Tag Archive | Rick Reil

The Left Banke at BB King’s NYC

Left Banke Promo Photo
The Left Banke, Photo By Melissa Davis

It can be said that a decades-dormant “classic” band reuniting on the strength its potential appeal as a nostalgia act is only as good as the material it reunites to resurrect. In the case of a legendary sixties-era group such as The Zombies – a band whose debut album still ranks among the greatest pop albums ever released – the inclusion of just two original members bolstered by several additional seasoned musicians makes for a live show that’s every bit as amazing as it was when the band played out in its original incarnation. Another band whose popularity piqued in the late sixties is New York’s The Left Banke. Even if you don’t know their name, it would be almost impossible to have any kind of musical consciousness and not know the group’s two most famous songs, “Walk Away Renee” (their first release and a #2 chart topper) and “Pretty Ballerina.” As stellar examples of the power of the minor chord in pop music, both songs are indelible classics, covered endlessly and still lauded for their compositional perfection.

That these two songs have attained “Satisfaction” or “I Want to Hold Your Hand” status is not to insinuate that The Left Banke were One (or two) Hit Wonders, but rather to emphasize the out of control songwriting talents in a band that basically coined the phrase “Baroque Pop” for its inclusion of string arrangements and multi-part harmonies. The Left Banke is unarguably an important entry in the history of American Rock that provided inspiration for innumerable pop bands that arrived in its wake. A few years ago, The Left Banke reunited with two of its original members and is now performing live again with a band comprised of some of the most versatile and experienced musicians on the east coast. If you happen to live in the tri-state area, where the group seems to be booking most of its shows, I suggest you would in for quite a treat if you were able to check them out live. I had the chance to see The Left Banke recently when they played at BB King’s in Times Square and everyone in the packed house experienced a magical evening.

The reunited Left Banke includes original band members George Cameron (originally the group’s drummer) providing vocals and hand percussion, and Tom Finn on guitars, vocals and bass. They are joined in this new – and expanded –line up by gifted vocalist and frontman Mike Fornatale, guitarist Paul Alves (formerly of Drill), bassist Charly Cazalet, Keyboard player Mickey Finn (Boss Hog), Drummer Rick Reil (guitarist for The Grip Weeds and Wyld Olde Souls) and a three piece string section. Cameron and Finn can still play and sing well, and their passion for music and performing for fans has not cooled at all in the intervening years. The band maintains a lush and rocking sound with Mike Fornatale’s mellifluous voice providing spot on renditions of classic songs from the band’s first two albums.

The guys promised the crowd that the evening would hold some “Surprises” and a highlight of the evening came very early in the set, when original Left Banke keyboardist and songwriter Michael Brown joined the band on stage to play piano for a faithful rendition of his composition, “Pretty Ballerina.” This was certainly something that no one in BB King’s expected to see, and Brown, who is visibly frail and had to be helped on and off the stage, played beautifully, receiving a standing ovation from the enthusiastic crowd. Rick Brand, guitarist with the band from 1966-67 was also in attendance but did not perform with the band.

The evening’s lively performance featured a comprehensive 22-song set list including favorites like “She May Call You Up Tonight,” “Desiree” and “Goodbye Holly,” and also showcased a new song called “City Life,” sung by Tom Finn, which rocked hard but still captured the essence of the classic band’s sound. Visit The Left Banke’s Official Website for upcoming show listings and to purchase the band’s music.

The Left Banke Set List for April 29th, 2012 at BB King’s in NYC:

She May Call You Up Tonight
I’ve Got Something On My Mind
Pretty Ballerina
Dark is the Bark
Goodbye Holly
Let Go Of You Girl
Heartbreaker
Sing Little Bird Sing
Nice to See You
My Friend Today
Shadows Breaking Over My Head
I Can Fly
Love Songs in the Night
Lazy Day
Bryant Hotel
Two By Two
Evening Gown
I Haven’t Got the Nerve
There’s Gonna Be a Storm
Desiree
Walk Away Renee
City life

