He’s excited to get back to touring, excited to show off his band, and excited to deliver a set chock full of Eagles songs he knows we want to hear.
And those are the topics he was eager to discuss when we spoke with him on a recent call from his California digs. The celebrated former Eagles lead guitarist and co-writer, oft-recognized for his use of a double-neck Gibson EDS-1275, has released two solo albums in the past decade, the most recent being 2019’s star-studded American Rock and Roll. But his 2022 tour dates, including his stop at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, MA, on Tuesday, March 1, will revolve around his 27-year tenure with the Eagles. [Purchase tickets to the show HERE].
He’s excited for the crowd-pleasing.
“I always do at least two solo songs every night, for those people that want to hear them, and I mix those up from show to show,” he said. “But the majority of the people in my audience are probably over a certain age… some of them know some of my solo material and some don’t. I would rather err on the side of making people really happy and ensure that they’ll enjoy the show because they’re familiar with most of the songs.”
Felder, now 74, admits to being flattered by fans that have clamored for deeper cuts from the Heavy Metal soundtrack and his 1983 solo album Airborne, but he has recently surveyed ticket holders for their top ten setlist choices via a contest on his website. One would assume that his 2022 sets will be based on the results – Eagles, it is.
Despite this, he’s quick to acknowledge the satisfaction of writing and recording on his own. Truth is, when he joined the Eagles, during the recording of 1974’s On the Border, he’d already learned quite a bit about making records from earlier periods spent working in recording studios. But the band dynamic kept him relegated to a specific space. Nonetheless, Felder either sang or played on many of the group’s best-known songs, and his co-writing credits include “Hotel California” and “Victim of Love.”
“I would write between twelve and fifteen ideas—song beds, I call them—for each Eagles album, and I’d submit those, and they’d pick a couple. That’s really how that team worked, where I provided musical ideas and then we’d develop them. Some of my music that was discarded I got to use later on. I wrote this one song, the working title was “You’re Really High, Aren’t You?” We cut it as a great hard rocking track for The Long Run. But we were just at a point where we already running late. We had to get out of the studio and go on the road, so it never got finished. Eventually, that became “Heavy Metal.”
“I’ve gone back and listened to that stuff and have reworked some more of it,” he continued. “The title song from my album Road to Forever was another one that I’d recorded and submitted to Don (Henley) and Glenn (Frey), and they just didn’t think it was really, you know, Eagles material. So, if they weren’t into it, it just didn’t happen. Now I can go in and record anything I want. I have my own first class, top notch recording studio. And I do that all the time, I go in there with an idea, I fire it up and record some guitar parts and immediately start working on putting together a piece of music. If I like it and I release it, then I hope other people like it too. If I don’t like it, then it goes to digital heaven.”
Felder built his home studio over 40 years ago, prior to the digital recording revolution. It’s safe to say that he’s versed in current technological trends, but he takes pride in having cut his teeth at a time when there were fewer tricks available to artificially sweeten records.
“Our producer and engineer Bill Szymczyk used to say that if you can’t make a record with the 24 available tracks, you’re in the wrong business. You had to be able to play on time and sing in tune. You know what there was before Pro Tools, right? There were pros. They didn’t need the tools.”
Felder’s current band meets his stringent glove test, and his enthusiasm about delivering an unabashedly Eagles-centric show is unstoppable.
“Everybody plays and sings remarkably well,” he said. “I think they all have scars on their back from me cracking the whip on them to be able to play these songs impeccably… because I want it to be tight. I don’t want to go out and have mistakes, but these guys are on top of it. And so we take pride in how well we present these classic songs because it’s important to me that if I’m going to do a show like this, I have great people with me and we present audiences with a likeable, affable evening. Audiences enjoy these songs so much and feel like they can reach out to touch something they’ve been listening to for the last 40 or 45 years—here it is, live in front of them… and at a very affordable price! It makes me super happy to be able to do that and be back out playing live after this year and a half of just solitary confinement.”
The Narrows Center is located at 16 Anawan Street in Fall River, MA. Tickets to this can be purchased online at narrowscenter.org or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. For those wanting to purchase tickets in person, box office hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 12 noon to 5 p.m.
Thanks to comedian Will Ferrell, former Blue Öyster Cult drummer Albert Bouchard’s liberal use of cowbell on the band’s FM staple, “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” might be what goes down in the music history books as his defining rock and roll moment. But Blue Öyster Cult is much more than the butt of a joke or a couple of tunes in the classic rock canon, and Bouchard’s imagination stretches well beyond the percussive stroke of genius that propels one of their biggest hits.*
Hardcore BÖC enthusiasts have long been aware of a collection of scripts and poems written by collaborator/manager Sandy Pearlman over fifty years back, entitled The Soft Doctrines of Imaginos—a secret history of the two World Wars. Think of it like a battling good-and-evil story that merges historical facts and far-flung fiction with gothic imagery, horror, elements of fairytale, and Lovecraft-inspired sci-fi.
For those that don’t know, Pearlman wrote or co-wrote many BÖC songs and often served as a co-producer on their albums. Blue Öyster Cult had utilized fragments of Pearlman’s Imaginos storyline for songs scattered throughout their first four albums, but they lacked context, so those tracks carried an added layer of mystery that intrigued listeners looking to decipher meaning from the band’s music. The song “Blue Öyster Cult”—which could be considered their defining moment—appears on the Imaginos album, which finally surfaced in 1988.
But by the time of its release, Imaginos had gone through multiple unplanned revisions. Originally begun seven years prior in 1981, the recording and release of the ambitious concept album were fraught with complications.
In the first place, it was Bouchard who’d championed the idea of developing a rock opera around Pearlman’s storyline, but he’d been officially fired from BÖC in 1981. He then planned to release the project under his name, having inked a solo deal with CBS/Columbia. But by 1984 it was clear that the label was no longer interested. Given that they owned the existing recordings, Imaginos was then reconfigured—without Bouchard’s input—as a Blue Öyster Cult album, which eventually saw the light of day four years later. In the interim, BÖC had disbanded and reformed. By that time, Aldo Nova, Joe Satriani, and The Doors’ Robby Kreiger had all played on the album and Bouchard’s lead vocals had been completely removed.
Even after all the revisions, and despite a fair amount of critical accolades, Imaginos didn’t sell particularly well. But BÖC fans knew that it had been planned as a trilogy and, in the nearly thirty-five years since its release, they’ve continually clamored for the rest of the story to materialize.
Now Bouchard is seeing it all the way through. He recorded a mostly acoustic version of Imaginos, entitled Re-Imaginos, and released it in November 2020. Then, in October of 2021, Imaginos II: Bombs Over Germany was released, featuring Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom from BÖC. Bouchard has since begun writing the third installment—the working title is Imaginos III: Mutant Reformation—which he hopes to release in 2023. And on Saturday, January 15 at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, he will perform Imaginos for the first time, in its entirety, along with selections from Imaginos II and some BÖC favorites. Paul Bielatowicz, of Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy will open the show with an abridged version of his Nosferatu score. Purchase tickets HERE.
To say it’s been a journey doesn’t really capture the winding path that Bouchard has walked to get to this point. He recently spoke with us at length from his Manhattan apartment about the process of coming full circle with this creative labor of love.
Limelight Magazine: What about this story holds so much fascination for you?
