Tag Archives: los angeles

Oingo Boingo Members Only

The members of the 80s band Oingo Boingo bounced into the Saratoga Mountain Winery last weekend on a freezing night with high winds, supported by The Tubes and Dramarama (though it was too cold to see that third act as the sun went down and winds blew fiercely).

They were in a phrase or two, flipping-fantastic and totally bitchin’!

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Oingo Boingo came on the scene in 1979 in the hazy sunny lands of Orange County and Los Angeles, where like a beacon of light in the USA, they shone far outside of London where a potent blend of punk and ska had taken hold. From the first album Only a Lad (1981) through the last Boingo (1994) Danny Elfman, principal composer, crazy orange-haired vocalist and guitar and gourd player stormed across stages mostly in the western US but across the land to thrill, scare and incite young audiences to dance, elbow and generally bash each other in sweaty mosh pits.

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Danny was a singular force in this group, and after he left having lost his “spirit” for the band they just dissolved – a horse without its head. Danny been penning movie soundtracks, the first ones of which were Weird Science (1985) and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985) along with others that came before the band split, and were followed by a long series of popular successes – soundtracks for almost all of Tim Burton’s films and other directors. Eventually Danny came to his penultimate expression, the Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), during which as avid musical/movie watchers know he beautifully sang such gems as “What’s This” and “Jack’s Lament.”

So perfectly suited to this work is Danny that he will not go back and redo Oingo Boingo shows (citing potential hearing loss and the fact he considers some of his early work silly), even if he plays “Dead Man’s Party” sometimes at the end of his performance of Nightmare (with cast) for which he brings out partner guitarist Steve Bartek, who it should be said produced the orchestrated scores for most of the Elfman penned film soundtracks as well.

Now so many years later, the band has reunited, sans Danny, but ready to show all and anyone how flipping incredible they were and are in concert. The show was stunning – all the hooks, horns, bass, drums and percussion were there (even if gourds were replaced by a synth patch/sequence on the Korg). They played once again with wild abandon, precision and spirit and rocked our not-so sweaty mosh pit.

But what of the missing Elf-man you say?  Well, in an era when older bands end up with “replacement” singers the Boingo is now no exception. Young turk Brendan McCreary actually inhabits Danny’s spectral presence. He sounds like Danny, yet with his own style, and perfect vibrato – less of a yell for the high notes and actually more of a singer. He bounces across the stage, crouches, and gesticulates in a way I actually loved as much if not sometimes more than Danny, simply because he is not vaguely sinister (!) and he is not stuck for half the time behind a guitar.

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The band who are left were there – trumpet (Brian Swartz) sax (Sam “Sluggo“ Phillips), drums (Johnny Vatos Hernandez), bass (Freddie Hernandez), guitar (Steve Bartek now joined by Mike Glendinning), keys (Carl Graves) alternate bassist (John Avila), percussion, trombone, accordion (Doug Lacy) all still fantastically talented and on display. Who do you want to be today and are you only a lad that wants to have wild sex in the working class? You know you do, so go go go to see them.

p.s. Fee Waybill of the Tubes is still crazy and knows what he wants from life, just like a white punk on dope. Fantastic opener and if as a headliner nears you, that too.

Rockin’ the City of Angels: What?

Click here to buy Rockin’ the City of Angels, the new book now available at Amazon.com

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Titled Rockin’ the City of Angels, the book was a 2 year labor of love for this long time rock fanatic. I described it on the back cover in this way:

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STROBE FLASHES PIERCE THE DARK STAGE to reveal a NYC street punk as he faces the other half of his fractured self. A father’s WWII fighter plane crashes into a wall, temporarily slowing its ascent around his son’s troubled heart. A fiend clad in a white tuxedo steps out from the frame of a graveyard scene onto a haunted stage welcoming all to his many nightmares. A woman, weapon drawn, tells the story of James and his very cold gun. The top drummer from the top 70s rock band in the world pounds out the opening beat that tells us it’s been a long time since he rock ‘n’ rolled . . . a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely lonely time.

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David Bowie photo (c) Neil Zlowzower / Atlas Icons

THESE IMAGES ARE SEARED into my memory from the rock concerts I witnessed in Los Angeles, the “City of Angels” in the 1970s, a time when rock bands were making expansive concept records with sweeping themes. Rock albums at the time promised “theater of the mind,” and their creators were inspired to mount elaborate stage shows that brought these dreams to life. These artists used every available piece of stagecraft—lights, projections, backdrops, props, and costumes—to create awesome spectacles for arenas packed with adoring fans— fans like you and me.

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This book celebrates more than thirty of these incredible performances including key tours by bands such as Led Zeppelin, Queen, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Genesis, Heart, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, The Who and Yes. We’ll share memories of those legendary concerts and my reviews of the best video documents of the era, each band illuminated by a hand-picked collection of brilliant images—some never-before seen—by the best photo- journalists of that time including Richard E. Aaron, Jorgen Angel, Fin Costello, Armando Gallo, Neal Preston, Jim Summaria, Lisa Tanner and Neil Zlowzower along with many others.

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Who photo (c) Neal Preston

This coffee-table book is nearly the size of an LP album cover, 396 pages, over 500 images, written by Douglas Harr, designed by Tilman Reitzle. Forword by Armando Gallo.

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The bands, order by category, then the date of their key performance in L.A.

Alan Parsons at Club Nokia

Parsons_Alan_72dpiAlan Parsons and his supremely talented band played the Nokia Club in Los Angeles, performing in town for the first time in 6 years on June 11, 2015. The group was at the absolute top of their game, driving through a set list that included many of their hits recorded over the years as The Alan Parsons Project, and in particular highlighting one of their most popular albums, The Turn Of A Friendly Card (1980). It’s going to be difficult to express just how amazing this concert was without leaving a bit of the journalist aside and instead sharing these thoughts as a devoted fan of Alan Parsons and all of his work over the years. So here goes, starting with some background.

