The Pulse album has been released at CDBaby.com, remastered with six bonus tracks and new cover art. These are real bonus tracks that were intended for the group’s second album, not tracks such as Can Can Girl and the like that were released by a previous version of the group and have nothing to do with the blues-rock group that produced this album. Click below to buy the album or individual tracks. The album and individual tracks are also available at HearNow. Enjoy!
The two tunes below were intended for the second Pulse album, Reach For The Sun, which never saw the light of day.
Both were written while the original six-piece band was together but weren’t arranged and recorded until 1969 during the transition period to a four-piece group that included second guitarist Harvey Thurott along with Beau Segal, Paul Rosano and Peter Neri.
Sometime Sunshine was the only tune on which Peter and I collaborated in Pulse. Peter wrote the main part of the song in late 1968, during a hiatus from the band for several months. When he came back in late ’68/early ’69 he had written a plethora of outstanding tunes that included Too Much Lovin’ (the Pulse album opener), Hypnotized, Garden Of Love and Days Of My Life (another unreleased gem), among others.
Sometime Sunshine was one of the band’s favorites of these tunes but Peter had no bridge for it. In early 1969 I had a song fragment that I believed would work in the middle of the tune. We tried it and somehow we made it happen in that little rehearsal shed at the back of the parking lot at Syncron Studios, our home base.
The song also became a showcase for the contrasting guitar tones and styles of Peter (Guild) and Harvey (Strat) as you can hear in the middle section call and answers between the two. And it was one of the highlights of the four-piece band’s live set.
Peter sang the middle section and I joined him in unison and harmony, one of my first recorded vocals.
The other tune, Heaven Help Me was one of my early compositions. At that time, I couldn’t pull off the opening acoustic and voice section of the tune so I taught the melody and changes to Peter, who developed the fingering style acoustic part and sang the melody exactly as I wanted it. I always thought that was amazing.
I sing the middle section, which still included Richie Bednarczyk on Steinway Grand, which attests to this being recorded during the transition, and Peter and I sing in unison mostly on the third section, which concludes the 7-minute tune.
An interesting side note on this song:
A license to use the song in a film by a Yale student was granted for an undisclosed (by my manager) sum of money. In fact, I didn’t even hear about this until weeks later when one of my fellow band mates mentioned it. When I went into the office of my manager/producer/publisher, he looked sheepishly at me, feigning disbelief that I didn’t know. He wouldn’t tell me for what the granting of the song’s rights were sold. Eventually, I was handed a check for $100, not an insignificant sum in the late ’60s, but for some reason I always felt it wasn’t commensurate with what it should have been.
One of the things that made me feel this was that when my manager’s accountant handed me the check he smirked and sarcastically remarked that I didn’t deserve to receive that much! Ah, the music business. Yet another familiar tale.
Anyways, I always liked both of these tunes and they were an indicator of where the band was headed. Unfortunately, this version of Pulse was no more after December of 1970. That then led to the New York-based Island.
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.
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.
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.
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
Days Of My Life was a track recorded after the first Pulse album was finished and was intended for a second album from the original six-piece group based in Wallingford, Conn., at Syncron Studios.
The tune was written by Peter Neri and indicated his development as a writer. Peter had a wealth of material during this period and Days Of My Life was one of his best compositions to date. It showed off the band’s playing in a jazzier blues style along with Carl Donnell’s accomplished vocals and the band’s intricate arrangement of the track, always spearheaded by drummer Beau Segal.
We all make significant contributions to this track from Peter’s driving rhythm guitar to Jeff’s outstanding harp fills and solo to Richie’s keyboard layers. We were all very much involved in the construction of this one.
The tune was recorded in 1969 and is one of the best of the unreleased tracks by the band. It’s hard to say how many tracks are in the can that never saw the light of day, but it has to be in the 15 to 20 range but probably higher. Check out the video below.
My Old Boy is the B-side of a single from the Pulse album from 1969. The tune is interesting because it’s quite different from anything else on the album.
The album is heavily blues-rock oriented and most of the tracks are in the four-to-five minute range with some longer. But this track, which was written by our drummer Beau Segal and Harvey Thurott, a guitarist and friend who would become a member of the four-piece Pulse in 1970, shows another side of the band and is packed with just about everything you can fit into 2 minutes, 36 seconds.
I always believed the opening track of the album, Too Much Lovin’ was the single to pull from it. The A-side actually turned out to be a track I felt was even less commercial than either of these songs, my own Another Woman.
Beau may have been trying to write a single with My Old Boy. He failed miserably and instead created a whirlwind of a track that never lets up from its infectious opening rhythm guitar riff to the phased (old fashioned phasing) harmony vocals and relentless melody lines in the verses and bridge.
There’s some outstanding guitar playing by Peter Neri, although some of it is, if not buried, sitting in the background, and the arrangement overall is inspired with a lot of tight twists and turns.
I believe we played this tune live but not that often, and I’m pretty sure that live Peter used to alternate lines in the verse on the lead vocal with our singer Carl Donnell because of the breathless melody.
Mastered from vinyl. Listen for the crackles.
Thanks For Thinking Of Me But It’s Alright is the closing track of Side 1 from the self-titled Pulse album from 1969. After it was written and we arranged it in late 1968, it was also almost always Pulse’s opening tune in concert.
The group Pulse was based in New Haven, Connecticut, more specifically Wallingford at Syncron Studios soon to become Trod Nossel, which is still operating, and managed and produced by Doc Cavalier. The first version of the band was a six-piece. We started rehearsing in January, 1968 and were together until almost mid-1970. There was a four-piece group for the remainder of 1970.