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The Wyld Olde Souls Celebrate CD Release with Intimate Live Set at Drom

A perfect – wait, make that ideal – live music experience, for me, includes a few personal preferences such as a venue close to my home that offers seating, reasonably priced drinks and maybe a menu of snacks that won’t break the bank when added to the price of the ticket. It’s a lot to ask, I know, but that is how I roll. Of course, it’s a given that the band on the bill has great songs and is able to reasonably replicate its recorded sound in a live forum while also improvising and “riffing” freely enough to add a personal vibe to the performance. On a recent Saturday night in the East Village, that perfect storm of a concert experience happened at Drom Lounge on Avenue A when psychedelic folk rock band, The Wyld Olde Souls, celebrated the release of its new CD, Ensoulment. It was an evening I won’t soon forget.

Ten years in the making, Ensoulment includes fourteen songs (13 originals and one cover) that prove the long wait for this album was well worth it. Often compared to acts like Fairport Convention, Joan Baez and Donovan, The Wyld Olde Souls are perhaps NYC’s best-kept secret. Fronted by lead vocalist/songwriter and guitarist Ivy Vale, The Wyld Olde Souls includes Vale’s husband Rick Reil (vocals/guitar/sitar), Kristin Pinell Reil (vocals/guitar/flute) – the former both members of the legendary Grip Weeds — vocalist Melissa Davis and tabla player Naren Budhakar, who is such a perfect addition to the band for his ability to really capture the middle eastern spirituality inherent in its music. The band’s lyrics are often romantic and whimsical, offering a welcome respite from the angst and anger in much of today’s pop music, while the lush, layered instrumentation on the album – which includes flute, orchestral strings and mellotron – solidifies The Wyld Olde Souls as a band that expertly takes the act of homage into the realm of a truly unique, original sound.

At Drom, the band opened the show with “Give it to You,” the second track off Ensoulment and proceeded to hold its audience in thrall for the remainder of the tight, 13 song set. Although the band performed in an almost “unplugged” setting (save for Pinell and Reil’s guitars) every song sounded amazing. In addition to Vale’s rich, resonant vocals, Davis’s mellifluous backing vocals create a transcendent aural experience against the Souls’ spot on instrumentation (Rick Reil and Kristin Pinell also handle lead vocals on select songs). The set included many songs from Ensoulment including “Take Me There,” “Undertow” and “Maybe” but also featured a little known George Harrison song, the chant “Gopala Krishna,” which the Souls also performed at George’s Birthday Tribute show (featuring headliner Roberta Flack) this past winter.

Band members joked with each other and the capacity audience while telling stories about their music and influences between songs, which kept the crowd engaged and anticipating what might come next. A few of my favorites included “Love Song” and “Wyld Maiden” as well as the instrumental “Love in Transition” and an Improvised Raga that showcased Budhakar’s expert tabla playing. As the performance came to a close with “Where There is Light” and “Sun God” (a track from the band’s debut CD) I felt very fortunate to have been part of such a fun and entertaining live gig. Ensoulment is already in the running for a top spot in my year-end Top Ten CDs of 2011, and I recommend you pick up a copy either via CD Baby or as an MP3 Download at Amazon.com. The band does not perform live very often but you can friend them on FaceBook to be kept in the loop about future live dates.

Gail Meets Chef Jonathan Waxman!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2011 is to enjoy the company of good friends while dining in fine restaurants as often as possible. No one can accuse me of not sticking to my resolutions, because last night I had an amazing meal at chef Jonathan Waxman’s Barbuto Restaurant on Washington Street near the Meatpacking District. My dining companions were my longtime friend Ivy, her charming husband Rick and their adorable daughter Violet, who is the best kid you could ever hope to have, let me tell you. We’re all huge fans of Bravo’s Top Chef, and having enjoyed the most recent season of Top Chef Masters we are also admirers of Waxman’s “keep it simple” philosophy/approach to gourmet cooking. Dining out is always so much more fun, and a much richer experience, when you are accompanied by true foodies like Ivy, Rick and Violet. We had an amazing meal and a really fantastic time catching up.

