Tag Archives: Felix Cavaliere

Groovin’…

…on a Sunday afternoon.

One year ago today, against the steepest of odds, The (Young) Rascals reunited in New York City. The show, a benefit concert, was a rousing success and by all indications the band sounded great and were having serious talks about burying the hatchet (and not in each others’ backs, for once) and recording some new tracks.

I haven’t heard much since, but hope springs eternal.

Video: Groovin’

I guess if you hunt around long enough you might find some bootleg audio. There are clips from the reunion, although You Tube is devoid of any full length videos. Since Little Steven was instrumental in getting them to play together, I’m hoping he will help get a DVD of the show released including a documentary about the history of the band. It is a major injustice that they are not revered today; mentioned in the same breath with the biggest American bands of the era.

Video: People Got To Be Free

If you weren’t around when they were in their prime, it’s hard to comprehend what a massive impact they had on the burgeoning pop music scene, especially on the East Coast. Lots of sixties bands have greatest hits albums, but theirs are loaded with bona fide smash singles. They dominated AM radio, but they weren’t afraid to experiment musically or philosophically.

Video: Mickey’s Monkey / Turn On Your Lovelight

So while I wait, I’m blasting a copy of The Ultimate Rascals in honor of the event of a year ago. Hope the four of them are in a studio right now, jamming…

"Everyone learn to live together..."

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials, Film/TV, Music, Reviews

The Little (Steven) Rascals

Angus? Angus WHO??

By now you’ve already heard that Little Steven has pulled another musical miracle out of his hat – reuniting the original Rascals at a recent benefit at which he and his wife Maureen Van Zandt were being honored for charitable efforts. The band agreed to perform together in their honor as well as in support of the Kristen Ann Carr Fund, which “provides grants for cancer research and seeks to improve all aspects of cancer patient life”. (If you are inclined to support them as well, click here to donate). 

Don’t underestimate the magnitude of this event. 

For anyone growing up in the 60s, the Rascals were one of the biggest bands of the decade, dominating the charts with a series of hits and being one of the bands on this side of the Big Pond to thrive in the midst of the British Invasion. Featuring not one, but two soulful lead singers, they combined pop melody with r’n’b muscle, dance floor soul and social conscience. They were popular and critically acclaimed. They were the total package

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

As so often happens in bands, things fell apart, but in their case it was bitter acrimony that lingered for decades. The four have not shared a stage since their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To the dismay of their many fans, Cavaliere would occasionally tour as Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals, while Gene Cornish (despite a bout with cancer) and Dino Danelli toured under the moniker of The New Rascals.  

I saw a performance of the latter group at an oldies show last year. It was hit and miss, but the highlights showed that there was something there. And now, after performing this set together with original members Eddie Brigati and Felix Cavaliere, there’s a chance – albeit a slight one – for a real reunion. 

Hopefully the four original members can resolve whatever has kept them apart and let their special music live and breathe again. At least they are talking about it, which is huge progress from the situation just one month ago. 

When I first learned that they were planning to do this show, I feared something would go awry at the last minute. But as a packed house in the Tribeca Grill found out, sometimes you can go home again. 

Videos from the reunion concert. 

The band was augmented by bass player Mark Prentice and both Brigati’s wife (Susan) and brother (David Brigati) on vocals. Special guests included Bruce Springsteen and Paul Shaffer, and the set list was wall-to-wall hit records

I’ve Been Lonely Too Long
In The Midnight Hour
I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore
You Better Run
It’s A Beautiful Morning
Love Is A Beautiful Thing
Groovin’
A Girl Like You
How Can I Be Sure?
Come On Up
What Is The Reason
People Got To Be Free
Good Lovin’ (with Little Steven and Bruce Springsteen)
See
 

The show was filmed and recorded for a future broadcast. And great news, regardless of what happens with future plans – Cornish is now cancer-free!

Young Rascals fan site

Little Steven’s Underground Garage 

The Kristen Ann Carr Fund 

Young Rascals at AllMusic.com

Not The Turtles, just Happy Together.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Reviews

Blast From The Past: The Wildweeds

It wasn’t unusual for bands in the 60s to work their way to the top of the local and regional pile and get an opportunity to take that next big step to stardom. But consider the obstacles – how primitive the communication and public relations tools were, how few venues there were to siphon through as an artist – and it’s not hard to look at the long list of bands who were one-hit wonders*.

Now take that down a notch and think about the bands who just missed that rung – a breakout regional hit whose spark just didn’t catch enough fire – and that list gets exponentially longer. There is so much great music that never got its due, but thanks to the ability to create and promote a label from your desktop, more and more are getting their day in the sun. One such band is The Wildweeds, who were monsters in Connecticut but failed to explode nationally. Their recorded canon labored in obscurity for decades despite having a famous alumni, the great Al Anderson on guitar, who went on to achieve legendary status with NRBQ.

I pulled this record out again after getting an email from Doc Cavalier‘s daughter Darlene which included a link to this great video her Dad spliced together. I didn’t recall having seen the Wildweeds video before – turns out it’s the only video of this lineup – but I did remember Michael Shelley issuing this great CD on his Confidential Recordings label a few years back, so I pulled it out to play it.

No Good To Cry assembles singles and studio tracks from The Wildweeds Cadet era tracks plus ten additional songs; all were remastered by Doc Cavalier and Richard Robinson, and for the most part you can see where the band’s “Soul City” moniker came from. Most tracks sit squarely at the intersection of Philly soul/r&b and garage rock, much like their contemporaries The Young Rascals. There’s a great photo on the back of the booklet where the band is standing in a field of…well…three guesses. With their powder-blue suits and stocky frames, they look about as hip as The Turtles.

Having the ability to morph from jazzy to surf to psychedelic sounds, and with a spirited vocalist like Bob Dudek on many tracks, they were versatile and sophisticated. Vocal arrangements that rivaled harmony groups like The Association; guttural pop blues that emulated Blood Sweat and Tears, and numbers featuring flute and acoustic guitar reminiscent of early Traffic. (And yes, they might toss in a Beethoven riff during the bridge if they felt like it.)

I could go on about the band’s history and demise, but I’d prefer to point you to a couple of experts. Ironically one of the best essays about the band was written by Christine Ohlman, whose album I highlighted two days ago. (Christine, as you would expect, is a passionate writer and music historian in addition to her performing skills). And major kudos to Richard Brukner (co-founder of Confidential Recordings) for his excellent essay in the liner notes, just one part of a fabulous package that was assembled with love and respect.

Forty years after the 60’s ended, Felix Cavaliere is playing with Steve Cropper. Jimmy McCarty and Johnny Badanjek are playing together. Richard X Heyman is enjoying success with his 60s garage band, The Doughboys. Not every trip down memory lane is fueled by money; sometimes it’s just the right thing to do at the time.

Likewise, although I listen to a ton of new music, there’s no reason to turn my back on the past… especially if I’m experiencing some of it for the first time. Please do seek this one out and be rewarded like I was.

*No Good To Cry actually did register as a “one-hit wonder” in a 1990 collection on Rhino Records.

***

And Happy Birthday to Russell Crowe, who has never thrown a telephone at me,  but whose performance as Bud White in 1997’s L.A.Confidential will stand the test of time. Sadly, neither Crowe nor Guy Pearce were even nominated for their roles, which is unbelievable in hindsight, and the film got drowned in the Titanic tsunami, winning only for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress Kim Basinger. More  on one of my favorite films at another time.

2 Comments

Filed under Music, Reviews

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!

3 Comments

Filed under Music, Reviews