ULI JON ROTH ON GUITAR IN IDAHO ON 10-1-08. PHOTO BY BEN UPHAM.
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ULI JON ROTH- “Guitar Fans Rock to Roth”
By SARAH DE CRESCENZO
The Porterville Recorder
June 24, 2009
While Uli Jon Roth may not be a household name, Central Valley guitar enthusiasts gathered Tuesday night in droves at Exeter’s Orange Blossom Junction restaurant and events venue to witness his musical prowess. In true rock n’ roll style, Roth showed up late, but his fans were willing to wait.
Maybe his biggest fan – Orange Blossom owner and guitarist Doug Long – nearly vibrated with excitement as he discussed Roth’s legendary guitar skills.
“Uli is one of the greatest guitar players in the world,” Long said. Roth, previously the lead singer and songwriter for the ’80s rock band Scorpions, has had a long and varied career.
Following a stint as lead singer and songwriter with the Scorpions, Roth retreated from the music scene and explored different ways of using the guitar to make music, including playing sevenstring guitars in order to hit the highest notes. Roth has performed at the Orange Blossom before, most recently in 2008. That performance, while not a Hendrix tribute like Tuesday’s concert, also incorporated guitar riffs inspired by Roth’s favorite musical legend.
Roth strolled in casually one hour after the slated beginning of the show sporting a sequined black fanny pack, tight black pants, and a blazer and headband in bright red velvet holding back his long locks. Raucous applause and howls of appreciation greeted Roth’s arrival on stage.
Tuesday night’s show, called “In Celebration of Jimi Hendrix”, attracted a crowd of both Roth and Hendrix fans alike. The audience, while mainly made up of ’80s rock fans, incorporated people of all age groups. “We have people from 16 to 60 here to see Uli play,” Long said.
One of the people closer to 16 than 60 was his son, Christian Long, who attended with his friend Randall Shahan. Long – the younger – described his respect for Roth’s musical talents.
He described Roth’s prior performance as a mix between a “German war song” – in reference to Roth’s penchant for incorporating classical music from the likes of Wagner – and “serious hard rock.” When word got out that Roth had arrived, cries of “The king is here!” inspired an exodus of diners from the restaurant tables to the folding chairs set up around the stage. The audience, sitting closely crowded in a half circle around the small stage, were treated to an intimate, live experience as Roth sang and strummed on his electric guitar.
The sound of the guitar echoed warmly throughout the wooden building, as fans cheered and raved about Roth’s song selection. “This set is different [from my last performance] as you would expect from any self-respecting musician,” Roth said by way of introduction. “We’ll do some other songs too, but tonight is about Jimi Hendrix,” Roth added. His rendition of Hendrix’s lesser known “If Six was Nine” inspired a respectful silence as he sang throatily. But, when Roth dove into “All Along the Watchtower,” many members of the audience couldn’t help bouncing around in their chairs along to the catchy tune.
Even when Roth broke a guitar string, his band mates picked up the slack and entertained the audience with Hendrix melodies until the calamity was averted. As Roth returned to the stage, a full house held its breath to see what their musical icon would treat them to next. They weren’t disappointed.
ULI JON ROTH DISCOGRAPHY:
1974 Fly to the Rainbow (Scorpions)
1976 In Trance (Scorpions)
1977 Virgin Killer (Scorpions)
1978 Taken by Force (Scorpions)
1978 Tokyo Tapes (Live Scorpions)
1979 Earthquake (Electric Sun)
1981 Fire Wind (Electric Sun)
1985 Beyond the Astral Skies (Electric Sun)
1991 Aquila Suite
1996 Sky of Avalon
2000 Transcendental Sky Guitar Vol. I & II
2008 Under a Dark Sky
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NEAL SCHON (JOURNEY GUITARIST) LIVE IN SPOKANE, WA. ON 10-7-76. PHOTO/ART BY BEN UPHAM
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“IN THE BEGINNING”
REVIEWS OF THE FIRST THREE JOURNEY ALBUMS…
JOURNEY ALBUM #1
“This is where it all started”
By A. Customer
March 5, 2002
When I was still learning about Journey, I never knew there was any music from the band prior to Steve Perry until I bought the Journey “Time 3″ box set. In it, I found pieces of early Journey when Gregg Rolie was the lead singer and I was instantly captivated. I knew I had to check Journey’s roots out, and “Journey” is one of the first CD’s I ever owned. My dad bought it for me when I got my first CD player.