Albert Bouchard: It’s just a classic story. Maybe it’s a bit like Homer’s The Odyssey. It focuses on this person who travels through space and time and certain things happen to him and other things he makes happen and… all that kind of stuff. The original Imaginos is his origin story. And then the second episode, this last one I just put together, is where all the bad stuff starts happening. It’s the dark Empire Strikes Back part of the story.
LM: Was Star Wars inspiring?
AB: I first started visualizing the story as a whole when I was watching Star Wars, so, yes, definitely. I was also reading a book by Joseph Campbell… something about the gods and how these various myths just seem to continue playing out and how, as stories and reflections of our own experiences, they just never get old. Rather, they just keep getting retold but dressed in slightly different clothing. When I talked to Sandy about it back then he said that’s exactly right, that Campbell truly understood the value of myths in our culture. So, at that point, we started thinking beyond just this song and that song and began looking at the larger picture and how to deliver this story, musically, as a bigger piece.
LM:Was expanding it into a trilogy something that you’d discussed with Sandy from the beginning, further elaborating on his original writings, or was that an idea that came later?
AB: From what I remember, that aspect of it didn’t come together until towards the end of the time I was with BÖC. But Sandy’s original writing was epic, so it was never a story that could be easily condensed.
I’ve always found with doing this stuff that you can’t hold anything that sacred. You might find a better twist of a word or phrase that improves a song, so it’s best not to get too attached to doing something a certain way. Because when you’re talking about songs, you’re talking about rhythm and melody at the same time as you’re talking about the actual words, and you have to balance all of that out. Sandy’s writing didn’t always loan itself well to song structures because he was wordy. Wordy songs can get tricky. Originally, “The Siege and Investiture of Baron von Frankenstein’s Castle at Weisseria” was very long with lots of additional parts. Some of it was very good, but some of it was… just embarrassing. So I kept working on it. I thought the first version I did was pretty good—had a lot of nice little guitar licks in there— but Sandy said he didn’t like it. So then I redid it, and this time it was really awful. But at least I’d gotten the words to better sync with the music. That made it clearer to Sandy said we should break it into two songs, so it became “Siege and Investiture…” and “The Girl That Love Made Blind,” so that rather than forcing it to work as a suite, one was more of a ballad and the other was a heavier, angrier piece. Just scarier. More menacing.
LM: Do you think Sandy Pearlman would be happy with what you’ve done with Re-Imaginos, Bombs Over Germany, and the third installation that you’re working on? Is this true to the form he thought the story would take?
AB: I think he’d be okay with it, yes. I remember somebody in the press saying, when the original Imaginos came out, “Sandy Perlman is doing all the interviews… who wants to interview the manager?,” not grasping his contribution to the band. But he was our fifth Beatle, you know? Especially in the beginning, he was there all the time. And always with ideas and suggestions for how to make things better. And, of course, this story was his original idea.
When I was working on the first record back in the early 80s, Sandy and I were very excited. We felt as if we were doing something that hadn’t been done in rock music. The music itself seemed almost indescribable, and we had the gut feeling that it was quite good. I had a lot of great players on it who could do just about anything I asked them. So it was very intoxicating. And at the time we thought, okay, so we’ll put this out, and if it hits, I have my solo contract, we can keep going. So, we began writing songs for part two right away, but there were schedules to work around. Blue Öyster Cult and Foghat were using the same studio, so I had to take time off recording the original tracks because I couldn’t get in there and everyone had other projects they were contributing to… we couldn’t just do it all at once. During those breaks, Sandy and I worked on writing for part two and conceptualizing part three, but no songs got written for the third part at that time.
LM: Would you credit Sandy with setting the sort of ominous, mysterious tone that runs through so much of BÖC’s output?
AB: Yes, I would. He didn’t like to fill in all the blanks. So there would always be plenty of space for you to imagine what we’re talking about. He loved that. He never wanted to be nailed down to any specific meaning on any specific thing. He just enjoyed having a sort of poetic attitude about what BÖC was doing, what each song meant, what each song might suggest. He was trying to create something different. I’ll say this—we were heavily influenced by the original Alice Cooper band. But not so much their theatricality, even though that was great, but more their musical style. Initially, it was very hard to pin down what they were. I think people kind of bemoan Alice Cooper’s show now because he’s kind of taken on that heavy metal mantle with the four guitar attack, but the original Alice Cooper would do some very unusual stuff. It was as if they felt like they could do anything and get away with it, and we admired that.
LM: So, What made this the right time to get this done?
AB: This has always been something I wanted to do, but in 1987, I began working in a public school. I would play on weekends or sometimes tour with a band during vacations, but I decided to put my time into that career. I’d planned to retire at 70 to get in a good ten years of rock and roll. I’m going to be 75 in a couple of months, so time is limited for me to do the things that I want to do. And this is one of the main things that I wanted to do. In 2015, Sandy had an accident and he was in a coma. The music writer Robert Duncan was checking in on him at the hospital and sending out email updates about his prognosis. I wrote back to Robert and said I want to go and see him because I had all these things I wanted to talk to him about, one of them being about finishing this trilogy idea. We had songs that we’d started to write and never finished. I wanted his input. Fans were saying I should do my own version, asking if it’ll ever get finished, and I would always say I’d have to have Sandy Pearlman help me because it was his idea. I couldn’t just go and do it without him. I wouldn’t even think of it, really, just out of respect for my friend. He eventually came out of the coma, I went to the hospital and told him that he had to get better because I wanted to complete the trilogy. And then, in the end, he didn’t make it. He never really regained his faculties. He was conscious and could hear what people were saying. He could communicate by moving his left index finger or that kind of thing, but he really couldn’t have a conversation. He could just acknowledge if he understood or not.
LM: It must have been challenging to deal with what happened to the original Imaginos album since this was your solo project with Sandy, and then it was released as a BÖC album that you’d lost creative control over. There are a lot of stories about various betrayals on the parts of both the band and the label. How did you feel at the time?
AB: Well, you know, emotions can cloud our perception of things. So when the record finally came out, I was very unhappy. I felt like the mixes weren’t good. What I’d heard when we cut the basic tracks was so much better, but it was six years since I’d cut those tracks and it’d been worked on, on and off, for those six years. Everything was on tape at that time, and every time you play the tape, it deteriorates a little. So there was that problem. They replaced my vocals, which I wasn’t thrilled about, but I have to admit that the vocals were largely an improvement. Donald Roeser’s—you know, Buck Dharma—versions of my vocals were excellent. Much better than I could do. For the most part. Eric Bloom did a great job… at least as good as I did, if not better. And Joseph Cerisano, thank God they used some of his stuff. I heard this rumor that Columbia didn’t like the vocals and that’s why they weren’t behind the record. But you’ve got to figure it was Al Teller and Donnie Lenner running the show at that point… anybody who knows what was going on at Columbia in those days knows those guys didn’t have a clue. Al Teller was an accountant and Donnie was his buddy. So, what does that tell you? Clive Davis was gone. Bruce Lundvall was gone. All the people with ears for music were all gone. And the people that’d signed me to the solo deal were all gone. All we had were these accountant guys, and they had no interest in music. Then they brought in Tommy Mottola to keep it from becoming a total disaster. At the time, I was extremely angry with the record company, that they wouldn’t put it out as my record, that they would only put it out as Blue Öyster Cult, you know, and Blue Öyster Cult… they did the best they could do under the circumstances.
