A solo album, in popular music, is an album headlined by a current or former member of a band. A solo album may feature simply one person performing all instruments, but typically features the work of other collaborators; rather, it may be made with different collaborators than the artist is usually associated, though just how different that group is varies widely.
The concept of the solo album arose at least as early as the late 1940s. A 1947 Billboard magazine article heralded "Margaret Whiting huddling with Capitol execs over her first solo album on which she will be backed by Frank De Vol".
A modern example is rock musician Sting, who came to prominence as a member of The Police. For his first solo album, 1985's Dream of the Blue Turtles, Sting recruited an entirely different backing group with which to perform. However, it is common for musicians to recruit some of their "regular" bandmates for the recording of a solo album. Another example is the musician Peter Gabriel. Gabriel departed from the UK band Genesis with the birth of his first daughter, and wrote a song, "Solsbury Hill", to commemorate the event.
There is no formal definition setting forth the amount of participation a band member can solicit from other members of his band, and still have the album referred to as a solo album. One reviewer wrote that Ringo Starr's third venture, Ringo, "[t]echnically... wasn't a solo album because all four Beatles appeared on it". Three of the four members of the Beatles released solo albums while the group was officially still together, a pattern later replicated by other groups such as Kiss, who took the idea even further by releasing them on the same day and giving them similar artwork.
A performer may record a solo album for a number of reasons. A solo performer working with other members will typically have full creative control of the band, be able to hire and fire accompanists, and get the majority of the proceeds. The performer may be able to produce songs that differ widely from the sound of the band with which the performer has been associated, or that the group as a whole chose not to include in its own albums. Graham Nash, of The Hollies described his experience in developing a solo album as follows: "The thing that I go through that results in a solo album is an interesting process of collecting songs that can't be done, for whatever reason, by a lot of people". A solo album may also represent the departure of the performer from the group.
- Billboard Magazine (April 5, 1947), p. 21.
- Jay Warner, On this day in music history (2004), p. 323.
- Dave Zimmer, 4 way street: the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young reader (2004), p. 218.
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