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Mark Farner & camper

Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp finale show

by Michael Sherer

Do you play an instrument and/or sing decently? Do you have $10,000 to spare for extensive jamming, recording and musical sparring with some well known rock stars for six days at the Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp? If not, how about $7,500 for the next package down? No? Then what about $5,500 for the next one? Still no? Then just go to the performance at the end. That’s what I did.

For some back ground, the camp is held in various cities throughout the U.S., London, England, and the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. It was founded in ‘97 by producer and former sports agent David Fishof. This time it was in the country’s media capital, NYC. The club BB King’s, located in Times Square, was the site of the finale show. It intermittently featured the famous camp counselors, which was exciting for all. They were Mark Farner, the former guitarist and singer with Grand Funk Railroad. Rudy Sarzo, the bassist formally of Quiet Riot, Ozzy Ozbourne, Whitesnake and currently with Blue Oyster Cult. Then there was Kip Winger, the bassist and singer of Winger. Drummer Sandy Gennaro, who’s played with many artists, including the Pat Travers Band and Joan Jett, laid down a rock solid beat. So did Dave Uosikkinen, the drummer of The Hooters. (Not at the same time, though.) There was also guitarist and singer Jeff Foskett, who plays with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. Guitarist, producer and song writer Mark Hudson, who’s also worked with many artists, including Aerosmith and Ringo Starr, was on hand as well. Spike Edney, the keyboardist and guitarist who’s played with Queen and others, pitched in too. Special guests included drummer Simon Kirke of Free and Bad Company, singer and song writer Nona Hendrix, formally of LaBelle, bassist Cliff Williams of AC/DC and guitarist Gene Cornish of The Rascals. The headliner was Roger Daltrey, lead vocalist of The Who, of course. The band Three Doors down also performed, and were quite good. (And young.)

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Rob Paparozzi

Blood, Sweat & Tears

by Michael Sherer

The Blue Note club is a great place to experience music up close and personal. When I heard Blood, Sweat & Tears there live, which was the first time I’ve caught them, I could have swapped the three words that comprise their provocative name for Chops, Swing and Power. Simply put, I was highly impressed with this band that was amongst the very first to fuse jazz and blues with rock when they formed in Greenwich Village, NYC in ‘67. (In the same neighborhood as the Blue Note.) 44 years on, an unbelievable amount of musicians have passed through their ranks. That number, about 130, I would surmise is more than any other band has ever had. With the exception of some guest spots over the last few years by original guitarist and occasional singer Steve Katz, there haven’t been any original full time members present since drummer Bobby Colomby left in ‘77.

I was especially knocked out at how adroitly drummer Andrea Valentini and bassist Gary Foote drove the whole group, and to the degree that they were locked in with each other. That still leaves six other instrumentalists and one singer. They’ve never been a small ensemble, and surely never will be. They can’t be for what they do. Four of the players are blowing horns, with Teddy Mulet and Steve Jankowski on trumpets, Jens Wendelboe on trombone and Tom Timko on sax, all bringing the group’s signature jazzy, nuanced brass lines front and center. Veteran Latin jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval was their featured guest, and his sweet, sensitive tone and flourishes added yet another layer. Keyboardist Glenn McClelland and guitarist Dave Gellis round the instrumentation out. Their singer is Rob Paparozzi, who is excellent. He’s reminiscent of their most famous vocalist that sang their biggest hits, that being David Clayton-Thomas. Paparozzi is also a stellar harmonica player, and whipped out that oft-undervalued mouth piece for a few songs. 

Many of their biggest hits were played, of course, such as Spinning Wheel, And When I Die, You’ve Made Me So Very Happy, and I Love You More Than You Ever Know, all contributing to this group’s back catalog selling an enviable number of records, that being in the neighborhood of 10 million. Interestingly, most of their most successful songs were covers, but were made more famous by them than their original writers. Of the above chart toppers, all were in fact covers except I Love You More Than You Ever Know, written by keyboardist and original lead singer Al Kooper.

