Manfred Mann’s Earth Band Angel Station review JV

Angel Station Review

by Joe Viglione [-]

Vocalist Chris Thompson’s last album with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band is dressed up in Mann’s beautiful keyboards. Angel Station has some key moments — “You Angel You,” a Bob Dylan tune that sounds nothing like Dylan, and not the way their Top Ten version of “Quinn the Eskimo”/”The Mighty Quinn” was reinvented. “You Angel You” has a strong hook with topnotch Anthony Moore production work, and it melts into the title track of Harriet Schock’s landmark Hollywood Town album, the source of Helen Reddy’s “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady.” The Manfred Mann version is interesting, and explores the possibilities of the composition, though Schock’s version is perfect country-pop and hard to top. It is nice to see a rock band with such good taste. “Angelz at My Gate,” co-written by Manfred Mann, leads off side two and is another dreamy “angel” tune. It sounds mysteriously like “Games Without Frontiers,” the Peter Gabriel radio hit from his 1980 third self-titled solo album. Now since this was released the year before, do you think Gabriel found inspiration from the grooves of Angel Station? While artists like Gary Wright and Jordan Rudess overwhelm you with the keyboards, Manfred Mann’s are indeed the lead instrument, but he uses them to augment the vocals, not to overpower. The John Shaw-photographed album cover looks innocent enough until you turn it upside down — there a female dark angel, in open black cape, exposes her breasts. So blatant, but upside down it probably went right by many retailers, and with no hit single, it probably didn’t cause too much of a stir. It’s interesting that, like Gary Wright, the Earth Band recorded for Warner Bros., yet both acts only eked out a couple of hit singles. As with Wright’s Headin’ Home LP, this 1979 album has more than its share of good material, both keyboard players being intuitive artists with credentials and past chart success. Despite good performances on Heron’s “Don’t Kill It Carol” and a simply wonderful cover of Billy Falcon’s 1978 release, “Waiting for the Rain,” this is yet another album that deserved a better fate. The rendition of the Falcon tune may be the best performance of one of that singer’s compositions ever. The two Manfred Mann songs on side two are excellent: “You Are – I Am” is good and pleasant while “Resurrection” has lyrics that display clever sarcasm and religious — or sacrilegious — overtones. Angel Station is well-crafted music by an industry veteran. Collapse ↑

Varulven Records Legal Defense Fund!

Our Preservation of Boston Music is Key to New England Music History

We have been swindled by a scurrilous individual and have countersued for Twenty-Five Thousand Dollars. Pleae help with our legal bills.

Varulven Records is “Boston’s Original Rock Label” ™ In 2018 an individual contacted us about purchasing the “ephemera,” paper goods. He started taking master tapes, dozens of Varulven Magazine #1 that he was not entitled to, he ransacked the Varulven storage units, and then sued the small but vibrant independent label for $5,000.00 out in North Adams, Massachusetts so that the elder owner of the label had to trek out to Western Massachusetts on multiple occasions. The label filed a countersuit for $25,000.00 which is being heard in court as you read this. Varulven needs to hire a good, strong attorney to fight the malicious activities of the malicious person who took our property and then sued. Clearly, he was trying to get the label to default to abscond with the copyrights as well. Varulven Records is an important independent label with over 30 compilation albums which have chronicled the history of Boston Music since 1976, and we intend to release many more with rare and exciting finds in our vaults. For donations over $30.00 you will get Richard Nolan’s “Track Dog” 45 RPM and a copy of the new, critically acclaimed Boston Rock and Roll Anthology #21. The person who took our items without cataloguing them as promised and without the honor to work with the president of the label claims to have “… taught American studies, American history and the history of religion at leading institutions such as Williams College, Bennington College, and Emerson College. He (claims to have) held research fellowships at the Warburg Institute, and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. Bennington College.” We trusted that individual because of his alleged credentials. His malicious suit has cost us time and money that could be spent on future projects. This is a real heartbreaker and our important indie label needs your help. We have documented the New England Music Scene for decades and that scurrilous individual has broken our momentum, broken our spirit, and interfered in our important work. Do NOT let Varulven be swindled by a selfish individual attempting to hijack and defame our legacy. This suit is also important so that other record labels and historians are not taken advantage of by a smooth-talking swindler who wants your intellectual property and who will sue you after he breaches contract and reneges on the deal. This is an important case which can prevent further historians from being abused by a petty street hustler. Judge Judy wanted the case and would have settled it, but the violent man would rather threaten an elder person in a storage unit than settle. His objective is to hijack our precious materials. He is a snake oil salesman, not a historian and we need your help to hire legal counsel to protect our valuables. We so appreciate any donations and will send you a gift of a recording for helping out this righteous cause. Thanks!

