Saturday, September 28, 2013


Legendary musician, groundbreaking record producer and electronic music revolutionary Todd Rundgren will be honored with the prestigious Les Paul Award at the 29th Annual Technical Excellence & Creativity Awards. The awards recognize outstanding achievement in professional audio technology and production and will be presented Friday, Jan. 24 at the Anaheim Hilton during the 2014 NAMM Show held in Anaheim, CA.

 The Les Paul Award, named for the revolutionary inventor and esteemed musician, is presented annually to honor individuals or institutions that have set the highest standards of excellence in the creative application of audio and music technology. Russ Paul, son of Les Paul, will make the presentation on behalf of the Les Paul Foundation, sponsor of the award. Instituted in 1991, the honor has been granted to such luminaries as Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young and Peter Gabriel.

 A personification of creative musical experimentation and mastery, Rundgren often performed multiple tasks on his solo albums - writing, playing, singing, engineering, producing and distributing - and has been a pioneer of interactive and online distribution. Between his solo work and his creative output with his progressive band, Utopia, Rundgren has released more than 25 critically acclaimed albums.

 The TEC Foundation for Excellence in Audio will also induct two new members to its Hall of Fame. Audio engineer and sound researcher John Meyer co-founded and is CEO of Berkeley’s Meyer Sound Laboratories, Inc., bringing groundbreaking developments to the design and manufacture of the loudspeaker. He will be recognized for his cutting-edge contributions to sound reinforcement in the performing arts. Legendary session musician Hal Blaine of the Wrecking Crew played drums on more than 5,000 records, TV jingles and film scores. Career highlights include hits for Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys and dozens more.

 The TEC Awards ceremony is expected to attract more than 1,000 global manufacturers of audio equipment and software, as well as top music producers, engineers, sound mixers and musical artists. The awards ceremony is now produced as part of the NAMM Foundation. It will be held on the second night of The NAMM Show, one of the world’s largest global music industry trade shows. As it approaches its third decade, the TEC Awards under the auspices of NAMM continues to grow both technically and artistically and has become established as one of the entertainment industry's most important annual events.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Yes it's true! There was once an off-Broadway musical written by Todd, that played in the Public Theater (down by where Tower Records used to be).

It was called Up Against It, and featured Tony-nominee Alison Fraser.

Up Against It is an unproduced script by Joe Orton, written in 1967 for The Beatles at the height of their fame.
Orton submitted the script to the Beatles's manager, Brian Epstein; after a long period without hearing from either Epstein or the Beatles on the subject, his screenplay was returned to him without comment.
Orton passed away shortly after, and the script sat for a decade until being published in 1979; the manuscript of this draft resides in the Joe Orton Collection at the University of Leicester.
Although the actual screenplay has never been staged or filmed, Joseph Papp produced a musical theatre adaptation that opened Off Broadway on 14 November 1989, with music by Todd Rundgren. Tony-nominee Alison Fraser appeared in it.

There were sixteen performances (I was lucky enough to see one), and while the story was on the silly side, Rundgren did a good job with the music. Reviews were not favorable, and the production ended after a two-week run.

Rundgren had begun performing some of the songs in concert as early as 1986 ("Parallel Lines", which is a recurring number in the show, was played on December 16, 1986 in Philadelphia, heard by a young DiscConnected for the first time). Rundgren recorded "Parallel Lines" for his Nearly Human album, and three other number for its follow-up, Second Wind. 

PARALLEL LINES (from Nearly Human)

IF I HAVE TO BE ALONE (from Second Wind)

A recording of Rundgren's song demos for the show was released in Japan in 1997. Several songs from the show also made their way into the orchestra set list, and it has been rumored that the next orchestra performance will be the music from the show.


So while Up Against It! did not fare well in NYC's theater district, Rundgren fans are still refusing to let the music die!

Saturday, September 21, 2013


Many of you know I have a rather excessive obsession for music that has turned into a somewhat large collection.

A few years ago, in an effort to create more shel space, I undertook the project to remove the CD's from their jewel cases and place them in plastic sleeves.

I am up to the "R's" (but have spent little time on this recently).
Another project started last year was the uploading of the same collection to the cloud.