When we were seated, Violet asked our server if Chef Waxman was in the restaurant that evening. She replied that he had been there earlier that afternoon, but had left to run some errands, though he might be back later. Less than five minutes passed before she returned to our table saying that the chef had come back into the restaurant and would we like to meet him? Of course, we enthusiastically confirmed that we would. Because celebrity chefs are the new Rock Stars. After our meal, Chef Waxman came over to our table, dressed casually in his signature pink polo shirt and khakis and looking very adorable. He spoke to us for several minutes and answered some of our questions about the time he spent as a contestant on Top Chef Masters. He was super cool and friendly and also very, very cute! Jonathan Waxman!

Here are some of foods we enjoyed eating:

Appetizers:
Soft polenta with lamb ragu
Bruschetta with chickpeas and fresh mushrooms
Smoked trout salad with frise, black rice and orange (amazing!)

Main Courses:
Barbuto’s signature roast chicken with salsa Verde
Scallops, which were delicious but I’m not sure how they were cooked
Homemade Gnocchi with walnuts and Gorgonzola cheese

Sides:
Roasted Brussels sprouts with hazelnuts, to die for
Crispy fried potatoes with pecorino cheese

Alcohol:
Two bottles of amazing red wine, which by the time I was on my third glass I could not tell you what variety it was. (Rick would know.)

Desserts:
Lemon Crema with coconut crisps
Chocolate pudding with whipped creme and biscotti
Two kinds of Gelato: toasted pistachio and maple cinnamon

Barbuto’s menu changes seasonally, so you never know what delicious creations Chef Waxman will be serving up. You can only rest assured that whatever you put in your mouth will blow your mind. Be prepared to throw down some serious cash, but to feel that it was totally worth it.

Barbuto is located at 775 Washington Street New York, NY 10014 @ West 12th Street. Phone 212-924-9700 for Reservations.

Rad CD of the Week: The Grip Weeds, Strange Change Machine

As the past is reinvented to serve present needs, modern pop music continues to suffer from an absence of historical revisionism dating back farther than last Tuesday. It’s not such a mystery why anyone over the age of 17 (wait, make that ‘anyone with taste,’ which is not always a given) would probably rather listen to music from 20, 30 or even 40 years ago than anything currently stagnating on “the charts” – which haven’t been interesting or relevant since you were an egg. That’s why it’s so refreshing to be able to moderate my regular listening sessions of Love’s Forever Changes and Mania, the lone album by Australia’s The Lucy Show (remember them?) with liberal doses of New Jersey’s best, not-well-known-enough band, The Grip Weeds. A rocking quartet comprised of brothers Kurt and Rick Reil (drums and guitar respectively), lead guitarist Kristin Pinell and bassist Michael Kelly, The Grip Weeds play psychedelic garage rock in the vein of classic sixties icons such as Love and The Byrds, while one-upping modern genre revivalists like The Three O’Clock, Jellyfish and The Smithereens. And, lucky you, they have newly released a double CD called Strange Change Machine, which is crammed with awesome songs to make your head spin and your heart skip a beat.

A double disc release is a rare thing these days, especially one as strong as Strange Change Machine, which contains a stellar selection of 24 tracks – all but one original compositions! We’re talking all-killer-no-filler here: a phrase I don’t think I’ve used since Queen was putting out new albums. The lone cover, a faithful interpretation of Todd Rundgren’s classic “Hello, It’s Me” adds a layer of lushness while maintaining the original’s understated, bittersweet melancholy. I was fortunate to catch a live gig by the Weeds a couple of weeks ago on the Friday that also happened to be the birthday of Sir Paul McCartney and they totally kicked ass. I know I’ve already declared MGMT’s Congratulations to be the best album of the year, but I’ll readily add now that Strange Change Machine is riding that CD’s coattails for how much it is loved and enjoyed by me. Making for excellent summer listening, I strongly recommend adding this gem to your collection as soon as possible. Strange Change Machine is available from iTunes and for download or purchase at Amazon Dot Com.