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Who did it better

Vocal teacher Ken Tramplin did a Who Did It Better? series of videos comparing different singers who were in the same band at different times. Here is the episode on Ian Gillan vs. David Coverdale vs. Glenn Hughes (Rod Evans didn’t make the cut for some reason). There are some keen insights interspersed between his own promotions is there.

The episode on Rainbow singers is actually much more interesting, with deeper analysis of all 5 lead vocalists. Thumbs up on JLT/Lou Gramm analogy. His analysis of the latter days Rainbow lineup is also pretty much spot on.

25 Comments to “Who did it better”:

  1. 1
    Nutking says:

    Mistreated by Ronnie J Dio? Rainbow On Stage I guess…

  2. 2
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Tamplin certainly knows his game, I can always listen to the guy; kudos to him for observing that the black emperor in latter day Rainbow has no clothes on and just sounds lame – won’t endear him to the crowd here, ouch!

    Few observations from my side:

    – I’m no Mk II diehard, far from it, but there is something in Ian Gillan’s voice that is totally idiosyncratic. The Bruce Dickinsons and David Byrons of this world match(ed) certain aspects of his voice or at least tried, but Ian is the full package with a lot more colors. And he has retained that highly individualistic quality as a singer even as an old man with a (naturally) weakened voice. I also appreciate that Ian’s voice lets you understand his lyrics, try that with Robert Plant in his Led Zep years!

    – I sometimes think that the “marble mouthed”/”constricted voice” elements in a young David Coverdale’s singing were key to the superiority of his early vocals. I’m not sure whether he did himself a favor by “opening up” and “extending his range” – I think he destroyed his voice. Live (in the studio it showed only later though I remember listening to Still of the Night for the first time and wondering “how the hell is he going to do this live?” – well, he never could!), David’s voice has been on a downhill slide since 1983, he never ever sounded vocally as good again with the line-ups that followed the original Marsden/Moody one. Yet no one can sing Mistreated with the same wounded animal (or wounded machismo?) tone. When David sings “I’ve been abused”, he’s the real deal; when Dio did it, it was an act, albeit well-performed.

    – I’ve heard people do credible Dio and Coverdale impressions, I’ve never heard anyone even remotely match Graham Bonnet’s voice. And I’ve heard from other singers (Gary Barden of MSG and Doogie White among them) that his parts are incredibly difficult to sing. Apparently, Graham is not even aware of what it is that he does differently from other singers, but he just does it.

    – Joe Lynn Turner is always easy to pick on due to how he presents himself (and I do so myself), but I’ve never heard him perform badly as a singer. He’s very much in control of his voice (and offers more variation than Dio who had a very established style by the time he left Sabbath for the first time).

    – Ronnie Romero’s accent spoils his performance for me, I’m sorry to say. Half the time I wonder whether he actually understands what he is singing about. It has gotten better over time, but is still far from native speaker level. I can liff wiff how my köüntrymän Klaus Meine zounds wiff ze Scorpions because Denglisch eeze part of zere söünd, but on Rainbow and Purple songs it bugs me no end, apologies for sounding like an English class teacher.

  3. 3
    Adel Faragalla says:

    I don’t think it matters that much, because it’s always about the five members in any given time when it comes to DP or Rainbow. For me Ian Gillan, RJD, David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes proved themselves well commercially but that doesn’t mean they are better than the rest.
    Everyone made a contribution that is so precious to the history of the two bands and for me I love them all.
    Peace ✌️

  4. 4
    Dr. Bob says:

    Gillan & Dio are my favorites. But I am not a singer or a vocal coach, so I can’t say that any of the others are technically bad. JLT and Graham deserve credit for selling a lot of records, but they don’t sing songs that I want to hear. So it really doesn’t matter to me if their voices are very good. I’d rather hear Romero sing Child in Time and Stargazer. Dude can sing my two favorite songs almost as good as Gillan & Dio in their primes.

  5. 5
    Marcus says:

    JLT was just too laid back, or perhaps refined, for me, both in Rainbow and especially on Slaves and Masters.

    Ken seems to have missed JTL in DP, and the fact that Ian has a job with some two bit band, what was their name Light Violet.