Thank You


Feedback Review by Joe Viglione

Feedback is one of the strangest happenings in rock, more dramatic than Michael MacDonald taking over the Doobie Brothers, but more successful artistically than it was financially, and a chapter of the group that is sadly forgotten. The original band was produced by Lou Adler and built around guitar prodigy Randy California, and a bit of history is in order to understand this hybrid project. David Briggs, producer of Kathi MacDonald, Alice Cooper’s Easy Action, and Neil Young, helped the band forge their classic Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus and was retained for this follow-up. William Ruhlmann’s liner notes to Spirit’s Time Circle Epic/Legacy release notes that Randy California resigned from the group at this point. Mark Andes and Jay Ferguson formed Jo Jo Gunne with Curly Smith, and Smith’s friends, the Staehely Brothers, joined Cassidy and company. What Ed Cassidy and keyboard player John Locke created with producer David Briggs was a phenomenal reinvention of Spirit, which worked, sometimes better than the original group. Bassist/vocalist Al Staehely wrote the music, with guitar chores and backing vocals by his brother J. Christian Staehely. “Witch,” the final track on the disc, is typical of this new Spirit sound, a fusion of pop/jazz/rock with a dab of country. It would have been a perfect blend for Randy California to step back into, though his ego might have been the stumbling block here. In concert, this version of Spirit was serious and precise, playing with a cool efficiency. David Briggs was the perfect guy to oversee this project, allowing the musicians their space and developing a true counterpart to The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, considered by many to be the band’s highpoint. The cover is in eerie aqua blue with the faces looking like spirits peering out of a distorted television. The gatefold contains a band photo and a smart evolutionary image for this eclectic and underrated West Coast band. Here’s the clincher: musically, some of the best work on Feedback are the two instrumentals by keyboard player John Locke, “Puesta Del Scam” and “Trancas Fog-Out,” fragments of the original “Spirit” performed by this new quartet. The stuff is brilliant, and that it was excised from Time Circle is a pity. It was this writer who put Epic/Legacy in touch with Randy California in the development of 1991’s Time Circle compilation project, and certainly the elegant “Darkness,” the third John Locke title, deserved to be included on that double disc, and some representation of this remarkable work would have been appropriate rather than nine whopping cuts from The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus. Jo Jo Gunne guitarist Matthew Andes (brother of Spirit’s Mark Andes) co-wrote “Mellow Morning” with Al Staehely, and it, along with “Right on Time” and “Ripe and Ready,” all display the Spirit vibe, even hinting at some Jo Jo Gunne, as strange as that may seem. The Cassidy/Locke/Staehely/Staehely combo added enough jazz to Spirit to temper the all out assault that was Jo Jo Gunne, and therein lies the difference. This is not David Bowie’s ex-drummer and bassist forming the Spiders From Mars; keep in mind that Ed Cassidy was not only the band’s insignia with his Yul Brynner look, he was this group’s spiritual leader. As Randy California’s step-dad, it’s a shame he didn’t get more firm with the boy and demand they all be “the family that plays together.” Had the Staehely brothers and John Locke stayed on board for Cassidy and Randy California’s next project, the erratic Potatoland disc may have mutated into something totally brilliant. The best of Al Staehely, John Locke, and Randy California would have been truly something. Feedback is a solid performance and remarkable album which deserves its place in the Spirit catalog, and not the status of bastard son. It is a legitimate Spirit project and it is very, very good. Collapse ↑

