Tag Archives: Carmine Appice

New Album! Cactus

A classic bootleg gets a proper release.

I’ve certainly waxed poetic about Cactus before. Growing up in the NYC area I was a lot closer to the flame, but as time passes on more people realize that these guys were monsters. Carmine Appice and Tim Bogert were the pulse of the Vanilla Fudge, a Long Island legend made good, while Jim McCarty and Rusty Day made their bones in Detroit.

At a time when album rock and FM radio were forming an unholy alliance, bands that could go deeper and heavier were prowling stages like panthers, and Cactus was capable of blowing anyone off the stage with thundering hard rock and boogie (and often, they did). It’s a shame that their flame only burned brightly for a few years. It’s an even bigger shame that forty years later, people still have to explain who they were.

In 1971, prior to the release of what would be their third and final studio album Restrictions, Cactus commandeered Ultrasonic Studios in Hempstead New York for small, by-invitation-only gig that was simulcast on WLIR, Long Island’s premier rock radio station. Given the technology of the day, anyone prescient enough to tape the show had a pedestrian copy at best, and when bootleg versions started showing up years after the band’s demise they were anything but pristine. (When I mentioned this to Carmine, he was unaware that the bootlegs existed at all.)

The master tapes showed up at a swap meet in Austin; now restored and remastered it’s out there for all to enjoy. “Evil” absolutely crushes; one can only imagine the force of frontman Rusty Day contained in this tiny room. Axe whiz Jim McCarty is blazing throughout, and Bogert and Appice are in lockstep groove on bass and drums (obligatory solos aside; this was the 70s after all).

Cactus was no singles band, the hour-long recording features only seven tracks. And while by design it was not a greatest hits set,  it does include both classic halves of “Big Mama Boogie” and a fifteen minute version of their blues classic “No Need To Worry” in addition to live favorite “Oleo” and the rarely played “Token Chokin'” A little blues, a lot of boogie and some incendiary rock, an appetizer platter sampling all three albums. The band is relaxed and having fun, and the sound is astonishingly good considering the age of the recording.

Not long afterwards, both McCarty and Day were gone; a newly assembled roster recorded a half-live, half-studio album (‘Ot and Sweaty)before it was all over. In 2006, with Jimmy Kunes called upon to replace the deceased Rusty Day, the “American Led Zeppelin” reunited to record V and restoke the fires. This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the band, and Ultra Sonic Boogie is just one of a series of gems set for release.

Boogie feels good and good in my heart.

August 1st marks the anniversary of Anne Frank‘s last diary entry and the first Victoria’s Secret fashion show. Surely there must be a connection.

(No there isn’t…and don’t call me Shirley)

Today is also the 29th anniversary of MTV, as The BugglesVideo Killed The Radio Star” launched the music video era. Remember when MTV played videos? Remember when Music Television was about music?

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Listen, People (Part 1)

Sixties spectacular

Forward, Into The Past

I don’t live in the past, but I don’t disavow it, either. I’m crammed into small clubs to hear The Gaslight Anthem and The Reigning Sound as often as I am out watching veterans like John Hiatt and Graham Parker still crafting magic. And when a tour like Sixties Spectacular comes rolling through town featuring The Turtles, The Rascals and Herman’s Hermits, well I’m there, too.

The show was opened by a ’60s cover band who played a competent set of radio staples. While hearing a pedestrian version of “Honky Tonk Women” might be acceptable at a wedding or corporate function, I dreaded the fact that my a quarter of my $50 ticket was designated to 30-40 minutes of this. I also feared I might be seeing these same people acting as the band behind the remaining original members of these featured groups. I’ve been to oldies shows before where a group of unknown musicians simply changed shirts between sets to morph from The Grass Roots into The Buckinghams. But as it turned out, I had nothing to fear (although one of these bands could have used the help). And old bladders be damned, the show lasted almost three and a half hours.

Young Rascals

Why can't you and me learn to love one another?

First up was The New Rascals, a legally-retitled band featuring original Young Rascals members Dino Danelli on drums and Gene Cornish (a native of this town) on guitar. A long time acrimonious split with Felix Cavaliere and the absence of Eddie Brigati meant that the primary vocalists of the band were no longer in the fold, their slots filled by current members Bill Pascali on keyboards and lead vocals and bassist/vocalist Charlie Souza. (Although they are advertised as formerly being with Vanilla Fudge and Tom Petty, respectively, neither were ever with the named artists in their heyday. Souza played bass with a late version of Mudcrutch and left before Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers; Pascali sang and played keyboards on one of Carmine Appice’s many reanimations of Vanilla Fudge earlier in the decade.)

Unfortunately, despite a wealth of great material to offer, the New Rascals were disappointing. I’m hoping that the issue was merely being under-rehearsed rather than lacking in ability. I don’t expect Pascali to be as soulful as Cavaliere, one of the era’s greatest singers, but he was often flat and occasionally struggled when playing piano and organ simultaneously. On other occasions, the band seemed to be playing off-rhythm. Ordinarily I’d chalk this up to bad monitors and/or faulty equipment, but having just witnessed the cover band whip through a set unscathed, I can’t lay blame there.

Cornish, who recently has endured some health scares, was as animated as he could be and flashed solid rock chops as the sole guitarist, and Souza did bring great energy and good voice to the mix. Danelli can still play flash, spinning sticks and muting cymbals, and on several songs everything clicked to remind the audience what an incredible catalogue of music this band generated in their career. Highlights included a rousing “People Got To Be Free”, “A Girl Like You” and a stripped-down “Groovin”, featuring a soulful harmonica solo by Cornish. The crowd ate it up warts and all, of course, and gave the band a rousing ovation. I saw enough good moments to warrant seeing them again in the hope that this was just an off-night.