Journey’s self-titled debut is an amazing album. It is a perfect example of classic fusion rock craftsmanship, and is delivered with a unique variety of twists and sounds. Neal Schon’s guitar is so energizing and full of power. He is truly magnificent, bringing forth an intense, screeching, melodic down-pour of solid rock perfection through his strings to vibrate through your ears and echo throughout your body. Then you have the relentless, thunderous drums of Aynsley Dunbar, thick with jamming effects that work flawlessly with Schon’s guitar to throw you a rock ‘n roll hammering punch like none other. Dunbar never ceases to make you want to bang your head. Gregg Rolie’s vocals are magnificent, intense, and soulful. He is one of the best keyboardists around, and his catchy melodies gel so well with Schon’s guitar, Dunbar’s drums, and of course, the powerful bass of Ross Valory, and the spectacular rhythm guitaring of George Tickner.
The album begins with one of my all-time favorite early Journey songs, “Of A Lifetime.” Check out the sizzling and smoking guitar work from Schon, and the jamming drum thumps from Dunbar. Within this feel-good song comes Rolie’s soft, free-flowing lyrics. Ross Valory’s thick, loud bass will give your ears a ride. This is definitely a party-like song, in which true fusion rock talent is shown. They were definitely having a good time with this one.
“In The Morning Day” has always been one of my favorites, because I love the melodic chords from guitarist Schon and keyboardist Gregg Rolie. Like with “Of A Lifetime,” the song starts out smooth and flowing with Gregg’s soft lyrics, before an eruption of guitars, keyboards, and drums.
“Khoutek” is an instrumental jammer. The main melody repeats over and over behind Neal Schon’s screeching guitar and Gregg Rolie’s swirling keyboards. Schon and Rolie seem to be taking turns showing off their talent and feeding off one another in the song which makes it very unique. Schon, Rolie, Valory, Tickner and Dunbar are fantastic here, even though it’s not one of my favorite songs.
“To Play Some Music” probably has the most lyrics of all the songs. Rolie is a pretty good singer, and it’s just a fun rock song simply about enjoying playing music and bringing joy to people in the process.
“Topaz” is another instrumental jammer and one of my very favorites. Again, the song starts very quiet with some soft Neal Schon chords and Rolie keyboard notes. Then Dunbar eases in with the drumming until the song gets quicker and quicker and then erupts in a groovy rock masterpiece of catchy guitar hooks and chords and drum beats. This song perks me up every time I listen to it.
Journey tones it down a bit with “In My Lonely Feeling (Conversations).” It is probably my least favorite song on the album. It has kind of a ho-hum , blue kind of feel to it. But at the end, the song starts jamming again. Rolie does a nice job with vocals. In virtually every album I hear, there is one song that I can’t find a lot to say about. This one is one of them.
The album finishes with my favorite on the album, “Mystery Mountain.” It is a rocking, free-flowing song that gives you a laid-back feel. I love Rolie’s keyboards in this song, and Valory’s bass really adds to the overall atmosphere of this piece. Of course Schon does his usual flawless guitar work. Rolie provides some atmospheric lyrics as well.
“Journey” is a complete, classic rock-jamming package that started the “Journey” of Journey. While the style is far from the kind of music they performed in the late 70′s and through the 80′s with Steve Perry, as well as the current style with Steve Augeri, it is still an album that is a must for all die-hard rock fans. This is pure rock that will give you a fine dose of ear-candy. These are definitive examples of Journey’s best early work!! Don’t pass this album up!!
