The Trick Is To Keep Going

Tag: ’70s rock

Napi: Love You Every Day, Background Singers Extraordinaire

by on Mar.01, 2016, under Music

NapiArt Small 530

Love You Ever Day was a tune I wrote in 1977 and was one of the first that Napi Browne recorded. To be exact, it was the third song we recorded during a home session over a few days during the summer of ’77 in the basement apartment of guitarist Nick Bagnasco (Nicky Nasko).

We had a control room set up in the furnace room of Nick’s house, and used my TEAC 3340S four-track machine along with a Ludwig mixing console that was also our PA mixer, along with a variety of mics, some borrowed, to record the proceedings. At one point Nick had a mic in the oven in the main part of the apartment to record his guitar. We cleared out his bedroom to set up a vocal booth, and we had guitars, bass and drums scattered throughout over the course of the two or three days. Complete chaos!

Still, this track has a very clean sound to it, some tasty guitar playing by Nick and Dan Gulino, our other lead guitarist, and a very funky percussion track by the group’s second drummer George Wilson, who had joined the group in late 1976 after Richie Catalano left the group.

It also benefits from an extraordinary group of background singers that included Jayne Olderman and Sarah and Peggy Heath. We were so lucky to have them join us on the vocal overdubs and their parts throughout are amazing. Just what I wanted for this tune, and it was a kick singing with them.

This was a bit of a departure from the group’s usual fare because in our early days most of the original material was straight-ahead rock. The song starts in a pop vein but quickly develops into something more jazz-rock oriented structurally and especially instrumentally.

I’m not sure where the inspiration came from. Well, actually I do but more on that later. Right now, I’m talking about the inspiration for the feel of the track, chord changes, melody and instrumentation. I was listening to a lot of fusion and Latin jazz in the ’70s and some of our cover list included jazz-rock material. So, that’s likely what inspired me.

Both Nick and Dan take nice solo turns on the track, Nick plays an infectious rhythm throughout and George is locked in on the funky Latin grooves. Nick takes the first solo during the main section of the song with a decidedly jazz feel. Dan takes three choruses at the end of the main section building throughout, incorporating more rock and jazz-rock ideas. Then we turn the rhythm around twice and he plays some incendiary fills against the background and lead vocals on the tag.

This song was a mainstay live in our early days. Eventually, I believe we dropped it from the set list as we wrote newer tunes.

The inspiration comes from one source emotionally, my wife, Lynne. We weren’t married yet but Lynne was an extraordinary inspiration then as she has been over the years.

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Napi Browne: Two sides to the band

by on Feb.24, 2014, under Music


The two tracks below were recorded about two years apart at different studios and with different drummers. They show off two distinct sides of the band Napi Browne, which played extensively in southern New England and Long Island in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

Napi Browne backstage at the Oxford Ale House in the late 1970s. From left, Nick Bagnasco, Dennis DeMorro, Dan Gulino and Paul Rosano

The first, Forget All About It,  is an all-out, straight-ahead rocker, written by Nick Bagnasco, one of our two lead guitarists. Nick also sang lead on the track. I used to love playing this tune. It’s an in-your-face, no-holds barred guitar rock song that never lets up. We recorded it at Paul Leka Studios in Bridgeport around 1981. Vic Steffens, who was playing live with us at the time, is on drums and he also co-produced the track.

But the band also liked to play other types of music, particularly fusion and funk, and the second tune, Phase In Phase Out, written by Dan Gulino, our other lead guitarist, displays that aspect. An instrumental, it shows off both guitar players and the rhythm section, which included Dennis DeMorro on drums.

Phase In, Phase Out was recorded at Bearville Studios in Woodstock, N.Y., and was produced by the band. We stayed up there for about three days in a little house directly opposite the Bear Restaurant. I had stayed there previously during the early ’70s with Beau Segal, drummer for Pulse and Island. At the time, we were working as session players for Sam Gordon’s Publishing house in New York.

Check out Dan’s lead on Forget All About it and the harmony guitars in the middle section. That was a trademark of the band and something Nick and Dan had worked on for years. They had a tight and tasty blend together.

The harmony guitars are also in evidence on Phase In, Phase Out. Nick takes the middle section solo and Dan plays lead all around his melody lines throughout the tune.