by Joe Viglione [-] Pearls: Songs of Goffin and King Review
by Joe Viglione [-]
Make no doubt about it, this is possibly Carole King’s most important work since Tapestry, and why a similar album didn’t follow Tapestry or its follow-up, Music, was a marketing blunder and a mystery. Missing here is Lou Adler’s production, though King and her co-producer Mark Hallman are hardly inefficient. It’s just that some songs get more attention than others. “Dancin’ With Tears in My Eyes” opens the collection, a pleasant new addition to their repertoire, but next to “Locomotion,” “One Fine Day,” “Chains,” and “Snow Queen,” its purpose is more to bring the album full circle than to try to compete with these classics. “One Fine Day,” the song the Chiffons brought Top Five, was the hit, going Top 15 from this set 17 years later. The reworking of the Freddie Scott/Bobby Vee/Donny Osmond hit “Hey Girl” is breathtaking. Here King is backed by lush production and a bluesy vocal that surpasses anything else on this record, as well as much of what was on the charts at this time. Pearls: Songs of Goffin and King is the set the artist’s longtime fans craved when Tapestry made her more than a household name. This album deserves its place right next to Tapestry.

You Better Believe It Gerald Wilson’s Masterpiece

AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione  [-]
Long out of print, the sophisticated and timeless instrumental work titled You Better Believe It by underrated conductor/arranger Gerald Wilson is a first-rate masterpiece released on the Pacific Jazz label in 1961. The seven performances are available on CD in their original order on the 84-track, five-disc compilation, The Complete Pacific Jazz Recordings of Gerald Wilson & His Orchestra released on the Mosaic label, but the additional 77 tracks on the boxed set might distract from this impressive LP which stands as an important work of art on its own. Beginning with “Blues for Yna Yna,” the album starts off like an intriguing spy movie complete with understated dramatic tension. Written for Wilson‘s pet cat, according to liner note writer John William Hardy, the almost seven-minute excursion features the reeds of Harold Land. Explosive horns chirp over Richard “Groove” Holmes‘ jazz organ solos, but the 17-piece orchestra never gets in the way — just the opposite as Wilson adds this or that in clever fashion so that the pieces stay fresh over endless spins. “Jeri,” the second title and written for Wilson‘s daughter, is almost half the length of the opening track, but pulls away the curtain and explodes with the horns flowing and Holmes‘ keyboard ebbing, the rhythm section of drummer Mel Lewis and bassist Jimmy Bond directing the current so everything else can fall nicely into place. “Moody Blue,” with its pensive and majestic oozing prowl, was a major inspiration to “Sunny” author and Wilson aficionado Bobby Hebb who immersed himself in this album in the early ’60s and pointed out: “The great Gerald Wilson believed in the talent of Richard Holmes.” Indeed, Wilson gave Holmes a tremendous platform to infuse his ideas with those of the other gifted players, Joe Maini on alto, Walter Benton on tenor, and reed player Teddy Edwards, who helps open side two with his participation on “The Wailer.” “The Wailer” is almost like a “Part Two” to side one’s opening track, “Blues for Yna Yna,” back to the spy movie style — and Hardy‘s essay notes that it was written for a television play. One website claims Wilson appeared as a trumpeter in a 1959 CBS-TV drama, Lineup, for an episode called The Wailer. On the track with the same name as the TV episode the music creeps in and evolves into thickly textured swirls of brass, keyboards, and advancing drums. Richard “Groove” Holmes‘ organ swells up about six minutes into the seven-and-a-half minute expedition, just a marvelous performance that transcends jazz and borders on modern pop, a foundation for things that became mainstream within a decade of its release.