By Roger Walker
(Morrisville, PA USA)
January 9, 2001
This review is from: Journey (Audio CD)
I bought the cassette tape of this album years ago, and admittedly was taken aback initially by it; but listening to it now, I am really blown away by it. Picture if you will Rush Meets Pink Floyd: somewhat cosmic lyrics with fantastic instrumental interplay. Listening to organist Gregg Rolie singing, you have to wonder, “Hey, no offense to Steve Perry, but why did they replace this guy?” He had (at least on this debut album) a fantastic voice; and of course his playing on the organ, piano, and synthesizer are a delight as well. Then again, there’s the super percussion work of drummer Aynsley Dunbar, and the great unsung hero of the bass guitar Ross Valory. But the most amazing instrumentalist of the original quintet (yes, there was a fifth member, rhythm guitarist George Tickner, who also co-wrote much of Journey’s early works; but you can’t really get an idea of how good a guitarist the guy was, unfortunately) is without a doubt lead guitarist Neal Schon. You have GOT to hear this album to know what I mean! Yeah, you heard the guy blaze on a lot of Journey and Bad English songs; but he just kicks tail throughout this recording! And, best of all, these five guys played TOGETHER – Schon was egged on in his playing by the interplay of the other guys, and the results are just fantastic. In particular, I recommend “Of A Lifetime,” “In My Lonely Feeling,” and “Mystery Mountain.”
JOURNEY ALBUM #2
“LOOK INTO THE FUTURE” (1976)
“Impressive new turn for Journey”
By A Customer
March 8, 2002
I first caught wind of Journey’s pre-Steve Perry days after buying the “Time 3″ box set, and I rushed to grab up Journey’s “root” albums: their debut “Journey,” this album and their third album, “Next.”
I had to special order “Look Into The Future” a few years ago, and it was well worth the wait! “Look Into The Future” is a great album in which Journey re-captures their melodic, progressive, fusion, hard rocking flavor they exhibited in their first album, “Journey.” This time around, the group presents us with a lot more vocals headed by Gregg Rolie. Rolie does a fine job as usual, driving out his intense, soulful voice out amongst Neal Schon’s power-charged guitar, Ross Valory’s flawless bass, and Aynsley Dunbar’s pounding, energized drums. Virtually every song is a polished work of art, with catchy, rhythmical performances. As with the first album, “Look Into The Future” presents us with plenty of unique twists and a variety of different sounds and jamming, shuffling beats.
Check out the bluesy groove of the opening track “On A Saturday Nite.” Schon and Dunbar do a great job here, and the song is a lot of fun. Check out Rolie’s way groovy piano/keyboard intro. In speaking of fun, you’re sure to enjoy the fun rock of the following track, “It’s All Too Much.” I believe this was originally a Beatles tune, or perhaps done by one of the Beatles. Journey does an excellent cover of this song; Journey-style of course. It’s such a powerfully charged song, courtesy of Schon’s sizzling guitar and Valory’s intese base guitar. The song really jams. But then we’re shifted back to the blues with “Anyway.” Rolie’s vocals are charged and demanding and Schon’s guitar has a free-flowing edginess that makes the song great.
Journey decides to get rough, rugged and rowdy with “She Makes Me (Feel Alright),” and down and dirty rock song crafted to Journey perfection on the wings of Rolie’s energetic vocals, Dunbar’s harsh, shuffling beats, and Schon’s smoking guitar. And if you want more edgy and rowdy rock fun, than set your CD player to track #7, “Midnight Dreamer.” The song is in the exact same ballpark as “She Makes Me (Feel Alright),” and the exact same works of musicianship by Schon, Rolie, Dunbar and Valory can be heard here.
Not only is Gregg Rolie a great classic rock vocalist, but he is also an excellent keyboardist. The intense “You’re On Your Own,” starts out with some melodic but urgent sounding Rolie keybaords and they continue throughout the song. Rolie’s keyboards and Schon’s guitar work so well together here, and Valory’s bass is heard loud and clear.
The next song is my favorite; the free-flowing, progressive, melodic “Look Into The Future.” Rolie’s voice is soulful, free-flowing and smooth as are Schon’s soft guitar chords. Again, Rolie’s thick keyboard swirls and Valory’s base bring the whole package home. This song is almost atmospheric and takes you on a mind “Journey.” The song is unique in that it is soft, contrasted by loud and more rowdy toward the end.
The album ends with a bluesy but rugged number in “I’m Gonna Leave You.” Again, Schon’s powerful guitar is clearly exhibited here as is Rolie’s edgy voice. It fits with the two other rough rock songs I mentioned previously. Dunbar’s drum beats are a jamming good time.
