Seeds and Chains is an engaging new album by Philadelphia area folk artist Up the Chain. Led by front man and creator Reed Kendall, the album employs some of the most talented musicians in the Philly area for this entertaining and rewarding musical journey. There is hardly a weak moment on this eleven-track album filled with solid compositions and the pristine production of Bill Moriarty. While the music has a solid folk/rock core throughout, there are definite nods to other genres like alternative, Americana, country, and even a bit of Philly soul.
Seeds and Thorns starts with one of its strongest tracks right up top. “Seasick Sailors” was co-written by bassist Matt Wong and has a great upbeat Americana style with just a touch of a country arrangement. Lyrically, the song is a rallying cry against complacency. Musically, the song is driven by a great acoustic riff and strategic placement of electric and acoustic piano riffs along with slide and electric guitars and measured vocals. Finally, there is a true outro chorus section, which adds variety and the crowning jewel to the arrangement.
The rest of the tracks are sole compositions by Reed. “Tire Track” has a mellow, James Taylor-like approach led by electric piano of Anam Owili-Eger, a talented player who maintains his own solo career beyond Up the Chain. Anam returns with a great acoustic piano lead on “Same Story”, an otherwise acoustic folk tune which examines the struggle between restlessness and stability. Adding some contrast to this track is drummer Matt Scarano, who plays a consistent, driving, country beat while all other instrumentation remains much more mellow. Scarano’s kick adds a nice effect to the beginning of “Take Me Talking”, complimenting the line “Your past is pounding at the door”. This song also contains nice rudiments and a Caribbean bass line by Wong.
“A Ground” takes a decidedly bluesy turn during the intro with a crying guitar lead by Avery Coffee who also adds some strategic sonic candy like slide and riff-walked electric parts. The remainder of the song is pretty much an acoustic ballad with a bit of a Jim Croce vibe. “The Horse’s Course” has an interesting drum beat by Scarano and more production enhancements by Moriarty while the short diddy “Something New” contains a pleasant fiddle throughout by Kiley Ryan.
The album was recorded over the course of several months at Moriarty’s new studio in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia, which he calls “No Nostalgia”. The track “For to Give Away” is a definite tribute to the old-school soul known as the Sound of Philadelphia, with all the elements on full display – smooth bass, electric piano, saxophone, and most especially Kendall’s vocals, which adapt to this genre perfectly with a high-pitched croon found nowhere else on the album. This is followed by “No Sweeter Sound”, perhaps the best overall song on the later half of the album. Here the songwriting and production join at the sweet spot with layered electric guitars and a great guitar lead complimenting the interesting composition with a diminishing chord progression and waltz-like beat making for some absolutely “sweet sounds”
Kendall says he did not script the various musical parts for Seeds and Thorns, but rather started with simple ideas and grooves and let the talented musicians take it to its place. The closing medley feels the most improvised on this album. “Everything We Have” begins as a live sounding acoustic tune but eventually builds with overdubs until it feels a lot more electric. A sustained organ and bass beat provides the link into the final track “Names of Ghosts”, where you can feel some influences from Paul Simon and Jackson Browne. The consistent acoustic rhythm is complimented by long flourishes of guitar pedal effects and an almost a percussive ensemble with orchestra of guitars to end the album (save for the short live piano and vocal recording that acts as a “hidden” track.)
Kendall had been performing live since age 13 and releasing solo albums in high school. After a soul-searching journey to New Zealand he came up with the concept for the group Up The Chain and they released their 2011 full-length debut Holy, Open, Drying Road, consisting of live recordings and early demos. With Seeds and Thorns, Kendall’s music has reached a new plateau of studio production with a full band while staying true to how the simplicity of the songs as they were conceived.
The Philadelphia Music Alliance Walk of Fame, a living tribute to Philadelphia’s rich music history along the Avenue of the Arts, will welcome nine new inductees next month. Led by “soul monsters” MFSB Orchestra, the Salsoul Orchestra, and John Davis & the Monster Orchestra, the musicians, string, horn, rhythm players and voices who performed the music were men and women, young and old and from all backgrounds who collectively captured a moment with their talents to make that sound world-famous in the 1970s. “Dean of American Folk DJs” Gene Shay; producer and label executive Joel Dorn; songwriting team Madara & White; producer-songwriter-publisher Jerry Ross; producer-arranger-conductor Vince Montana Jr., and Macy’s Grand Court organist Peter Richard Conte also will be honored as recipients of the 114th through 122nd commemorative bronze plaques along the Avenue of the Arts. Ceremonies, free and open to the public, are scheduled for Thursday, October 24th at Noon in front of the Doubletree Hotel along the Avenue of the Arts.
