I have numerous times over these Blog pages have mentioned how back in 1979/1980 that bands such as KISS/AC/DC/Cheap Trick/Van Halen/Queen and Rush had help shape my listening habits as an 13-year-old back than. One band that I must apologize to is New England as they should be mentioned in the same sentence as those previous six bands above.
New England released their debut album titled simply enough New England which was produced by the one and only Mr Paul Stanley and being a KISS FanBoy at the time I got this one at Christmas of 1979! I did review this fantastic piece of work….
Speaking of which here are the Fine Fella’s known as New England!
John Fannon: guitar, vocals
Jimmy Waldo: keyboards, vocals
Hirsh Gardner: drums, vocals
Gary Shea: bass
1980 rolls around and drops Explorer Suite (Produced by Mike Stone and John Fannon)which surprise I asked for Christmas 1980 and I received on vinyl!
Explorer Suite…….The Tracks…
1. Honey Money (4:06)
2. Livin’ in the Eighties (3:26)
3. Conversation (3:20)
4. It’s Never to Late (3:52)
5. Explorer Suite (6:37)
6. Seal It With a Kiss (3:08)
7. Hey You’re on the Run (3:33)
8. No Place to Go (3:58)
9. Searchin’ (3:08)
10. Hope (6:09)
11. You’ll Be Born Again (2:33)
Explorer Suite was my first discovery into what I would call Prog Pop as New England take the rawness of the debut and add a few more musical layers and dive head first and make an album that would to my ears fall into the category of an Styx album and no not the Mr Roboto like Styx but more like an Cornerstone Styx like record.
I’m comparing New England and Styx just to give you the reader an example of the caliber that New England brought to the table in the early 80’s! These records still stand the test of time today and it’s been a great reunion for me as they are available on Itunes!
Here’s a little smattering of some random thoughts….
The album starts with the very good Honey Money and keyboardist Jimmy Waldo know his spot as he would have the Keys/Hammond like sound swirling around but not taking anything away from John’s electric guitaring.
Living In The 80’s is a another great track with John laying down the foundation with a classic rock like opening riff and the rest of the boys joining in with Bassist Gary Shea doing some cool Bass Riffage right before Waldo and his keys take the song into overdrive. I must mention that these guys can all sing as the backing harmonies are what propel this album into songs that will remain etched in the upper portions of your noggin long when the song is done!
Remember what I said about the harmonies. The title track (Explorer Suite) here is 6 plus minutes of a Prog delight! Tons of time changes/keyboards maxed to perfection and Drummer Hirsh joins John in the song as a co- lead vocalist. Explorer Suite is just plain brilliance. You all need to hear it as it’s the video posted!
Seal It With A Kiss leads off and sets the pace for Side 2 as the band is on all 4 Musical Cylinders as it’s an all out flat rocker! More great backing harmonies propel this song straight forward especially at the end of the album when John rips out some solo action as its jus this and Hirsh playing out the song….
Hey Youre On The Run is another piece of fantastic rock which once again features those great lead and backing vocals. That’s the thing with these guys as they had all the goods in songs/musical chops. This song should have been mega!
Searchin’ is another track in the Pop Rock realm and should have been another single. Perhaps it was? But man this song is a great track featuring some nice guitar work by Mr Fannon.
Just when you think these guys may just be writing Poppy like singles think again as Hope crosses into Queen Territory with a big bombastic guitar solos swirling twirling keys. 6 minutes plus. That’s two tracks on this album that are breaking the mold and taking these guys into other area’s of Rock and by Gosh as an 13-year-old in 1980 I take notice!
You’ll Be Born Again sends off the album with nice piano like outro by Waldo. Chill like moment…
It was great revisiting this album as albums like this have shaped my musical landscape and my bad as I should be giving credit where credit is due and that’s with New England.
You may be wondering what happened with these guys as they should have been mega but like many a great act that should have but switching record company’s after the debut set things back and after one more album 1981’s Walking Wild Produced by Todd Rundgren John Fannon quit New England while Waldo and Shea played in Alcatrazz.
But here we are in 2017 and New England is back and performing with the same 4 guys which is totally impressive and by the vids on You Tube they all have their Hair! YUP and also the chops and Harmonies!
A live album is going to be released “Live At The Regent Theatre that was recently recorded and it will be a no brainer purchase for me!