Journey is entertainment galore with the variety and exquisit musicianship they present on this album. You want fun? It’s here. You want edgy? It’s here. You want smooth? It’s here. You want blues? It’s here. This is overall a superb early Journey album, and one to not pass up!!
“AN EXCELLENT FOLLOW-UP TO THE FIRST ALBUM”
By Steve DeMellman
(Phoenix, Az USA)
December 29, 2007
First of all, the only Journey albums I like (and own) are the first four. Yeah, I know Infinity has Perry on vocals, but its a very musical album and I have to admit it grabs me. That said, for the pure joy of listening to beautiful musicianship, the first album is my favorite. Rolie’s vocals are easier to take (and certainly less pervasive than Perry’s) and the rhythm section is as solid as they come. Schon and Rolie’s melodic virtuosity takes the music soaring (like the album cover) while Dunbar fills in all the gaps with his exceptional drumming. On the first album, Kohoutek is a great example of the talent and energy of this band—-that number really cooks. A lot of critics deride progressive rock/fusion as being pretentious and self-indulgent. Actually, I see it as talented musicians exploring their creative urges and striving to reach their potential as artists. For those who prefer to keep rock dumb, there are plenty of three-chord posers out there doing the same-old same-old…..That said,this album, the second from Journey, called Look Into the Future, features the same pre-Perry line-up as the debut release. Greg Rolie sings a little more than on the first album but there is still plenty of tight, tasteful playing without the human voice attached. The title track is a standout. So is the jazzy direction taken in the second part of Midnight Dreamer. Journey fans who are not aware of the pre-Perry period are really missing out on how cohesive these guys sounded.
JOURNEY ALBUM #3
“Starting to lose it here? Not”!!!
By B. E Jackson (Pennsylvania)
January 17, 2009
Updated January 23, 2011-
I’m sorry for originally slamming this album. Actually “slamming” is an exaggeration- more like expressing minor disappointment. However now that I own a copy for myself -and not to mention, a freshly remastered version with superior and louder, cleaner sound quality- I can now approach it in a new light. I now *can* differentiate much of the guitar playing, and I really like what I’m hearing.
The album can best be described like this- the first half is the space rock journey, and the second half is the much heavier and bluesy side. Now this is NO ordinary rock band. Forget the fact the first 3 Journey albums are remarkably different from the Steve Perry years. Just the fact a rock band in 1977 was trying to cross into the mainstream by devoting one side to space rock and the other to blues is a risky, interesting move.
Now I will be the first to admit that the songwriting on side one doesn’t leave as much of an impression on me as side two. Some of the songs on the first side feels a bit TOO dreamy which means, occasionally, the songs feel unfocused and lack direction. This only occurs *sometimes* however. It definitely does not occur on the pop/rock classic “Spaceman”. That’s one really beautiful and sad vocal melody right there. Drifting through space alone and feeling depressed. Yup, that’s the atmosphere the song contains.
They even resemble the Magical Mystery Tour-era of the Beatles with the vocal melody in “People”. Listen to THAT excellent song. The next two songs sort of blend together in my mind as relatively aimless attempts at space rock, but they do eventually build into some excellent guitar work, so that makes up for it. Unfortunately “Here We Are” ends too soon because that guitar solo surely deserves a few extra minutes!
Now get THIS! The second side is totally insanely heavy rock and roll, some of it bluesy, some of it not too far off from resembling the classic period of Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. NOW you see what it’s totally insulting when people refer to Journey as “housewife music”. Yeah, don’t even get me started…
“Hustler” is a really interesting take on the heavy blues rock genre. I love that guitar riff, and the guitar solo is *amazingly* heavy. The title has a vocal melody that is perhaps the best one on the entire album. Who can possibly hate THAT vocal melody? Seriously, who? The guitar playing in the very beginning of “Nickel & Dime” almost resembles that famous song “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens- these are a few of my favorite things” (I honestly don’t know who created that song, by the way) before suddenly EXPLODING into an electric guitar dreamers idea of a perfect heaven. “Karma” is a fairly messy and hard to distinguish blues/hard rock way to close out a wonderful album, but it is improving with more listens.
Yes Journey’s Next has improved dramatically for me thanks mainly to the better sound quality of the remastered version. Now here’s my older review, which you shouldn’t take seriously but I’m leaving it up anyway just in case you (the readers) may be in the same situation as me concerning a struggle to get into Journey’s Next. This is now officially a 5-star album (though I DID actually give it 4 stars originally, it’s honestly even better now).
