Frank Gutch Jr: 50 Albums Which Impacted My Life— Scratch That. Plus Notes…..
... Oh, and before I move on, they are one of the quintet of the bands which to me defined Country Rock, along with Pure Prairie League, Uncle Jim’s Music, Dillard & Clark, and Heartsfield. F**k the Eagles. They never even registered on my radar (except for maybe Desperado).
Frank Gutch, Jr.
Here They Are
Crap! I've been listening to Here I Am for a number of weeks now and thought I had this review worked out in my head except that now that I sit down, I have to toss aside a huge segment of it in the name of fairness. Being a Heartsfield purist from the old days (I bought their first album not long after it hit the racks back in, what was it, '73? Damn! I'm getting old!), I was a bit miffed to hear the remake of a great track from that album, Music Eyes, rerecorded acapella with Take 6 providing the capella to Perry Jordan's 'a'.
Truth be told, while the first album is packed with great music, Music Eyes was the first to awaken me to the band's harmonic choir aspect and later became a huge selling point when I scored my first real record store gig. To jazz it up, however competently, raised the hackles on my neck and I was ready to fight.
So I sit down and am ready to raze Perry and band a new asshole when my alter ego, the one with the wings, popped into my head and broke the pitchfork over ol' ego's head. What if, it said, this track was on a Take 6 album and Perry was asked to sing it with them? “Well,” ol' Ego started sputtering, “well, it would... ah, er... but it's Music Eyes!” There went half the review. As much as I seemed to dislike hearing the new version, had it been on a Take 6 album I would be pounding out kudos to that group for not only having the sense to realize what a great song it was but realizing that Perry's voice is essential to it. Then I'm thinking, maybe if they had placed it at the end... I mean, I am an old fart and have a hard time separating tracks, sequence being part and parcel of every album, to my mind. That's what I get for thinking. Truth is, Music Eyes is a song which will live in my heart until death and as long as it is treated with respect (as Take 6 does), I will love it. So my rant, about the song? Never mind. It is actually pretty damn impressive. Makes me want to head to the Take 6 website and check out what else they have to offer.
But this isn't about Take 6. This is about Heartsfield, one of the best damn country rockin' bands to grace this country and if Here I Am doesn't prove their musical worth, nothing will. Two tracks, in fact, are straight out of the old Heartsfield mold, hitting the vocal strength of the original band in stride. One Word and Did You Know could be seamlessly placed on any one of the original lineup's four albums without the most discerning fan noticing. If that lineup had a signature, it was the four- and five-part harmony crescendos. These guys nail it on both. Those are harmonies you have to hear to appreciate, too, voices stacked upon one another in silky smooth unison. And before you start thinking anyone can do it in a studio, I saw these guys at The Troubadour during their Foolish Pleasures tour and they ended the set (two encores before the club pulled the plug) with an a capella version of what I later thought was With These Tools but could not have been because that was recorded on a later album (Collector's Item). Suffice it to say that whatever the song was was amazing to the point that Gary Gersh, later president of Capitol Records, took off his shoe and pounded it on the table because the applause was just not loud enough. I would have myself had I had something besides the remnants of Chuck Taylor All Stars that probably would have crumbled to dust upon first impact.
Here I Am has many aspects of that band and they even take it a step further, and I'm not just talking the a capella step. Fred Dobbs, one of the original guitarists is back for the sessions and Jim Peterik (Ides of March and Survivor) adds not only his voice and guitar but his expertise to the project. And there are others, too many to mention here. What they do is capture the Heartsfield heart, that little edge which made them a step above. Here it is in thirteen segments. Separate them if you like. Myself, I prefer to lay back with a beer and listen front-to-back. Guys (and gals), it doesn't get much better than this.
Country rock? I suppose, though I would probably call them rock country. If there was ever a band who could successfully combine the two, it was Heartsfield. When they rocked, they rocked and when they sang, it was heaven. It still is. Here they are with Here I Am, an up-to-date look toward a great band's past.
An aside: As Here I Am was being packaged, Perry Jordan suffered a heart attack and is bravely attempting a return. I say this to the old Heartsfield fans and those of you who will be after hearing the new album. I ask that you log on to the website and maybe send Perry a message of encouragement. After all of the music he has given us all these years, it is the least we can do. Perry, keep the spirits high. We're digging the music and will be awaiting the next album when it's ready. In the meantime, thanks for Here I Am. It's a beaut.
Frank O. Gutch Jr
Note from the Webmaster: Go to our store at http://heartsfield.com/store/ and go to the bottom of the page to purchase a copy of "Here I Am." You'll love it!!
Midwest Beat Magazine
Midwest Beat Magazine
Few bands could match the unique Heartsfield sound. That sound is a fresh blend of harmonies, guitars, mandolins and banjos, with a harmonica thrown in for good measure. Not to mention positive songs that celebrate life instead of wallow in self-pity and depression. Good time music. In a word, positive American music.”
Midwest Beat Magazine
Southbound Beat Magazine
"'Georgia Flyer' is a compilation of Southern influenced tunes which are clever, well executed and just plain fun to listen to and enjoy. Perry’s vocals are as engaging as his compositions. His laid back approach to his music affords him the ability to address somber issues, such as 'Deficit of Soul,' to the whimsical 'Bucket by my Bed' with seamless ease. 'Georgia Flyer' - a sweet taste of easy listening."
Ray Synkane, Southbound Beat Magazine
"Perry Jordan, a member of the classic band Heartsfield, steps up to the plate with a 100% pure, filtered through a moonshine still, Southern rock solo release. The title track, 'Georgia Flyer,' has the swampy, Southern rock thang down pat, and some slinky slide that is as tasty as a fresh Georgia peach. It's all good. Precision playing and production. A real keeper."
Michael Buffalo Smith, Gritz Magazine
All Music Guide
Upon hearing Heartsfield who opened for him at Naperville, Illinois' RibFest: "I love this band."
The Journal Times - Racine, Wisconsin
WWSP 90 - Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Wisconsin
“Heartsfield is a Midwestern treasure. "The Guitar Army" comes ready to play. Their music is tight and exciting, beginning with the great lyrics, into the brilliant jam of the dueling guitars, and then settles down, leaving you breathless at the end of each song.”
WWSP 90 - Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Wisconsin
WUSP 105.5 - Wisconsin
Ribfest - Naperville, Illinois
“This band really rocks! The band has a great chemistry that the crowd can feel and be part of. The band's members are consummate pros. They always draw a large, attentive crowd. I’ve hand picked Heartsfield to open for our major headliners… Lynyrd Skynyrd, Loretta Lynn, Joe Walsh, Trace Adkins, Dicky Betts, Los Lobos, Sara Evans, and Charlie Daniels to mention the past few years. I know they will put butts in the seats…lawn chairs in this case…and entertain them. Last year, with the help of bands like Heartsfield, we have been able to raise over $1 Million each year to donate to our cause. I would recommend them for any event. Great music and really fine people to work with, too.”
Naperville Exchange Club’s Ribfest - Naperville, Illinois
K-HITS 96 - St. Louis, Missouri
WKLH 96.5 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
It wasn’t “What if they threw a party and nobody came” but it was as close as I’ve ever seen it. I could have the story all wrong because there were only a few record label people I listened to in those days and they were not always in the know themselves (a standard paradigm for major labels worldwide, I do believe), but through a series of happenstances I actually got invited to a party (probably by mistake) and went.
It was ’75 and this band out of Chicago (okay, it wasn’t exactly Chicago, but it was close and you can’t expect huge corporations to get everything right—- they even go out of their way to not do that, I think)— Heartsfield by name— was
|booked into the Troubadour in L.A. for a showcase. They had a new album, Foolish Pleasures (Go to the Heartsfield Store at http://heartsfield.com/store/ to buy it) , and evidently a new location (they had reportedly just relocated to San Francisco) and they were ready to blow the sand off the beaches in SoCal and NoCal and any other Cals they could find and become you damn betcha superstars, by God. This was a night to introduce them to retail people as well as record company employees, most of whom had heard of the band but had never heard them, which seemed to be in the job description of most major label employees. You have to understand that if you worked for a label back then, there were pop quizzes but they always gave you plenty of time to memorize the answers and didn’t much care if you passed or not. I mean, they cared if you knew “your stuff”. God forbid if you could not name the songs off of an Elton John album in correct order or list the albums of The Eagles in order of release, but there were so many releases outside of the hits that the labels thought it unreasonable to ask their people to know much beneath the top ten selling albums of the moment. That was how I saw it. And that was the attitude I dragged into the restaurant where this Heartsfield party was to happen.|
I can’t remember where it was because I was from Oregon and every damn street in L.A. looked like Hollywood or Sunset Boulevard to me, but it was in a nice area and the restaurant itself was as upscale a place as I’ve ever been to. When I entered the restaurant, I noticed low ceilings hovering over a main room of tables and chairs with plenty of room between. Potted plants and ferns and small palm trees in big pots were pretty much the norm back then and this place had its share. A counter had been plopped along the back wall, a huge mirror reflecting the various bottles of liquor from which the place made its profit. To the right were “the facilities” and to the left an entrance to a dark cavern which opened up into a huge room of more tables and chairs, these a bit smaller and less plush. Another counter graced the back wall of the cavern and the drinks were already being poured by the time we arrived, not early but not late either. The room was peppered with typical Los Angeles types— women favoring nice dresses or blouses with skirts and the men in slacks and shirts if not suits. Peppered throughout the room were a handful of long-hairs looking as if they’d accidentally taken a wrong turn and now found themselves at an awards banquet of some kind where the food was free and the booze was flowing, a magic combination for the many who worked the mines on the retail side. Free food and booze? They had to survive somehow. As it was, they barely had enough to cover rent and weed. This was a windfall!
The Runaways were there so Kim Fowley must have been there too, but I didn’t care. Fowley left a bad taste in my mouth thanks to street buzz which surrounded not only The Runaways but a handful of other artists and bands which he was obviously trying to exploit. Years later, I would talk about Fowley with a good friend of mine, Tom McMeekan, guitarist with the legendary Pac NW band Notary Sojac, and he would set me straight. The buzz was bullshit, he told me. Fowley was a good guy and was trying to do the right thing in spite of obstacles put in his way. Tom is the kind of guy you trust in all situations and I did a one-eighty and wished I could take back all of the negative things I ever said about Fowley.
That night, it was mostly about The Runaways. Each of the girls had been placed at tables far separated from one another and the writers who had been invited took part in a speed dating concept of interviewing each in a musical chairs kind of setting. We had taken a table in front of Joan Jett (who no one really knew at that point) and listened to her answer questions most writers of the time asked— influences, favorite bands, why music— all of the things Tiger Beat used to ask her male counterparts. She was small, thin and look overwhelmed and she spoke haltingly with a lot of um’s and uh’s, basically a deer in headlights. When one writer finished, another rotated in and it started all over again and she answered the same lame questions in the same halting fashion. Fowley or someone must have prepared the girls for this, but watching the process was painful. Their album would not be out for a number of months and the machine was already grinding. Most of the writers were fawning. The ones who weren’t look bored. Welcome to the music biz, girls.
There were a few other music celebrities there, I suppose, but I didn’t catch the names. I was waiting for Heartsfield because this was their party, was it not? And now I wonder. Was I invited to the party to meet the band or was I invited to a party with an invite to see the band at The Troubadour later? The reason I wonder is that during the entire party, only one person mentioned the band at all. Phonogram Records’ Bill Follett, the guy who made sure I was on the list, stopped by to make sure we could make our way to The Troubadour. From him, I found out that the band would not be there, that they were at that very moment doing a sound check at the club. At that point, the party ended for me. A Heartsfield party without Heartsfield? No comprendo and no thanks. I finished my drink (I’m sure it was beer) and left. The sun was out and it was a good day and even though I did not get a chance to meet the band, in a few hours I would be hearing them. That was enough.
… and the party that was…
When the music started, it was not Heartsfield on the stage and while I’ve been busting my brain trying to think who it was, I cannot be sure (too many dead brain cells). Perhaps it was The Sutherland Brothers, but they may have been the opening act for Barclay James Harvest, who I also saw at The Troubadour at a different time. Maybe they didn’t have an opening band (which was entirely possible because I seem to remember them playing two sets and usually on a normal night a band only gets one). Oh, the fog which obscures even remarkable moments over the years.
I guess it doesn’t matter much. This is about Heartsfield and if I remember nothing else I remember the sets presented by those Chicago boys (whether it was two sets or one incredibly lo-o-ng one didn’t much matter because those guys definitely gave you your money’s worth). When they stumbled onto the stage, I was in a booth directly in front and had already had a couple of beers and have to tell you that two was close to my limit back then. It was all I would get, in fact. While the beer continued flowing, I didn’t drink much because my jaw was mostly on the floor. Those six guys planted me against the back of the booth and I felt like the Maxell man, hair blown back by the pure vibrations of the music. It was, surprisingly, not too loud and perfectly balanced. I could hear every note and I remember laughing a lot because when they turned on a dime, they all turned on a dime! Six musicians, six instruments, one sound. But what really cinched it was the six voices! There have been some downright incredible vocal groups over the years who might have equaled them on that night, but none could have topped them. They were on! And they were happy.
While the other was a party, this was the Heartsfield party. Every time they picked up their instruments it was a party. It had to be. They didn’t know how not to do it.
Perry died a short time ago, but the band lives on. Fred Dobbs, one of Heartsfield’s guitarists, stepped in when Perry had his heart attack and is carrying the band into the future. I’m sure they are good, but they would play hell to put together a night like that.
Rolling Stones? No thanks. I’ve seen shows which I am sure would have equaled or bettered them. This was one of them. And I will never forget it.
Frank Gutch, Jr.