Monday, July 30, 2012


Reviewed by Anthony Servante 

The new album by Bill Mumy captures a “Noir” view of life by way of Woody Guthrie as evident in its two videos, “I Owe a Little Money” and “Wresting with Survival” (see below). Noir in the sense that the darker side of life is captured in the songs that play against the uplifting arrangements of Mr. Guthrie’s Patriotic tempos; together this blend of dark and light create a view of colorful scenarios of love, religion and hope through black and white glasses.

The songlist is thematically cohesive so it plays like a concept LP, as if it were one long song rather than 12 individual pieces. Contrasting themes, such as the good and the bad of love creating ambivalent feelings, make for some lyrics that go against the grain of the beat. However, there is a seamless segue between each cut that makes this one of the few albums on my short list that I can listen to straight through.

The tracks include:
"Real Good Thing" sets the ironic tone right off with some wicked guitar licks.
"The Big Barn is Burnin’" has an upbeat rhythm to a downbeat story.
"I Owe a Little Money" is a great song about home and the debt that comes with it.
"I Know the Way to Love You" is an intense love song. All isn’t as it seems.
"Isn’t That What You Said?" extends the play on words regarding faithful love.
"If You Got Your Mind Made Up" is pure 1920s. Helen Kane on downers.
"Destiny’s Shore" is about love lost with an upbeat gospel rhythm.
"Take Us Home" is about looking to heaven as an escape from a “broken” world.
"Chariots Comin’" is a sardonic view of our salvation coming from above.
"The Other Side of the Other Side" finds love spiritually but not physically.
"Wrestling With Survival" expresses hope in the future, not in the present.
"Until the Big Bang Whimpers" ends with the wicked guitar work that started us off in the opening song, rounding out the cohesiveness of the LP.

Each song has that timeless quality that could have been as popular in the 1920s as the 1960s. So the overall experience of sitting through the entire CD is one of being sent to another time. Brian Eno says that good music is a place we go to when we listen to it. In that sense, Bill Mumy’s Until the Big Bang Whimpers album is a location worth discovering by music lovers of all genres.

Pick up a copy at:

Friday, July 27, 2012

Picaresque by Park Cooper and Barbara-Lien Cooper

Reviewed by Anthony Servante

I read this book last year, but because it didn’t fit the conventional definition of “Horror”, I had to pass on it to review. Now, however, I want to discuss it as literature without the restraint to limit myself to the genre of the grotesque. Picaresque is a novel of the arabesque, but stretches its boundaries to include elements of fantasy and adventure. The good guys are villains, or rogues, as the common phrase of the day stated, and the bad guys are corrupt bureaucrats and statesmen. Harking back to the plays of the Restoration Period, where the “wits” were shabbily dressed but perceived society with razor satire in the form of jabes at the foibles of a social class that overdressed and overspoke in an effort to seem witty; these were the Fops, targets of the Wits. In the Cooper work, the rogues are the wits and the social miscreants are the fops; it was a natural progression from the Restoration Period into the Romantic and Victorian Movements, Charles Dickens for one employing the picaresque form in Martin Chuzzlewit (1844) in England and to some degree in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) in America.

A summary: “When court jester Reginald was in prison awaiting execution for telling a very ill-timed joke he made in front of the king, he made a couple of new friends: Hobart the magician and his patient, Sunny, an elf who has something very dangerous wrong with her mind.
On the run, they ally themselves with a few others who haven't yet found their place in the world:
--the world's greatest 8-year-old thief
--the world's only female knight
--the world's only talking dog
To all appearances, they've become just a group of traveling performers, but over time, they (and Hobart's mentor, who no longer has a body because he accidentally got trapped in a spell he cast to help him spy on the local ladies) become a crack team of spies for the desert City-State of Caravanserai.
Reginald's letters to his superior, Nina (thrust into an executive position after one of Reginald's early reports seemed to drive Reginald's previous superior insane) tell the tales of his and his group's efforts to outwit and otherwise foil hecklers, bandits, a troll with a fiendish plan for world conquest, the people's glorious revolution... and, when they accidentally stumble upon the source of all the monsters in the world, a very large dragon.
But more importantly, Picaresque tells the tale of Reginald's brave and often-apparently-hopeless quest to talk his employer, Nina, into going on a date with him.”

With its structure firmly planted in satire, a seamless plot, and a lack of character development, the seemingly isolated stories and encounters tie the overall novel together as the travels are but journeys for the sake of journey itself. Life is not predictable, and the borderline criminal is hero in such a irrational state. But Cooper adds the fantastical to expand the picaresque form to include the supernatural road, breaking the laws of nature, per se. The reader not only follows the path to nowhere; he finds nonexistent creatures there in the place where nowhere dwells. A happy conundrum.