LM: Have you been able to reconcile all that upset?
AB: For the most part, yes. What was even more mind-blowing was that the label led me to believe that, since my solo project had been folded into a Blue Öyster Cult project, I would be back in the band when they toured Greece in 1987, just before Imaginos came out. And then the band informed me that they had never agreed to that and that they’d hired other people for those gigs. They said they had no idea the label had made any such promises to me. I was really angry about that, too, but they didn’t know anything about the conversation I’d had, so I couldn’t blame them.
That was the same year I’d gotten the job at the school, but working in a school hadn’t changed me yet. Becoming a teacher is a very solitary kind of thing, in a way, because it’s just you and the kids in your classroom, and nobody’s going to help you. You have to just sort it out on your own. On the other hand, working in education, you’re always examining your practice. And you invite other teachers to give you feedback. The amount of meetings that get scheduled is extremely annoying, but over time, it changed me for the better. I became able to separate my ego and look at the process rather than the product. I think that has made me a better person—much more responsible and much more patient. As a teacher, you have to be extremely patient, and you have to be able to present things in more than one way. And believe it or not, this has helped me deal with what happened back then.
LM: There was some debt to the label, too, right?
AB: Yes. I was three-quarters of a million dollars in debt to Columbia, which is why the band thought by not letting me back in they were doing me a favor… I wouldn’t have gotten any royalties for years, you know? We’ve talked about it since then. BÖC basically absorbed my debt for the solo recordings. I guess you could say that ‘Reaper’ started paying for Imaginos. So how can I complain about that?
LM: When you think about performing this work, is it daunting? Who’s in the band you’ve assembled?
AB: Not daunting to me, no, I could go into a club tomorrow and play the whole thing! I’ve set up a group of six, including myself. I’m going to be playing mostly acoustic guitar… or maybe an electric guitar that sounds like an acoustic. It’s a hybrid of the two guitars that are the backbone of all the Imaginos songs. It was just a concept in my mind, but I explained it to my luthier and he said he could do it, so we’ll see. Supposedly, I’m getting it this week. But the main, lead guitar player is going to be Mike Fornatele, who I met at a party hosted by May Pang, John Lennon’s ex-girlfriend. She has three parties every year and he’s always there, so that’s how we originally met. Then I did a gig with him and my brother backing up Mark Lindsay from Paul Revere and the Raiders. My brother, Joe Bouchard, is playing keyboards, trumpet, and flute. Cyzon Griffin will be on drums, this amazingly talented 26-year-old guy that I met when he was busking in Central Park. He reminds me of Larnell Lewis from Snarky Puppy. David Hirschberg, who’s on all the new Imaginos material, will play bass. And then we have Dana McCoy, who played ukulele and keyboards and sang on some of these songs, and hopefully, she’ll be joining us. We’ve been rehearsing!
The Narrows Center is located at 16 Anawan Street in Fall River. Tickets are $38 advance and $43 day of show.
*Actually, the cowbell was producer David Lucas’s idea, but it was Bouchard who decided to use a timpani mallet to beat the bell, thus producing an unusual tone on the final track.
Caped keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman remains an unforgettable pillar of talent within rock’s progressive canon. Most know him from his runs with The Strawbs and Yes, the latter spanning some of the band’s most celebrated material, beginning with 1971’s Fragile.
But what many may not realize is the breadth of his solo career, which boasts worldwide album sales of around 50 million. His first three solo recordings all became gold records in the States. When Wakeman overcame some persistent health problems by sobering up in the mid-80s, a mind-bogglingly prolific work ethic emerged; he’s released multiple full length recordings in most years since. Among them, he’s scored multiple films, sound-tracked video games, and even recorded his own version of Phantom of the Opera. Intermittently, he’s released updated versions of his Yes material, recorded a series of collaborations with his son, Adam, and composed multiple volumes of ambient, ‘relaxation music.” He’s also written three books.
Now, after 18 months of being locked down in the UK, Wakeman returns to the States this fall with “The Even Grumpier Old Rock Star Tour,” a delayed follow-up trek to his sold out ‘Grumpy’ tour in 2019, which brings him to the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, MA, next Tuesday, October 19. [Purchase tickets HERE.]
It’s a grand piano tour that provides an overview of his entire career, highlighting early session work (he played on David Bowie’s “Life On Mars,” for instance, though he apparently declined an offer to join The Spiders From Mars) and his contributions to Yes while surely touching on three recent releases: Piano Portraits (2017), Piano Odyssey (2018), and The Red Planet, (2020).
On the eve of leaving the UK, Wakeman took time out to answer a few questions for us in his inimitable, cheeky manner. He has much to celebrate, having been appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s annual birthday honors. In chivalrous ranking—i.e., The Order of the British Empire—it’s just below knighthood.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE (LM): Lockdown was awful and frightening in many ways, but, for those that managed to avoid illness and jarring financial consequences, it held its own kind of delight… an enforced rest, perhaps. And maybe, for intensely creative people, enforced restlessness. How did you fill your time?
RICK WAKEMAN (RW): I found it terrible. I lost a few friends to the virus and it prevented performing, which is my great love. At 72, the last thing you need is an enforced rest! I wrote a lot, practiced a lot, screamed at the news a lot, and spent time walking with our rescue dogs who are great listeners when you’re constantly moaning about the mess the COVID virus has placed the world in… and I’m sure the dogs agreed!
LM: I imagine the Queen’s CBE honor is flattering. We don’t have anything quite the same over here, but it seems much more prestigious than an award, and it speaks to a lifetime of work rather than a particular recording or event. Can you talk a little about how that feels?
RW: It’s very flattering and genuinely came as a surprise as well. There are four awards given twice a year. Knighthood is the highest honor, then the CBE, then the OBE and finally, the MBE. The CBE is usually given in recognition of the work you’ve done—in my case, music and broadcasting. I’m extremely proud of it. I’m a strong royalist and to have this approved by the Queen means a lot to me. I have had the honor of meeting most of the Royal Family, including the Queen… it’s wonderfully British. I wish my parents could have been alive to have seen this happen, but there’s good reason they are not, since my father would have been 107 and my mother 105!”
LM: Sometime in the 80s, Rolling Stone published a ‘rock encyclopedia’ that pegged you as a beer-swilling, meat-loving foil to Yes’s otherwise uptight vegetarianism. Is that a fairly accurate description? How did it feel to be the guy that walks in with this incredible talent and, sociologically, being the one that turns everything upside down?
RW: I remember that. Written by Cameron Crowe, if I recall correctly. Back then, when I joined on, it was probably accurate. The irony is that apart from Steve [Howe] who is a strict vegan still, the rest of the guys aren’t, and I eat very little meat at all. And whilst the others all drink alcohol, I’ve been teetotal since 1985. So, my, how things turn around!
LM: In contrast to that image, your showcase piece on Fragile, “Cans and Brahms” sounds a bit prim.
RW: We decided that on Fragile, we would all have a solo piece to illustrate what our musical contributions to Yes were. I couldn’t do what I wanted because Yes had extreme publishing restrictions, which meant I had to record a piece that was already out of copyright, so I chose one of the pieces I studied for my A-level music course.
LM: Let’s talk about the capes. You’ve continued wearing capes on stage since the early 70s. By the middle of the decade it almost seemed like some sort of prog-fashion, but what was the original impetus? Were you just having fun, or does it aid your playing in some way?
