The Trick Is To Keep Going

Tag: Vic Steffens

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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Napi Browne: Street Talkin’ Ways

by on Aug.01, 2013, under Music


The tune Street Talkin’ Ways was written by Dan Gulino and Paul Rosano, probably in early 1980, and was a staple in the live set for Napi Browne, a regional Northeast rock band in the late 1970s and early ’80s, mostly based in Connecticut.

Napi Browne backstage at Toad’s Place, circa 1980-81. Clockwise from top right, Dan Gulino, lead guitar and vocals, Vic Steffens, drums and vocals, Nick Bagnasco, lead guitar and lead vocals, and Paul Rosano, bass and lead vocals.

The tracks below are an early demo in which the lyric Street Talkin’ Ways isn’t even in the song, and the finished track that we recorded in 1981 at Paul Leka’s Studios in Bridgeport with the other founding member of the band Nick Bagnasco. Vic Steffens played drums on the track and also set up the recording date and helped us produce the track. Vic was playing live with us at the time.

The demo was recorded in my living room in Fair Haven. I lived right next door to Dan and I remember we got together at his place in his music room to work on a tune. He had the original musical idea for the song, particularly the chord changes and rhythm. We sat down and I started to come up with a melody and we worked on an early lyrical idea for the song. We worked on it together and separately for several days.

It was Dan who came up with the lyrical idea Street Talkin’ Ways and the attitude for the song about a tough-minded girl friend. After that, the rest of the lyrics started pouring out and the tune was finished pretty quickly. We brought it to Nick and Vic and arranged it over at Nick’s house, our rehearsal space, and started playing it live. By the time we hit the studio we had been playing this song for quite a while. Nick plays a stinging solo that is so well-suited to the track, every phrase builds on the previous one. I believe he used his Les Paul although it might have been his Tele.

Napi Browne played at Toad’s Place, The Arcadia Ballroom, over on Whalley Avenue, and The Oxford Ale House on Whitney, regularly during the band’s playing days, late 1976 to 1981. The photo above was taken in between sets at Toad’s Place. Looks like we were having a good time.


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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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Return of the Beehive Queen

by on Nov.09, 2009, under Music


Christine Ohlman hasn’t really been away. In the past five years, she has continued to work with her band Rebel Montez and as a singer for the Saturday Night Live Band, and released the retrospective Re-Hive last year.

the_deep_end_coverBut The Deep End, released this month, is her first record of new material since Strip in 2004. It is certainly worth the wait. A collection of bluesy and soul-infused rockers and ballads with emotional, heartfelt lyrics of love and loss, The Deep End is Ohlman’s most complete and accomplished work.

The album benefits from an impressive cast of guests who each add something special. Al Anderson plays guitar on two tunes, including the title track, Dion, Ian Hunter and Marshall Crenshaw each sing duet vocals with Chris, and Levon Helm, G.E. Smith, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, Catherine Russell, Paul Ossola and Andy York, guitarist from the John Mellencamp Band who also produces with Chris, are among the many contributors.

Chris and her band will debut the album at Cafe Nine in New Haven on Saturday, Nov. 14.

Chris sets the scene on the opener, There Ain’t No Cure, a gritty, infectious rocking track that features York on lead guitar and Hunter adding a duet vocal. The title track, one of Ohlman’s best compositions, follows with its Latin feel in the verse, interesting melodic twists in the chorus and telling lyrics that speak of loss, something Chris has endured in these past five years losing her mate and producer Doc Cavalier and longtime guitarist and collaborator Eric Fletcher. Anderson provides the lead work on the track in his signature country-blues style.

All the uptempo material is a delight. The grooves are deep and the playing exemplary. Ohlman is in fine form vocally throughout, bringing her unique soulful delivery that ranges from smooth as glass to rough and raspy. Among them — Love Make You Do Stupid Things, driven by Ambel’s chord-flavored lead style, the country-rock feel of Love You Right, again with Anderson, Bring It With You When You Come, which sees Rebel Montez guitarist Cliff Goodwin take a fiery, spitting solo, and Born To Be Together, on which Goodwin is again featured this time playing off the melody through what sounds like a Leslie speaker — are all highlights. (continue reading…)

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