The induction of this diverse group of legends furthers the renewed commitment by the Philadelphia Music Alliance (PMA) to shed new light on the City’s cultural legacy and incredible contribution to the world of music past, present and future as a major tourist attraction. This agenda to recognize more local music greats in all genres is part of the community based, non-profit organization’s overall mission to encourage the creation, celebration and historical preservation of Philadelphia music, and the foundation of a renewed commitment to schedule multiple induction ceremonies each year.
Karen Lewis, executive director of the Avenue of the Arts (AAI), said,
We’re excited about the ongoing resurgence of the Walk of Fame as it represents a unique opportunity to recognize Philadelphia legends. And as the premier destination for performing arts, the Avenue of the Arts is the perfect location for this tribute…”
MFSB Orchestra – Motown had the Funk Brothers, but Philadelphia International Records had MFSB (Mother Father Sister Brother), the pool of more than 30 studio musicians based at Philly’s famed Sigma Sound Studios. The orchestra was created by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell, and backed up such artists as Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, the O’Jays, the Stylistics, the Spinners, Wilson Pickett, and Billy Paul. The Philadelphia Music Alliance sends its condolences to the family of Bobby Martin, a top arranger, conductor and composer for MFSB, often referred to as “The Granddaddy of R&B and Soul,” whose passing was announced earlier this week.
Salsoul Orchestra – Consisting of most of the original members of MFSB, they became the backing band for acts on Salsoul Records, and recorded several hit singles and albums between 1975 and 1982. Their music featured elements of Philadelphia soul, funk, Latin and disco. The Salsoul Orchestra included up to 50 members with instrumental sections, arrangers and conductors. The Salsoul Orchestra was conducted by Vincent Montana, Jr., who passed away earlier this year amid plans for his Walk of Fame induction. Their song, “Love Break (Ooh I Love It)” has been sampled in several rap songs and most notably, in Madonna’s “Vogue.”
John Davis & the Monster Orchestra – A disco band noted for their lead member (John “the Monster” Davis), who lent his name and produced all of their output. The title track from their 1976 debut album, a cover of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” is now a classic Disco hit and on almost every DJ’s playlist. Original disco hits followed, including “Up Jumped the Devil,” “The Magic is You,” “Ain’t That Enough for You” and “Love Magic.”
Vince Montana Jr. – The producer, arranger, conductor and legendary vibraharpist was a key MFSB rhythm section member and developer of “The Philly Sound,” creator of the Salsoul Orchestra, Montana Orchestra and Goody Goody. As the creative and driving force behind the Salsoul Orchestra, Montana was a dance pioneer of the Disco Era, and created signature club classics on his own Philly Sound Works label, with countless gold and platinum albums to his name.
Gene Shay – WXPN‘s Grandfather of Philadelphia Folk Music and Dean of American Folk DJs has produced weekly folk radio shows in Philadelphia for 51 years, and is a founder of the Philadelphia Folk Festival and the Philadelphia Folksong Society. He was the first promoter to bring Bob Dylan to Philadelphia and as an advertising writer and producer, wrote the original radio commercials for Woodstock. Shay came up with the name “World Café” for David Dye’s nationally syndicated radio show, produced at WXPN, where he continues to produce his live weekly “Folk Show” every Sunday.
Joel Dorn – One of the most prominent producers in pop and jazz, Dorn helmed records from some of the biggest names in music, among them Charles Mingus, and the Allman Brothers Band. He began his career in 1961 as a disc jockey with Philadelphia jazz station WHAT-FM; and gained fame as a producer and A&R executive at Atlantic Records, producing Roberta Flack hits “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and “Killing Me Softly”; the Keith Jarrett & Gary Burton album; and Bette Midler’s debut album, The Divine Miss M. Other performers Dorn worked with included the Neville Brothers, Leon Redbone, Lou Rawls, and Asleep at the Wheel.