The personnel: Carl Donnell (Augusto), vocals, guitar; Peter Neri, lead guitar, vocals; Beau Segal, drums; Paul Rosano, bass, background vocals; Jeff Potter, harp, percussion; Rich Bednarzcyk, keyboards.
The album was recorded in 1968 and early 1969, this track as stated probably late ’68. It was written by our drummer Beau Segal. We were huge fans of the Butterfield Blues Band, one of our main influences at the time, and we had seen them a number of times at the Cafe Au Go Go in New York and the Psychedelic Supermarket in Boston as well as the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford.
Beau has said he took the lead line from a Butterfield tune he heard live. I know the one. Actually he embellished it a bit. If you listen to a live version of the tune by Butter it doesn’t have the chromatic ascent or the closing phrase that bounces off a minor third. And in fact, it’s not a Butterfield composition.
Butter was covering a Little Walter tune. Everything’s Gonna To Be Alright (1959). Butter’s version changed several times over the years. The only studio track I’ve heard is from an early session on the Original Lost Elecktra Sessions, which pre-dates the first Butterfield Band album.
It didn’t start with Little Walter either. The line was used by Elmore James in his Dust My Blues from 1955 as his closing solo. There are probably other examples from that time frame.
If you dig deeper you’ll hear the line as a part of the vocal melody on the bridge of Robert Johnson’s Kind Hearted Woman Blues, and the line is the basis for the main melody in Johnson’s Sweet Home Chicago. Wonder where he heard it if he didn’t originate it himself.
This stuff is fascinating, the Blues tradition. It’s reminiscent of the folk tradition in which entire chord structures and melodies of existing tunes were continually updated with new lyrics, particularly in the ’50s and early ’60s.
Going forward, it pops up in a number of other unusual places. In 1970, Atco Records released Live Cream, which included a studio outtake Lawdy Mama. The original Cream version of this song was a shuffle and included the same lead line. The outtake on Live Cream sees the track changed to a straight rock feel with the line still used but stretched out a bit.
However, many of us have heard this line hundreds of times on a slightly different track. The group ditched the Lawdy Mama version of the song when Felix Pappalardi was brought in to produce and his wife, Gail Evans, wrote new lyrics creating the tune Strange Brew. I never recognized the similarity until I heard the shuffle version of Lawdy Mama by Cream on a grey market item.
Eric Clapton would use the line again to good effect in his outstanding version of Sweet Home Chicago on the Sessions For Robert J album (2004). And so it goes.
The Butterfield Band was and remains one of my favorite groups of all-time and is sorely underappreciated. Thanks For Thinking Of Me was our tip of the hat to them, one of our major influences.
The last time we had seen Joe Bonamassa was about five years ago in New London, Conn., at the Garde Arts Center with Sam Bush and his band playing in support of the young blues master. A lot has transpired since then.
Bonamassa can fill a much larger venue now because of his relentless touring of the States and Europe and issuing one, if not, two albums a year. His special blend of blues-oriented rock also routinely jumps to the top of the Blues charts on release and deservedly so.
Bonamassa was in Springfield, Mass., Tuesday at Symphony Hall, a concert hall evidently not built for rock, but was suitable nonetheless as the sound was outstanding during the two-hour-plus show with only Bonamassa and his band of bassist Carmen Rojas, keyboardist Rick Melick and drummer Tal Bergman playing, no opening act. (continue reading…)
Robben Ford played at the Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk Friday night. It was the second time we had seen him in three years at the venue and he was on fire, playing a variety of blues and jazz inflected solos over traditional blues material and some of his own tunes.
From Robert Johnson (Travelin’ Riverside Blues) to Paul Butterfield (Lovin’ Cup) to Elmore James and Jimmy Reed (Please Set A Date/You Don’t Have To Go) as well as some of his own compositions, including two instrumentals, Indianola, a tribute to B.B. King, and a nod to the Texas Cannonball, Freddie King (Cannonball Express), Ford displayed his creative and eclectic approach on each of the songs in his setlist.
Finally a list of favorite albums from 2011. I’ve included the best albums of early 2012 as well. Here are the top albums from 2011:
1. El Camino, The Black Keys: No they haven’t lost their way. No, this isn’t a step back or a step to the side. This is infectious, rocking and raw, though not as raw as their early releases, tuneful and driving. They keep moving forward.
2. The Harrow & The Harvest, Gillian Welch and Let England Shake, P.J. Harvey: It’s a tie. Second choices each. Can’t separate them. Welch and her partner David Rowlings have produced an extraordinary duet album underpinned with roots guitar and banjo and enchanting vocals. The songs are spare country-folk pieces beautifully executed. As for Harvey, I’ve already mentioned this one in an early 2011 best-of list. It continues to grow on me if that’s possible. Highly thoughtful, enveloping musical statement featuring Harvey’s and her friends’ expert muscianship and musicality. There, I’ve used a form of music three times in that sentence.
4. I’m With You, The Red Hot Chili Peppers: Talk about an overlooked album. Oh, I’m sure it sold well. The only problem with this album is that it had to follow Stadium Arcadium, which was a career effort in creativity and popularity. Still, it’s more of the Peppers and the Peppers are quite something.
5. Hard Bargain, Emmylou Harris: This was my top choice for the early list. It’s dropped a few places, not because it isn’t worthy, because the later releases were just that good.
6. Tedeschi Trucks Band, Revelator: Another early choice that stood up. Blues, soul, R&B mix with Tedeschi’s heartfelt, soulful vocals on top and Trucks’ dynamic, penetrating slide running through it all. (continue reading…)