Journey’s Next really shows signs that the band was about ready to change into a more commercial direction. The songwriting doesn’t quite hit the same point of excellence for me. I can’t remember how most of these songs go when the album is finished, especially the heavier parts of the songs. That doesn’t mean they’re bad songs or anything, because every song on here has its moments.
The vocals just don’t quite hit the same high point that the ones from the debut and Look to the Future did. Also, some of the vocal melodies feel like they rush along at a sloppy pace. Maybe it’s just me.
BUT, the guitar playing is really really good, and that’s why I’m giving the album a pretty decent score. Plus, the music still SOUNDS good because it’s mid 70′s hard rock with an experimental edge. The band is still pretty good here. I just feel a bit letdown with the songwriting compared to the previous two albums.
“Next” Is Awesome!!! True Classic Journey”!!!
By A Customer
March 10, 2002
I had to special order this CD a few years ago, and ever since I got it into my hot little hands, I’ve enjoyed this early Journey gem very much. This is the last album recorded by the band before Steve Perry joined. It is much like their second album “Look Into The Future” and it seems like Journey never runs out of new musical ideas to deliver to our ears. “Next” is every bit as unique as their debut, “Journey” and “Look Into The Future.” Like with the first two albums, Journey engages in powerful, sizzling creativity, and brings us a whole new set of interesting, thuderous, beats which makes you want indulge in the excitement of air-drum, air-guitar, and air-keyboard playing. Neal Schon’s guitar is just as mean as ever; full of life and bustling with activity. The fascinating, melodic charges come out at you, and are as vivid as ever. Aynsley Dunbar’s drums are as rowdy and strong as all get out. Ross Valory still proves he’s one of the best bass players around, and the voice of Gregg Rolie is a perfect fit as usual, gliding and roaring out with the amazing musical sounds. His keyboards are superb just like on the first two albums. He is never a disappointment. “Next” gives a hard-nosed, rough, rugged, melodic feel that is like no other. Songs like “Hustler,” “I Would Find You,” “Next” and “Karma” fall into this category especially. Highlights on the album are the catchy fun rock of “Spaceman,” the dreamy, melodic, free-flowing “People,” my favorite song; the edgy melodic guitar and keyboard clad “Next,” and the swirly rapidness of “Nickel And Dime.” This is a fun album with fun twists and catchy riffs. It is a partying rock album that will always be timeless!!
1976 Look into the Future
1981 Captured (Live)
1986 Raised on Radio
1996 Trial by Fire
2005 Live Houston 1981
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ANN WILSON OF HEART CAPTIVATING THE NEW YEARS EVE CROWD IN OAKLAND ON 12-31-77. PHOTO BY BEN UPHAM.
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“GROWS UP TO HARD ROCK SOUND”
BY JAMES MCLINDEN
WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL
JULY 30, 1980
When Ann Wilson first came out on the Coliseum stage Tuesday night with the other four members of rock group “Heart,” she looked the part of the girl next door. She was almost wholesome-looking, a little chunky, with dark brown eyes and a cherubic smile on her round face.
But by the time she had finished singing “Bebe le Strange,” the opening number and the title cut from Heart’s recent album, that initial image began to fade. The band puts out a heavy metal sound, and the role of lead singer in a big name group such as Heart is a demanding one.
Ann Wilson was probably different from the other girls in her high school, skipping the football games and instead dropping in at a girlfriend’s house to sing along to Nancy Sinatra and Paul McCartney songs. But she is a big girl now, and along with her younger sister Nancy, one of Heart’s two guitarists, the pair have molded the group around themselves.
Their new album, which broke into the top five last month, shows the Wilsons’ influence more than earlier albums. It is definitely more hard-edged, more heavily textured than past efforts.
Although most of the set was given over to hard rockers like “Crazy on You” and “Barracuda,” singer Wilson and the band moved comfortably into “Dreamboat Annie,” the closest this band comes to a soft rock ballad in concert. Wilson’s wide-ranging soprano easily handled the delicate vocals the song demanded, but was less than convincing when she turned to a blues number.