Madara & White – Best known for transforming a song called “Do the Bop” for the Juvenaires into “At the Hop” for Danny and the Juniors, and the rest is history. Johnny Madara and Dave White went on to contribute to more than 200 million in sales with hits like “Rock and Roll Is Here To Stay” (Danny and The Juniors), “The Fly” (Chubby Checker), “1-2-3″ (Len Barry) and “You Don’t Own Me” (Lesley Gore).
Jerry Ross – Record producer, songwriter, publisher and record company executive, Ross is credited with discovering Kenny Gamble as a teen and later collaborating with Gamble & Huff on the Motown smash, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”, recorded most famously by Diana Ross & the Supremes together with The Temptations. Ross also discovered, wrote or produced such million-sellers as “Sunday Will Never Be the Same” (Spanky & Our Gang), “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” (Jay & the Techniques), “Sunny” (Bobby Hebb), “Venus” (Shocking Blue) and many more. Next to Cameo/Parkway and Gamble & Huff, Jerry Ross has written, developed and produced more hit records than any other Philadelphia producer.
Peter Richard Conte – The longtime Macy’s Grand Court Organist was appointed in 1989, and is only the fourth person to hold that title since the organ was first played in 1911. Mr. Conte is highly regarded as a skillful performer and arranger of organ transcriptions. His monthly radio show, The Wanamaker Organ Hour, airs on the first Sunday of each month and can be heard worldwide via the Internet at WRTI.org.
The Philadelphia Music Alliance was founded in June 1986 as a community based, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of Philadelphia as a vital contributor to the international music landscape. The Alliance also serves as a resource to students, educators, musicians, city agencies, and other cultural institutions. In 2008, the Philadelphia International Airport unveiled an exhibition spotlighting the Walk of Fame and the City’s contribution to American music to visitors from all over the world. The Walk of Fame is a stunning demonstration of the great talent that Philadelphia has produced. This talent spans many musical genres and time periods, and includes Leopold Stokowski, Frankie Avalon, the Dixie Hummingbirds, Patti LaBelle, Hall & Oates, Solomon Burke, Marian Anderson, Mario Lanza, John Coltrane, Todd Rundgren, McCoy Tyner, Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, Teddy Pendergrass and Dick Clark.
The Hooters owned the Philadelphia music scene in the mid 1980’s. This was no small accomplishment in a city rich in musical history, from jazz to rock to soul, but this band worked hard and took no sector of their audience for granted. They expanded beyond the typical night club scene and tapped the high school market in the Philadelphia area by performing for kids too young to get into clubs but with plenty of enthusiasm. Soon Hootermania swept across Southeastern Pennsylvania. But far more important than their popularity was the music this band composed and performed, fusing 1980s pop/rock with elements of reggae, ska, and folk, and the edge of unique instrumentation including that weird instrument which gave the band their name.
The band formed in the wake of a 1970s cerebral trio called Baby Grand, which had limited success with their two studio albums. Keyboardist Rob Hyman had met guitarist Eric Bazilian while they were both science majors at the University of Pennsylvania, but soon these Ivy Leaguers would choose music over more traditional (and lucrative) careers in chemistry and medicine. With the dissolution of Baby Grand, Hyman and Bazilian worked on forming a more mainstream band as well as started composing new material.
The Hooters were formed as a five piece in 1980, with guitarist John Kuzma, bassist Bobby Woods and drummer David Uosikkinen joining Bazilian and Hyman. They took their name from the nickname for the melodica, a unique type of keyboard harmonica which originated in Germany. Starting on July 4, 1980 the band spent the next two years playing everything from clubs to high schools and appearing on local television shows around Philadelphia and other areas of the East Coast. During this time, the band recorded several tracks to be released as singles including “Man in the Street”, “Fightin’ on the Same Side”, “Rescue Me”, and “All You Zombies”, and started to receive significant airplay on prominent rock stations.
During this time, the band was managed by Hyman and his girlfriend. The climax of this early era of the band came on September 25, 1982, when The Hooters opened for rock legends The Who during one of their farewell tour shows at JFK Stadium. However, the group decided to separate in early 1983 as Hyman grew tired of managing in lieu of composing and the rest of the band began to burn out from constant touring.
