Guitarist Keith Richards -- whose third solo album, "Crosseyed Heart" (Republic) dropped Sept. 18 -- started his solo career the usual way -- his band was feuding, his singer had already released an album, and he needed something to do for the rest of his career. The plan worked -- Richards' 1988 debut "Talk Is Cheap" went gold and his low-key single "Take It So Hard" landed on MTV. As for his band, the Rolling Stones made up and did pretty well, embarking on numerous blockbuster tours, most recently a 10-stadium gig that grossed $81 million. "Talk Is Cheap" was a fine album, but it doesn't quite make the following list of 10 masterpieces by stars who'd split from their famous bands.
Michael Jackson, "Off the Wall" Although he'd put out solo albums during his Motown years, 1979's "Off the Wall" was the future King of Pop's first fully liberated album, with his own producer (Quincy Jones), musicians and, in key spots, songwriting.
Beyoncé, "Dangerously In Love" While in the process of selling 60 million albums with her R&B trio Destiny's Child, the future Queen Bey made this 2003 debut that is looser and more joyful than "Bootylicious." The opening track, "Crazy In Love," sets the tone with an absurdly catchy dance-floor groove, thanks to the singer's future husband, Jay Z.
Raekwon, "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx" Wu-Tang Clan, the '90s hip-hop collective best known for furious singles like "Protect Ya Neck," planned all along to spin its numerous talented emcees into solo careers, but Raekwon, known as the Chef, won the solo wars.
Richard and Linda Thompson, "Shoot Out the Lights" British guitarist Thompson had left his folk-rock band, Fairport Convention, in 1971, but he didn't hit his stride as a solo artist until partnering with his wife, Linda. This 1982 album offsets its dark and bleak lyrics with cathartic rock and roll guitars. Tellingly, they divorced the same year.
John Lennon, "Plastic Ono Band" Those who believe the solo Beatles never made an album as masterful as they did collectively have never heard 1970's "Plastic Ono Band." Anticipating punk rock, the Pixies and Nirvana, Lennon supplements his jagged electric guitar and gentle piano with full-throated shrieks, most climactically on "Mother."
Lauryn Hill, "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" The Fugees were a great hip-hop band, but they broke up after just two albums and several hit singles. In retrospect, they seem like the prequel to Lauryn Hill's 1998 debut, bursting with talent, from the snappy hit single "Doo Wop (That Thing)" to the syncopated biography "Every Ghetto, Every City."
Rod Stewart, "Every Picture Tells a Story" Stewart was still in the Faces when he signed a solo deal, but he didn't connect all the dots until his 1971 third album. He whoops and hollers with his sympathetic band, which seems overjoyed to play propulsive rockers "Maggie May" and "(I Know) I'm Losing You" and ballads like "(Find a) Reason to Believe."
Ice Cube, "Kill at Will" "Peace!" Ice Cube says at the beginning of 1990's "Endangered Species (Tales From the Darkside)," but it's a head fake: "Don't make me laugh," he adds. As the biopic "Straight Outta Compton" shows, Cube left gangsta-rap pioneers N.W.A. in a money dispute, and he'd soon push criticism of former manager Jerry Heller too far, into anti-Semitic territory, but nobody was as forceful on this brutal, crass and funky EP.
Lou Reed, "Transformer" The beginning of Reed's solo career was a bit blurry, since the Velvet Underground had actually recorded unreleased (and superior) versions of "I Can't Stand It," "Ocean" and "Lisa Says" before he did them on his 1971 debut "Lou Reed." But it came into startling focus with 1972's "Transformer," with some of his best-known songs, beginning with "Walk on the Wild Side," then "Vicious" and "Satellite of Love."
Dave Alvin, "Blue Blvd" Sadly for guitarist and songwriter Alvin and his singing brother Phil, their fantastic rockabilly band, the Blasters, never hit commercial success. By the late '80s, Dave was ready to take his deep and scratchy voice solo; his second album peaked with the poignant "Haley's Comet," a story-song about the late rocker Bill Haley.
'Crosseyed Heart': Time to notice Keith Richards again
Every few years, Keith Richards needs attention. Five years ago, he put out "Life," a surprisingly rich and colorful memoir despite gratuitously ungenerous descriptions of fellow Rolling Stone Mick Jagger's, uh, prowess. And he's just released his third solo album, "Crosseyed Heart," along with a Netflix documentary, "Under the Influence," which checks off all the Keef touchstones -- Muddy Waters, Chess Records, Chuck Berry, his omnipresent cloud of smoke, skull jewelry and, of course, peerless rhythm-guitar playing.
Like Richards' previous solo albums, 1988's "Talk Is Cheap" and 1992's "Main Offender," much of "Crosseyed Heart" is a pleasant throwaway -- he doesn't add much to Leadbelly's classic "Goodnight Irene," an acoustic version of which closes the album, and "Amnesia" is just Richards chanting about broken hearts and misery over a midtempo blues-rock groove.
But the best Richards songs, from the Stones' "Happy" to "The Worst," supplement his endearing croak with surging electric guitars and angelic backup vocals, and in that spirit, "Something for Nothing," "Heartstopper" and "Trouble" are surprisingly propulsive for a 71-year-old on holiday. The thing about Richards: He needs attention, but he deserves it, too.