Heart can boast of little bona-fide originality in most of its songs. The band’s driving rhythms borrow heavily from Led Zeppelin, which did just about all there was to do in heavy metal rock music a half dozen years ago, just as Heart was breaking into the national music scene.
Which is not to say that Heart’s set was devoid of excitement. “Straight on to You” was but one of the musical high points in the 90 minute-set. Propelled by Nancy Wilson’s jerky, biting guitar work and Michael Derosier’s drumming, the song rocketed along in double time. It reminded me of the song “Radar Love,” a minor classic from a few years back.
One of the band’s four encores was Led Zeppelin’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” done like the original but good nonetheless. Also thrown in for good measure was Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally,” which featured good vocal work by Wilson but tired and feeble lead guitar work by Howard Leese and Nancy Wilson.
The younger, more introverted Nancy sat down at the piano for one number, leading the rhythm section and taking over the lead vocals. Certainly her voice is not as strong as Ann Wilson’s, but doesn’t deserve to be so underutilized.
Ex-Aerosmith guitarist and singer Joe Perry and his band opened the concert. I certainly hope his old group is not mourning his loss, as his guitar riffs sounded as dated as a presidential candidate’s rhetoric. Many in the crowd, bored with the opening act, milled around the Coliseum floor, chit-chatting, swilling and spilling beer and setting off firecrackers left over from earlier this month.
1976 Dreamboat Annie
1977 Little Queen
1978 Dog and Butterfly
1980 Bebe le Strange
1980 Greatest Hits Live
1982 Private Audition
1987 Bad Animals
1991 Rock the House Live
1993 Desire Walks On
1995 The Road Home (Live)
2003 Alive in Seattle
2004 Jupiters Darling
2007 Dreamboat Annie Live
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OZZY OSBOURNE OF BLACK SABBATH BELTS OUT A SONG IN SPOKANE, WA. ON SEPTEMBER 28, 1978. PHOTO BY BEN UPHAM.
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“TOGETHER AGAIN” (1997)
BY KIRA L. BILLIK
THE WINCHESTER STAR
AUGUST 16, 1997
Ozzy Osbourne, wearing a black T-shirt and jeans and purple-tinted glasses that sat slightly askew on his nose, sipped from a cup of tea and rolled and smoked a cigarette.
A pile of free weights lay in the corner; an exercise bike stood in the hall. His dressing table was laden with medicine to treat the asthma and allergies he suffers. He looked fit despite doing two shows a night for the past month, although fatigue showed a bit in his eyes.
“The last few gigs have just been, ‘Am I going to get through the first one, because if I get through the first one, then the second one’s a breeze,’” he said. “You have to have a little bit of reserve for the second show — you can’t give all your wind out on the first one.”
Osbourne was backstage at Ozzfest, the massive metal marathon he created. And Black Sabbath, a band Osbourne left eight years ago, is headlining the tour — with Osbourne once again doing vocals.
After being plagued by personal problems that sabotaged several prior reunion attempts, Black Sabbath, widely credited as one of the creators of heavy metal, is a band again.
Hundreds of bands were influenced by guitarist Tony lommi’s sludgy black riffs, Osbourne’s nasal wail, and bassist Terry “Geezer” Butler’s tales of Satan, war and Armageddon. They released a series of classic albums starting in 1970, such as “We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Mob Rules” and “Paranoid.” Sabbath also was honored with a tribute album, “Nativity in Black,” several years ago.
But if its place in music history is set, its lineup has been anything but. Osbourne left in 1978 after eight years in the band and was succeeded by Ronnie James Dio, who stuck around for three albums, then left. Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan and Tony Martin sang on Sabbath albums in the 1980s and early ’90s; Dio came back for “Dehumanizer” in 1992, only to-leave again.
The original four members — Osbourne, lommi, Butler and drummer Bill Ward — played Live Aid in 1985 and jammed together several times since, but then always went their separate ways.
Osbourne and lommi recently had been working together. So when a vacancy opened up on the Ozzfest roster, Sharon Osbourne, Ozzy’s wife and manager, suggested a reunion. Ward wasn’t included this time. Faith No More’s Mike Bordin, who also played in Osbourne’s band, handled drumming duties. “When Sharon came to me with this and said, ‘Do you want to do it?’ I said, ‘Listen, my answer’s yes and that’s as far as I’m going to go with it,” Osbourne said backstage at Ozzfest’s Philadelphia- area stop. “Before, when I used to get involved, I used to get so irate, because I’m not a businessman — I’m a rock and roll performer.”
