Tag Archives: Frank Funaro

Under The Radar: The Brandos

They weren’t under the radar in the 1980s…

But like many great bands, The Brandos are now and have been for some time. I can’t explain why so much quality music can’t grab the attention of large segments of the American public, but my suggestion would be that not getting airplay might have something to do with it. Sure, “Gettysburg” was an FM radio staple for a bit and even made some waves on eMpTV, but that was a quarter-century ago.

Video: “Gettysburg

Like other ex-pats, they realized that Europe could appreciate a great band, so rather than chase major labels like Columbia Records or Warner Brothers, these bands signed with Blue Rose and SPV and Line. Only fans would realize that they were still recording, touring, creating…others would figure them as one-hit wonders and close the books. Of course, that was before everyone had the technology to not only search them out, but to download and order music from halfway across the globe.

Video: “The Keeper” (unplugged)

Of course, I do have a disease. I’ve been scouting music since I was old enough to walk into a department store record department and flip through the singles and read any magazine I could get my hands on. Can’t tell you how many catalogues I set away for , nor how many checks I mailed to odd remote addresses. But today it’s as simple as bouncing an artist’s name off Google, MySpace and You Tube…but you have to make the effort to look for great music, it won’t be handed to you. Those who don’t miss out on bands like The Diamond Dogs and The Refreshments and the great Herman Brood.

And yes, they miss out on The Brandos.

On first listen I immediately loved singer David Kincaid’s slightly sandpapered vocals; they had the comfort and familiarity one would expect from hours of listening exposure. And when I finally heard The Brandos cover “Lodi” I realized why – there’s a lot of John Fogerty DNA in there. Like Fogerty, Kincaid sings with unbridled passion.

Video: “Walk On The Water

In 1994, Kincaid and longtime partner-in-crime Ernie Mendillo were on the road with two other New York legends, Scott Kempner and Frank Funaro, names any Dictators or Del Lords fans should know. Recording two shows in Amsterdam and Utrecht, the appropriately named In Exile Live was released. A brilliant cross-sampling of their recorded career, it featured rousing rock anthems, Irish folk tunes and a couple of pitch-perfect primal rock covers of The Sonics’ classics “Strychnine” and “Psycho” (a tip of the cap to Kincaid’s roots in the Seattle club scene).

Video: “Strychnine

I’ve been blasting this CD over the last couple of days and heartily recommend that anyone who hasn’t heard it drop what they’re doing and resolve this gap in their collection. If you’ve never heard The Brandos, you will be treated to one of the great unsung American bands. And if they did indeed drop under the radar for you after “Gettysburg“, well…you have a lot of catching up to do, most of it glorious. Excellent musicianship consistently goes hand in hand with premium songwriting.

Lots of MP3 samples at Haunted Field Music

Buy some Brandos albums on Amazon

The Brandos on MySpace

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The Del Lords Ride Again

And the great news just keeps on coming…

The Del Lords, one of the true seminal American rock’n’roll bands, are back. Not for an oldies tour, not for money, but for passion. As Scott “Top Ten” Kempner says in his blog, it’s time. There is still work to be done. “There are still souls to stir and asses to kick. There are still songs that need to be sung.”

The Del Lords don’t sing about fluff, they sing about love and pain and hurt and fear and abandonment and rising above the bullshit. They frame the gospel of rock and soul in twangy roots-rock, take the stage as brothers and preach their message. They made their run, an oasis of wonderful music in a confused time, and then got out on top to follow their separate paths. But now, it’s time to suit up again. It’s time to join hands and minds and accept that challenge that drives all great artists. It’s time.

How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live?

Well, Scott laid it all out there in his blog:

Right now, I’m watching the telethon for Haiti, and Bruce has just finished a version of WE SHALL OVERCOME that was somber but clarion, resolute but compassionate, gospel and the blues. I felt my soul stir as the song ebbed and flowed, and at the way Bruce and the band rode the moment with all this compressed emotional energy, in a way that is everything you can ask of a singer, a musician, an artist, or a song. I am immediately in touch with why I do what I do, and why The Del-Lords are making new music, sharing a stage, hell, sharing a room, for the first time in 20 years.

To actually do what I just watched Springsteen and the band do is HARD, way fuckin’ hard, damn near impossible, in fact, and, to be fair, it requires more than a fair share of magic. But, it also requires some other things. Like band chemistry, the kind born of respect, a strong work ethic, and some familial love; born of common purpose, mutual belief and shared experience. AND, we love playing Rock’n’Roll. And so we do. Again…

First Jason and The Scorchers get back together and release a new album, and now The Del Lords are back as well. Maybe 2010 isn’t going to be so bad after all.

Here’s a link to Scott’s complete essay.

Listen to one of the new songs and order your EP here.

(And thanks for the tip, Maniac, you made my day!)

When the going gets tough, so do they.

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Blast From The Past: The Del Lords

Real American Rock'n'Roll

Real American Rock'n'Roll

Twenty-five years ago, a working man’s band swam upstream against the tide of electronica, arena rock and Euro-noodling to smack America upside its head and start the rock’n’roll bandwagon rolling again. Scott Kempner (“Top Ten” from The Dictators), Eric Ambel (fresh from Joan Jett and The Blackhearts), bassist Manny Calati and drummer Frank Funaro were NYC guys who thought the segregation of music into genres was absurd. They knew that rock’n’roll came from country, blues and gospel, and so too would their sound.

Call it roots rock, cowpunk, or Americana if you want to, but The Del Lords wrote heartfelt songs about the struggles and joy of life and played them with passion and fire. The first track from this debut album is the brilliant “How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live”, and if you need to define the band by a single moment, that’s as good a definition as any.

When Frontier Days announced their presence, radio didn’t get it. But those of us who were yearning for honest rock’n’roll were thrilled to climb on board for the ride, a journey that would last through five albums and a lifetime of memories. Lou Whitney‘s bright production showed off the stellar guitar work of Kempner and Ambel, and while the four vocalists didn’t quite live up to Kempner’s goal of an “East Coast Beach Boys” (and didn’t The Four Seasons already own that title?), the vocals were solid and the album filled with melodic, hooky pop songs filtered through their barroom rock sound.

While millions of teenagers were pumping their fists to Bon Jovi’s “Living On A Prayer” in arenas around the world, The Del Lords were singing about the real adult world with “Livin’ On Love” and “Double Life”. Anyone struggling to get through life, their job, or even their day could appreciate “Get Tough” and “Pledge of Love”; even the comic “I Play The Drums” deals with channeling frustration through music rather than pounding someone in the face. But don’t be fooled by that levity – these guys were as urban, gritty and streetwise in their way as The Clash were in theirs…not to mention Springsteen, Dylan, Presley and other American icons.

Kempner went on to release two excellent solo records and joins The Dictators when they get together; Ambel moved on to become an in-demand producer while continuing to make great music in bands like The Yayhoos; Funaro now plays drums for Cracker. But there’s a new buzz a quarter century later, from rumors of a reunion to the reissue of their catalogue (with bonus tracks). There are many bands whose output can be safely contained in a single greatest hits album, some even with filler. The Del Lords are not . Enjoy one of the finest American bands the way they were meant to be heard – in their entirety – and I highly recommend that you start at the beginning with Frontier Days.

The man who inspired their name.

Del Lords info at AllMusic

The Del Lords on Wikipedia

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Filed under Features and Interviews, Music, Reviews