RW: I bought my first cape from a deejay introducing us on stage in Hartford, Connecticut in 1971. I had previously been described in a review as ‘looking like a demented spider’ with arms and legs stretching out to try and reach keyboards and petals. Seeing the deejay on stage wearing one, I realized it covered up everything, and so I bought it from him. Michael Tate, our lighting man, said afterwards, ‘That’s your answer, but you need a specialist making your capes.’ He them introduced me to a lovely lady in Cleveland who made all the classic capes for me. I still wear them for all the rock shows, but not the piano shows, as it’s really hard to play the piano wearing a cape! I might give it a go again, though.”
LM: The CBE honor comes at time when you’ve recently released a trio of very well received solo recordings and are touring a show that takes a macro view of your whole career. I imagine it’s been a time of reflection, so are there things that you’re most proud of? Is there something that gives you more satisfaction, looking back?
RW: It’s a difficult question that I would probably answer differently on a daily basis. I’ll say this: my first solo album, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, was pivotal for me, as the head of A&M in England hated it. And the initial reviews weren’t good either. But, thankfully, the music loving public did like it and suddenly the record company and later reviewers changed their tune.
LM: Touring in 2021 is a bit different than in the 70s. In some ways it must be a better experience now, but maybe there are some things you miss? What’s your favorite aspect of being on the road nowadays that’s different from the pre-digital age?
RW: It’s very different now… better in some ways and not so much in others. Back then, so much was new. We were playing venues that had never before been used for rock concerts and sound and lights were just developing, so every day was a new adventure. Certainly, the reliability of [digitized] instruments make a huge, positive difference. And, of course, I miss being in my twenties for sure. It’s harder on the road when you’re in your seventies, but that’s mainly traveling and long days. Playing on stage will always be exciting, though, and long may that continue.”
The Narrows Center is located at 16 Anawan Street in Fall River, MA. Tickets can be purchased online by clicking HERE or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. Box office hours areThursday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. and during show times.
The Coronavirus Pandemic has been rough for just about everybody, but folks that work in event-related fundraising have especially been feeling the squeeze. It was enough to make Rockin’ 4 Vets founder Jim Tirabassi reevaluate his sense of purpose.
But in the end, he doubled down: he’s got three music fundraisers to benefit homeless veterans scheduled through early fall.
Just before the late winter lockdown of 2020, Tirabassi was working with friend and Saugus native Dennis Moschella on a project to send ten Vietnam vets on a weekend ‘trip of a lifetime’ to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a.k.a. The Wall, in Washington D.C. The pandemic put the pair’s plans on hold for over a year.
Determined to see it through despite Murphy’s Law-style setbacks galore, Rockin’ 4 Vets finally produced its first gig of 2021 last month, starring John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band. Tirabassi walked away knowing the ten vets would get their trip to D.C., but he was also burdened with some new knowledge that helped him get his fundraising groove back.
“During that show, the company that does our ticketing told me a rather disturbing story,” he recalled. “It involved a Vietnam vet who’d become homeless and was living in a shelter, but his wife was unable to reside there and was forced to make other, less-than-healthy decisions about where to live. They’ve since found housing together; not the greatest, but an improvement. But this story was very concerning to me since I’ve had a place to put my head at night and food if I’m hungry, even during the toughest times in my life. Our vets deserve better.”
If there’s one thing Tirabassi’s never short on, it’s talented musicians who are eager to help. The upcoming trio of shows will feature Boston co-founder Barry Goudreau’s band Engine Room (Sept. 25), James Montgomery Band’s 50th Anniversary show (Oct. 2), and revered Beantown ax-man Jon Butcher, with special guest Sal Baglio from the legendary Stompers (Oct. 9). All three shows will be outdoors at the Kowloon on Rte. 1 in Saugus.
“It’s been a privilege having been successful in the music business and being able to continue to write and perform new music,” Goudreau said of his latest project. “It’s also a privilege to be able to do what I can for the veterans who volunteered to serve our country and make it possible for the success I’ve enjoyed. I hope folks come out to these shows to support our veterans and enjoy an afternoon of rockin’ good music in a wonderful setting.”
For Tirabassi, however, getting to this point was a journey unto itself.
“During the 2020 shutdown, I debated the idea, purpose, and overall identification of my organization,” he explained, referring to the newly renamed Rockin’ 4 Vets — formerly V is for Veterans — which he’d founded some years earlier.
“I eventually came to the decision that I needed to identify a more specific set of causes to attempt to assist and to rename the organization to better reflect how, exactly, it raises funds. To that end, the name was changed to Rockin’ 4 Vets since all the events have been live concerts.”
Tirabassi has spent the better part of his adult years moving back and forth from the east coast and warmer locations, feeling the alternating pull of the private job market and his music industry connections, which date back to the 1970s.
“In the late 70s, while in L.A., I did some booking for Steppenwolf, The Grass Roots, and The Guess Who,” he said. “When I got back to Peabody, I started working on the production end of shows — sound, lights, and staging — for local and regional talent. To be honest, it was the kind of life you had to love since there wasn’t much money in it. I’d periodically leave it to take better-paying work and then feel like I was missing out on a hard-to-finger level of excitement. It must’ve come from taking pride in a job well done because I was pretty disconnected from the crowds. It was behind-the-scenes work.”
Tirabassi’s small-time production work eventually landed him bigger touring jobs with Foghat, Badfinger, The Outlaws, and others. The lure of being involved in the staging of live music has never left him, so it makes perfect sense that his fundraising endeavors would be rock’n’roll-related.
It also makes perfect sense that Boston-area blues legend James Montgomery would be involved. Montgomery has often used his music to raise funds throughout his long and storied career, beginning in the Vietnam era. His mother served in the Women’s Army Corps in Europe during World War II, and his father fought in Okinawa. Safe to say, the issues that face veterans returning from duty are at the forefront of his consciousness, and fundraising has been a facet of his music almost from the beginning.
Tirabassi and Montgomery have worked together on various projects since the 70s, and it was from their relationship the ideas behind Tirabassi’s organization initially came alive.
Joining Montgomery for his 50th Anniversary celebration on Oct. 2 will be gritty soul shouter Barrance Whitfield and former U.S. Senator/Ambassador Scott Brown on guitar.
“It’s always an honor to play with James Montgomery and his All-Stars,” Brown enthused. “I’ve been a fan for decades. I’m even more impressed with the amazing philanthropic work James does for our veterans. I encourage you all to come out to a great concert for a great cause. Come out and make a difference!”
Tickets for all shows are $35.00 in advance and $40.00 at the door, available individually or at a discount for a series package. They will also be offering VIP packages. For more details, click HERE.
100% of all profits from this series will go to area veterans organizations in the area dealing with the vets homeless crisis.
These are outdoor concerts. Gates will open at 1:00 PM, and music starts at 2:00 PM.
Some folks get involved in music to try and get famous. Real musicians, however, are motivated by the craft.
John Cafferty is of the latter variety. He formed the Beaver Brown Band in 1972, cutting his teeth in barrooms along the East Coast for a decade before his brush with the big fame machine came along. It was an offer to record the soundtrack for the movie Eddie & the Cruisers (1983), and it certainly boosted his profile.
Curiously, neither the film nor the soundtrack did all that well upon initial release, but subsequent airings on HBO rejuvenated interest and sent the album up the charts. It went on to sell over four million copies, and the ensuing string of hit singles, including “Tender Years,” “C-I-T-Y,” and “On the Dark Side,” has helped keep him and his band on the road ever since.
