On a message board I frequent, the subject of British Classic Rock came up. Here was my artist by artist take on a handful of solid British bands:
Rolling Stones - While I appreciate the influence they've had on other bands, I've never really understood their appeal. I only own one of their albums (Beggars Banquet) and I do appreciate many of their singles, but all in all I think this is a band that for a long time has simply been famous for being famous, not because they're still actually any good-- seeing the Stones live today is kind of like seeing Sinatra long after he'd lost his singing voice-- bragging rights and nothing more.
The Who - I consider The Who's Next to be one of the greatest classic rock albums ever. I find it superior to Tommy, Quadrophenia, and just about everything else they ever recorded. It IS a masterpiece! I find these guys to be more talented than Led Zeppelin ever was.
Led Zeppelin - It often gets glossed over that Page & Plant were largely musical plagiarists. They were talented musicians, but much of their songwriting comprised of filching styles and even material from others-- sometimes giving credit where it was due-- sometimes not. The intro to Stairway to Heaven, for example, was taken from an instrumental piece by Spirit titled Taurus. I appreciate the impact these guys had on music and their musicianship but they lose boku points with me for their plagiarist tendencies.
Genesis - I'm a big fan of the Steve Hackett era (1972-1977). Hackett joined Genesis as their guitarist just in time for the Nursery Cryme album and left shortly after the Seconds Out live album. I'm not a big fan of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway as I find it to be a bit to overindulgent and pretentious. Selling England By the Pound is a superior album as are A Trick of the Tail and Wind & Wuthering-- the band's first 2 post-Peter Gabriel solo albums. Foxtrot while excellent isn't quite as consistent as Selling England By the Pound.
Yes - I'm in the minority here, my favorite Yes album is Drama (1980), the only album to NOT have Jon Anderson on vocals. This isn't a slam on Anderson-- it's just that there's a musical chemistry between guitarist Steve Howe and keyboardist Geoffrey Downes that I find to be superior even to the chemistry of Howe and Wakeman. Drama is also a precursor to what would become the supergroup Asia.
King Crimson - After a revolving door of lead singers-- Greg Lake, Gordon Haskell, Boz Burrell (who left to play bass for Bad Company), and John Wetton (later the lead vocalist of Asia) the band finally split up in 1975, after Red. They of course re-grouped with a different line-up and new lead singer, Adrian Belew, in the early eighties... But the original era of the band is what holds my interest, in particular the albums featuring Greg Lake or John Wetton on vocals.
Bad Company - Their debut album was a masterpiece! One of the best and most consistent debut albums ever. Their sophomore release, Straight Shooter has some strong moments but isn't quite as good as their debut. After those 2 albums however the quality of their albums fell off sharply.
Emerson, Lake, & Palmer - The first real supergroup. Tarkus and Brain Salad Surgery are both excellent albums showing the trio in top form. They had some other solid albums but over time their material grew increasingly weaker. They started with a bang and petered out to a whimper.
Pink Floyd - The best British psychedelic band, arguably the best psychedelic band bar none when they started out. After the departure of the enigmatic and troubled Syd Barrett, their material grew much stronger and quite a bit more ambient. The partnership of David Gilmour and Roger Waters produced far stronger material than that of the troubled Barrett. However, given that much of their later material was done as a tribute to or in honor of Barrett, it could be argued that he remained a member of the band long after he left it.
The Beatles - They're the standard bearers. They took what they heard coming from across the pond, put their own stamp on it, perfected it, made it their own and became not only musical but also cultural icons. Their influence is undeniable.
Badfinger - These guys were on the way to becoming the NEXT Beatles, but then it all fell apart.
Electric Light Orchestra - After the untimely demise of Badfinger, Jeff Lynne picked up where the Beatles left off mixing Beatles-esque harmonies and songwriting with strings and a fantastic stage show to boot.
T-Rex - Marc Bolan was the Godfather of Glam, he got the world ready for David Bowie. Bolan was an exceptional guitarist but a bit too full of himself. His songs like 20th Century Boy and Bang a Gong (Get It On) are glam staples and glimpse of what was to come from hair metal bands like Def Leppard (a band that was admittedly heavily influenced by T-Rex/Bolan) in the eighties.
Spencer Davis Group - If not for Steve Winwood, these guys would be a mere musical footnote. Their songs like Gimme Some Lovin', I'm a Man, and Keep On Runnin' were infectiously catchy even if not the most technically challenging. Something tells me if not for these guys we never would have experienced Blind Faith or Traffic a few years later.
Supertramp - The combination of Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies vocals and John Helliwell's solid woodwind skills combined with strong lyrics of loss, confusion, and alienation set these guys apart from their contemporaries with a sound that was truly all their own. After 2 mediocre albums and 3 year hiatus they finally found their footing with 1974's Crime of the Century and maintained that footing until 1983's Famous Last Words before Hodgson left to pursue a solo career.