That same winter, Bazilian and Hyman were enlisted by another Penn classmate, producer Rick Chertoff as session players on an album he was producing for a young singer/songwriter named Cyndi Lauper. Bazilian played bass, saxophone, and added vocals to the album, which would become the Grammy winning album She’s So Unusual. Hyman played keyboards and co-wrote the international smash hit “Time After Time”, which was also nominated for a Grammy. Following this hugely successful project, Bazilian and Hyman decided to give The Hooters another try in late 1983.
Uosikkinen returned on drums but Kuzma and Woods had moved on to another band and were replaced by John Lilley on guitar and Rob Miller on bass. Club owner Steve Mountain was brought in as full-time manager, leaving Hyman and Bazilian free to concentrate on the music. The reformed band immediately started work on their first album.
Amore contains the original versions of several songs that were re-recorded for the band’s major label debut, 1985’s Nervous Night, such as “All You Zombies”, “Hanging On a Heartbeat”, and “Blood From a Stone”. These original versions have a pronounced ska bounce and the production is not overpowering, there is a distinct live show energy. Upbeat and danceable rock that used keyboard/synth sounds were all the rage in the early 80’s, but The Hooters surrounded them with guitar, mandolin, real drums (from a drummer who hits ‘em really hard), and vocals from guys who can carry a tune but don’t have “perfect”, processed voices. These were the Hooters and their signature sound owned that term long before before it became synonymous with calendar girls in tight t-shirts serving chicken wings to drooling patrons adopted the same name.
With the independent release of Amore selling over 100,000 copies regionally and a radio contest to have the band play at your high school receiving millions of enties, the major labels were paying attention and the band was soon signed by Columbia Records. Unfortunately, around the time when the band was getting ready to sign, Rob Miller was seriously injured in a car accident and had to drop out of the band. Andy King, from the Delaware band Jack of Diamonds, was recruited as the band’s new bass player and completed the lineup that would take the band through the heart of their mainstream success.
The music was the core of the band’s appeal, but Steve Mountain’s marketing was crucial to their success. They enlisted the help of a fashion consultant, a personal trainer (Pat Croce, who trained some of Philly’s finest professional athletes and eventually became owner of the 76ers), and for the stage and publicity photos, each Hooter had a primary color – Bazilian always in black, Hyman in light gray or white, Uosikkinen in Yellow, Lilley in red and King in blue. During shows, when the lights came up, they all wore old west style dusters in their assigned color, it was a very cool image that went with their music. While it was surely a gimmick, it wasn’t over the top and certainly not something to look back at in embarrassment 25 years later.
Image was important at this stage as they were marketing themselves (all the members were in their thirties) to a much younger audience. The album was good, but the live shows were what kept the fan base growing. The band toured as the opening act for Squeeze and at one show, The Hooters were so well received that they played about two minutes over their alotted time before the power was cut and their set ended abruptly. Rumors circulated that it was a member of the headlining band who pulled the plug in a fit of envy.
While Nervous Night was the product of slick production by Chertoff, the songs themselves remain true to the roots established on Amore – driving reggae influenced rhythms and interesting arrangements with traditional folk influences. Reggae and folk are not usually closely associated, but the Hooters managed to blend them into their own version of pop/rock. The new, six minute version of “All You Zombies” was the lead national single from the album and, although it failed to reach the Top 40, endures as one of the group’s signature songs to this day. The three following singles from Nervous Night each did reach the Top 40 – “And We Danced” released in late 1985, with “Day By Day” and “Where Do the Children Go?” released in early 1986.
This was the absolute zenith of the band’s popularity and they were involved with some of the historic concerts of the era. On July 13, 1985 they were the opening band at the Philadelphia Live Aid benefit concert, performing for an international television audience. On May 18, 1986, they participated in “America Rocks”, the concert portion of the 1986 celebration of the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Then on June 15, 1986, The Hooters participated in a benefit concert on behalf of Amnesty International, before a packed Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The band also embarked on an international tour including several dates in Australia.