I found this book charming and humorous. Don’t expect deep meaning or even moral direction. That is not the point of the novel. It is a journey without a goal; the destination is a good read. I recommend traveling down that picaresque road. It’s quite an adventure.

Dr. Park Cooper was born in Texas, where he currently resides, after a period of time living in Kent, Ohio, where he got his Ph.D. in literature. He writes with his wife Barbara Lien-Cooper at their creative studio Wicker Man Studios.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Black Widow: Sleeping with Demons (2011)

Reviewed by Anthony Servante


Black Widow, the Black Magic arts Rock band, has returned to its mystical roots in its new CD Sleeping with Demons (2011). Back in 1970, bad publicity regarding the band's "live sacrifice" of a nude woman on stage and the Satanic overtones, lyrics and LP cover, led to the group's second LP having no title. To fans it simply became known as BW's second album. Without the Satanic drive to meld the band members in harmony, they instead became a band in contention.

But thanks to original members Clive Jones (Saxophone, Flute) and Geoff Griffith (bass), the new CD picks up where the first LP left off, echoing the sound and themes abandoned by the band after the successful first LP, Black Widow Sacrifice (1970). The band turned to political activism and protest songs in their second Self-Titled LP and their third LP, Black Widow III. The group disbanded as the choice of music became a point of discord.

Clive Jones continued the theatrics of the live Black Widow show in his own band, Agony Bag, and reflected the darker themes of his former group in his new music.

With Clive’s return to Black Widow, along with Geoff Griffith, Sleeping with Demons takes on the black arts without reservation. Tony Martin of Black Sabbath delivers some strong vocals on Hail Satan, which echoes the 1970 Come to the Sabbat from the first LP. The songs range from celebratory, as in Partytime for Demons, to bluesy as Kay Garret, BW’s original vocalist back in the Pesky Gee days, has a cameo vocal on Even the Devil Gets the Blues. All in all, a worthy follow-up for Black Widow fans. Makes one look forward to what the next LP will bring.
                                                       Geoff Griffith (left), Clive Jones

My hat’s off to Clive and Geoff for finally bringing out the LP that fans have been waiting for over 40 years! The true follow-up to BW Sacrifice, Sleeping with Demons is indeed Black Widow II, the missing LP. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Off Kilter TV: Where Horror Rears Its Ugly Head on Family Television
(TV is predictable with its formulaic structure and stories. But once in a while an episode will sneak by that breaks that formula--this I call Off Kilter TV).

COMBAT!: Cry in the Ruins Season Three, Episode Twenty Seven
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Our Off Kilter show this time out is Combat!, a TV action/drama show about World War II that ran from 1962 to 1967. What the audience came to expect from this show was, well, combat, Americans fighting Germans on French soil. The running joke with fans and insiders alike was that the United States fought in France less than a year compared to the five years the show ran. But the episodes were always freshly written and the battle scenes choreographed by WWII veterans, giving the show edge and its characters a realism lacking in the other “war” TV shows of the day. However, there was that one episode that wasn’t about fighting or killing, or taking a bridge or blowing up a strategic obstacle to further the advances of the Allied Forces; this episode concerned itself with peace, if only for a day, and therein lies the Off Kilter formula I look for in family television of old.

The episode is titled Cry in the Ruins. It is directed by Vic Morrow, one of the stars of the show (who does not appear in this episode but is credited). It stars Rick Jason as Lt. Hanley and William Smithers as German officer Lt. Markes, and was written by A. Martin Zweiback, who wrote for TV’s KUNG FU and THE RIFLEMAN.

 (Vic Morrow) 

Hanley and King Company, which consists of Pierre Jalbert as Private First Class Paul “Caje” LeMay, Jack Hogan as PFC William G. Kirby, Dick Peabody as PFC “Littlejohn, and Conlan Carter as “Doc”, the company medic, enter a bombed out village right after a German Squadron led by Lt. Markes (William Smithers—he played bad guy Captain Merik in the original STAR TREK series). A wailing French woman searches for her baby amongst the rumble of the village and the Germans help her in her search. Hanley sees the humanity in the Germans’ assistance and offers the German Lieutenant a truce so that his own company can join the squad in the search for the missing child. After many cautious exchanges, both armies lay down their weapons and dig for the wine cellar where the baby is buried. “The hysterical mother is played by Lisa Pera, the grandniece of Russian author Leo Tolstoy and a protégee of series star (and director of this episode) Vic Morrow” (Wiki).

