Two groups and singers that I've been a big fan of over the years are Live, which was fronted by Ed Kowalczyk and Soul Coughing, fronted by Mike Doughty.
Both frontmen departed in a fracturing with their bandmates. Doughty broke up the group after a three-album run through the late 1990s while Live had a much longer run and sold more albums than Soul Coughing. In both cases however, the singers were outsiders who joined with three bandmates who already knew each other and were playing together. (Details can be found in Doughty’s autobiography The Book of Drugs, to which this blog entry is indebted.)
So the question and the point of this blog entry is whether the output when these singers when with their bands was greater than they have managed solo. Anything is going to be matter of taste, certainly – and the fracturing of the music industry right around or before the time both singers ended up becoming solo artists did not help their causes. Once Doughty and Kowalczyk went solo, however, they lost the organically connected bands that gave their songs an extra something, however disconnected these singers may have been personally from their bandmates.
Kowalczyk began his solo career five years ago. It's evident now that all the lyrical and songwriting inspiration of Live was all him, and he still is coming up with great songs like “The Garden” in 2012 and “Seven” in 2013. If these also had the music business promotion behind them that he enjoyed with Live, they would have been huge “Throwing Copper” size hits.
Doughty has been solo much longer, since about 2000, and has gone with a semi acoustic style without the hip-hop inflections his Soul Coughing bandmates provided. Without those though, a bit of the propulsion his music had sometimes is missing. However, I am a bit behind on his recent work, and more than 10 years after Soul Coughing broke up, he’s revisited his favorite songs from those ays on a new album [provisionally titled “Circles,” but really titled with all the names of all 13 tracks] more in keeping with his style as a solo artist, which will be interesting to hear. Maybe a follow-up blog entry in store…