After two years of extensive touring, The Hooters returned to the studio to record One Way Home, co-produced by Chertoff, Bazilian, and Hyman. The album was heavily folk and Americana influenced and a testament to the Hooters desire to put the music first. It was a marked departure from the pop sound of Nervous Night. This makes sense since the Hooters had just been on tour and were discovering new influences and instruments along the way. It includes an updated version of “Fightin’ On the Same Side” from Amore – still upbeat but with a slower tempo and the addition of an accordion. “Karla with a K” is about a hurricane written while on tour in Louisiana, while “Johnny B” is a haunting song about fighting addiction with an outstanding guitar solo and harmonica accents. This latter song is very popular to this day with the band’s German fans. “Hard Rockin’ Summer” was inspired by a group of “heavy metal” kids who would hang out outside the band’s rehearsal space. Although One Way Home did not enjoy the mass commercial appeal of its predecessor, it did open up the European market for the band due to the popularity of “Satellite” across the Atlantic. In fact, after the band performed the song on Britain’s Top Of the Pops in December 1987, they were privileged to meet their idol Paul McCartney. A month earlier, on Thanksgiving night 1987, The Hooters headlined a show at The Spectrum in Philadelphia, which was broadcast live on MTV and Westwood One radio network simultaneously, perhaps the absolute pinnacle of their American success.
Fran Smith, Jr. replaced Andy King on bass prior to The Hooters third and final release for Columbia, 1989’s Zig Zag, a politically charged album which dealt with some of the issues of the day, including the Tienanmen Square massacres earlier that year. The album features “Beat Up Guitar”, which became an anthem for Philadelphia music. It also contains the band’s rendition of the traditional folk song “500 Miles”, which became an international hit, further broadening The Hooters appeal overseas. However, Bazilian later confessed that this was his least favorite album, calling it the “what on Earth was I thinking album” and further stating;
“…we had come off of our second big tour, we were a rock and roll band and we were kicking ass live, and we should have made a major rock and roll record…”
In the summer of 1990, the band participated in Roger Waters‘ The Wall, Live in Berlin concert, backing up Sinead O’Conner and members of the classic group, The Band for the song “Mother”. As the new decade dawned, the band’s popularity in Europe continued to grow as it inversely subsided in the U.S.
Violinist/guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Mindy Jostyn joined the group in early 1992 and stayed on through their 1993 album Out Of Body, released on MCA Records. The album was co-produced by Joe Hardy, and recorded in Memphis, TN. The recording process for this album was significantly different than their traditional practices as Hardy took tracks directly from the demo tapes and employed a practice of “commit and move on”. As a result, the album was recorded in just four weeks, whereas previous albums by the band had taken several months to record. One of the songs on the album, “Private Emotion,” would later go on to become an international hit single for Ricky Martin in 2000, while “Boys Will Be Boys” was co-written by Cyndi Lauper who also provided vocals, returning the favor a decade after Bazilian and Hyman contributed to her debut album.
While not a commercial success in the United States, Out Of Body found a large audience in Europe, especially in Sweden and Germany, and the band set out on a world tour for the first time as a six-piece. Some of these shows were recorded for the band’s initial live album (American release called The Hooters Live, international version Live In Germany) the following year. Soon after, the band would enter an extended hiatus period which would last nearly a decade between live tours and fourteen years between Hooters studio albums. The band members decided to take a much needed break and concentrate on various solo projects as well as spending some much deserved time with their families.
In early 1995, Bazilian and Hyman again worked on a Chertoff-produced studio project, the debut album by Joan Osbourne called Relish. Eric wrote the worldwide hit “One Of Us”, which was originally not intended for Osbourne, but became a Grammy-nominated international hit for the young singer. The album itself went triple platinum and reached the Top 10 on the Billboard charts. Sony released the band’s long awaited compilation album entitled Hooterization – A Retrospective in 1996. This features songs from The Hooters three Columbia releases in the late 1980s, along with some previously unreleased material such as Hyman’s version of “Time After Time” and a live version of The Beatles’ “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds”.
The songwriting team next moved on to compose what was planned to be the next Hooters album, but ended up being something quite different. Largo would end up being a quasi-concept album with Hyman providing the bulk of musical direction. The impressive Largo ensemble includes David Forman, Cyndi Lauper, Taj Mahal, Joan Osborne, Carole King, Willie Nile, Levon Helm and Garth Hudson from The Band, as well as members of the Chieftains. Unfortunately, this gem of an album got lost in the shuffle during the corporate merger involving Polygram Records and was all but out of print within a few years (as of 2010 however, mp3 downloads of Largo are now available at Amazon.com).
Eric Bazilian left the Largo project before its completion and, as the new millennium approached, he would focus on writing and performing solo work. In 2000, he released his impressive solo debut, The Optimist, which is a solid rock effort stacked with well-composed tracks. Bazilian released the album on newly-formed independent label, Mousetrap Records.