Flo and Eddie

Stll two of the greatest voices in pop music

When the musicians in The Turtles hit the stage one by one, the keyboard player spun in circles before taking his place behind the rack, and I thought I had seen that move before. Sure enough, it turned out to be Greg Hawkes from The Cars, who has been with The Turtles for three years; the remainder of the band (although also not original members) have been in their shells for twenty. But the show is all about Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, the original lead vocalists, who are still singing as well as they did in their prime.

Scheduled for approximately forty minutes like The Rascals, I wondered how many Turtles favorites I wouldn’t hear, since my admiration for them goes way beyond the hit singles. Thankfully I got a good sampling of both, from “Outside Chance” to “”Happy Together”, “You Baby” and “She’s My Girl”. The band was tight, Howard and Mark sounded fabulous, and their infamous stage banter was on display as they ripped into sacred cows as well as each other. I’ve seen them several times over the years, and can honestly say that they are as good now as they have ever been.

It’s amazing to think how long these two have been (happy) together, from sax-honking friends in The Crossfires to huge stardom in the ’60s to the Zappa years, followed by literally hundreds of session appearances and their hilarious syndicated radio show. Yet here they are, almost fifty years later, still viable and still creative. There were a lot of incredible artists vying for chart position and limited radio play in the ’60s, and the under-appreciated Turtles were an integral part of that amazing musical era.

The concert was promoted as an oldies show, and the majority of the attendees looked to be several years older than me and there for the hits. I don’t think many appreciated the segment of the set where the band ripped into several minutes of Frank Zappa material (a medley including a ferocious version of “Peaches en Regalia”) and a couple of tunes from the Flo and Eddie catalogue, but I was thrilled. But even with the mid-set segue, after so much familiar material was performed so well, the band got several well deserved lengthy ovations and a standing O at the end.

Cold Hard Cash

During the break, the lobby was flooded with fans lined up in queues past long banquet tables where their heroes sat with Sharpie pens. It was quite the assembly line – hand over a twenty, receive a CD, get your autograph, thanks and keep moving please. I’m not certain how much the bands got paid to perform, but the money that changed hands at intermission was staggering; an exercise repeated after the show. It dawned on me that with a three thousand seat theatre almost sold out, this annual caravan of yesterday was far more financially viable than most bands or tours that come through town.

And now…Intermission!

I’ll finish this tale of time travel on Saturday. Until then, enjoy some of the great music that The Rascals and The Turtles brought to the world. Listen to samples of The Ultimate Rascals and The Turtles: 20 Greatest Hits and check out some video below.

The Turtles:  “She’d Rather Be With Me

The Rascals: “Good Lovin

The Turtles:  “Elenore” – how great was Johnny Barbata on drums?

The Rascals: “People Got To Be Free

And Happy Birthday, ‘erman! Hard to believe he’s 62 today!

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Blast From The Past: Cactus

As much as I love new bands that are plowing and mining their Dad’s record collections – there are worse things than reinventing Humble Pie, Zeppelin and The Faces – it would be nice to go back and give credit to the lesser known masters. For me, that’s Cactus.

Here’s a review of the recently released live album plus a link to a feature I wrote for Pop Culture Press when I interviewed Carmine Appice. You really need to get the DVD of the show I saw in NYC a couple of summers ago, but hopefully something will finally surface featuring Rusty Day and a fearless Jim McCarty lighting crowds on fire.

 

Blow your mind in color

Blow your mind in color

CACTUS

Fully Unleashed: The Live Gigs, Vol. 2 (Rhino Handmade) 

http://www.rhinohandmade.com/

The miracle continues. After 35+ years of existing primarily in the rapidly deteriorating brain cells of those who witnessed the magic, Rhino Handmade has added the third two-CD collection of rediscovered, remastered Cactus magic, this time from a barn-burning concert at a suburban Buffalo rock hole called Gilligan’s. A horribly recorded (and incomplete) bootleg has been circulating for years among collectors. But this version – recorded by Eddie Kramer on the Electric Ladyland mobile unit – is a sparkling and riveting document that should erase any doubt that Cactus were once the biggest baddest blues/boogie mofos walking the Earth.

Opening (as they often did) with a Fudge-like version of “Long Tall Sally”, this 1971 show finds the band blistering tracks from their first three albums as well as a couple of unrecorded rarities (“Mellow Down Easy”) and covers (“What’d I Say”). Augmented by second guitarist Ron Leejack, Jim McCarty got a chance to really cut loose on his solos; “Scrambler/One Way Or Another” is astounding. Between the heavy thunder of the Vanilla Fudge rhythm section, McCarty’s axe pyrotechnics and vocalist Rusty Day’s front man prowess, a mortal audience didn’t stand a chance. Sure there’s a drum solo – it is 1971, after all – but this bittersweet document will make you wonder what might have been if the core could have stuck it out a little longer. Wildman Day was soon forced out of the band, a frustrated McCarty then left to form/join The Rockets, and Bogert and Appice bailed after one more lineup to join Jeff Beck, which imploded even faster.

Rhino Handmade releases well made limited edition packages that often sell out quickly. The two prior Cactus sets, long out of print, fetch in excess of $100 on the market. I highly advise that interested parties grab this latest gem before they finish reading this magazine.

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