But it’s the sense of purpose he derives from making music that got him started. And, fifty years on, it’s what keeps him going.
Case in point? A fundraiser he’s playing on Saturday, August 14. It’s an outdoor show at the Kowloon on Rte. 1 in Saugus, Mass., and it benefits an organization called Rockin’ 4 Vets, formed in 2015 to assist veterans dealing with PTSD and substance abuse through live music events. Cafferty has appeared at a half dozen of these events, both by himself and with the band. The show on the 14th is of the latter variety, featuring sax player Michael Antunes, who turns 81 the week prior.
“We like to get involved in doing things that help to make peoples’ lives better,” Cafferty said during a recent call from his Rhode Island home. “Music is a giving thing. When I go see someone play, and they’re delivering the right way, it lifts my heart up and makes me feel better… always has. And I have that ability to do that for other people, so do my friends, and it’s a gift. So, when asked to pitch in, we have a tendency to say yes.”
Cafferty says he originally met Rockin’ 4 Vets founder Jim Tirabassi through bluesman James Montgomery, a mutual friend who helped Tirabassi, who used to do larger shows with artists like Foghat, The Outlaws, and Badfinger, start his organization. As a disabled vet with a passion for organizing events, Tirabassi launched Rockin’ 4 Vets to see if he could deliver a better return to the non-profits of his choosing.
“This is the very beginning of the first foray into doing live shows again,” Tirabassi said over the phone. “I’m also on the Board of Veterans Assisting Veterans (VAV), and they’re doing a unique thing, bringing a dozen vets down to the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial Wall in D.C. this September. We started this project a year and a half ago but had to halt it because of COVID, so it’s a long time in coming. This concert fundraiser is one of the final parts of putting this trip to D.C. together for these guys.”
This show is one of Cafferty’s first since the lifting of COVID-related restrictions on large gatherings. A tour itinerary is coming together that will keep him and the Beaver Brown Band busy well into next year, assuming the mounting threat of viral variants doesn’t shutter venue doors once more.
“Our schedule just started,” he said. “We did a couple of spring shows in New Orleans, private ones, not open to the public. But we just started playing to crowds this past weekend at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey. We had a year and a half off. But we huddled up together when we could, safely, and continued on making music and writing songs. I felt pretty safe when we played this past weekend, but I tried not to extend myself unnecessarily. I believe in the vaccines.”
Tirabassi is erring on the side of caution.
“Anything we’re planning right now will be outdoors,” he explained. “I know folks want to get back to indoor shows, and I understand that, but I think it’s wise to avoid that right now. I will certainly have masks available at this show so that people can feel as comfortable as possible.”
Cafferty isn’t looking ‘on the dark side’ with regard to the pandemic. Instead, he’s focused on the good it brought out in some of us.
“This was an unimaginable situation we’ve been through,” he said. “If someone told you the week before that it was gonna happen, you wouldn’t have believed it. And then it did. But the world and the individuals in it found a resilience they didn’t know they had. When things were dark, people stood up and helped one another, protected one another… people were willing to put themselves on the line. Look at these essential workers — talk about heroes!”
“With these veteran events we do that Jim puts together, we’re also honoring and celebrating heroes, people who put themselves on the line. That’s who the vets are, putting themselves out there for the sake of everyone else, and they deserve everything we can give them.”
John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band will perform as part of a Rockin’ For Vets fundraiser event at Kowloon on Rte. 1 in Saugus, Mass., on Saturday, August 14, from 1 to 5 PM. Click HERE to purchase tickets.
From where Cody Carpenter lives in Los Angeles, he can see the dark shadow cast by the ash from the wildfires as they continue raging nearby. It’s a real-life horror show, as opposed to the fictitious ones for which he and his father, Director/Composer John Carpenter, have created riveting soundtracks.
In addition to helping his dad score the 2018 reboot of Halloween, Cody composed the music for Vampires (1998, starring James Woods) and Ghosts of Mars (2001, with Ice Cube and Pam Grier). He also scored and performed the soundtracks to a pair of films in Showtime’s Masters of Horror series (2005).
But the smoky view from his perch in L.A. doesn’t exactly fill his head with musical ideas. “It’s hard to see the sun,” he said.
Despite the ominous look of the California sky on the day we speak, Carpenter is generally upbeat, not unlike the tone of his new solo release, Control (Blue Canoe Records). It’s the third installment in a triptych, preceded by Cody Carpenter’s Interdependence (2018) and Force of Nature (2019). Each of the three has a distinctive feel, but there are threads of musical personality running through that unify the projects as a series.
Control brims with contagious, propulsive energy thanks, in part, to a powerhouse cast of rhythm players like Jimmy Haslip and Junior Braguinh on bass, and Scott Seiver, Jimmy Branly, and Virgil Donati on drums. While it has no accompanying film, the album has an unshakably cinematic feel that showcases how the younger Carpenter’s visual imagination is never far behind his music.
Creativity took hold early for Cody, born John Cody Carpenter, in 1984. He says his dad always encouraged him to investigate music and there were instruments strewn throughout the house.
“My dad also played me the movies that were most important to him when I was young,” he said. “He didn’t want me watching the horror stuff too early on, but he made sure I saw other films that he considered important and influential.”
Likewise, his mom, actress/singer Adrienne Barbeau (Maude, The Fog), had him take piano lessons at a young age and encouraged him to find his singing voice.
Now 36, he’s admirably accomplished, having released music under various names since his teens, including a pair of mighty accessible, vocal-synth-pop albums attributed to Ludrium.
For the current series, the music is instrumental and significantly more complex, but not bogged down by gravity. Much of Control is exuberant — even breezy, in parts — when compared to the dark, Tolkienesque feel that stereotypes prog-rock. From the joyous “Unconditional” to the percussive, Latin-inflected track, “Badger’s Wedding,” the album makes for an energizing listen.
“I’m aware that progressive rock has been associated with severe moods, but this kind of adventurous music doesn’t have to be in that box,” he said. “And I don’t necessarily think it should be. Compared to the music I make with my dad, this is more out of leftfield. The earliest music of my own that I recorded was far more similar to what people think of as stereotypical prog: incredibly introspective, lots of dark elements. Then I started listening to more jazz fusion. When I was younger, I really didn’t like it; I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. But over the years, my ears relaxed and I could let it in. It definitely influences my writing.”
A multi-instrumentalist focusing on keyboards, Carpenter thrives in the ‘no rules’ environment that his solo projects afford him. It’s a much roomier approach to composing than his film score work, which requires a different sort of discipline. But when father and son work together, they still manage to incorporate a large degree of creative freedom.
“Every film score project is different,” he said. “When you’re working with an image, you take cues from the director as far as what part they want the music to play, what emotion they want it to elicit in the viewer, etc. You’re serving the viewer and enhancing their experience. The way my dad and I do things is still highly improvisational, though. We sit down with an image; we play to it and see the ways we can make it work with what’s happening on the screen.”
For their pre-Halloween reboot collaborative releases, Lost Themes (2015) and Lost Themes II (2016), the Carpenter duo crafted cinematic tunes to an imaginary film. For these recordings and the ensuing tour dates, they were joined by longtime family friend, Daniel Davies, son of The Kinks’ Dave Davies.