Bazilian would release a second solo album, A Very Dull Boy, in May 2002. While the band was on their extended hiatus, Bazilian and Hyman scored anther international hit when Ricky Martin covered “Private Emotion” (originally released on Out of Body) for his Grammy-nominated self-titled debut album in 2000. The song became a top ten hit for Martin in five countries.
The right opportunity arose for a full Hooters reunion on November 21, 2001, when they performed at the Wachovia Spectrum in Philadelphia for one show celebrating the 20th anniversary of disc jockey Pierre Robert at local rock radio station WMMR, the first major station to ever play The Hooters back in the early 1980s. The band next reunited for a 2003, 17-city tour of Germany, where they were still very popular. They went on two European tours in 2004 and 2005, extending to cities in Switzerland and Sweden. During these tours, the band wrote and performed many of the songs for what would become their first new studio album by The Hooters in 14 years.
In October 2006, recording began at Hyman’s Elmstreet Studios, which he had built in suburban Philadelphia in 2002. The result was Time Stand Still, released in Europe in 2007 and the U.S. in early 2008. The album contains many qualities of projects worked on during the long hiatus, including the Celtic influence from Largo and the high-level pop/rock from Bazilian’s solo efforts (“Until You Dare” from Bazilian’s The Optimist was remade for this album). The album also includes the beautiful ballad “Ordinary Lives”, along with its share of retro material, “I’m Alive”, a cover of Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer”, a hidden track called “White Jeans”, and the album’s title song. As Hyman stated;
“…a key line in the title song is ‘if I had a way to make time stand still’ and in many ways, it really describes our efforts to make music and keep this little band of ours alive all this time…”
After another European tour in 2007, The Hooters returned to their hometown of Philadelphia to play two shows at the Electric Factory during Thanksgiving week. As a teenage rock fan in the late 1960s, Bazilian would attend shows at this venue and take pictures of the bands to sell later, often back to the bands themselves. For the Hooters 2007 shows, the fans in attendance received a free advance copy of Time Stand Still, which was not officially released in the United States until February 5, 2008. Back at work in the Spring of 2008, the band again entered Elmstreet Studios to begin work on a new album, accompanied by violinist Ann Marie Calhoun. They recorded acoustic arrangements of 12 previously released songs and combined these with live material from the Electric Factory shows for the double-CD Both Sides Live, released in November 2008.
On October 23, 2009, in one of the last concerts at the historic Spectrum in Philadelphia, The Hooters played along with other local legends Todd Rundgren and Hall & Oates. 2010 saw the release of the EP Five By Five, the most recent release by the band.
In 1985 at Kings College in Wilkes Barre, PA a young high-schooler trapped in the rural mountains had finally gotten to see the band she had become a fan of a few years earlier. She introduced her friends to their independent Amore album, but all of her “Hooter” experience was strictly of the vinyl variety up to that point. When the band hit the stage, there was instant energy and nothing ever hit her like the electrical charge of this band. The band worked so hard on that stage as if it were the most important show they ever performed. They didn’t stop moving, the timing and musicianship were outstanding and they looked like they were having as much fun as the audience. This was the magic of The Hooters.
Originally planned to be The Hooters sixth studio album, Largo became a much larger and more complex project which involved top-notch talent from across the rock spectrum in both style and era. The album started as just another studio album for producer Rick Chertoff and the songwriting team of Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian. Together this team had produced three albums for The Hooters along with Grammy-nominated albums for Cyndi Lauper and Joan Osbourne, both of whom would lend their talents to the Largo project.
But soon the album grew to become more of a “concept” album on the American experience from diverse points-of-view. The main theme is based on Antonín Dvořák‘s slow-moving (or “largo”) second movement of his 9th Symphony. Throughout the album there are several different versions of “Largo”, which act as breaks to separate the other themed songs. Written in 1893 and commonly known as his “New World” Symphony, the piece was inspired by the Czech composer’s extended time in America where Dvořák became interested in the Native American music and African-American spirituals he heard in America. In December 1893, he explained how Native American music had been an influence on this symphony;
“I have not actually used any of the Native American melodies. I have simply written original themes embodying the peculiarities of the Indian music, and have developed them with all the resources of modern rhythms, counterpoint, and orchestral colour.”
