. They provided backup on a couple of Rosie's songs.


If you've got a comment or question about any of the artists listed here, or if there are musical artists not listed whom you think that I'd like, please send me a message.

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This page was last revised on July 12, 2006.

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