On the back cover of the original imprint, Hardy calls this disc “one of the most thoroughly ingratiating big-band jazz recordings in years,” and the test of time proves Hardy correct. The 17-piece orchestra performs like a trio or quartet, each musician knowing where to be and when to execute, so the tension shifts and the moods change as subtle instrumentation slides in track by instrumental track. Shifting from quiet to quickly dramatic, the ideas keep flowing from Wilson‘s creative fount and titles like “Straight Up & Down” continue the mission inside the under four minutes. It sure feels as if Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago were inspired by these sounds from 1961, and most certainly the Henry Mancini composed original soundtrack to The Pink Panther, recorded in 1963 and released in 1964, owes some debt to You Better Believe It. That this music is so film-ready should come as no surprise as Wilson was involved in the soundtrack to the motion picture Where the Boys Are in the ’60s and other TV and movie work. “Gerald Wilson‘s groove can only be told if you have the strength to pull the corner of your lips out of your ears, because he produces a heavy smile” Bobby Hebb says of one of his favorite artists specifically for this review, and it’s difficult to disagree. You Better Believe It somehow got lost in the shuffle in the 46 years between when it was released and when this review was written. It’s a textbook for future generations, a dynamic and powerful combination of sounds waiting to inspire the world again.

Check out Bobby Hebb’s website

AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione [-]Released in Europe on Castle Communications and distributed in the U.S. on Domino Entertainment, a label founded by producer Rob Fraboni, the album’s tracks were all shuffled into a different order except for “A Little Bit of Love,” “It Don’t Come Easy,” and “Use That Power.” An oddity, but you could put the CD in your player on the shuffle setting and it would remain one of journeyman Alvin Lee’s finest statements. The stellar track here is “Real Life Blues,” which hit in spots around the states, notably in Texas and in Massachusetts. It was a Top 30 hit on the Billboard charts in Boston when the regional papers published such tracking. The track featured the unmistakable sound of George Harrison on slide guitar and Deep Purple keyboard player Jon Lord. This is a wiser, slower, more methodical sentiment than we once heard Lee make on “I’d Love to Change the World.” A 16 page booklet accompanies the cover photo (the bull’s eye on Lee’s guitar), it’s the other side of the flash guitar Lee’s been known for. “A Little Bit of Love” is Ten Years After meets Power Station with thunderous drums and very smooth production. Steve Gould and Deena Payne’s backing vocals chirp over Alan Young’s boom-boom drumbeat on “The Price of Love,” a bonafide dance tune that cries for the kind of production that the band Chic made famous — dance blues. “Moving the Blues” is a fun, Delaney & Bonnie type rocker with Clarence Clemons on tenor sax. Clemons appears on four tracks, including “Use That Power,” “Jenny, Jenny” — a Little Richard meets Mitch Ryder by way of Chuck Berry fun stomper — and the funky “Wake Up Moma” which has that trademark Jon Lord keyboard filling in nicely. The instrumental “Lost in Love” is very tasteful. This is a major ’60s/’70s figure making music on his own terms and it is very satisfying.

Joe Viglione’s Unique Perspective on Film

The upcoming Spiderman film looks like fun. Doctor Octopus, Doctor Strange chock full of docs…. I started writing reviews at the age of 15 in 1969 for my fan publication Varulven Magazine. 52 years later I have developed my own “writer’s voice” giving insight quite different from other critics. My theory is, why do a regular mainstream review that you can find online from any publication? With a film out worldwide Marty Balin Live on the Esplanade – Rock n Roll Hall of Fame artist directed by Joe Viglione, the first solo Marty Balin (of Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship) disc full of surprises, and a number of new films already in the planning stages, you get ideas inside my reviews from behind the camera and from the front row of the theater.

