Underrated Musicians- Keyboardist Edition

With plenty of research, I’ve managed to make this a thing. Along with guitarists, bassists, drummers and vocalists. I’ve managed to do an underrated keyboardists blog.

“Aren’t keyboardists underrated in general?” I hear you say, well yes, but the likes of Rick Wakeman and Jordan Rudess stand out in their respective bands whereas some others, that isn’t the case.

Here are, in my opinion, my 10 underrated keyboard players. 

*they’re not all prog rock keyboard players.

10. Tony Kaye (Yes)

Not the most popular Yes keyboardist of all time but a great player nonetheless, especially on the piano/Hammond organ. Kaye was Yes’ first keyboard player playing on the first two albums and then rejoining the band in the early 1980’s for the YesWest era in which the band received more commercial success. Some of Kaye’s highlights include “Starship Trooper”, “Our Song” and “The Calling”. 

9. Rob Swire (Pendulum)

See, it’s not just prog rock keyboardists. If you’re a fan of Pendulum you’ll know Rob Swire plays a guitar-shaped midi keyboard live known as a Star Labs’ Ztar Z6 which is pretty cool if you ask me. Ability wise he might be considered keyboard great (though his piano parts on “The Fountain” sent shivers down my spine) compared to some others but Swire is a truly versatile musician, as he is a multi-instrumentalist and has produced all of Pendulum’s discography. 

8. Nick “Peanut” Baines (Kaiser Chiefs)

Another non-prog keyboardist. Keyboards are pretty much at the front for a lot of Kaiser Chiefs songs. There are a lot of songs where keyboards are the first instrument heard on a KC song such as “Born To Be A Dancer”, “Caroline, Yes” and “You Want History” which sounded like a techno song when you hear the first bars. Also, there’s a synth solo on “Everyday I Love You Less And Less”. Kaiser Chiefs wouldn’t sound the same with Peanut. 

7. Roger Joseph Manning Jr. (session)

Who? You may be wondering. Roger Joseph Manning Jr. is a session keyboardist but also been in several bands you may not have heard of such as Jellyfish, Imperial Drag and TV Eyes however he’s probably better known for his work with Blink-182, Manning can be heard on songs such as “Adam’s Song” and “Stay Together for The Kids” playing the piano on both songs as well as “I’m Lost Without You” which was made even more poignant for the fact it was Blink’s last album track for 6 years. Manning has also worked with Morrissey as a session keyboardist as well.

6. Christine McVie (Fleetwood Mac)

It’s the second entry for Christine McVie who was also the keyboards for Fleetwood Mac. Fleetwood Mac songs that future McVie’s keys upfront includes the synth-lead “Little Lies” and “Seven Wonders”, the emotional piano track “Songbird” and the piano/organ on “Don’t Stop”. The thing about keyboardists is that the different types of keyboard instruments that they play is enough to make them multi-instrumentalists and McVie is no exception. 

5. Gillian Gilbert (New Order)

With New Order taking a more new wave/synthpop turn from Joy Division. Gilbert’s keys would be right at the forefront of band’s songs such as “Blue Monday”, “True Faith” and “Bizarre Love Triangle”. Gilbert was unique as she was the only original member of New Order not to have been in Joy Division and has also remixed songs as well, including two tracks on Nine Inch Nails Remix Album Year Zero Remixed along with New Order drummer and husband Stephen Morris.

4. Geoff Nicholls R.I.P. (Black Sabbath/Quartz)

Black Sabbath had a keyboardist I hear you say? Yes, and his name was Geoff Nicholls. Had two spells as a permanent member of Black Sabbath, 1986-1991 and 1993-96. Nicholls sadly died early last year at the age of 68. Has also played rhythm guitar and bass guitar with the band.

3. Mark Kelly (Marillion) 

The third Marillion member to make an “underrated list”. Marillion are another band who wouldn’t sound the same without their keyboard player. Songs in which Kelly’s talent is put upfront include “Garden Party” “Assassing”, “Incommunicado” and “The Space…” He may look a bit like Lord Voldemort but Mark Kelly is a keyboard wizard!!! 

2. Rick Davies (Supertramp)

Rick Davies is a truly underrated keyboardist with Supertramp having played plenty of keyboard instruments, Wurlitzer electric piano (Bloody Well Right, Goodbye Stranger), grand piano (Rudy, From Now On), organ (Aubade) and clavinet (Give A Little Bit). All songs mentioned are highlights in selected instrument. Davies is also Supertramp’s longest-serving member having been with the band since it’s formation in 1969, that’s almost 50 years!!! 

Before I reveal the top pick here are some honourable mentions

  • Clint Boon (Inspiral Carpets)
  • Jon Lord R.I.P. (Deep Purple/Whitesnake)
  • Patrick Moraz (Yes/Moody Blues)
  1. Steve Porcaro (Toto/session) 

    I think those of you may already know why Steve Porcaro of Toto is on this list. 

    Africa. 

    However, Porcaro has more than just “Africa” to show for underrated keyboarding ability as both “Hold the Line” and “Rosanna” have keyboards up front. Porcaro has also worked as a session musician from the likes of Michael Jackson (on the Thriller album) to Yes, and Jefferson Airplane. A truly versatile and talented musician!!! 

So that pretty much wraps up this blog, all I can say now is that a band consisting of Alex Lifeson on guitar, John Paul Jones on bass/various other instruments, Omar Hakim on drums, Steve Porcaro on keyboards and Matt Bellamy singing (along with playing guitar/piano) would make a pretty legendary supergroup. That’s just me though, what do think, leave a comment and let me know. If you’ve enjoyed this blog, give a like, give it a share and stay tuned for more blogs where the next one is potentially a Marillion blog so stay tuned for that and as always, I’ll talk to you in a while.

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