The band was versatile. We usually played about one set’s worth or our own tunes, including these two. Some of the bands we covered showed the range of the group as well as the original material. We played Bodhisattva by Steely Dan, Freedom, Wait Until Tomorrow and Message To Love by Hendrix, Good Times, Bad Times by Zeppelin, Jeff Beck instrumentals, including Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers on which Danny soloed, material from Les Dudek and Nils Lofgren as well as familiar club fare for the time by the likes of Bowie, ZZ Top and others, even the Beatles.


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Island: Where Am I Going?

by on Nov.23, 2013, under Music


Island was a trio formed after the final breakup of Pulse, a Connecticut rock group of the late 1960s with a self-titled album on Poison Ring.

Before moving on to Island, though, a little background on the second version of Pulse, a four-piece group, which had changed the direction of the original six-piece band from almost strictly blues-rock to other styles, including country blues, country rock and pop, but still a hard-driving unit.

Pulse as a four-piece band with from left, Peter Neri, Harvey Thurott, Beau Segal and Paul Rosano, back.

In the spring of 1970 after the departure of lead singer Carl Donnell from the original six-piece, a variety of lineups were tried until it was settled on Peter Neri, lead guitar and vocals, Paul Rosano, bass and vocals, and Beau Segal, drums and backup vocals, all staying on and the addition of Harvey Thurott, a second lead guitarist and singer/songwriter joining the band.

The group lasted until December, having parted ways with Doc Cavalier and Syncron Studios, the going was tough in Connecticut. Harvey left the band, and Peter, Paul and Beau moved into New York to try to land a record deal.

In New York, the band went even more in a singer/songwriter, pop-rock direction. We had virtually nothing except our equipment when we moved in and a ton of song ideas. We rehearsed in a loft in the mid-20s on the West side between Fifth and Sixth Avenues that Peter and Beau rented and lived in and literally auditioned in the offices of a number of prominent management agencies, including Michael Jeffries, who managed McKendree Spring, Albert Grossman-Benet Glotzer, who represented a plethora of artists such as Dylan, Todd Rundgren, The Band and many others, and even Sid Bernstein, who wanted to set up a showcase for us in the Village.

We settled on doing business mainly with Grossman-Glotzer and in particular Sam Gordon who ran their publishing arm. He promptly signed us to a publishing deal and set up all kinds of studio time.

By the way, the photo above is of the second Pulse with Harvey since I have virtually nothing from the Island era. So you’re getting 3/4 of Island in it.

We recorded most of our tunes at the old Capitol Studios in midtown, which was a cavernous room used for orchestras and musical comedy soundtrack recordings mostly, but the song here was done at Blue Rock in the Village, which is no longer around. A nice studio though. There are some photos of it in the video as well as one of Capitol.

As an added touch to this session, Sam Gordon got Todd Rundgren to come down and help engineer/produce it as a favor. We had produced the sessions at Capitol ourselves. The Blue Rock session is undoubtedly the best sounding of all the Island recordings. Rundgren had just released Something/Anything? and we would have loved to have him as our producer but he was being courted by some heavy hitters such as the New York Dolls and Grand Funk Railroad, both of whom seemingly gave him big paydays. Todd was quiet that afternoon but very easy to get along with and did a masterful job for us.

One thing I recall other than the session itself was that we literally ran into or rather walked into and met Astrud Gilberto, the Brazilian singer, who was checking the studio out for a possible location for her next album. Charming and quite beautiful.

Where Am I Going? was the first track we recorded that day and we were all quite pleased with it, still am. We got a particularly good drum sound on the track for Beau’s semi-busy but appropriate parts and everything worked out as planned from the vocals — I sang lead, Peter harmony — to Peter’s guitar parts and a piano part added by Barry Flast, whom we had met at Gordon’s Publishing offices.

The song followed our trend of writing and playing in a pop style. I recall getting the initial idea for it while walking around the city, notably the intro vocal and a piano playing straight fours. I used to love walking around New York on my own and often would trek from Chelsea, where I lived, to the East Village and back, with melodies and chord changes flying through my head, a great way to come up with musical ideas


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Napi Browne: Let’s Get Right To It

by on Mar.18, 2013, under Music


Napi Browne was a Connecticut rock band based in New Haven in the mid-to-late 1970s and early ’80s. The band was formed in August 1976, started playing in September, and played its last gig in Westerley, R.I., during the summer of 1980.

The two lead guitarists, Nick Baganasco and Dan Gulino, and the bass player Paul Rosano were together for the life of the band. Four drummers were in the band at various times over the roughly four years: Rich Catalano, George Wilson, Dennis DeMorro and Vic Steffens.