The band’s difficulties, which have always seemed to involve Osbourne and lommi, are behind them, lommi said. “You begin to realize when you fell out then, it was over silly stuff which seemed important at the time,” lommi said. “I think you’ve just got to have respect for each other, which is probably what we didn’t have in the early days.”
lommi, 49, who sat on the edge of a sofa, was a bit fidgety prior to the show. He wore his usual black, and a large silver cross on a cord around his neck, and hid his eyes behind blue-tinted sunglasses. His dark hair, mustache and goatee are only slightly gray. In the background, the sounds of Paul McCartney’s new album came from Osbourne’s dressing room. lommi has always been the constant in the band throughout as members have swirled around him. And he admits he may have made some wrong decisions in selecting players. Critics and fans have been more and more critical with each version of Sabbath and each deviation from the original. “I think it did go off-track to a point,” he said, “but you don’t realize it when you’re involved in it. You start doing more different sorts of material and then you look back at the old stuff and you think, ‘Blimey, it’s really changed.’ “It’s that unique unit that made that sound and there’s no getting away from it. So anybody else I’ve had in the band, even though they’ve been great musicians, it’s not been the same because it can’t possibly be the same,” he said. Whether Sabbath continues as a band is up in the air. “We’ll have to see when this finishes — whether they loved it, whether they hated it,” Sharon Osbourne said. “Ultimately, there’s always been this invisible thread that keeps them all together — you can’t just cut somebody out of your life totally that’s been there from day one.”
Osbourne takes the same wait-and-see attitude. “I’ve put my foot in my mouth so many times before by saying, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re going to do an album, we’re going to do another tour, we’re going to do another Ozzfest.’ Let’s just get this one out of the way and see what happens,” Osbourne said. “It would be nice to do a Sabbath album as the original (lineup),”lommi said a bit wistfully. “My ultimate thing would be to do our own tour.”
BLACK SABBATH DISCOGRAPHY:
1970 Black Sabbath
1971 Master of Reality
1972 Black Sabbath Vol. 4
1973 Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
1976 Technical Ecstasy
1977 We Sold our Souls for Rock ‘N’ Roll
1978 Never Say Die
1980 Live At Last
1980 Heaven and Hell
1981 Mob Rules
1982 Live Evil
1983 Born Again
1986 Seventh Star
1987 The Eternal Idol
1989 Headless Cross
1994 Cross Purposes
1995 Cross Purposes Live
2002 Past Lives
2007 Live at Hammersmith Odeon
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MARK FARNER BRINGS THE AUDIENCE A LITTLE CLOSER TO HOME IN LEWISTON, IDAHO ON 8-22-09. PHOTO BY BEN UPHAM.
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BY JOHN FISHER
BUCKS COUNTY COURIER TIMES
NOVEMBER 27, 1977
Mark Farner has seen the highs and lows in his rock career. He is remembered by most as the long-maned lead singer of Grand Funk Railroad, a pioneering force in the early days of hard rock.
Grand Funk was born during an era of social unrest among the youth of the country. It performed the type of music which was spawned by that time. It was hard-driving and loud and directed itself to social troubles and ecological themes.
It also had some of the wistfulness of the decade which stretched from the late ’60s into the early ’70s. Its ballads were peaceful, easy-moving anthems, which spoke of even better times to come. This was a time of hippies and pseudo-hippies. Peace and love was on the lips of most young persons. But the era died —almost simultaneously with the end of the war in Vietnam —and many of the groups which proliferated during that time period had to rework their formats to remain in the main-stream of musical popularity.
Grand Funk was one of the groups which entered the ’70s basically unchanged. It maintained its hard rock image and probably would have continued along those lines if the group had not suffered from internal disputes resulting in its disbanding in 1976.
Emerging from the ashes of Grand Funk was Farner. While a member of the group, he was one of its prime songwriters. He also was the visual focal point as its lead singer. Farner has not changed his philosophy about the rock world or about conditions in general.