 (William Smithers) 

There is much tension as the soldiers dig and work to free the infant, but the goal remains true to both sides—save the child. It’s not really a ghost story, and the horrors of war are set aside in favor of working together for the common good of this woman, a stranger, and her baby. When a dying German Captain comes upon the two enemies at work in the ruins, he orders the lieutenant to kill the Americans. While the Captain, woozy from loss of blood, trains his machine gun on King Company, the Germans retrieve their weapons that were placed out of reach by both sides in the uneasy truce. Then the Captain dies, leaving the Germans armed and the Americans at their mercy. Hanley tells Markes that they should resume the search, but the German leader reminds the American leader that the Captain brought the war back. Hanley then asks him, “Then what were we digging for?” After a moment of thought, Markes replies, “We were searching for something we have lost” and orders his men to re-place the weapons out of reach once more and resume the search for the child.

(Rick Jason)

Thus far, we’ve had no killing. The soldiers on both sides find the cellar and one of the Americans is lowered down to find the baby as the French woman looks on. The American finds no infant and exits the wine cellar. The soldiers regroup and plan their next move to resume the search, when an old man appears and talks to the woman. He begins to escort the woman from the site of the digging. Hanley asks the man about the woman. He says that many months ago the mother lost her infant during a bombing of their village and that whenever the bombing resumes she returns to the site where her baby died and searches for him. He further says that it’s the bombing that triggers her memory and he must always come for her to take her home. Then with the woman in tow, they depart.

The enemy soldiers realize that their truce was based on a lie, that there was no child to find. Their “humanity” was the product of a falsehood. And therein lies the off kilter element of our story. The soldiers were willing to kill each other based on a political “lie”, an order to murder to further political ambitions. They are pawns in a greater game of War with a capital W. But for a moment the pawns set aside the game for the falsehood of Peace; it was a different lie but a lie nonetheless. The soldiers retrieve their weapons and put on their respective uniforms, aware that for a while they were all alike, just men working collectively; they depart the village together, side by side one last time, letting their truce remain until next they meet in combat and the killing resumes.
(Lisa Pera)

It was a ghost that they fought for, and it was a ghost that they laid down their arms for. And they understand that the cause one fights for is sometimes an illusion and that coming face to face with that illusion one can sometimes find their moral purpose. When Markes answered Hanley’s question about what they were digging for, he meant that they were searching for something they had lost, their individuality, their humanity. If they could follow orders to kill, they could also say no to those orders if just for a moment.

The truce was based on finding life, a living child in the rubble. When they find that child does not exist, they understand that peace is an illusion, and that war can be based on an illusion too, fighting for something that doesn’t exist except in theocratic form. The war killed the French woman’s baby, she lost her baby to the war, and she turns to the soldiers, both German and American, to find her baby; who else but the ones who took the infant can return the infant to her? The soldiers learn this too. They were looking for the thing that they themselves disintegrated with their bombs. As the woman returns to seek her baby whenever she hears the shelling, the soldiers return to their shelling of other villages and towns. The cycle of life is spun by death.

Well, thank you, dear readers, for joining me this time out for our Off Kilter TV episode. This is one of the most haunting episodes ever written for COMBAT! It was one of the few episodes that dealt with death, but without any killing. As such, its message was sent to us ironically in the O’Henry ending. And for one episode of the War action/drama, we had an hour of Peace, a humanitarian mission, thanks to the soldiers’ belief in something bigger than war—life. Click below to watch Combat! Cry in the Ruins. Until next we meet, keep your TV tuned to black and white.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Zombies: Breathe Out, Breathe In (2012)
Reviewed by Anthony Servante
Music from the Darkness

Since the success of the Rock Royalty Tour, where The Zombies headlined concerts with The Yardbirds and The Spencer Davis Group, Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone and Tom Toomey* have put together a batch of new songs and hit the road again with The Strawbs** opening up for the legendary Rod Argent led band. With Blunstone on vocals and Tom Toomey on guitar and backing vocals, the new album boasts ten new songs that echo Steely Dan, The Beatles and early Zombies. Play It For Real riffs on Hey, Bulldog, while Shine On Sunshine alludes to The Long and Winding Road. A Moment in Time, written by Rod Argent and Tom Toomey, has a strong tie to The Zombies sound of the Sixties with its guitar work and harmonies. Blunstone’s vocals are in fine form for this music mix, and his song, Any Other Way, is closest to the traditional Zombies sound, with Argent on keyboards. Catchy melodies that rely on harmonies and easy listening directions make Breathe Out, Breathe In a worthy CD for Zombie fans who can look forward to hearing these new rockers in concert alongside the classics like Hold Your Head Up, Time of the Season, and She’s Not There.

*Check out the Tom Toomey interview in this issue to learn more about the new guitarist for The Zombies.

** Check out the Dave Lambert interview also in this issue to learn more about The Strawbs and their guitarist since 1972.