Songs written by Nick, Dan and Paul were recorded in various settings while the band was together, from Bearsville Studios, near Woodstock, N.Y., to Paul Leka’s studio in Bridgeport, and even in Nick’s basement early on in 1977, during which we had a mic in Nick’s oven at one point to record a guitar track.

Let’s Get Right To It (video below) was recorded in Bridgeport with Vic Steffens on drums. The song was chosen as the opening track for WHCN’s Homespun compilation album of Connecticut bands, which was released in 1980.

This tune was pretty much a complete collaboration among the three writers. I can’t remember exactly who came up with the original concept for the song, but I do remember working on it in Nick’s living room at his cottage in East Haven with acoustic and electric guitars with small amps.

I believe it was probably Danny or Nick or perhaps both who had the original musical idea, and I contributed mainly with the melody and lyrics, although it really was one of the few songs on which we equally collaborated. Nick tells me at the start of working the tune up, he sang lead. I don’t remember that. But he says he just wasn’t feeling it, so I gave it a go and felt comfortable with it.

Danny takes the solo, a short but vibrant and compelling statement, and there is three-part guitar harmony, along with three-part vocal harmony, on the choruses. Paul Gabriel was at the studio that night, so the guys asked him if he would sit in so they could record the three-part guitar harmony in one overdub, and he graciously accepted.

We produced this session ourselves and did the first mix on the track, but later brought in Jeff Cannata to tweak the mix a little and he did a nice job of bringing out certain aspects of the track that give it drive, particularly on the build toward the ending.

Here’s the tune with an accompanying video.


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Concerts Vol. 14: Led Zeppelin

by on Dec.29, 2011, under Music


Led Zeppelin in Paris Smaller Size
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In early August, 1969, there was quite a buzz about Woodstock. I don’t believe anyone, even at that late date, anticipated how big it was going to be. At least not among my friends.

Most of us were not planning on a trip to upstate New York though. On Sunday the 17th during the festival weekend, a concert was scheduled at the original Oakdale Music Theatre, with its theatre-in-the-round stage, in Wallingford, Conn., that was not to be missed, Led Zeppelin.

We’d seen Cream there the previous summer and myriad other mid-to-late ’60s acts: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Lovin’ Spoonful, Ray Charles. Shows I didn’t get to see included The Who, The Doors and Chicago. One of my bands, The Bram Rigg Set opened for The Dave Clark Five in late summer, 1967. It was an almost-perfect venue to get an up-close look at performers. Seating was perhaps no more than about 2,000, the closest within about 15 to 20 feet of the musicians, sometimes even closer when they came to the edge of stage, which was only a few feet off the ground.

Zeppelin’s first album was released in early 1969 and it made quite an impact. Surprising really. Jimmy Page was well known and I’d seen him with the last version of The Yardbirds in 1967 at the Village Theater in New York. But Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham, where did they come from? (continue reading…)

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Lofgren’s acoustic duet show creative, uplifting

by on Jul.25, 2011, under Music


It you’ve forgotten how good a guitar player Nils Lofgren is or for that matter how good a singer and songwriter he is, you should take in his latest Acoustic Duet show. Many probably don’t realize the depth of talent Bruce Springsteen’s guitar player possesses. But Lofgren has been around since his teens in the late 1960s and has continued to create a catalogue of classic rock tunes on a string of creative albeit somewhat overlooked albums.

Nils Lofgren Live 1 SmallWhen I noticed Lofgren would be playing at the Ridgefield Playhouse in late June, I quickly scooped up tickets for a venue I like a lot and an artist I had never seen in a solo atmosphere. Although an ardent fan, I didn’t know what to expect from a solo show. I figured a couple of acoustic guitars and Lofgren weaving through his most memorable compositions with perhaps help from one of his brothers. It was anything but.

He’s on acoustic for much of the night, but it has big, embellished sonics by his use of a number of effects that give it a rich texture, with chorus- and doubling-style layers almost sounding like a keyboard at times. Before he gets to it though, Lofgren comes out and plays a tune on electric harp, and he’s very musical on the unusual instrument, then rips into Too Many Miles with a Stratocaster that rocks the house, accompanied by the remarkable Greg Varlotta on electric keyboards. (continue reading…)

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Leon lights up the Infinity

by on Dec.09, 2010, under Music


I couldn’t resist putting this video of Leon Russell from 1971 on top of a piece that actually is about a recent show Leon played at the Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, Connecticut.