This would give me (finally) a backup in the event the physical CD's were damaged, as well as access to the collection through various internet-enabled devices (computers, cell phone, iPad/iPod) for streaming purposes.
Along the way, I am reminded of the titles I own that have not seen the light of day for some time.
In Stephen T. McCarthy’s second Battle Of The Bands post, he pits a Fleetwood Mac song against a cover by the Detroit band, The Rockets.

Today, while repackaging and uploading my CD collection, I came across albums from not one….not two…but THREE different bands calling themselves The Rockets.


These Rockets hail from Detroit, Michigan and were founded by guitarist Jimmy McCarty and drummer Johnny "Bee" Badanjek, both former members of the group Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels.
Formed in 1972 along with slide and rhythm guitarist Dennis Robbins, bassist John Fraga, and lead vocalist David Gilbert, the Rockets reached their pinnacle of success in 1979 with a Top 40 hit, a cover of the Fleetwood Mac song "Oh Well."

Some might argue that inclusion on the FFFF blog was the high water mark, but for purposes of this post, let's assume it was the Billboard charts.

The Rockets made five studio albums producing several minor hits. Always a popular group in Detroit, and Michigan, The Rockets had gotten some attention outside of the state, but never really got the big break to become a true national act. In 1983, the band splintered and the members all went their separate ways.

Sadly, three original members (David Gilbert, Bobby Neil Haralson and John Fraga) passed away over the past decade and a half. The surviving band members  revived the band in 2010 and are reportedly working on a new album.



Another band called The Rockets was an early incarnation of Crazy Horse, the band that would back up Neil Young for decades.

The band's origins date to 1963 and the Los Angeles-based a cappella doo-wop group Danny And The Memories, which consisted of main singer Danny Whitten and supporting vocalists Lou Bisbal (soon to be replaced by Bengiamino Rocco), Billy Talbot, and Ralph Molina. The latter two would become the only members of Crazy Horse present in every incarnation of the band.

Making its way to San Francisco and back to Los Angeles again, the group evolved over the course of several years into The Rockets, a psychedelic folk hybrid comprising Whitten on guitar, Talbot on bass, Molina on drums, Bobby Notkoff on violin, and brothers Leon and George Whitsell also on guitars. This lineup recorded the Rockets' only album, a self-titled set released in 1968.

With their album complete, the Rockets reconnected with Neil Young, whom they had met two years earlier during the early days of Buffalo Springfield. In August 1968, three months after Buffalo Springfield dissolved, Young jammed with the Rockets on stage during their show at the Whisky a Go Go and soon after enlisted Whitten, Talbot, and Molina to back him on his second solo album.

Credited to Neil Young with Crazy Horse, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere includes the pop hit "Cinnamon Girl" and the extended guitar workouts "Down by the River" and "Cowgirl in the Sand". Crazy Horse toured with Young during the first half of 1969.

As Young spent more time with other ventures (Crosby, Stills & Nash) and gave them less of a role on his solo efforts, Crazy Horse capitalized on the exposure and recorded its eponymous debut album for Reprise Records in 1971, with  that year. The band Jack Nitzsche as producer and keyboardist, and second guitarist Nils Lofgren.



Yet a third band called the Rockets recorded an album, this band  found minor success in the burgeoning and vibrant San Francisco Bay Area club scene fronted by cocky and handsome lead singer Eddie Mahoney, rock solid drummer John Cuniberti, expressive guitarist Dan Alexander and innovative bassist Chris Solberg.
They sounded like a young Alex Chilton backed up by Free, and,  inspired by the sounds of English groups like The Move and Badfinger, they built a reputation as a great band that delivered a style unique to the Bay Area.  

The group made appearances at Los Angeles's infamous Starwood Club, worked the ski resort circuit from Lake Tahoe to Sun Valley, frequented college campuses and played the occasional concert venue but never managed to move beyond that.

Off-stage the band focused on songwriting and recording. At that time, independent recording studios were starting to emerge in the Bay Area, and in 1975 The Rockets recorded tracks for a demo tape that was submitted to CBS records, which were quickly rejected, and the band dissolved soon after.

The lead singer would later change his name to Eddie Money and open a travel agency (according to the Geico commercial). Actually, Money would be signed by CBS.

To my knowledge, no recordings were issued by this band until their demos were released by Groove House (on CD) in 2010. The label has video clips HERE.
I’ve been reliving a lot of cool musical moments while I undertake this project, and felt compelled to share this one since the Detroit band had been highlighted so recently.

What have you listened to lately?