Jethro Tull: Thick as a Brick 2 (2012)

Reviewed by Anthony Servante

When Jethro Tull released Aqualung in 1971, critics called it the first “concept” album. Ian Anderson, leader and founder of the band, argued that it, in fact, was not such an LP and proceeded to write a true concept piece, and thus we have Thick as a Brick, which Anderson calls a parody of a concept album. In concert he took the whole theme thing to another level, staging what he called “Monty Python” moments, such as a phone ringing during the playing of TAAB, Anderson stopping the concert to answer it, and then announcing that the call was for a Mike Nelson (the main character from the popular fifties TV show SEA HUNT); then the band resumed the music. A few seconds later, a man dressed in wet suit and scuba gear walked on stage and took the call. I was lucky enough to see the concert live at the Inglewood Forum, former home of the LAKERS basketball team, venue for some of the late sixties and early seventies rock legends as Led Zeppelin, Grand Funk Railroad, and Black Sabbath, to name a few.

TAAB concerns itself with the story of young genius, Gerald Bostock, who supposedly wrote the lyrics to the 44 minute song and impregnated the young tease on the LP cover who hikes up her skirt for the camera in the background as Gerald gets his picture taken for the fictional newspaper, The St Cleve Chronicle and Linwell Advertiser. But Bostock was a ruse; Anderson did not use the epic poem by the youngster because he himself wrote the song and lyrics. It was all part of the parody.

In Thick as a Brick 2, Anderson continues the parody and does so by recapturing the textures and musical style of the original. In other words: It picks up right where we left off. We have the story of Gerald, now fifty years of age, told from various possible futures for the lad via songs unifying the storyline. He is a homeless man, a banker, a soldier, a preacher, and an “ordinary” man who works a mom and pop shop. The limitations Ian Anderson suffers in concert, such as not being able to reach the higher range of his vocals anymore, due to age, work in his favor in the studio as TAAB2 relies on a simple ballad/narrative approach to the music and with the instrumentals carrying the weight of the new concept piece. No one can criticize the range of Anderson’s flute play. The back-up band consists of John O’Hara on Hammond Organ and piano, David Goodbar on Bass, Florian Opahle on guitar, and Scott Hammond on drums, with original TAAB producer Derek Shulman, who has worked with Gentle Giant, taking the reins again for TAAB2. It is a pleasure to catch up with Mr. Bostock as Anderson recaptures the spirit of the original parody piece while updating the story to the new millennium with modern references and allusions. Jethro Tull is back with a vengeance, and the concept album is alive and well.

MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012) is Wes Anderson’s latest film about young love, dysfunctional families, bipolar bureaucrats, and loyalty.

The straight-faced comedy had many in the audience I watched this with scratching their head in bemusement. Two couples left early, as they were probably expecting a variation of My Secret Garden.
In short, 12 year old Sam is an orphan, though no one seems to be aware of it; even his Khaki Scout leader, played with deadpan aplomb by Edward Norton, is surprised by this news after he learns Sam (Jared Gilman) has run away from Scout Camp. Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) is the 12 year old girl that Sam is in love with and with whom he has run away.

As Police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) leads the search to find the missing kids, a storm is brewing off shore from the small island (so small, they get their mail by plane). Our one man chorus (Bob Balaban) pops up now and then to inform us of the history of the island, the strength of the storm and once to interact with the main characters, an odd action for a chorus.
The search leads to violence and brings the attention of Social Services (Tilda Swinton) who plans to place the orphan Sam in a asylum-type juvie where a part of his brain will be removed, his fellow Khaki Scouts fear.

Harvey Keitel plays the leader of the popular Scout Camp on the bigger neighboring island. Keitel and Norton play their roles with ironic understatement as the tremendous storm creates disaster after disaster. Bill Murray and Francis McDormand play the parents of Suzy in the strictest fashion expected of husband and wife attorneys. Their small talk sounds like an episode of Law and Order. No wonder she has her eyes set  on the single Police Captain.

For those of you who prefer slapstick humor like that of Adam Sandler, this movie may not be your cup of tea, per se. Although that lightning scene might have been to Sandler’s liking. The use of color by Wes Anderson is always a marvel to behold and the camera angles themselves became inside jokes.

I always prefer my humor dry, and despite that very funny storm, the rest of the film stays witty and thought-provoking. Your knees will be safe from any slapping, but the sarcastic grin you’ll be left with will probably stay fixed for a few days.
Grade: A

Dave Lambert Interview

Conducted by Anthony Servante

The Servante of Darkness welcomes Dave Lambert from The Strawbs for a chat and a top ten list of his most influential songs. Dave Lambert was born the 8th of March 1949 in Hounslow, Middlesex, England; he is a guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter for the Strawbs, the iconic British Folk-Rock band whose music spans more than 40 years. Dave Lambert joined the band in 1972 and continues today touring with the band on their Acoustic Strawbs Concerts series. Last year they toured with The Zombies on their 50th Anniversary Tour. Dave also works on solo material when he isn’t recording or touring with the Strawbs.