“Daniel and I grew up together,” Cody explained. “At one point, he moved into my dad’s house, so we lived as brothers for a little while. Lost Themes began with just my dad and me sitting down at the computer and playing around with some new gear. I ended up moving to Tokyo afterward, and while I was there, my dad emailed me to say there was interest in releasing the material we’d worked on, so Daniel stepped in to write some more and help finish it up. For Lost Themes II, we actively worked as a trio. The concept was the same for both: we weren’t scoring a specific image, but rather, the film in your mind. The music encourages the listener to create their own scenes.”
Even with his various solo achievements, Cody says that touring with his dad — when the Lost Themes trio expands to a muscular 6-piece — is his proudest moment. It’s the culmination of a longstanding creative relationship that isn’t weighed down by rivalry or unnecessary expectations.
“I’m so happy to have the opportunity to work with him and to know that he wants to do it and can use me in these projects,” he said. “There’s never been this concept of stepping out of someone’s shadow. Maybe it’s because the music I make on my own is so different, or maybe it’s just because I have a good working relationship with him. Either way, when we go on tour, to perform my dad’s music for his fans is a great feeling. I’m incredibly lucky.”
Creatively speaking, Vanilla Fudge knew precisely what they were doing. They had a plan.
The quartet will always be remembered for their mind-bending reading of the Holland-Dozier-Holland classic “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” originally made famous by The Supremes. The track epitomizes their strength in laying bare the emotional core of pop songs that’d previously gotten diluted in popular, AM-radio-friendly treatments.
“There was a fad around that time, particularly throughout New York City and Long Island,” said revered drummer Carmine Appice over the phone from Manhattan, preparing for a run of shows that brings Vanilla Fudge to the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, Mass., on Saturday, November 16, with special guest Joe Merrick. (Purchase tickets HERE).
“We had The Vagrants with Leslie West, The Hassles with Billy Joel, The Rich Kids… a whole scene was going on around the concept of what were called ‘production numbers.’ It involved taking the original hit version of a song, slowing it down and making it more dramatic by changing the stage lighting and shifting the overall dynamic. We grabbed onto an additional aspect of that by looking at the lyrics. What do the words say? We created an atmosphere with that. These were songs with what I call ‘hurtin’ lyrics’ — mostly about love, and not all positive and upbeat sentiments. On the radio, however, it’d be an upbeat song with these sad lyrics. So, Vanilla Fudge sought to put the drama back into these songs.”
It makes total sense. While the needling repetition of a single guitar note perpetuates a sense of anxiety in The Supremes’ 1966 version of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” the signature Motown stomp remains front and center, carrying the listener away from the protagonist’s headspace and onto the dance floor. Vanilla Fudge’s version, on the other hand, portrays the subject as if they’re under a crushing emotional weight. The way that keyboardist Mark Stein’s eerie organ notes suddenly intersect with Appice’s cracking snare and crashing cymbal is startling as hell. And then, of course, there’s the flipped gender script from the pop version. It’s overwrought, it’s outrageous and — to this day — it works.
“We cut that song in one take,” Appice recalled. “We did it in mono. Everything was recorded all at once. It’s seven-and-a-half minutes, and it totally changed how people thought of the song. We did something similar with songs by The Impressions, The Beatles, many others. We’d set them in a churchy atmosphere, almost a lonely, cemetery vibe. We had a pattern with the vocals where Mark would start, then each of us would get added in and build it up to a frenzy.”
Unfortunately, producer George “Shadow” Morton derailed the band’s creative plan. Morton eschewed the musical nuances of their debut in favor of far-flung concepts for the follow-up, 1968’s The Beat Goes On, which he made from a hodgepodge of historical spoken word segments and (mostly) snippets of actual songs. What was once outrageous now seemed indulgent. While the album initially charted well on the strength of its predecessor, Appice blames it for not allowing the band to reach the next level of an otherwise promising career.
Unlike countless underdog albums with which artists have made peace in hindsight, The Beat Goes On will not become a source of late-breaking pride for Vanilla Fudge.
“If it was going to happen at all, that should’ve been, like, our eighth album,” Appice said with a chuckle. “There we were with a big success, and we were stupid about it. We didn’t know any better. Sgt Pepper was big, but that was all music, whereas this was almost all talking! FM stations were just beginning, experimenting with the format, and they’d sometimes play entire albums. Folks were calling up and asking them to take it off because it was depressing.”
Appice says that while they had other, better songs in the can already, Morton seemed determined to steer the album into the ground.
“If we’d had another hit single, it would have set a better foundation for us,” he said. “Instead, we had to rush in and do something quickly to save our asses, which turned into Renaissance, which had other production issues — no clarity, it was bottom-heavy… wasn’t what it should have been. Near the Beginning, which we produced ourselves, was much better. The album did well, and we got to go on Ed Sullivan again.”
It wasn’t enough to keep Vanilla Fudge from imploding in 1970, though they’ve reunited multiple times since. And if it wasn’t clear then, it certainly is now: the band’s considered highly influential. They hung out with Hendrix, shared stages with Led Zeppelin, and are cited as an inspiration by members of Deep Purple, Styx and Yes, among others. The hindsight accolades for helping bridge the gap from psychedelia to something harder are a large part of the Vanilla Fudge legacy.
Meanwhile, Appice’s drumming prowess has kept him perpetually busy. He credits quality management for finding ways to make his ideas materialize, particularly in the ’80s. His diversified career includes a wildly successful series of drum instruction books (the first of which he published in 1972), drumming clinics, and ‘Drum War’ events with his brother, Vinny Appice (Dio, Black Sabbath). He co-founded the bands Cactus, Blue Murder, King Cobra, and a supergroup, Beck, Bogert, and Appice. He had a fruitful creative partnership with Rod Stewart, recording, touring, and co-writing the hits “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” and “Young Turks.” He also toured behind Ozzy Osbourne’s Bark at the Moon album in 1983, but Sharon Osbourne fired him (the details are in Appice’s 2016 book, Stick It). Along the way, in addition to other solo projects, he produced a series of Guitar Zeus releases, which feature him playing drums with a host of world-renowned guitarists, from Queen’s Brian May to Yngwie Malmsteen to Ted Nugent. It’s an impressive resume.
Vanilla Fudge is currently working on a new collection of all Supremes songs, including a cover of “Stop! In the Name of Love,” which Appice says will feature original bassist Tim Bogert, (Pete Bremy has played bass in Vanilla Fudge for over a decade alongside originals Stein, Appice, and lead guitarist, Vince Martell). It will be their second project to pull material from one artist in particular, the first being an all Led Zeppelin set entitled Out Through the In Door, from 2007.
With new management, a new stage setup, and the seeds of a campaign for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame consideration, the quartet seems determined to make the most of its stake in rock history.
“Now, just like back then, there’s no other band quite like Vanilla Fudge,” he said. “No other band has the same dynamics combined with the quality of players. It’s enabled us to stick around. In ’67, we were also lucky. We came at the right time; everything was experimental, folks were finding new ways of playing rock, blending it with jazz and improvising, pioneering new drum sounds… I helped take that to the next level. I’m one of the only drummers left from that era.”
The Narrows Center is located at 16 Anawan Street in Fall River, Mass. Tickets to this show can be purchased online by clicking HERE or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. To purchase tickets in person, box office hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 12 noon to 5 p.m.