Thursday, September 19, 2013


Not the  Dave Mason you are probably thinking of (of Traffic), but the Dave Mason who played keyboards in the first incarnation of Todd Rundgren's side project, Utopia.

At this point, the band was a six-piece progressive outfit, with three keyboard players and album-side-length songs...the kind of stuff Stephen T. McCarthy HATES. They recorded two albums. Another incarnation recorded the Disco Jets album that went unreleased until last year. Later, the band evolved into a four-piece line up that released another eight studio albums and one live album.

They reunited briefly in 2011 as a benefit for one of the other keyboardists, Moogy Klingman, who was battling cancer (sadly Moogy passed away later that year).

Rest in peace, David! If heaven has a place to plug in keyboards, I know you and Moogy will rock the place!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Albums We Play All The Way Through
Author James Garcia of Dance On Fire fame posted last week about albums he has to play all the way through-an idea that would have made a great blog hop!
Hopefully Jimmy will not mind me posting my own take on his idea.

Like Jimmy, music is a huge part of my life-take the television, steal the cars, but some of those CD’s you’re going to have to step over my corpse to remove!
As I read Jimmy’s narrative about the emergence of the album format, it reminded me of many a conversation I had with Stephen T. McCarthy back in the days we worked in the same office building.
I love albums, and usually would rather listen to an original album (which usually had a running order that the artist agonized over) than a greatest hits album.
Stephen would usually counter that, especially pre-Pet Sounds and Sgt Pepper, an album was simply a collection of ten songs, and a greatest hits album was no different.
I don’t know if there’s a right answer….but I do know that when you hit me with a concept album, I am in Headphone Heaven!
Here we go with my list (sort of in chronological order) of albums I have to play all the way through (and think you should, too).

The Who -Tommy

Probably my first exposure to a concept album, Tommy was drilled into my head during those years I shared a bedroom with my oldest brother.

It still holds up for me today musically, although some of the lyrics are dated (the whole “Tommy-as-Messiah” theme is very sixties, and does anyone even know what a pinball machine is anymore?).

Yes-Close To The Edge

While not a concept album, the title track to Yes’ fifth studio album, which reached #3 on the Billboard charts way back in 1972, featured themes inspired by Hermann Hesse's book Siddhartha.

The song tracks the awakening of Hesse's character "close to the edge" of a river (and, symbolically, of the serial lifetimes of his soul), where he experiences a spiritual awakening.

Bruford says in his autobiography that he came up with the title to describe the state of the band itself, as he had with its predecessor Fragile (he left the line-up after completion of the recording)

This album set a trend for Yes of structuring an album around a single epic song, a trend that continued throughout their career, seen as recently as 2011’s Fly From Here.

Genesis-The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is a double concept album recorded and released in 1974 by the British rock band Genesis. It was their sixth studio album and the last to include frontman Peter Gabriel.

The album tells the surreal story of a half Puerto Rican juvenile delinquent named Rael living in New York City, who is swept underground to face bizarre creatures and nightmarish dangers in order to rescue his brother John.

Several of the story's occurrences and places were derived from Peter Gabriel's dreams, and the protagonist's name is a play on his surname (Rael=Gabriel).  The individual songs also make satirical allusions to mythology, the sexual revolution, advertising, and consumerism.

One of the most creative albums to come out of the 1970’s progressive rock scene, and one of the best concept albums of all time.


Rush- 2112

Released in 1976, Rush’s fourth studio album features an eponymous seven-part suite written by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, with lyrics written by Neil Peart telling a dystopian story set in the year 2112. The album is sometimes described as a concept album although the songs on the second side are unrelated to the plot of the suite.

Often cited as the definitive Rush album. In 2012, the album came in at #2 on Rolling Stone's list of 'Favorite Prog Rock Albums of All Time.'


Horslips-The Book Of Invasions

Even though some credit Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick for being the first concept album, I always thought Horslips took the “core” Tull sound and did it better. Why they never achieved mainstream appeal is beyond me, especially considering this album, which is discovered in my one year as a disc jockey at my college radio station.

Based on an adaptation of Irish legends built into a complex story, and named for the book of Irish mythology the legends were sourced from, it is considered by many to be the band’s best work

If you like Jethro Tull’s style but want your folk-prog without tights, this is your band!

Todd Rundgren-Healing

When are you gonna learn, readers? If it’s a list, I’m going to find a way to include a Rundgren album!