Alan Parsons is the well-known audio engineer, record producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who began his career as a music engineer with the likes of The Beatles (Abbey Road) and Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon) and went on to engineer and/or produce award winning artists Ambrosia, Al Stewart, Steven Wilson and others too numerous to detail herein. Alan and collaborator Eric Woolfson began a career as The Alan Parsons Project (APP) with their definitive progressive rock release Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Edgar Allen Poe) (1976), followed closely by I Robot (1977). These records are diverse, eclectic masterworks of the genre, and they belong in every quality music collection. Many of us selected our stereo equipment back in the day by spinning one of these albums to test out record players, amps and speakers such was the amazing production and sonic quality of the recordings. As APP went on, they released one great record after another: Pyramid (1978), Eve (1979), The Turn Of A Friendly Card (1980), Eye In The Sky (1982) and on, in all ten albums, each demonstrating the strength of the Parsons/Woolfson songwriting team, and showcasing their musical talents and those of their many collaborators. These included orchestral arranger Andrew Powell, long time guitarist Ian Bairnson, drums from Stuart Elliott, bass and vocals from David Paton, and numerous vocalists including the late, great Chris Rainbow, Colin Blunstone, and Eric himself. The project ended in 1990 after Alan and Eric made a brief foray into musical theater with Freudiana. Eric continued with musical theater until his untimely passing in 2009, and Alan went on present their music live, while releasing and touring four solo records in the 90’s and 00’s.

Parsons_band_72dpiThe Alan Parsons Project maintained a focus on bringing beautiful melodies and vocal harmonies to their compositions. Along with some rockers, Eric and Alan wrote and recorded many achingly beautiful and sentimental pop tunes and with Andrew’s orchestral arrangements, the songs were rendered with lush and dramatic colors. This was definitely prog-pop and contemporary music of its time, for fans with a heart, which left some harder prog-rock zealots behind, while rewarding those who followed. I’ve found that everyone from several generations near mine know the name Alan Parsons, and can identify, for instance “Eye In The Sky,” but many have less an idea just how many hits they would recognize. One reason for this is that Alan and Eric never toured to support this work, save for a show in 1990 just before they split. The first time I was able to see the band was touring to support Alan’s excellent second solo record On Air (1996) when a new band was assembled with lead vocalist P.J. Olsson.

For this latest concert, Alan Parsons and his musicians were all in a great spirit, reproducing the sound of the APP records with pinpoint accuracy but also with some improvisation, and room to demonstrate virtuosity. The band are: Alastair Greene (guitar), Dan Tracey (guitar), Guy Erez (bass), Danny Thompson (drums), Tom Brooks (keyboards), Todd Cooper (lead vocals, saxophone, cowbell J), and long time vocalist P.J. Olsson. The band showcased the following numbers from throughout the years:

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“I Robot” / title track
“Damned If I Do” / Eve
“Don’t Answer Me” / Ammonia Avenue
“Breakdown” / I Robot, “The Raven” / Tales of Mystery and Imagination
“Time” / The Turn Of A Friendly Card
“I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You” / I Robot
“Days Are Numbers (The Traveller)” / Vulture Culture
“The Turn Of A Friendly Card” (suite) / title track
“Psychobabble” / Eye In The Sky
“Do You Live At All” / new track – single w/Fragile
“Limelight” / Stereotomy
“(The System Of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether” / Tales of Mystery and Imagination
“Old And Wise” / Eye In The Sky
“Prime Time” / Ammonia Avenue
“Sirius,” “Eye In The Sky” / title track

Encores:
“Don’t Let It Show” / I Robot
“Games People Play” / The Turn Of A Friendly Card

Parsons_Todd_72dpiThis set included something from almost every APP album from 1977-1987, along with Alan’s new single “Do You Live At All.” Vocals took center stage as six of the eight performers sang multi-part harmonies atop crisp instrumentals throughout. Alan, Alastair, and Dan took lead vocal on one or more tracks while P.J. and Todd tackled more of the songs. On this night, P.J. in particular stunned the audience with fantastic, heartwarming lead vocals on “Time,” “Old and Wise,” “Don’t Let It Show” and others, each performed with poise and emotion. Additional lead vocalist Todd Cooper nailed several key tracks including a highlight of the evening “Psychobabble,” which shone light on Guy’s bass plus Danny’s powerful backbeat, and another classic, “Limelight,” peppering others with lilting sax solos, and even some cowbell! Dan sang on the funky hit “I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You” displaying attitude and chops during the memorable guitar bridge. The centerpiece of this tour is the multi-part suite “The Turn Of A Friendly Card” which gave the band additional time to stretch out, including more layered keys from Alan and classical piano from talented player Tom Brooks.
Parsons_guitar_72dpiAlan presided over all of this as master of ceremonies – singing, playing keyboards, acoustic guitar and addressing the enthusiastic audience. Club Nokia was a great venue for the show – intimate while being sizable enough for the large band to resonate. It is part of an entertainment complex in downtown Los Angeles that includes a much larger arena – as Alan dryly noted between songs, “the place is called Microsoft something – we’ll play there one day, when we get big.” During another break Alan noted that all the APP albums were available in the lobby in vinyl format, known to younger fans as “those big black CDs!” and made a pitch for quality music formats, such as his new single available in WAV format, as those MP3’s “just make the music sound awful.” On this night the music sounded fantastic and the performance was stunning, befitting this man of many talents, Alan Parsons, and his marvelous band.

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*apologies to Danny Thompson, the band’s excellent drummer -no closeup captured!