From Joe V, the director: This Marty Balin DVD is the “ultimate fan package”…meaning, rather than allow unauthorized tapes to flourish we got footage together from both professionals and people who are long-time Balin supporters who wanted to run cameras at the June 14, 2008 concert in Boston. The spirit of the recording was to document a rare Balin gig a la Cracker & Camper Van Beethoven’s “The First Annual Camp Out Live at Pappy and Harriet’s P”. It’s a 9 camera shoot utilizing 7 of the cameras in the edit. Don’t expect a multi-million dollar production – this disc is a labor of love spanning 14 years beginning with an interview from 1995. As the 1995 concert footage that accompanied the original television broadcast interview was Jefferson Starship material we decided to film a new concert with Marty’s band. Balin was originally scheduled to open for Johnny Rivers in 2007 but due to a prior commitment with Jefferson Starship in New York the date got moved to June of 2008 – a gig with the group/duo America at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade (same venue Rivers played the year before).

The cover photo is not from this America/Balin concert…that’s a picture that former Jefferson Starship lead singer Darby Gould took from the stage when Marty was in the latter-day J.S….and we thank her for such a beautiful and mysterious shot. Marco Centola and Rob Fraboni remastered the two-track soundboard audio…D.J. Eli Polonsky at WMBR in Cambridge/Boston played “Somebody To Love” on the air and it sounded great coming over the radio. Marty Balin was interviewed by Polonsky on Tuesday, November 24, 2009 and when the DJ noted that singer Didi Stewart is a legendary Boston figure Marty said immediately “She’s a great singer!” As producer/director I would love to see an extended version of this DVD a few years from now…and maybe an audio CD mixed from both the soundboard and the multiple cameras. The August 1976 hit “With Your Love” was performed in the studio practice at Newbury Media on 6-13-08 the day before the show and is probably up somewhere on the web as a trailer for this project, though that classic wasn’t performed the next night at the show. Those songs were digitally recorded, multi-track, at the world class facility which has gold and platinum for Marky Mark, New Kids on The Block and other major recording artists. Three of the Newbury Media rehearsal sessions are on this DVD – Essra Mohawk’s “Shaping The Night”, a second version of the Jesse Barish classic “Count On Me” and Balin’s own “Somehow The Tired Reach Home”. The audio on those three bonus tracks was mixed by Ken Kanavos at the studio and the quality is superb.

It is my hope that everyone gets to see the genius of Marty Balin 39 years after he performed at Woodstock and enjoys this presentation that we put a lot of time and love into, released on the 40th Anniversary of the Woodstock event. Four of the songs the Jefferson Airplane performed at Woodstock appear on this disc recorded 4 decades after the Summer of Love.

As noted above I’m the producer/director of this document. The 5 star rating I give it is for Marty Balin’s performance and the performances of singer Didi Stewart, keyboard player Gordon G.G. Gebert (of a latter day version of the group Angel), bassist Dave Trupia (also on Marty’s upcoming CD) and the extraordinary Donny Baldwin, drummer with Elvin Bishop Group and the latter day Starship (the Mickey Thomas version of the band after Marty Balin went solo). It was an absolute honor to work with these talents and it is my hope that the public enjoys this recording for what it is: an historical record of a rock & roll hall of famer with no frills and lots of bonus material including interviews with Signe Anderson, Jeff Tamarkin and Marty Balin himself.

Johnny Thunders/ Joe Viglione The Daughters in Paradise

February 1983

February 27, 1983, I opened for the legendary Johnny Thunders in Paradise with my friends The Daughters. They backed Johnny up. WERS student wanted to interview Johnny, but Thunders said “I will only let Joe Viglione interview me.” So I interviewed Johnny and it purportedly was played on 88.1 FM WERS, Emerson College. Would love to get a copy of that. Never heard the interview. These are Terry Brenner’s Ticket Stubs

Captain America: The First Avenger 2011 Review by Joe Viglione

Captain America: The First Avenger – Movie Review


 Massachusetts native Chris Evans returns to Marvel Comics’ “House of Ideas” as Steve Rogers – Captain America, with a much different look than exhibited in the two films where he appeared as The Fantastic Four’s Johnny Storm. This important component of the Avengers collection, the final “prequel”, if you will, has to be at least as effective as Kenneth Branagh’s Thor: The God Of Thunder, and that it is.