Here are some links to follow both Dave Lambert on his solo career and with The Strawbs:

Most Strawbs and Acoustic Strawbs albums are available to order from Witchwood Records at:

Dave Lambert’s solo CD “Work in Progress” is available from major sellers such as Amazon in CD or MP3 format. 

“The Magic Shoemaker – Live” is also available on CD and MP3 download from major sellers and at the Angel Air website:

Anthony: Thank you for joining us this month.

Dave: It’s a pleasure Anthony, thanks for inviting me.

Anthony: Can you tell us about your pre-Strawbs days?

Dave: I played my first concert with the guitar during school assembly when I was 11, singing ‘Bring A Little Water Sylvie’ and ‘Tom Dooly’. The dinner-lady told me she enjoyed it and gave me a second helping of pudding, so I realized straight away that entertaining had its benefits.  I had a few bands while I was at school in my early teens: The Hangmen, The Chains and, finally, The Syndicate. The Syndicate was my preferred line-up, a three piece band, the repertoire ranged from blues through to early Beatles.
I was already playing drums in the Boys’ Brigade when I was invited to join The Pride of Murray pipe-band. I was taught by a very strict, but brilliant, teacher and I believe that was the beginning of my understanding of, and love for, complex rhythms. My ambition by that time was a career as a professional pipe-band drummer. But, when we formed Fridays Chyld, with Bob Voice on drums and Dick Dufall on bass, I soon realised that my heart was in rock. We changed our name to Fire and I signed a publishing deal with Apple Pub, the Beatles company. Fire released, on the Decca label, the single ‘Father’s Name Is Dad’ with ‘Treacle Toffee World’ on the b-side. Produced by Tony Clark, I think it still, 44 years later, stands up as a good record and one of which I’m enormously proud. We’re still finding cover versions dating from 1968 up to the present moment. Fire went on to record the musical fairy-tale album ‘The Magic Shoemaker’ but, sadly, after that I felt I had no more to offer the band so I brought it to an end.
I spent a while doing solo shows around the folk-clubs, colleges and universities and then I was booked for a UK tour with Mungo Jerry. It turned out to be the last tour of the original band, they broke up after it. Paul King and Colin Earl asked me if I’d join them in a new band which I was more than happy to do and so The King Earl Boogie-Band was formed. We made a couple of singles, Plastic Jesus and Starlight, and an album, Trouble at ‘Mill. 

Anthony: How did your joining the Strawbs come about?

Dave: I had been doing some shows with Dave Cousins for a couple of years before I joined King Earl, he’d even played some banjo on The Magic Shoemaker album. During the summer of ’72 I played and sang some parts on Dave’s solo album, Two Weeks Last Summer,  and when were looking for a producer for King Earl I suggested we try Dave. Very soon we were all in the studio together recording ‘Trouble at ‘Mill’. When Tony Hooper left Strawbs Dave asked me if I’d be interested in joining the band, I was more than happy to say yes.

Anthony: When I think of the Strawbs, Dave Lambert always comes to mind. You are forever tied to the legacy of the band. What have been your main contributions to the Strawbs?

Dave: One of the main reasons for bringing me into the band was to add power to their sound with electric guitar. They had already done one US tour in early ’72 and because of the nature of the venues; large theatres and stadiums, Dave felt that a more electric approach was needed in order for the band to hold its own in the US. When we returned to the US the new approach was immediately successful so, I guess, that was my first contribution. We always did, and still do, concentrate on strong vocal harmonies. We soon found that my voice blended well with Dave Cousins voice and that my solo lead vocal was an effective alternative to Dave’s lead vocals which gave us variety, particularly in our long pieces like Autumn and Ghosts. Having come from a rock and roll background, I tried to be as positive as I could be with the guitar parts. In other words I didn’t want to change my playing to suit the band, instead I approached it as a fusion of folk with rock and roll. As things developed and the sound of the band became bigger and grander I found myself playing parts which I don’t think I would’ve thought of prior to that. I started listening to more classical recordings, Holst, Elgar, Beethoven for example, and discovered the influence I had been looking for and that, pretty much, is how my Strawbs style came about. I hope that my song-writing also brings another dimension to the band’s repertoire.

Anthony: You’ve been touring for so many years—can you share some of your favorite moments. What was The Zombies tour like?