When The Zombies perform a sold out show at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, MA, on August 27th, the audience will be in for a special treat. Israeli singer-songwriter and actress Ninet Tayeb will open the show for the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers.
While Tayeb is arguably one of the biggest entertainment figures in her native country, she has been building a name for herself in the music industry since relocating to Los Angeles in July 2016. Progressive rock fans may know her from her duets with Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree), but she also has recorded five solo albums. Last fall, Tayeb recorded a powerful new song called “Self-Destructive Mind,” and she recently released a beautiful rendition of a Joni Mitchell’s classic song “Woodstock” in celebration of the Woodstock Festival’s 50th anniversary.
As Tayeb is in the midst of rehearsing for her upcoming East Coast tour, she took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with Limelight Magazine to discuss her move to Los Angeles, collaborating with Steven Wilson, coping with anxiety and how she’s chosen to blaze her own path as a female musician, among other things.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Next month, you will be performing select dates with The Zombies, including a show we booked at the Narrows Center in Fall River, MA, on August 27th. How do you feel about opening for such a legendary band who were just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
NINET TAYEB: I feel privileged to have a tour with The Zombies! They are such a great and important band. I’ve heard so much about their live shows and I actually can’t wait to hear them playing live. I’m sure I can learn so much. I feel blessed and honored.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: For this show, you will be performing as a trio. Who are the two other musicians joining you? Why did you select them for this tour?
NINET TAYEB: The two musicians with me on this tour are Joseph E-Shine. He’s the MD of this show and the bass guitar player. And Yotam Weiss, my drummer. He will be performing on percussion. We thought to have a special arrangement for this specific tour.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: You’ve recorded five solo albums. How do you go about selecting songs for your set list?
NINET TAYEB: It’s actually both fun and frustrating as we have so much we want to share with the audience:) We build it so it will represent our style.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: I was introduced to your music through your work with Steven Wilson. How did you end up collaborating with him? How do you best describe your musical partnership?
NINET TAYEB: Steven is an amazing musician and I owe him so much. He saw me playing many years ago and then after a while he sent me a song of his that’s called Routine, I’ve recorded this one and sent it back to him, his reply was “ok, I’m sending you three more songs” 🙂
And that was the beginning of a remarkable journey we both share till this day. He is a true artist and that’s what I love the most about him, constantly changing and evolving.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Are there plans to perform any songs from your work with Steve Wilson on this tour?
NINET TAYEB: Maybe 😉
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Last fall, you released a powerful new song called “Self-Destructive Mind.” I’ve read the song was influenced by your decision to leave your native country of Israel and relocate to Los Angeles, CA, as well as your struggles coping with anxiety. Can you elaborate more on the meaning of this song?
NINET TAYEB: Well, the song came to me while I was sitting in my balcony in LA, staring at the moon. It was two years after leaving my home in Israel and I suddenly realized what it means. The loneliness and despair that can come out of this kind of situation, the compassion and hope towards the future and everything in between. And yes, I’ve suffered from panic attacks. They show up out of nowhere with no warning signs and all you can do is cover your head under the blanket or write a song, in that moment, that’s what I chose.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: The video for “Self-Destructive Mind” was directed by your husband, Joseph E. Shine. The video made the song come to life visually. Did you have any input on the video or did you leave everything up to your husband?
NINET TAYEB: Of course, I had input. We thought about it together and decided that was the best way to deliver a vision for the audio.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: This song is also the first single from your forthcoming solo album. How far along are you in the recording process? When do you expect it to be released?
NINET TAYEB: The new album will be released in the beginning of next year.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Several studies show that women face difficulties breaking into the music business. You’ve chosen to blaze your own path. What would your advice be to aspiring female musicians who are looking to pursue a career in the music industry?
NINET TAYEB: Don’t listen to studies because few months from now you will hear about another study that says the exact opposite.
Women are powerful, period. To have a successful career is something that takes time, effort and devotion, and of course, talent. I can give you a long list of a VERY successful badass musicians, females who are out there playing and spreading their magic. It’s all a matter of perspective and the way you choose to look at things.
I don’t think we compete with men or are trying to overshadow them, we play together, all kinds, all genders.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Your music career has had number of noteworthy accomplishments, especially in Israel. What has been the personal highlight of your career so far?
NINET TAYEB: My highlight has not arrived yet.
MAGAZINE: Lastly, for many people coming to see you open for The Zombies, this will be their first time seeing you perform live. What do you hope they take away from your performance?
NINET TAYEB: That’s a very good and scary question! I really hope they will not regret;)
For more information about Tayeb, visit her website by clicking HERE.
After nearly 30 years since releasing a studio album, melodic hard rockers Fifth Angel return with a new album, The Third Secret, on October 26th via Nuclear Blast Records. The new album consists of 10 tracks that members of the band promise will please both their die hard fans and new fans alike.
“We are very proud of the new album! We hope the fans will hear the classic threads of the Fifth Angel they know and love, along with the growth and maturity the individuals of the band have gone through over the years,” said guitarist and vocalist Kendall Bechtel in a press release for the new album. “We hope they love the new songs as much as we do.”
In the 1980s, Fifth Angel was signed to a seven-album deal with Epic Records, but released only two albums – Fifth Angel in 1988 & Time Will Tell in 1989. (Click HERE to read a review/reflection of Time Will Tell). With a lack of label support in the early 1990s and the rise of grunge music, the band was released from their contract and went their separate ways.
Fast forward to 2018 and Fifth Angel is back with a lineup that consists of Bechtel, John Macko (bass), Ed Archer (guitars) and Ken Mary (drums). [Original vocalist Ted Pilot was asked to be part of the reunion but declined].
With their highly anticipated new album nearing its release, Limelight Magazine caught up with Macko who discussed recording the album, what it’s like to be back in the band and if we’ll see the band tour to support the release.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: On October 26th, Fifth Angel will release its third studio album, The Third Secret, on Nuclear Blast Records. It’s been nearly 30 years since your last album, Time Will Tell. Why did the band decide to do another studio album after all these years?
JOHN MACKO: We had been contemplating making a new record since 2010 when we played the KIT festival, but for one reason or another, it never happened, then after our performance at the 2017 KIT festival, we had gotten an offer to make a record with Nuclear Blast Records and that really got the ball rolling.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: How long did it take the band to record The Third Secret and how do the songs hold up against your classic late 80s material?
JOHN MACKO: It took about 6 months to record and most of the song ideas were all new within a year or two at the most. We believe these songs stand with the prior records, capturing the style and spirit of the old stuff, but with modern production.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Fifth Angel released a digital single and lyric video for “Can You Hear Me” (click HERE to watch and listen). on September 7. Why was this song chosen as the lead single?
JOHN MACKO: I can’t really answer this question as our label Nuclear Blast made this choice, but we trust in their judgment and we are sure they had a good reason!
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: The album cover for The Third Secret was designed by Zsofia Dankova. It looks absolutely incredible. It also keeps the border art of the past two albums, which fans seem very excited about. Did the band have any input on the cover art or did the artist have free reign on the design?
JOHN MACKO: Zsofia did an amazing job for certain! But she did not make the design, the band crafted the design and we relayed that vision to Zsofia. The boarder was also our idea to keep some consistency and familiarity for the fans.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Since Fifth Angel has been away from the scene for so long, did you expect to ink a deal with Nuclear Blast Records?