    Graham is a thing, and seems to be doing quite well, his missus looks good and apparently is keeping him on the straight and narrow. Not sure if he is quite as good as he was, but if I could sing like that at his age it would be a miracle – as I have never come close before.

    David’s best stuff was the two solo albums, especially Northwinds, and then the English Whitesnake. So bluesy How long has that train been gone.

    I agree with Uwe, Ronnie’s accent grates on me – but he does have the pipes. The problem was the rest of the band. Ritchie was dialling it in, and nobody else seemed to have the chops to challenge him to do better.

    Ken seems to fanboy Dio almost as much as our operatic friend. He also seems to have his dates in a twist – talking about RJD being more open throated in Rainbow than in Sabbath as a progression.

    But nit-picking aside, a great summary.

  6. 6
    Rev. Harry Longfallis says:

    Uwe #2, right on! I saw Whitesnake in 1980, opening for Jethro Tull on their “A” tour. The band was smokin’, but DC’s voice was already in bad shape. The song that got the best audience response (by far) was the instrumental piece, “Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick”.

  7. 7
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Tramplin: “It doesn’t hurt to have Glenn Hughes sing back-up for you.”

    Indeed not. Herr Jones, Trapeze’s initial lead singer, can attest to that, here at 01:50 & 03:48, Glenn is like a turbo kicking in with a car engine:


  8. 8
    stoffer says:

    Very interesting, but I don’t agree that Coverdale “did it better” than IG! He didn’t show enough footage of Hughes but he sounded best in MKIV with their own material. Dio is Rainbow PERIOD!! The other vocalist were all very credible but can’t compare to RJD, also more recent footage of Gillan, Coverdale, Hughes and the singers of Rainbow would have been super cool! The latest version of “Rainbow sucked as a band”😉… at least he’s honest!

  9. 9
    James Gemmell says:

    They all brought something to the table. Gillan was singing live the other day better than I’ve heard in decades. You have to wonder if he had some polyps removed or something. I wish Ritchie would put out a proper rock record. I know he’s got it in him. I’m not hip on Romero’s vocals, outside of his quality karaoke impression of Dio. But I don’t think he’s an original talent like Gillan, et al.

  10. 10
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Part of Dio’s legend is his accuracy, he never wrecked a note, he had complete control over his vocals. But he also traded safe and avoided risks. Graham Bonnet is the other extreme, there is always a little bum note somewhere when he sings, but man, he boldly goes where no other singer has gone before. That is what makes him exciting/impressive to me.

    Glenn, if not coked out his head (in which case he tends to be a little sharpish), is as precise as Dio (and they both rated each other highly as singers), but of course Glenn’s voice is more of an acquired taste and doesn’t have the depth of a Dio, Gillan or Coverdale (though he has more depth today than he used to have).

    And Ian Gillan’s voice has perhaps retained the most distinct “English Swinging 60ies pop” quality, those Episode 6 years where his vocals had to be really flexible depending on what role they needed to fill and his early enthusiasm for Elvis definitely left a lasting mark.


    I always liked that characteristic of his voice. And for all the heaviness and the “endless instrumental noodling” that drives my wife nuts ; – ), Mk II retained a certain British pop quality (on all records with the exception of perhaps In Rock when they broke free from Mk I’s quaintness) that Mk III/IV with their more American sound failed to have. (Mk I had of course an even larger pop influence because Rod wasn’t really a rock singer at all.)

    But could you imagine Coverdale, Hughes or Dio singing this song and sounding as sweet and poppy as Ian G?


    Now don’t laugh, lifelong Judas Priest fan Uwe loves that song and it immediately puts him into a great mood whenever he hears it. Ian should have made it a duet with Karen Carpenter. (Did I yet reveal that I love The Carpenters too? Anything to comprehensively ruin my reputation here and show myself as the true wuss I am!)

    Stuff like this (almost Leo Sayer’ish I have to say) is incredibly charming, Ian’s voice like a warm blanket:


  11. 11
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Stoffer @8: By his own admission, Ken Tramplin is a hopeless “Coverdale floozy”, he just adores him. And if truth be told, DC probably had the voice more suited for the American market even though I personally prefer Gillan’s dry and not so much larger-than-life “Britness”. There is a reason why DC has adopted American citizenship while Big Ian never chose to live there.