Healing, Rundgren's ninth studio album, explores themes of spirituality and the human condition, with each track focusing on a different aspect. The back cover image of the album (artwork by Prairie Prince) shows the caduceus overlaid by a treble clef and a Qabalistic Tree of Life overlaid by a bass clef, reflecting Rundgren's linking of his spirituality and music.

The first side of the album was a six-song suite telling the story of a spiritual healer, and side two was a three-track suite exploring the use of music to heal one’s self.

The album’s release would trigger his first appearance on Saturday Night Live, as well as a video from the album (for the single “Time Heals”) being among the first music videos aired on MTV (I have seen it credited as the second and as the sixth video played).


Marillion-Misplaced Childhood

Misplaced Childhood is the third studio album from neo-progressive rock band Marillion’s first incarnation, released in 1985 and still their most commercially successful album, reaching number one in the UK album charts in June 1985 and spending a total of 41 weeks on the chart, the longest chart residency of a Marillion album.

Misplaced Childhood was the band's first full concept album, consisting of two continuous pieces of music on the two sides of the vinyl.  

The story has thematic elements of lost love, sudden success, acceptance, and lost childhood, along with an upbeat ending.  Several of the songs contain autobiographical references, and while Fish would leave the band after the follow-up album and tour, and launch a solo career that continues with the release of his latest album in 2013, he would never match the commercial success of this effort.

Marillion would continue on after the split with a new singer….more on that to come later in this post.

Queensryche-Operation: Mindcrime

Operation: Mindcrime was Queensryche’s third studio album, and is, in my opinion, their high water mark. It is a concept album and a rock opera, with a story following a recovering drug addict who becomes disillusioned with the society of his time and reluctantly becomes involved with a revolutionary group as an assassin of political leaders.

I was late to discover this album (1997, thanks to Lance), but it soon became a favorite, and is, also in my opinion, THE concept album of the 1980’s (apologies to Marillion)



If Operation: Mindrcime was the quintessential concept album of the 80’s, then I think Brave has to be awarded that moniker for the 90’s.

After lead vocalist Fish left, the surviving members recruited Steve Hogarth to take over front man duties, and after two albums of shorter, more “radio-friendly” songs, Marillion delivered this concept album based on a news story Steve Hogarth heard on the radio about a girl who was taken into police custody after being found wandering the Severn Bridge. She did not know who she was, where she came from and refused to even speak. This inspired Hogarth to write a fictional story about this girl and what might have led to her being on the Severn Bridge in this state.

Dream Theater-Scenes From A Memory

For their fifth studio effort, Dream Theater wove a tale of the discovery of a man’s past life, which involves love, murder, and infidelity, into a concept album.

While the band is a little hard for my taste, the album is exceptional, voted #1 on Rolling Stone's list of 'Favorite Prog Rock Albums of All Time.'


Spock’s Beard Snow


Snow is the sixth studio album of the progressive rock band Spock's Beard, and the final album with main songwriter and vocalist Neal Morse, who left immediately after the release of the album due to his conversion to Christianity.

A double-CD concept album, Snow explores similar ground to classic concept albums like The Who's Tommy and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway by Genesis. It was released in 2002 on InsideOut Music.

While, in my opinion, the preceding album (V), was this lineup’s finest effort, I cannot help but wonder what might have happened had Neal stayed with the band. Although the subsequent two lineups have produced stellar efforts, the commercial success that seemed to be growing with each album stalled after Morse’s departure.


Transatlantic The Whirlwind

Never one to rest on his laurels, Neal Morse, even though he was prolific in his solo efforts, reunited the progressive “supergroup” Transatlantic for a third album, “The Whirlwind,” in 2009.

Written with Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Roine Stolt (Flower Kings), and Pete Trewevas (Marillion), the album consisted of a single 77-minute title-track, with the same spiritual lyrics that Morse had brought to Spock’s Beard and the first two Transatlantic albums.

A new album was recorded this year for release in early 2014. I’d recommend this one to any rock fan.


Arena-The Seventh Degree Of Separation

Arena has never achieved mainstream success in their two decades of history, and their latest effort, a concept album about someone’s last hour of life and first hour of death, did not change that, even though musically it found the band in accessible and commercial territory.

It Bites-Map Of The Past

Formed in 1982, progressive rock band It Bites cannot be accused of being in a hurry.