JOHN MACKO: Not at all! It was pretty amazing to us when the offer was made, it was just luck we think that an A&R rep was at our 2017 KIT show and loved our performance, had it not been for that show I don’t think this record would have been made.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: You’re first two albums (Fifth Angel & Time Will Tell) were released on Epic Records. How is it different being signed to a label today compared to back then?
JOHN MACKO: Well, I can’t speak for other labels in today’s market, but I will tell you working with Nuclear Blast is an absolute joy! Night and day between them and Epic/CBS records! They are tremendous to work with and we would recommend them to any band out there. They get things done right away and give us all of the creative freedom we need.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: I’ve read that Fifth Angel originally signed a seven album deal with Epic but was eventually released from its contract. What led to the band’s initial break up in the early 90s?
JOHN MACKO: Basically it was bad timing, the band was dropped from Epic after the rise of “Grunge” music which drastically changed the direction of the music scene. Labels turned their attention to those types of bands.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: When the band decided to record a new album, did you reach out to original vocalist Ted Pilot to be part of the line up?
JOHN MACKO: Yes of course! We have always asked Ted to be a part of anything we have been doing, but he felt his voice was not up to par.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Was it a difficult transition for Kendall Bechtel to go from being a guitarist to handling both guitar and vocal duties?
JOHN MACKO: I don’t think so, Kendall has been lead singing for many years with his own side projects and also doing guest appearances on other artists records.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: As I was drafting questions for this interview, I read a press release that original rhythm guitarist Ed Archer has returned to the band. Does this mean that Fifth Angel may actually tour the States to support the release? (On behalf of all of your fans, we’d love to see you play some New England dates!)
JOHN MACKO: There are no plans of yet, but it certainly is in the realm of possibility!
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE:I came across an interview with drummer Ken Mary in the August 1988 issue of Hit Parader where he said, “I don’t want to say that our show will necessarily be Cooperesque [in reference to being Alice Cooper’s drummer at the time as well as Fifth Angel’s], but let’s just say that there will definitely be some surprises, and lots of things that people haven’t seen before.” Interestingly, the band never ended up performing any live dates back then. Out of curiosity, why didn’t the band ever tour?
JOHN MACKO: It was always part of our plan to tour, but it seemed that one situation after another would always prevent us from making that happen, again bad timing seemed to be the issue.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Lastly, how excited are you personally to see the band back together and doing interviews about a new album again?
JOHN MACKO: Yes of course! Who would have ever thought? I feel truly blessed and lucky to have this second chance; most musicians don’t even get that opportunity once in their life time!
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Is there anything else you’d like to add to this interview?
JOHN MACKO: We just hope the fans love this record as much as we do and continue to keep the faith!
Over the summer, Limelight Magazine had the opportunity to catch British rock band Modern English in concert at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I. The band was taking part in the month long Retro Futura tour that also featured Howard Jones, Men Without Hats, The English Beat, Paul Young and Katrina (formerly of Katrina and The Waves). It was our first time seeing any of these acts live in concert.
While we were impressed by everyone’s performance, Modern English’s short set was the highlight of the entire show. Rather than stick to their ‘80s material, the band included a new song in their set called “Moonbeam” which is featured on their most recent studio album Take Me To The Trees. The song had the audience on their feet with a standing ovation. Since I couldn’t get the song out of my head, I purchased the physical CD on Amazon after the show and I’ve been playing it non-stop ever since. The album had such an impact on me that I also purchased their other studio albums, including some from private sellers on E-bay.
Take Me To The Trees is the band’s first studio album in 30 years and features four-fifths of the original lineup. The album reconnects the band to their roots, as it was co-produced bv Martyn Young of Colourbox and M/A/R/R/S fame, whose last production job was 1986. The album’s cover was also done by Vaughan Oliver, whose first sleeve design was Modern English’s “Gathering Vibes” single in 1980.
Modern English is currently rehearsing for a fall tour of the U.S. that will hit ONCE Ballroom in Somerville, Mass., on November 13th. (Purchase tickets HERE). Despite his busy schedule, lead singer and guitarist Robbie Grey, who has been part of every incarnation of the band, answered some questions Limelight Magazine had for him about the Take Me To The Trees album and tour.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE (LM): According to the band’s Facebook page, Modern English is currently rehearsing for their upcoming tour of the US. How are rehearsals going so far?
ROBBIE GREY: The rehearsals are going well. It’s great to be playing a mixture of really early Modern English material with the new album and figuring out how to arrange the set.
LM: Earlier this year, Modern English released its first album in over 30 years with four-fifths of the original line up. How was recording this album with this line-up different than recording your first three studio albums?
ROBBIE GREY: “Well we did the new album in our own art studio space using the art gallery as the live room. Before we always used recording studios. Also, using the music program logic was new to us. Recording over a couple of years was new as we could never afford that before using professional studios.”
LM: Do you have a favorite song off Take Me To The Trees and why is it your favorite?
ROBBIE GREY: “Trees” is my favourite. It reminds me of a film soundtrack. It’s very cinematic. I love the arrangement of the instrumentation. Also the lyric is very nature based. I like that.
LM: Take Me To The Trees was a PledgeMusic supported album. Why did the band choose to take this approach?
ROBBIE GREY: It’s the new way. Great to touch base with our fans. We were surprised after all the time away to do so well with the Pledges. We had a lot of control which was a real bonus.
LM: Does recording new music through a fan driven campaign create more or less pressure on the band than having the support of a record label to produce a hit single?
ROBBIE GREY: It’s a lot less pressure I think. No record company means no interference.
LM: Speaking of the new album, Take Me To The Trees is one of your best. I’ve played it non-stop since buying it on Amazon. At this point in time, do you know how much of the new album will be part of the set list for the upcoming US tour?
ROBBIE GREY: “Trees,” “Sweet Revenge,” “Moonbeam” will all be featured on the tour.
LM:As for the older songs, will you primarily focus on material from Mesh & Lace, After The Snow and Ricochet Days with the original line up or will there be songs from Stop Start, Pillow Lips, Everything Is Mad and Soundtrack as well?
ROBBIE GREY: The shows will feature songs from Take Me To The Trees, in addition to early 4AD singles and tracks from Mesh and Lace’ and After the Snow.
LM: I got to see you perform for the first time this summer in Providence, RI, on the Retro Futura tour. One of the highlights of your set was hearing “Moonbeam” from Take Me To The Trees. You were the only band to play a new song and the audience loved it. Many bands at retro shows typically stay away from performing new songs but you included one in your set. How do you feel when the audience appreciates your new music just as much as what you created in the past?
ROBBIE GREY: We agreed to the Retro Futura tour only if we could play new material. “Moonbeam” fit into the short set really well. People really liked it. Always good when new stuff goes down well.
LM: You’ve had various lineups of Modern English over the years. What makes recording and performing with this core group of individuals different than the rest?
ROBBIE GREY: It’s the original band. Always had a magic about it. There’s no comparison really. Get us in a music room and it works.
LM: You may have been asked this before but looking back on your long career with Modern English, what has been one of the biggest highlights for you personally?
ROBBIE GREY: “We just picked up an award in London for 5 million radio plays for “I Melt With You.” More than Bowie’s “Changes” and ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.” I mean that’s pretty good!
LM: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
ROBBIE GREY: We always just want to make music. We’re still very creative. It’s an exciting feeling. I hope people can see that.
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