    Gillan has one thing in common with Graham Bonnet, he took chances with his voice, especially when he was younger. He’d sometimes get carried away in the studio and create vocal lines which were extremely tasking to replicate live (not just Child in Time) when he could not multitrack his voice over and over (as he likes to do – a habit he shares with Ozzy, Graham Bonnet and, yes, Joey Ramone – himself a Purple fan in case you didn’t know – to fatten the sound of his voice). But I liked exactly that wild derring-do in him (which singers like Paul Rodgers or RJD never had).

  12. 12
    MacGregor says:

    @ 10 – The Carpenters were a wonderful duo, Karen a superb vocalist & not too bad on the drums either. Richard a prolific musician & composer. I always liked their version of Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft, a great song indeed by that unknown Canadian band, Klaatu who I had never heard of. I think you should be ok here, I survived after revealing I was a John Denver fan years ago. Plus not long ago we both talked about the Bay City Rollers, not that I was a fan at all, but we both survived that. Thanks for the Episode Six performing that song & that somehow lead me to Sandy Denny & Fairport Convention. I think it was Percy appearing at that Fairport gig that did that. Cheers.

  13. 13
    stoffer says:

    @10 Uwe, great video’s really enjoy seeing/hearing Episode 6 and Clouds and Rain is so smooth!
    @11 I agree on DC being more American sounding than Gillan, I’m sure thats why he’s more recognized here in the States than Big Ian, but IG will always be Purple’s #1 to me, Burn notwithstanding. lol….great comparison with RJD and Paul Rodgers👍

  14. 14
    Woodman says:

    I suppose Tamplin could have included Rod Evans’ Mexico City tape of SOTW, but I would rather just leave Evans alone.

  15. 15
    Uwe Hornung says:

    To Chile-Ronnie’s defense, the handful of times I’ve seen him, he has always meant it performance-wise. He’s a committed spotlight kid and no doubt can sing. But when singing English, nuances are lost. I’m sure that would be entirely different if he sang in his native tongue. Spanish is a musical language to sing.

    I dragged/invited half the family and lots of friends to that first Reunionbow gig at Loreley to impress them. And then I cringed throughout how lame and unprofessionally underrehearsed it all was (not due to Ronnie!). Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (the opener) sounded snappy, tight and, yes, edgy in comparison. Never been so ashamed at a Purple Family-related gig in my my life (including trainwrecks of Whitesnake gigs I’ve seen with pre-recorded vocals and DC completely out of it vocally), it was a horrible experience for me. I went to see Reunionbow three more times (and would see them again, albeit warily), my loyalty knows no bounds (or sense!).

  16. 16
    Hollywood Joe says:

    I know there are a lot of fans who like Coverdale & Hughes but I became a fan of Deep Purple because of Mach II, Blackmore,Gillan,Glover,Lord & Paice ! in my humble opinion from 1970-1973, Ian Gillan was the best rock singer in the world. When Purple reformed in 1984 the Perfect Strangers album & Tour they picked up right where they left off, the buzz at that time was amazing ! the sold out US Tour in 1985 was the talk of the music world. No other version of Deep Purple generated that kind of energy & excitement.
    it was these 5 guys that put Deep Purple on the map & turned them into legends ! Just my 2 cents from a Deep Purple fan since 1973.

  17. 17
    Uwe Hornung says:

    I was late to the party – in the summer of ’75, while on German home vacation from Kinshasa where we live at the time, I bought four DP albums in the course of a few weeks: Shades of, Book of Taliesyn, In Rock & Stormbringer, I just went by the covers and the fact that the Mk I stuff was already in the bargain bins. So I heard four different DP vocalists with virgin ears thinking it was one and the same guy initially. I liked all four albums equally. : – ) That explains why I am not as Gillan-fixated, but yes, he is the voice of DP.

  18. 18
    MacGregor says:

    My distant memory of those early 1970’s albums & being fixated with that music in the 1973 era, is that the Burn album was the latest album. However as I was possessed by the In Rock, Fireball, Machine Head & Made In Japan records, Burn was left until later on to listen to. As we do & then looking at the back cover revealed a new vocalist & bass guitarist, so hearing that Burn record eventually wasn’t as mesmerising, being that it was after the initial revelation of MK2. So yes indeed, history never repeats & MK2 it was for me & still is in many ways. Of course the MK1 albums were in my older cousins record collection also, so I then commenced listening to those albums. A wonderful time & introduction to DP. Cheers.

