There is ONE singer, that has been on the absolute, untouchable number ONE position on my list of great singers for 26 years now, and that is TONY MARTIN. In my opinion the most underrated singer of all time. One day people will be asking themselves howcome his name wasn’t in neon lights just as much as his predecessors, such as Ronnie James Dio who people mostly compared him to.
Dio is a legend. He was lucky enough to be at the right place, at the right time, as was Ozzy, obviously… But it seems that in the world of metal, your level of fame and pedigree is what puts you on the map, not necessarily talent.
As much as I love and respect Dio, I can easily say that Tony Martin’s voice has SO much more to offer.
I can listen to those Black Sabbath-albums that he sang on, over and over again, at repeat, year in, year out, and I never ever grow tired of it! On the contrary, I’m so amazed by his abilities, it’s like I’m almost looking for SOME kind of imperfection, but there simply are no imperfections.
That voice is as massive and powerful as an earthquake, it’s strong as a rock, it’s crystal clear, so full of colors and variations, little details that you keep discovering and rediscovering every time you listen to him sing. I just love that VOICE.
To me, THAT is the ULTIMATE heavy metal voice. Nobody comes even close, and that includes my teenage heroes Halford, Dio, Coverdale – all those guys. They all have their strengths, no doubt about it, but looking at the whole picture, I’d say that Tony Martin kicked everbody’s ass over and over again.
I tried to get my hands on EVERYTHING he had sung on. I’m happy to own quite a lot of his work. To this day I think it’s nothing but scandalous that it’s difficult to get hold of the Black Sabbath-albums with Tony Martin on vocals. What a freaking WASTE!
I had to buy crappy Russian “bootleg”-versions on eBay a few months ago because my original CD’s and vinyls have been played so much that they are barely playable anymore. Cause you can’t find “Tyr” or “Headless Cross” in stores anymore. And those are without a DOUBT among the best albums Sabbath ever made. Every era has it’s own charm, but this is an era that I get the feeling is being swept under the carpet for whatever strange reason.
I remember that I wasn’t that interested in Black Sabbath when I first went to see them. I had heard the Ozzy stuff and it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I liked Ozzy better as a solo artist. And the Dio era wasn’t my thing either. But the newspaper I was working for back in 1989 sent me to the KB Hall in Copenhagen to review the show – and that was almost a religious experience. That VOICE absolutely blew me away!
I travelled all over the place to see Sabbath after that. Well, as long as Tony was singing. They took Ronnie back there for an album, and then (thank god) brought Tony Martin back again.
Back in those days, Internet was brand new, and I was just learning how to create webpages in html and the simple html-editors that were available at the time. So, in 1997 I created Tony Martin’s first webpage. Not too many artists HAD an “official” page back then, it was a lot less organized than it is today.
Unfortunately, the contact and professional friendship with Tony went sour, to say the least. Looking back, I admit that a lot of it was my own fault. I can be a stubborn person and at the time, I was very much “my way or the highway”. Tony was the same way, but in this case he had every right to be cause it was supposed to be HIS page. So yeah – that was almost 20 years ago and people change. I learned a lot since then but it still bugs me that it had to go so wrong, because I’ve always admired his voice.
Listening to the way he would phrase something, how he would sing even on the consonants (usually singers sing with a vibrato mainly on vowels – it’s easy to sing an “aaaaaaa” or “eeeee” with a vibrato, but Tony would do that even on consonants.
If you listen to for instance the beginning of “Feels Good To Me” – the first sentence “The chapter is opened and the pages are turned / The writings say many things but who was concerned“. He actually has a vibrato on the “nnnddd” in “opened” and the same thing on all those words in that first line. That is pretty rare. And then he goes straight to a high note, only to take it right back down again, and it’s just so smooth and so pleasing for the ears. The man is a vocal genious and I’m glad that I was lucky enough to experience his time with Sabbath. I can only hope that more people get a chance to discover this “undercover gem”. He deserves SO much more credit than he got.
Just take a listen and I hope you’ll enjoy it just as much as I’ve done for the past 3 decades!
A project Tony did with guitarist Mischa Calvin. Another example of his amazing voice:
Headless Cross – great song and the best lineup ever..
From his solo-alabum “Back Where I Belong” – another CD that I played over and over and over again! Brian May can be heard in the harmonies – it’s very “Queen-ish”. :D
Tony’s pre-Sabbath material, early 80’s – more melodic stuff: