Friday, 29 April 2016

"Firefall/Luna Sea/Elan" by FIREFALL (2016 Beat Goes On 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Sold On You..."

Hailing from Boulder in Colorado (formed in 1973, debuted in 1976) - the 5-piece FIREFALL rode the shirttails of soft Country-Rock blazed by bands like America and The Eagles in the preceding five years. Firefall featured members of The Flying Burrito Brothers (Singer Rick Roberts and Drummer Mike Clarke), Mark Andes of Spirit, Jo Jo Gunne and later Heart - and two great axemen in Larry Burnett and Jock Bartley. Mick Clarke has also played in The Byrds. They certainly had the players and musical history to pull it off.

The three albums on this amazing sounding 2CD Beat Goes On Reissue were originally released on Atlantic Records and sound like the less snotty brother of Jo Jo Gunne - a milder Crosby, Stills & Nash but not quite as good as Manassas or other obvious bands of that ilk. Now considered 'yacht rock' – when Firefall were good they made a very pleasurable racket indeed. Here are the harmonious details...

UK released Friday, 29 April 2016 (May 2016 in the USA) – "Firefall/Luna Sea/Elan" by FIREFALL on Beat Goes On BGO 1234 (Barcode 5017261212344) offers 3LPs Remastered from Original Master Tapes onto 2CDs and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (60:35 minutes):
1. It Doesn't Matter
2. Love Isn't All
3. Livin' Ain't Livin'
4. No Way Out
5. Dolphin's Lullaby
6. Cinderella [Side 2]
7. Sad Ol' Love Song
8. You Are The Woman
9. Mexico
10. Do What You Want
Tracks 1 to 10 are their debut album "Firefall" – released April 1976 in the USA on Atlantic SD 18174 and in the UK on Atlantic K 50260. It peaked at No. 28 on the US charts in early May 1976 (didn’t chart UK).

Tracks 2, 4, 6, 7 and 10 written by Larry Burnett – Tracks 3, 5, 8 and 9 written by Rick Roberts
"It Doesn't Matter" is a Stephen Stills and Manassas cover version (written by Stephen Stills and Chris Hillman).

11. So Long
12. Just Remember I Love You
13. Sold On You
14. Someday Soon
15. Just Think
Tracks 11 to 15 are Side 1 of their 2nd LP "Luna Sea" – released August 1977 in the USA on Atlantic SD 19101 and in the UK on Atlantic K 50355.

Disc 2 (58:48 minutes):
1. Getaway
2. Only A Fool
3. Head On Home
4. Piece Of Paper
5. Even Steven
Tracks 1 to 5 are Side 2 of their 2nd LP "Luna Sea" – released August 1977 in the USA on Atlantic SD 19101 and in the UK on Atlantic K 50355. Rick Roberts wrote Tracks 11, 12 and 14 on Disc 1 and 2 on Disc 2. It peaked at No. 27 on the US LP charts (didn’t chart UK).
Larry Burnett wrote Track 13 on Disc 1 and Tracks 1, 3 and 4 on Disc 2. Track 5 on Disc 1 co-written between Roberts and Burnett
Track 15 written by Firefall.

6. Strange Way
7. Sweet And Sour
8. Wrong Side Of Town
9. Count Your Blessings
10. Get You Back
11. Anymore [Side 2]
12. Baby
13. Goodbye, I Love You
14. Sweet Ann
15. Winds Of Change
Tracks 6 to 15 are their 3rd album “Elan” – released October 1978 in the USA on Atlantic SD 19183 and in the UK on Atlantic K 50494. It peaked at No. 27 on the US LP charts (didn’t chart UK).

Tracks 6, 9, 11, 13, 14 and 15 written by Rick Roberts – Tracks 8, 10 and 12 written by Larry Burnett.

Track 7 is a co-write with Jock Bartley and Rick Roberts – track 11 a co-write between Mark Andes and Rick Roberts.

As you can see from the notes above beneath the track lists – Firefall featured two hugely prolific songwriters – Rick Roberts and Larry Burnett. Roberts had in fact released two solo LPs before forming Firefall in 1973 - 1972's "Windmills" on A&M SP-4372 and 1973's "She Is A Song" on A&M SP-4404. The first LP famously featured a ludicrously stacked set of musicians – Jackson Browne, Henley, Meisner and Leadon of The Eagles, David Crosby, Marc Benno and members of Stephen Still's Manassas (oddly neither LP charted). Guitarist Burnett is still active – releasing CD albums "Confidence Game" in 2004 and "Guitar & Vocals" in 2009. Also prominent across all three albums is Jock Bartley – a guitarist who'd toured with Gram Parson and The Fallen Angels and replaced Tommy Bolin in Zephyr. His wicked slide can be heard to great effect on "Sold On You" where he's aided and abetted by keyboard player David Muse giving it some great Harmonica warbles. Timothy B. Schmidt gets an early look in before he joined The Eagles providing backing vocals on "Just Remember I Love You" on the "Luna Sea" album. The Memphis Horns provide Brass backing for that whole record too. The Manassas percussionist Joe Lala guests on the "Elan" album - while Steve Forman shakes various tambourines alongside Lala on the same LP. Joe Mason produced the first two platters with number three handled by the equally legendary helmsman Tom Dowd – so production values are top notch on all – something the remaster from original tapes makes the absolute most of.

As always with BGO releases there’s an outer card slipcase lending the release a classy feel (the cover art is the three albums centred against a plain blue backdrop – I say this because there appears to be another sleeve which uses the artwork of "Luna Sea" as its backdrop). The 24-page booklet is substantial – full album credits, lyrics to all three LPs, artwork, band photos and new liner notes from noted writer JOHN TOBLER that reference the complicated musical history of the band members (Spirit, Jo Jo Gunne, The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons Fallen Angels and more). But the big news is new 2016 ANDREW THOMPSON High Res Remasters from Original Tapes – and man does it show. The Audio Quality on these babies rocks – clear, warm, all the instruments filling your room with clarity. A top job done...

Back in 2009 Rhino Europe featured Firefall's accomplished cover of the Stephen Stills Manassas song "It Doesn't Matter" as part of Volume 1 of their "California Groove" series of 4CD reissues. Not surprising really – the guitars are great and the production beautiful (Atlantic UK issued it as an A-side on K 10798 in July 1976 – their first 45 in Britain). "Love Isn't All" is a little too lightweight with its whiny vocal and flute passages – things buck up with the acoustic jaunt of "Livin' Ain't Lovin'" – a very radio-friendly tune complete with a tasteful Saxophone solo. Funky Rock fiends will dig the boogie of "No Way Out" – the boys allowed to rock it out with the slides. The poppy but irritating "You Are The Woman" was the 2nd UK 45 on Atlantic K 10814 in August 1976 and not surprisingly didn’t chart. Better was "Cinderella" b/w "Dolphin's Ballad" in October 1976 on Atlantic K 10853 – a hooky 'god damn' melody with nice harmonica and mood changes. The band gets a bit Outlaws with the finisher "Do What You Want" – again showcasing great guitar playing bolstered up with funky brass fills.

The second LP "Luna Sea" is the best of the bunch in my opinion. "So Long" and "Just Remember I Love You" are very Eagles territory and I'm a sucker for that fab Bartley guitar work on the rocker "Sold On You" – sounding utterly amazing here. Some very nice orchestration on the 'steal away' song "Someday Soon" while the boys discover their inner Marshall Tucker Band with "Just Think" and rock to that chugging riffage. More slide and sax underpin "Getaway" where "Only A Fool" sounds closest to the Eagles circa "One Of These Nights" (beautifully produced too). Like a jaunty Joe Walsh song circa the "...But Seriously Folks" album - "Head On Home" bops along with great slide (the playing sounding not unlike England's Bryn Haworth circa 1978's "Grand Arrival" on A&M Records). Time for the inevitable 'she done me wrong' ballad – "Piece Of Paper" and back to the upbeat melodic rock of "Even Steven".

"Elan" had Tom Dowd at the production helm and you can hear his skill in the Crosby, Stills & Nash acoustic bop of "Sweet And Sour" – a lovely listen. Larry Burnett put up the jaunty harmonica boogie of "Wrong Side Of Town" – a great builder with clever lyrics and a beautiful remaster transfer. Burnett lets the guitars rip for the Jo Jo Gunne-sounding "Get You Back" where he's determined to rectify a mistake and win his lady back. Rick Roberts and Mark Andes co-wrote "Anymore" – a plucky little funk-rock number about walking the line and not falling off again. "Baby" is the ballad (ala America) and it's a little too saccharine and produced for my palette. Yacht Rock fans however will get droopy for "Goodbye I Love You" while the band finishes proceedings with the excellent rocker "Winds Of Change".

Not as musically memorable as America or The Eagles – but on the evidence presented here - Firefall clearly had their equally melodic moments. And fans will love the Remasters and quality presentation. Another tasty BGO reissue...

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