Residing on a large farm in Northern Michigan, Farner still is concerned with ecology and the plight of his fellow man, although this no longer is a prime factor in the lives of most rock performers.
From the world of superstar status, Farner now has to reclimb the ladder to rock and roll popularity as a solo performer. “It’s (his career) doing all right. “It seems hard for me to get on with anybody —there are a lot of people who do not want me to open a show for them. We asked to go out on tour but it’s hard to get the gigs —the solid tour— so we have been doing one-nighters, here, there and all over the country.”
Farner recently was scheduled to appear in Philadelphia as the opening act for the Charlie Daniels Band. This tour was cancelled because of bad fan reaction which caused Farner to be struck by a thrown beer bottle at one of the concert sites. “The people who came to see Mark Farner at the Charlie Daniels show were appreciative and they were in the majority. The people were right there in the front row and all the people were digging it. The minority were sitting in the balcony somewhere. These bottles were thrown from the balconies and various places. I don’t know what caused that reaction, they probably had a bad time with their old lady or something.”
Farner indicated Grand Funk would not get together again but added that its parting of ways was amicable. “When the group split up —this last time— it wasn’t my idea, it was the drummer Don Brewer. “We had had a couple of bouts before this, but it had just never gotten down to quitting. “But this last time it was pretty unanimous. There was no animosity; we were still able to talk to one another and deal sensibly and objectively, look at it and say, ‘Hey, we can’t do this anymore because there is so much writing ability in the group that it cannot be expressed through one vehicle anymore.’ “Because a lot of the songs I wrote never made Grand Funk albums. Some of the songs I wrote the group would not necessarily get behind as far as where they were coming from. “They (the other group members) were taking
it pretty personally in the group;, they felt that the songs meant Grand Funk was making a statement; that everyone was getting behind it and saying it and playing it. “Some of the things I was saying in my songs, they did not want to get behind. These were political type songs. Songs I felt about ecology and world situations that I wanted to express through song. They arose from being around the world and traveling and seeing conditions.”
Now free of the group, Farner has returned to writing the socially conscious material which was popular in the ’60s but which has declined in recent years. “I’m still coming from the same spot. For me the values of the earth will never change, so I’m saying the same things. “We now are so far into what was wrong, that we don’t care to hear it anymore.”
Farner said today’s youth may not support issues as much as in the past, but they still react the same to music. “I don’t believe the people have learned to react any differently. If they are giving their all to you on the stage, you better give it back to them.”
Aside from starting a new career, Farner has a new band and album behind him. The album is entitled simply enough, “Mark Farner” —and the band Boasts the talents of his little brother. His debut solo album is good, but Farner plans some improvements for the future. “The next album, I think, will be more raw sounding. I think this album —after listening to it 100 times— was too refined. I never produced my own album, I’ve always been talked into letting some other producer produce my album, but I think I’ll produce the next album myself.
During his interview, Farner was relaxing in his farmhouse. He had bagged a deer—and personally slaughtered it— on the first day of the hunting season and he had just sold his harvest of corn to Kellogg’s for the manufacture of cornflakes. His whole life seems to revolve around the land and nature. .
Mark said that it never ceases to amaze him that he can transform seemingly worthless pieces of green paper into tangible objects such as tractors and land. On the land he now finds inspiration for his new songs. “I have found myself riding around the fields on my tractor —riding around in circles, hearing the drone of the tractor’s motor— and the words to a song come to me.”
Mark Farner already has spent almost a decade in the world of rock & roll, a musical genre which almost is as much noted for its short life span as it is its a meteoric rise to fame. Farner gave no indication of leaving the rock world. He concluded, “I want to do it until people do not want to hear it anymore. To me, I believe God puts us all here for a purpose. What’s driving me is music. “Aging does not bother me. I’m taking it as it comes —we’re all going to have to work and get old if we are going to live. My manager told me my life style is such that I’m going to have to be the only 60 year old rock star.”
MARK FARNER SOLO DISCOGRAPHY:
1977 Mark Farner
1978 No Frills
1988 Just Another Injustice
1989 Wake Up
1991 Some Kind of Wonderful
2003 Live (w/NRG)
2006 For the People
CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO SEE MARK FARNER PHOTOS:
MARK FARNER PHOTOS BY BEN UPHAM