The band’s name was chosen by Kooper as he was looking at the jacket of a Johnny Cash record with that title when a promoter asked him on the phone what the group’s name was. They had only recently formed and didn’t yet have one, but Kooper didn’t want to come up empty handed. He cited the words that were in front of him off the cuff, and they kept it. An emotional one, indeed. And while I wasn’t in tears per se as I was just a few feet away from the band’s heavy musical punches, their effectiveness did have my blood racing at times as they made full and clean contact.

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Doc Kupka of Tower of Power

Tower of Power

by Michael Sherer

If a mere few words could best sum up the ethos of Tower Of Power, affectionately known as T.O.P., they would be East Bay Grease, the title of their debut record in 1970. It salutes their origin and the fact that they have the punch and ferocity of a mean muscle car cruising the streets of Oakland. It’s one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. to do so, but then this band is quite a threat as well. Forty-two years after being founded, the guys are playing in top form, although not moving around on stage quite as much as they did in their twenties, especially on the relatively small stage of the crowded but intimate setting of BB King’s.

This is a band that’s all about the music. For minimal visual effect, the horn section will occasionally sway their instruments in unison for a few seconds, which helps to punctuate their lines. During a minute or two of one song,  (I don’t recall which) baritone saxophonist “Doc” Kupka does a frantic and funny dance. Other than these sorts of brief excursions, there’s little in the way of any real “show” elements. Singer Larry Braggs talks to the audience only a bit, which is all that seems appropriate. Original members Francis “Rocco” Prestia (bass) and David Garibaldi (drums) make a highly formidable and admired rhythm section, and lay down an intricate foundation for everyone else to perform over. Garibaldi can hardly be seen behind his good looking, custom Yamaha kit and array of shiny symbols, and Prestia is at the back of the stage, just to the right of the drums from the audience’s perspective. It’s clear that he’s concentrating intently and hardly moves, as his job is quite demanding. He’s a quiet and rather shy man anyway, so this surely suits him fine. While this dynamic duo are behind the others in physical placement, it’s them that propel everything. They’ve both said that they instantly meshed together extremely well upon first getting together, and continue to have a musical relationship that’s mutually rewarding.

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Shinedown live at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee


by Paul Weber

When I heard that Shinedown was doing an acoustic tour I thought, “Well this could be interesting”. Having worked on tours with bands doing acoustic songs I knew it could be hit or miss in a big way. By the time the first song had finished I knew this Shinedown show was going to be something special. The show on November 30th at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee, WI, was not only well performed, but was a rare, open book about the band and the story behind the songs. The show also felt like a rebirth for singer Brent Smith, as he described his struggles with drug addiction and his new found sobriety. There was no doubt that Shinedown loves what they do, at times being called the hardest working band in Rock and Roll. There is something to be said when the crowd is brought to their feet during an acoustic show, but when you take into account the list of hits Shinedown brings to the table, it’s no wonder the crowd at the Riverside clearly loved every minute of it.

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Jamey Johnson live at the Riverside in Milwaukee

Jamey Johnson

by Jennifer Bronenkant

Often credited as the Outlaw Country singer who will save Country Music from the “new country” that Nashville is pumping out, Jamey Johnson came to Milwaukee and proved he is much more than that.
Johnson opened his set with crowd favorites “High Cost Of Living”, “Angel” and “Lonely At The Top”. These hits brought fans to their feet where many stayed for most of the show.

With two back to back Grammy nominated albums, “That Lonesome Song” and the recently released double album “The Guitar Song”, this singer/songwriter has more than enough of his own material to fill a concert set. But instead of playing only from his own impressive song list, Johnson sang several covers. These included songs from country greats like Merle Haggard, Ray Price, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams and Waylon Jennings along with rousing renditions of rock songs made famous by ZZ Top (“La Grange”) and Bob Seger (“Here I Am On The Road Again”).

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