Director Joe Johnston has had plenty of experience with Science Fiction, from 1989’s Honey I Shrunk the Kids to Jurassic Park III. He does an elegant job of blending cliche after cliche in Captain America: The First Avenger, a forumla that has become a quite necessary merry-go-round of sorts for the variety of D.C. and Marvel superheroes launching out of the big screen. These are the spawn of the James Bond blockbuster pictures when Goldfinger was identifiable to the mainstream as Dr. Doom was to comic book fans in the pages of the Fantastic Four.

Captain America sports the film texture from Kerry Conran’s Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow with a bit of Josef Rusnak’s The Thirteenth Floor enhanced with a darker (and so obligatory nowadays) 3D. Let’s face it, the choice of director for these high stakes films is made with mathematical precision and Johnston doesn’t disappoint. The estimated budget of $140 million is in the ballpark for these Marvel epics, a rather daunting figure when The Matrix pulled in four hundred million more than the sixty-three million invested to start that series. Hugo Weaving is recycled yet again, and his vision for The Red Skull is most satisfying. Said to have been pulled, in part, from a James Bond villain, Maximilian Largo (if we are to believe Wikipedia), actor Klaus Maria Brandauer’s psychotic madman is a good study for Red Skull. Weaving’s malevolence far outpaces his Agent Smith from the Matrix…the calculating machine mind replaced by megalomania and a penchant for Norse mythology and the occult. He certainly uses his previous three movie stint as the computer virus as a foundation for this, and his hatred is far more believable here.

Back in the 1960s comics were for kids along with bubble gum cards and Monkees records. Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee had a vision of adults walking down the street with his comic magazines, not in brown paper bags or hidden in their suit jackets, but consumers proudly holding his creations for all to see. Decades after achieving that initial goal – establishing the colorful stories as legitimate literature, the successful author is as revered to his massive following as Alfred Hitchcock was to his, both icons making important cameos as a kind of on-camera signature, to the audience’s delight. The expensive action does get a bit hokey, my recollection of the 1960s Captain America didn’t have him this amped up. The film version gives the hero bonafide super powers that were not as evident in the comic book. This motion picture takes the liberty of giving Cap some of Daredevil’s instinct, Hulk’s strength and Spiderman’s gymnastics, probably to cope with the fact that he’s the most vulnerable super hero of the bunch. Think Superman with a bit of Kryptonite following him about 300 yards away.

As Johnny Storm the producers used Chris Evans for eye candy (though his acting skills rose above the scripts he was handed in both FF adventures).It’s not a stretch to see an actor go from one superhero to another as Marvel made it a habit to switch their comic book creations around…just as Medusa from The Frightful Four became Medusa of The Inhumans (two of the more underrated teams in Marvel history). Here he gets to transform his cerebral approach to Steve Rogers in the same way his body is morphed from stringbean to …well, Wolverine or Incredible Hulk…take your pick. These “origins” are very similar and the trick is to do it as flashy as possible. Marvel is well aware that the film going public has tired of the origin of Superamn, or how Batman came to be is told time and again. Having to address that for a figure unkown to the mainstream means keeping it brief, and adding a little contemporary terrorism to keep things modern and different.

To spice things up the audience is treated to a little Bride of Frankenstein mad scientist laboratory, a little dash of the early Batman serials from the 1940s and some military madness from the 1950s sci-fi film stampede. And while you’re at it, make it a World War II saga to boot. The two hours contain all of it and do it with enough action to make it the roller coaster ride it is supposed to be.

Captain America: The First Avenger has to follow the last Harry Potter film. That’s probably a good thing as the fantasy audience that is devouring Potter magic will, no doubt, want to get right back to the theaters. It’s no Deathly Hallows II, but it is pretty much what comic book fans want. The packed house in Boston waited to see if an Avenger’s trailer would follow the credits. Their disappointment that it did not only shows how devoted the audience for this genre still is.

More Joe V Film Reviews here: