(Originally written by Scott Gudell on 8/7/2017)
From day one, the board members of the Rochester Music Hall of Fame have been a diverse group. Their “day jobs” include working in sales, accounting, law, banking, college’s and even as a mailman. Others, whether professional artists or “after hours” experts, include music producers, musicians, photographers and more. All of the board members, as you would suspect, are passionate about music plus several have recorded and released their own albums. Here’s a solo disc from a current board member (with help from another current board member) and one from a former member:
Chasing Ghosts – Jerry Falzone
He may have started out in Pearl, a hard-rock band that earned national press in the early 1980s in magazines such as Billboard, but Jerry Falzone has settled into softer west coast country rock in the last decade. The high water mark was 2012’s Just Before The Storm, with a wealth of stand-out originals such as: “Sweet Virginia,” “Come Back Now” (with guest vocalist Jerry Engler), “We Will Meet Again” and the title cut. A few years later, Liar’s Moon followed with another all-original outing, but he shook things up by sneaking in a sax, violin and cello on a few cuts.
Falzone’s latest disc, Chasing Ghosts, carries on the tradition of softer country music meets folk rock ala bands such as Poco, the Eagles and singers such as Jackson Browne. Falzone has rounded up some of the usual suspects who helped him in the past including Ken Colombo (piano), Bob Martin (guitar), Greg Andrews (drums), Pearl’s Debbie Randyn (background vocals) and Kate Lee (violin). The sound is big and the arrangements are bold right from the beginning as the disc opens with the glorious “It Feels Like Heaven.” Later, the sax shines on songs such as “Built to Last” and “Cold Cold World,” followed by stand-out songs such as the “Without Love.” Falzone drops in a Neil Young cover (“I’ve Been Waiting For You”) and comes in for a landing with the evocative, haunting title song at the very end. Throughout the disc, Falzone’s vocals are pure as spring water and soar like summer clouds whether running solo or harmonizing with others. With love as a common theme on most of the songs, more complex lyrics would be a welcome guide into the cryptic world of relationships.
All three discs have a polished, sparkling production but Chasing Ghosts adds more of a pop sheen than in the past. Passionate lovers of folk rock will still chose Just Before the Storm as their favorite CD but this disc is a nice addition to this decade’s trilogy.
Science – The Majestics
Reggae has pulsed through Ron Stackman’s blood for decades. He was a founding member of the band, Bahama Mama, in the 1970s. That eventually mutated into Big Roots in the 1980s with their nine or ten man roster (depending on the night) which eventually paved the way for The Majestics. The Majestics have just released Science, their latest CD release.
Tight, nimble and oh so casual, The Majestics consist of Ron Stackman (keys and guitar,) Jim Schwartz (bass,) Lou Lavilla (drums) and Kevin Hart (lead guitar) plus Brother James on percussion and a four piece horn section with yet another Rochester Music Hall of Fame board member, Jimmy Richmond. “We don’t sound like Jamaicans when we play” Stackman had said year ago, “we were brought up on rock.” “The Science disc is a mix of tunes written by Ron Stackman, Jim Kraut (from Bahama Mama) and a couple of old deep cut reggae gems” former Rochester Music Hall of Fame member Hart stated in an email. Regardless, the purity of the reggae sound and style carries through with the disc, one which is built on deep, rich bass and steady, reliable percussions as the disc clocks in at a brief 30 plus minutes.
The horns majestically announce the arrival of the group as they open with “Love is the Greatest Science.” Happy, light and upbeat, the song is followed by a deep dose of melancholy as the band calls out an “Untrue Girl” on the second song. Jim Kraut’s “Buck Rogers” is mystical, hypnotic and elusive while The Majestics capture the instrumental essence of former Paragon member John Holt’s mid 1970s hit, “Up Park Camp.” There’s danger and deception in the grooves of “Caught You Red Handed” while the band takes us home with a studio enhanced dub version of “Buck Rogers.” Rochester, a US city about as far north of Jamaica as possible, is home base for the Majestics and a handful of other top ranking reggae groups. Together, they continue to prove that this is a rich musical town with a rich sound.