The album is bookmarked by instrumental versions of “Largo” performed by Irish musical group The Chieftains, with the opening track sounding more like something performed near a camp fire in the old west than traditional Celtic music. After this calm intro piece, the album breaks into “Freedom Ride” led by bluesman Taj Mahal, who provides lead vocals, harmonica, and barks between verses. Taj Mahal is a self-taught musician who incorporates elements of world music into his music and the rocker “Freedom Ride” includes bag-pipes and excellent percussive effects. He returns for two more tracks later on the album, “Needed Time” where he adds a dobro to the short porch-blues piece and “Banjoman”, which curiously has no banjo, but does include a good bass riff and an excellent, bluesy guitar lead.
Joing Taj Mahal on “Banjoman” is singer/songwriter David Forman, who lends his deep and resonant voice to seven tracks on Largo. On “Gimme a Stone”, perhaps the best track on the album, Forman shares lead vocals with Levon Helm of The Band on a song with good, upbeat overtones and lyrics about taking up the challenge against heavy odds. Another member of The Band, Garth Hudson adds the almost psychedelic instrumental “Garth Largo”, where he plays saxophone, allen organ, synthesizers, and accordion. On “Medallion” Forman shares vocals with Willie Nile in a driving trance song about a cab driver with Middle-Eastern flavor that later morphs into “The Star Spangled Banner”. The retro closer “Before the Mountains” is credited to “Little Isidore”, an alternative stage act by Forman, and has an almost Frankie Vallie-like quality. On “Disorient Express” Forman shares lead vocals with Hyman, on this unique, two part song which starts with a banjo and trance like, bass-driven rhythm and morphs into a completely different coda section lead by Hyman’s bright electric piano.
Hyman teams up with Joan Osbourne on two duet ballads, “Cyrus In the Moonlight” and “Hand In Mine”. On the former there is persistent percussion and good piano accented by really cool tremolo effects, while the latter is phrased as a classic American folk song with subtle electric guitar effects above calm melody and instrumentation. Both of these songs have a movie soundtrack quality to them. Hyman adds his own Hammond organ instrumentsal “Vishnu Largo”, while Osborne returns towards the end of the album with a memorable lead vocal on “An Uncommon Love”, a song co-written by the legendary Carole King.
One of the most striking moments on the whole album is Cyndi Lauper’s superb vocal performance on the bluesy ““White Man’s Melody”. Lauper, who was apparently “very pregnant” with her first child at the time, provided a classic vocal to this extended, seven-and-a-half-minute song which also has interesting instrumentation and accents, especially by the mandolin and 60s-style organ, and a great guitar lead later in the song.
A review of Largo on AMG states that it “is everything Americana should be” and “easily one of the most ambitious albums of the digital era”. But what Largo can claim in quality, it did not have in commercial and industry fortune as it got caught between major-label mergers and customer confusion over the plain “Largo” cover. However, there has long been talk of a Broadway production and a couple of the songs have become regulars by Who singer Roger Daltrey, keeping the music alive until digital versions have sprung back to life on iTunes and Amazon.com in recent years.
The signature sounds that have defined The Hooters for over three decades would not be possible without the rhythm section laying down those ska and reggae beats. While there have been several bassists in the band over that time period, and even a percussionist for a short time in the early days, the constant through it all has been Dave Uosikkinen, who has been with the band since its inception in 1980.
Dave’s distinctive drumming is the backbone of The Hooters sound. To put it bluntly, he hits those drums hard and with an intensity that keeps the sound loud and right up front. His style was especially refreshing within the context of the 1980’s, when many popular bands were using more electronic or treated drum sounds to replicate an effect that only a true drummer can produce. While electronic drums can keep a steady beat, they are not a satisfying substitute for the nuances of the real thing.
I’m very been a Hooters fan since the beginning (even before the crayon-colored stage image) and I remember how I was drawn in to the sound of the band’s debut album Amore by Uosikkinen’s drumming, which provided a perfect canvas on which the unusual instrumentation of the other band members were given room to explore. From the reggae/ska of the original “All You Zombies” to the pure pop-beat of “Hanging On a Heartbeat”, the drummer did not miss a beat on the band’s impressive independent debut.