Map of the Past is the band’s fifth studio album, released on March 26, 2012, and is their first concept album.

Written by singer/guitarist John Mitchell and keyboard player John Beck during the course of 2011, the album’s concept deals with the theme of the past, as seen through old photographs.


Pink Floyd-Dark Side Of The Moon

I know this screws up the whole chronology, but I had to save the ultimate for last. If there is ONE album that simply MUST be played from start to finish, it is Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon. And you better use headphones, too-you really want to catch it all!

I do not have to rehash the particulars for you-released in 1973; recorded using some of the most advanced techniques of the time; engineered by Alan Parsons; tracks featuring themes of conflict, greed, the passage of time, and mental illness, reflecting various stages of human life, beginning and ending with a heartbeat and all sequenced to run continuously; 740 weeks on the Billboard charts.

Rumours have circulated since at least the late seventies that The Dark Side of the Moon was written as a soundtrack for the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz.”  I myself took part is several chemical-enhanced observations to find synchronicities (such as Dorothy beginning to jog at the lyric "no one told you when to run" during "Time", and Dorothy balancing on a tight-rope fence during the line "balanced on the biggest wave" in "Breathe") although I was never as convinced as my friends

David Gilmour and Nick Mason have both denied a connection between the two works, Roger Waters has described the rumours as "amusing," and Alan Parsons has stated that the film was not mentioned during production of the album.

But I’d encourage you to try it anyway…with lots of alcohol or smoking material.

So there you have it...some you may be familiar with, some not, but I'd encourage you to give them a spin!



Sunday, September 15, 2013


A few bloggers I follow are doing a semi-monthly "Battle Of The Bands" post, and today I thought I'd shamelessly jump on their bandwagon without being invited.

Those who follow this blog know that I sometimes listen to an artist named Todd Rundgren.  Most people either say “Todd who?” or know of his Billboard #5 hit “Hello It’s Me.”

The song was originally recorded by The Nazz, the band that brought Rundgren national attention (if not fame). I’d have said his first band, but his first band, Woody’s Truck Stop, did release a record, so the Nazz would be his second band.

Rundgren later recorded "his" version of the song for 1972's Something/Anything? lp, and that version got all the airplay and became his signature hit.

He also recorded a bossa-nova version of the tune on 1997's With A Twist.

The song also has made some appearances in our pop culture:

(   (1)    In the ending to the pilot of the Fox sitcom That '70s Show, Eric and the gang joyfully sing this in the car while on their way to a Todd Rundgren concert.

(  (2)    Paul Giamatti's character in the 2000 film Duets performs this song in a karaoke bar

(  (3)    The single was used in a 2009 Tums television advertisement

The song has also been covered by other artists quite a few times:

(  (1)    The Isley Brothers for their 1974 album Live It Up

(  (2)    Groove Theory for their 1995 self-titled album

(  (3)    Mary J. Blige for the Japanese and iTunes editions of her 2007 album Growing Pains

(  (4)    Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs on their album Under the Covers, Vol. 2

(  (5)    Lani Hall (Herb Alpert's wife) on her album titled Hello It's Me in 1975

(  (6)    Gerald Levert recorded a cover with Lil' Mo on the soundtrack for the movie The Mod Squad

(  (7)    John Legend (who thought the song was written by the Isley Brothers) on a Gap-sponsored disc called Favorite Songs

(  (8)    The Grip Weeds on the album Strange Change Machine in 2010.

Anyway, since it seems like they’ll let anyone play Battle Of The Bands, I thought I’d throw out an entry, and me being me, don’tcha know it’s going to be a Todd Rundgren song?

And I am going to cheat a little-and put THREE versions of the song out there!

First, the original version by The Nazz

Next, the Todd Rundgren solo version

And finally, the version by The Isley Brothers

I's the Matthew Sweet and Susannah Hoffs version-so there are FOUR versions of the song to choose from!

Now, I am sure I have broken the rules that the BOTB founders put out there, but since this is an unofficial post, I can get away with it.

The REAL Battle Of The Bands sites are:

Robin (Your Daily Dose) 

They post on the first and fifteenth of the month and have a cool contest going on where you can win free CD's and a dream date with your choice of Brad Pitt or Kate Upton.

OK, I may have made the last part up. But go check out their blogs and vote. 

Ya can't win if ya don't play!