  19. 19
    Uwe Hornung says:

    I heard Burn at the same time I got to know Machine Head – a guy who owned both loaned them to me with the comment: “In Rock is alright, but these are the two best DP albums.“

    What can I tell you, he was right! They still are my two favorite DP albums, but Book of Taliesyn, Come Taste the Band, House of Blue Light, Purpendicular, Now What?! and Whoosh! are all close.

  20. 20
    MacGregor says:

    I forgot to mention WDWTWA among that plethora of MK2 albums blowing my young & innocent mind back then. I do remember leaving Burn for the different vocalist reason & also the sheer weight of those MK2 albums was all I was drawn to at the time. When I finally raised the courage of course curiosity was getting the better of me, I listened to Burn for the first time. Yes I was shocked & wondering why Gillan would leave a band like Purple at their height of success. The things we learn a little later on put that into perspective. Regarding Burn I was instantly pleased to hear the Blackmore, Lord & Paice magic was still there, it just took a while to get used to a blues style rock singer & the duel vocals at times. I will always remember hearing Hughes at that time & thinking, ‘why didn’t they just use this guy as the lead vocalist’? I was glad that they didn’t eventually, we just needed sometime to get used to young Cov’s lead vocal back then. Cheers.

  21. 21
    Uwe Hornung says:

    I thought the Burn cover absolutely mesmerizing. To use burning candles as an all-to-literal representation of the title song could have turned out incredibly corny, but it didn’t. And I remember taking the inner gatefold pics from In Rock and trying to match them with the candles, which of couse proved an impossible feat! ; – ) Initially, I thought Glenn Hughes was Ian Gillan, but envisaging the David Coverdale candle to represent Roger Glover was difficult.

    Yeah, I was a late reader.

  22. 22
    Alessandro Veneziani says:

    God exists.

    Gethsemane sang by Ian Gillan.

    Quod erat demonstrandum.

    All the rest.

  23. 23
    MacGregor says:

    The Burn album cover I have always liked & yes I do also remember back in time upon it’s release & looking at it initially & thinking someone looks different. Then reading the back cover highlighted the two new members. If there are to be band members on the cover that is a good way to do it, same with In Rock. What I don’t like is band members mug shots on the front cover of any album by an band. Absolutely pointless to me, much prefer art of some sort. Made In Japan is fine because it is the band in concert in full flight. Cheers.

  24. 24
    RB says:

    I first heard a Gillan-fronted Deep Purple when I was 15 in 1979 on a cassette copy of 24 Carat Purple (so had no idea who the musicians were), and was hooked, he had such an almost elastic range and the tone of his screams have never been equalled let alone bettered. Then someone bought me Made In Europe and I hated both David’s and Glenn’s voices because it wasn’t Ian. I grew to love then over time, mainly their studio work because live they seemed to have more ‘off’ nights than Ian did.

    Ronnie is the voice of Rainbow for me. Graham has a great voice but has a tendency to be a bit shouty live. JLT is consistent but the AOR era of the band doesn’t very little for me. Ronnie had great tone, range and power and wrote better songs than the others. Since someone mentioned Ronnie singing ‘Mistreated’ I’ll give my opinion. For me it blows David’s original vocal out of the water; that high note he hits when the band come back in after Ritchie’s solo always gives me goosebumps, whereas I didn’t always like David’s tone on it live, it was often shouty.

  25. 25
    Uwe Hornung says:

    RB, I exactly liked the shouty rawness in Coverdale’s voice when singing Mistreated live, his voice on the verge of cracking, it fitted the song.

    Ronnie’s performance was technically fine, the man can sing. But on this particular song you never knew whether he was crying out his hurt machismo or admonishing his pet dragon for having snapped at him!

    ; – )

    But you’re right about that high note at 07:31, that was always lovely.


    Coverdale at 05:13 is more ‘wounded animal’, again that is in line with the lyrical theme of the song. And at 07:48 and following he is just more credible to me.


    But then David couldn’t have sung Stargazer with a straight face either. They were both great singers.

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