This show was taped in Los Angeles with his Shelter People band and a bunch of hippies in attendance dancing, listening and even preparing food, a very relaxed atmosphere. The song is one of the great rock ballads of all time, A Song For You.

His performance is masterful, the song is melodically beautiful and the lyrics poignant and penetrating. One of the great lyric ballads. There is another performance at the end of this piece of more recent vintage, same song. You’ll see Leon hasn’t lost much. To testify to that, he put on a brilliant show at the Infinity of good old Rock ‘n Roll with an excellent band, which included guitar virtuoso Chris Simmons.

This is the third time I’ve seen Leon, the first two in 1971 and 1972. The 1971 show was at the Fillmore East with Elton John opening, a show I’ve touched on a few times and that I need to write about in more detail. The ’72 show was at the Long Beach Arena (Calif.), when Leon was probably at the height of his popularity capable of filling large auditoriums. Later I would learn it was the show used for his classic live album, Leon Live. More on that one later, too.

At the Infinity, which has a relatively small stage, the right-hand side was taken up by Russell’s elaborate, almost montrous keyboard setup. No more grand piano as in the early ’70s. He gets acoustic sound from an electronic grand and it works out just fine. The audience can really only see the back of the keyboard setup, which is built in a large anvil case for traveling. The back is open and has hundreds of wires and connections so completely entwined with one another, you wonder how that actually works without a hitch and if anything went wrong how would a keyboard tech track down the problem. (continue reading…)

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Les Dudek blazing a trail on tour

by on Aug.14, 2010, under Music


Les Dudek Live 2 Large

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had always wanted to see Les Dudek in concert but never had the opportunity during the time he released four of the best solo albums of the late 1970s and early ’80s. Thursday night at The Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, Conn., I got my chance.

Dudek, a somewhat unheralded and almost forgotten guitar master, has played on much more music than many might realize. He recorded those four extraordinary solo albums and was also a member of DFK with keyboardist Mike Finnigan and guitarist Jim Krueger, before virtually disappearing for a big portion of the ’80s. He reappeared with two more solo efforts, the brilliant Deeper Shades Of Blues in 1994 and Freestyle (2002), an assortment of tracks he had never released but that hold together as a cohesive album.

He’s worked with a plethora of other artists as well. Predating his solo career, Dudek played on The Allman Brothers album Brothers & Sisters (1972), on which he provided the emblematic solo of Ramblin’ Man and co-wrote Jessica with Dickey Betts. He worked with Boz Scaggs for six years, including on the top-selling Silk Degrees, then played and toured with Steve Miller, writing What A Sacrifice for Miller’s classic Fly Like An Eagle album. He also worked with Cher in the short-lived rock band Black Rose and toured with and co-wrote tunes with Stevie Nicks in the early ’90s. Add to his resume that he provided some very hot guitar parts to TV themes for Law & Order, Extra, Friends, ESPN and many, many more.

At the Infinity, Dudek played with a trio that included Dan Walters, who provided rock solid and imaginative bass playing and background vocals, and the seemingly tireless and gifted drummer Gary Ferguson. The three ran through many tunes familiar to Dudek’s following from his solo albums as well as songs he’s collaborated on and some new material.

These three put on a a smokin’ show that never let up. Dudek plays a Fender Strat and he easily fills out the sound of the trio. The tone of his guitar sounds like it always has a slight bit of a chorus effect (or perhaps it was just the acoustics of Infinity’s nearly all wood interior), giving it a full, rich sound that almost sounds churchy.

Dudek’s single-string playing is simply jaw-dropping. There is no player in rock that has better chops. He mixes amazing flights of extremely adept and technically difficult runs with sweet, melodic phrasing. Add to this his rhythmic and exacting chord playing, often during and in between his solos, and a voice that is both pleasing and powerful with a wonderful range and Dudek is a tour de force by himself.

With Walters and Ferguson in support the band is electrifying and ferocious at times, as when Walters takes a solo flight that culminates with him expertly keeping up with Dudek on trade-offs, and as Ferguson provides deep grooves that drive the band relentlessly. (continue reading…)

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Exiled with The Stones

by on Jun.10, 2010, under Music


Around the time a re-mastering of The Rolling Stones early ’70s work Exile On Main Street was announced, I finally decided to read a book about the period I had picked up a few months prior.

Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street CoverA Season In Hell With The Rolling Stones by Robert Greenfield is the perfect companion to what many Stones fans believe is the group’s greatest album. There’s no doubt it comes from the group’s last great era, and although it’s one of my favorite Stones records, I don’t believe it’s their best.

Nonetheless, it has a fascinating story behind it and the album comes into sharper focus by reading what led up to its making. In short, because of the extreme tax laws at the time in England, much too complicated to recount, The Stones were forced to move to the south of France for an extended period and that would become the site of their recording for Exile.

Having exhausted most possible locations for the recording, The Stones settled on Villa Nellcote, where Keith Richards and girlfriend Anita Pallenberg were staying. The group set up in a room in the basement and with their trusty mobile recording studio outside set about recording a good deal of the album.

It is, however, pointed out in Greenfield’s book that it was a herky-jerky, start-and stop affair at best. What with Richards’ and Pallenberg’s drug indulgences, the celebrity-charged atmosphere that saw among others Gram Parsons settle in for an extended stay and in general an uneasiness between the group’s leaders, Richards and Mick Jagger, it’s a wonder this album was ever finished.

Still, with supplemental tracks and overdubs cut in Los Angeles and previous tracks recorded at Olympic Studios in London, the album was pieced together and remains one of The Stones most interesting, resting comfortably among it influences: blues, R&B, country blues, Motown and rock.

Richards is in all ways the main player in this saga, both in the book and it’s fairly detailed recounting of his life during this period, and the recording, during which despite his drug abuse he was essentially the creative force behind the songs.
(continue reading…)

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Concerts, Vol. 12: Jack Bruce and Friends

by on May.23, 2010, under Music


Jack Bruce & Friends. From left, Bruce, guitarist Larry Coryell, keyboardist Mike Mandel and drummer Mitch Mitchell.

Jack Bruce & Friends. From left, Bruce, guitarist Larry Coryell, keyboardist Mike Mandel and drummer Mitch Mitchell.

After the breakup of Cream in 1968, it became a point of fascination to see what was next for the three members.

Eric Clapton got together with Steve Winwood to form Blind Faith, which lasted from late 1968 to the end of the summer of ’69, producing one album and an ill-fated tour. He then took up with Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett in their touring band, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends. That led to Clapton’s first self-titled solo album, produced by Delaney, which still stands as one of Clapton’s very best.

Ginger Baker quickly formed an all-star band of sorts after Blind Faith, dubbed Air Force and recorded a double live and a studio album under the name. It was short-lived. He went through many other musical vehicles in the ’70s and ’80s but always seemed to produce his best work when recording what we now call World Music, then in the ’90s recorded two extraordinary jazz albums with Bill Frisell and Charlie Haden.

As for Bruce, he had already recorded a straight jazz album, which bordered on free jazz, in August of ’68, Things We Like, even before the Farewell Cream tour of that fall.

That was followed by Songs For A Tailor (September, 1969), a truly amazing mix of R&B, soul, blues, folk and rock blended with his Celtic sensibilities, particularly in his vocals, and the enigmatic yet compelling lyrics of his writing partner from Cream days, Peter Brown.

After Songs For A Tailor, probably his most successful commercial album, he has continued to blaze his own path with a string of artistic achievements in his solo career and with others, particularly Kip Hanrahan in the ’80s and ’90s, that has in most cases escaped the music world at large and especially the rock press. That notwithstanding, it can be easily argued Bruce has been the most creative and successful artistically of the three members from Cream.

Jack Bruce & Friends poster 3 SmallIn early 1970 Bruce put an intriguing and accomplished band together to tour in support of Songs For A Tailor. Called Jack Bruce & Friends, I noticed they were to play at the Fillmore East the weekend of January 30-31 as the opening act for Mountain! Leslie West’s group, at the time, was of course doing very well commercially in the wake left by Cream, but it startled and somewhat annoyed me that Bruce would actually be opening for them.

Nonetheless, my girlfriend and I secured tickets and went to one of the early shows. As I recall it was the Saturday night performance, although it’s possible it was Friday. In the 1990s, I became aware of a recording of one of the shows from that weekend. That kind of stunned me at the time, but it’s now happened more often than you would think possible. At first I believed it was the actual show we attended but I have seen it variously listed as either early show Jan. 30 or late show Jan. 31. So it’s impossible to pin down.

Suffice to say, the setlist is the same as the show we saw. And the recorded document confirms that although this band had not been together that long, it was producing dynamic and intricate versions of Bruce’s tunes, mainly from Songs For A Tailor. (continue reading…)

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