Dave: This is always a difficult question to answer. Because I enjoy touring and playing live so much, nearly every show is memorable to me for a variety of reasons. The multi-band stadium tours of the 70’s were special. We got to spend months on the road with some lovely people who also happened to be great musicians. My first US tour was with the Eagles, Ten Years After and King Crimson, not a bad start. And that’s how it went through the 70’s, Santana, Frank Zappa, Joe Walsh, Poco….. the list goes on and on. I think some of our best, and favourite, tours in those years were when the bill was just us and King Crimson. The two bands made for a good show and we toured together many times. The atmosphere was always good backstage and the bands and crew socialized off-stage all the time. Very happy days. However, I don’t want to give the impression that it’s only the ‘big’ shows that are memorable or important to me. With Acoustic Strawbs, especially, we can be playing to 100 people one night and the next to 15,000. I enjoy both with the same relish. In fact some of the best shows I have been involved in were played to an intimate audience, there’s something very special about that.
Last year we did a tour of the US and Canada with The Zombies. By the end of the tour we all agreed, both bands, that it would be difficult to recall a happier tour. We all got on so well and I woke-up every morning looking forward to seeing everybody and to the show that night. I really hope that we get to tour together again in the future.

Anthony: Can you tell us about your listening pleasure? Which bands and artists have influenced you?

Dave: There’s more than one form of influence, those that we’re aware of and the subconscious, even unconscious, ones. From when I was a toddler there was always music playing somewhere in the house. My Mum and Dad had a varied record collection; Kathleen Ferrier, light classical music and Broadway stage musicals, that kind of thing, it all sunk into my brain and, in some cases, my soul. When my older sister started to buy her own records I heard The Shadows, Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard etc. The turning point for me though was hearing The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly and, perhaps most importantly, Eddie Cochran. In my opinion Cochran was the father of Rock and even Heavy Metal, listen to ‘Something Else’ and ‘C’mon Everybody’. I started to listen to Blues and Rhythm and Blues when I was at secondary school, Leadbelly, Howling Wolf and, of course, Chuck Berry began to fascinate and influence me. Once the 60’s phenomenon took off, led by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, I doubt if there was one band that didn’t influence me one way or another. My preferred listening though was The Who, The Yardbirds, Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys, Pink Floyd and, later, Hendrix and Cream. To be honest I don’t really listen to a lot of music and, as I said earlier; since the 70’s I’ve tended to listen to more classical stuff. You never stop being influenced by what’s around you though.

Anthony: Can you catch us up with your solo work?

Dave: My first solo album was ‘Framed’ in 1979. I made it in Los Angeles and the line-up was Denny Sewell (drums), Tom Hensley (keyboards), Richard Bennett (guitar) and John Entwistle and Lee Sklar (bass). As you can imagine, with a band like that, it was a great experience. You can still find the album on eBay but it’s not available on cd and it’s possible, because of legal problems, it never will be.
During the early 80’s, Chas Cronk (Strawbs’ bass-player) and I put together some tracks which, at the time, were not released. Under the title ‘Touch the Earth’ these recordings were eventually released in 2006 under the banner Lambert Cronk. Again the line-up was exciting; Nick Magnus and Andy Richards (keyboards), Ian Mosely and Tony Fernandez (drums).
In 2005 I released a second solo album called ‘Work in Progress’.
It comprised demo’s of my material that I’d recorded over a period of 20 years, mostly by myself in my own studio. Some of the songs on this album are among my personal favourites of my songs.
There are two Fire cd’s which have been released in recent times. The first, ‘Underground and Overhead’, is a collection of our demo’s and unreleased recordings from the 60’s. I love it because I can listen to it, close my eyes, and revisit myself in the 60’s.
In winter 2007 Fire got back together to play two live concerts of ‘The Magic Shoemaker’ in its entirety. It was an unbelievable experience for all of us. The two nights were recorded and the resulting cd ‘The Magic Shoemaker Live’ was released the following year.

Anthony: I’ve got to ask about the song The Man Who Would Never Leave Grimsby . There’s a lot of emotion there. Can you give us some background?

Dave: In the 70’s I had a letter from a young lad in Africa. His name was Lucky Nwankwo and he lived in a small village in Nigeria and was a huge Strawbs fan, to the point where the other villagers gave him the nickname ‘Strawbs boy’. It was a charming and moving letter and I never forgot it.
A few years ago we were playing in London and, before the show, the guys were having a chat in the dressing-room. I was getting ready so I was not paying close attention when I thought I heard our keyboard player, John Hawken, say; ‘the trouble was he would never leave Grimsby’. I turned to John and asked him what he had just said and he repeated; ‘he would never leave Grimsby’. The man he had been talking about was a highly respected drummer who had been asked to join some very high-profile bands but declined because didn’t want to leave his home town. I found this fascinating and scribbled on a scrap of paper ‘The Man Who Would Never Leave Grimsby’; put the piece of paper in my case so I wouldn’t forget the quote and the story. From time to time, in the weeks and months after that, I looked at those words but didn’t attempt to write anything. Eventually, as I had hoped it would, the song suddenly started to form in my mind and was complete in a day. The catalyst was when I remembered the letter from Lucky Nwankwo and he is the subject of the second verse, although I changed his homeland to Kenya for lyrical purposes. While I was writing and recording the song it became more and more emotional because it celebrated the, apparently, naïve and selfless dedication and love some people can have, something to be treasured.