Aside from playing with The Hooters for years, Dave has been a teacher, entrepreneur, and session musician. His current project, In The Pocket: The Essential Songs of Philadelphia, pays homage to some of the great songs from Philadelphia bands by re-recording songs that were written or performed by Philadelphia artists of the past. The project includes live performances with a revolving lineup of Philly musicians. Proceeds from this project benefit the Settlement Music School.
When Dave is not teaching or touring with The Hooters, he has built a solid reputation as a session drummer. In fact, thanks to the digital age, you can have Dave add his drumming to your song, for a flat fee, through his web service DaveUDrums.com.
Despite the stellar drumming, he may be best remembered for being that guy in yellow pants walking on his hands in the “Day by Day” video, which is quite unfortunate because he should, in reality, be heralded as a solid and consistant drummer.
The Optimist is the debut solo album by Eric Bazilian, released in 2000. It is kind of odd to consider that this artist’s “debut” anything would come at the dawn of his fourth decade of professionally performing, writing, recording, and producing. But all of the previous recordings by Bazilian were done for acts such as Cyndi Lauper, Joan Osbourne, and of course, his primary band The Hooters. But at this point in time, that band was smack dab in the middle of a 14-year period between studio albums, with Out Of Body being released in 1993 and Time Stand Still not coming until 2007.
The Optimist is a pleasing assortment of well-crafted rock songs released on the indy Mousetrap Records label. It is clear that Bazilian’s songwriting is cut from the Lennon/McCartney cloth, but he masterfully adds many of the sonic developments in the thirty years since the Beatles breakup, right up to including some drum loops by Gota Yashiki, “The Groove Activator” who played a big part in forging the rhythm on Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill. The album is a hybrid of demo tapes dating back to 1996, many self-composed and recorded parts, and some professional mastering. Bazilian was spending his summers in Sweden with his wife’s family and recorded some of the album in his in-law’s barn on his Macintosh laptop.
The album begins with “Driving In England”, an almost-punk-like composition with an infectious drive that makes an excellent beginning to the album. The song, which was co-written by guitarist Randy Cantor, contain vocals with much grit and an air of desperation and drums by fellow-Hooter Dave Uosikkinen. Cantor also co-wrote “Gemini Yo Yo”, with another drum-fused rhythm, distant fuzz guitar, and a half-serious/half-pureness element reminiscent of Cheap Trick.
Although The Optimist is pretty solid cover to cover, there are a few gems which rise above the rest of the material. The first is “Until You Dare”, a moderate acoustic ballad with strategic electric overtones. The song’s lyrics address summoning the courage to take a chance or leap of faith and getting out of your comfort zone to make an attempt at greatness –
“How you gonna learn how to fly when you’re so busy crawling?”
A more melodramatic, piano-led version of “Until You Dare” was recorded by for the Hooters’ Time Stand Still album in 2007.
“Hopelessly, Relentlessly” is a subdued, melancholy song, written about the end of summer with a larger allegory for life itself. It contains, perhaps, Bazilian’s best guitar work on the album. “Be My Woman” is another gem on the album with a retro sounding guitar and lyrics that explore some of history of rock n’ roll, my favorite being –
“I’ll tell you what it is with the Stones, they kind of suck without Brian Jones…”
Much of the rest of the album is a fusion of the millennial sound along with some entertaining infusion of diverse instrumentation and styles. “Bye Bye Baby”, co-written by Glenn Goss contains a saxophone driven riff with vocals that perfectly mix Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, and just a touch of Lenny Kravitz added to the blend during the choruses. It also contains a nice coda crescendo to top off the vice. The pure pop song “U.G.L.Y.” dated back to sessions in 1996 with the finished product co-written with Amanda Marshall in 1998, while the fun “Kid from Outer Space” contains some crisp, layered, and entertaining guitars and exceptional bass – all recorded by Bazilian.
“Fiddlesticks” is the type of song which could have been a big hit in different era, while the closing title song, “The Optimist” is a deeply philosophical tune written and recorded in the barn in Sweden. The CD also includes a hidden bonus track, the original 1995 demo of “One of Us” which Bazilian presented to Joan Osbourne in the studio before the song would go on to international fame and acclamation.
Aside from the “Until You Dare” inclusion, It seems like many of the same themes about time and life are continued on the Hooters next effort, Time Stand Still in 2007. Still, there is something about hearing this artist completely liberated, without consideration for input or opinion from band members, that makes it a more pure and honest effort.