Anthony: Anything new on the horizon for you musically? Will we ever see a full-band Rock tour for the Strawbs, as opposed to the great Acoustic concerts?

Dave: In 2009, I, along with Graeme Taylor, Jon Davey and Tom Leary formed a band called Zeus. We played at the Strawbs 40th anniversary concert, in Twickenham, and in May of this year we headlined the final afternoon of the 2012 Folk on the Pier festival in Cromer, Norfolk. The band has been extremely well received by the audiences and we’re hoping to do many more shows in the future. All of us have commitments to our other bands and it’s not easy to find a period of time when we’re all free at the same time but, as I said before, we are determined to do something else together. The great thing about it, for all of us, is that it’s a departure from our regular work plus; we get on really well with each other, personally and musically. We have recorded an album which will be released at a later date, not too much later I hope.
Acoustic Strawbs are on the road all through the year as we have been since 2001. We’ve already been to Norway, Italy and Portugal this year, all interspersed with an ongoing UK tour. Through the summer we’re doing festivals and some one-off shows. In September we head off to Canada, back for a few UK dates and then, in October, to the US. After that the full electric band will be touring the UK throughout November. Seeing it written down it all looks quite exhausting but I’m certain I’ll enjoy every minute of it. You’ll always find a list of our upcoming shows posted on our web-site.

My last request: Can you give us your top ten list of songs, Strawbs and solo work, that you feel best exemplify your career? And could you tell us a bit about each song.

Dave Lambert’s Top Ten Songs:

1. Father’s Name Is Dad (Fire) I wrote this in 1967 and it remains one of my favourite records that I’ve been involved in. It’s simply a cry from a teenager to be accepted as ‘normal’ instead of some kind of dangerous freak.

2. Treacle Toffee World (Fire) A companion piece for Father’s Name and all the above comments apply.

3. The Winter and the Summer (Strawbs) Since I started writing songs I had always positively avoided the standard approach to ballads and love songs. It wasn’t because I didn’t like them, more that I was attempting to find a different way to express those emotions. The Winter and the Summer was my first go at a love song in the traditional style. It became the first of my songs to feature on a Strawbs album; ‘Bursting at the Seams’.  

4. Cold Steel (Strawbs) This one started with a riff that I’d had around for while. When I came to write the lyric it all kind of poured out and became a cathartic experience for me. It was a song I needed to write in order to vent some heavy, pent up, emotions. We feature this in the Acoustic Strawbs show nearly all the time.

5. The Man Who Would Never Leave Grimsby (Strawbs)
Listen here for this song. Please, this is for listening only. To purchase, seek the above links. Thank you.

6. Ghosts (Dave Cousins) (Strawbs) One of our trademarks, in the 70’s particularly, were the longer multi-themed pieces. They have different themes and short songs linked with riffs and lasted anything up to 15 minutes. By the time we came to record the track Ghosts we had already tackled this format a few times and I think this represents the band at our best.

Ghosts live from the Acoustic Strawbs Tour

7. Autumn (Dave Cousins) (Strawbs) We put this on together on the road. The US tours in those days could last anything up to three months, which presented us with a lot of opportunities to work on, and rehearse, new material. In fact we played this first time before it was completely finished but it was clear from the word go that it would work. The final part; ‘The Winter Long’ (which most people know as ‘Hold on to me’), has become a bit of an anthem for us. People have got married to it and even, sadly, used it for funerals. We play it at every show and I think we’d be lynched if we didn’t.

8. Don’t Try To Change Me (Strawbs) I don’t usually think about re-recording my songs but I would like, at some point, to re-visit this particular one. As I was writing it I was trying to depict the frustrations and ups and downs that creep into a relationship.

9. Lay Down (Dave Cousins)  (Strawbs) Still my favourite Strawbs single and our first hit record. A straightforward rocker but with a religious influenced lyric, definitely one of Dave Cousins’ best.

10. The Man I Saw Last Night (From: ‘Work In Progress’. Dave Lambert solo cd) My number one guitar player is Peter Green. I adore his use of melody combined with great power. His story is well documented now but back in the 80/90’s we heard very little about him and what he was doing, he had virtually disappeared. Eventually they tracked him down and a documentary was made and broadcast on TV. I watched the programme and woke up the following morning knowing I had to write this song. It didn’t take very long because, as has happened to me many times, the song was ready to write itself.

Listen here for this song. Please, this is for listening only. To purchase, seek the above links. Thank you

Anthony: Thank you for sharing this amazing list of Rock history past and present with our readers. It’s been a pleasure to have you on my venture into the blog world. Feel free to drop by anytime. Dave Lambert, folks.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tom Toomey Interview

Conducted by Anthony Servante

In 2010, Tom Toomey joined The Zombies, bringing his virtuoso guitar play and vocals to the line-up of Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone, Jim Rodford, and Steve Rodford. The Servante of Darkness welcomes Tom today for a chat and top ten song list which we’ll get to later.

Anthony: Welcome, Tom, and thank you for joining us this month.
Tom: It's a pleasure

Anthony: Can you give us some background on Tom Toomey before you joined The Zombies? I hear you riff a great Carlos Santana tribute.
Tom: Yes I had a tribute band for many years which was huge fun. Santana covered the Zombies hit "She's Not There" and now I am playing it with the guys that wrote it. It doesn't get any better than that. I started my career at 13 when I formed the Epidemic. Since then I have been all over the world playing guitar and working with some great guys. One of the best gigs was playing in Chengdu China where I met my wife. It's amazing to be able to work at what I most love doing and that's playing.

Anthony: And how is it you joined The Zombies line-up?
Tom: I met the Zombies lead singer around 20 years ago when I was asked to play guitar on Colin Blunstone’s first album for many years. I went on to do 2 more albums. That was the connection and when Keith Airey left the Zombies I auditioned and got the job.

Anthony: I saw the Spencer Davis/Yardbirds/Zombies Rock Royalty Tour at The Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles, 2009. You joined for Zombies/Strawbs tour, am I right? How has touring been going?
Tom: The 2011 tour was really great; I can remember the band getting between 3 and 4 standing ovations every night for the 6 week tour. It blew me away. The Strawbs were great fun to be with too and fab musicians.

Anthony: What are some of your musical influences? What bands or artists set you on the path for a music career?
Tom: That's easy: when I was 12 I had just learnt "House of the Rising Sun" on a battered up acoustic guitar and went down to the local youth club to see a 3 piece band playing. My mate asked the guitarist if I could play and the rest of the band weren't up for it but the guitarist let me use his electric guitar. I played for the first time on stage and was TOTALLY HOOKED FROM THAT DAY ON! Influences have been: Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Hawkwind, Pink Fairies, Gary Moore, Frank Zappa, Beatles, Kinks, Stones, Jeff Beck, Pink Floyd, Pat Metheny.

Anthony: What are some of the music trends that you follow or don’t?
Tom: I don't follow trends but the only trends I ever followed were when I was in Punk / New Wave bands in the 80s The Drill and Invisible Sex. Though as a session musician I have performed pretty much every genre of music going.

Anthony: Any thoughts on Death Metal? Industrial? Shoegazer? Or even Hip-Hop?
Tom: Not really, sorry, but I guess like any art form it's gonna turn a lot of people on or off as the case may be. I did a hip hop cd a few years ago which has been used on films and TV around the world.

Anthony: Any solo material we can look forward to?
Tom: Well I am just about to release a cd in collaboration with Pa Bobo Jobarteh a master Kora player from the Gambia. My band The Monficats performed on the album which took a few years to finish as I have been so busy with touring and recording the Zzzz's stuff. It's a fantastic album and I'm very proud to have been involved in that. It should available on my website soon. I am long overdue another Solo album; the last one was Monficats which was a step into the unknown but lots of people have raved about it which is cool.

Anthony: So, any other music plans for the coming months?
Tom: Yeah, there are always plans, touring the States soon, playing in La Cubana, a Cuban band and trying to do some more writing. I'm always busy, thank God!

Anthony: Since we deal with Horror, I gotta ask: Do you follow horror films or books? Any favorites?

Tom: The only horror stuff I watch is when I am at someone’s house who watches either East Enders or Simon Cowell; then I'll make my excuses and go to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. There is enough horror in the world already; I am too sensitive to see any more, although I am reading Pathfinder by David Blakely about the mission he did in the Iraq war.

Anthony: One last request: Can you select the ten most influential songs in your career?

Tom Toomey’s Top Ten Songs

1. All Along the Watchtower Jimi Hendrix

2. Old and Wise Alan Parsons Project

3. She's Not There Santana

4. Peaches en Regalia Frank Zappa

5. Hotel California Eagles

6. Soul Sacrifice Santana

7. Concierto de Aranjuez Rodrigo

8. The Thrill is Gone BB King

9. Imagine John Lennon

10. Summertime Ella Fitzgerald

Anthony: Thanks for this great list. And, thank you for joining me on my venture into the world of blogs.
Tom: Thanks for the invite too; my best regards and good health to yourself and all your readers and hopefully see you at a gig sometime soon. Rock On!