ABC SIGNS FORD THEATRE
ABC Records has announced the signing of an unusual group called Ford Theatre. The group consists of five musicians, a vocalist and a writer-arranger, all residents of Milford, Massachusetts.|
The first album for Ford Theatre is sched-
uled for release this month and is called "Trilogy for the Masses." The unusual content of the album has excited executives at ABC Records to the point of total commitment in terms of promotion of the album. The work is an original composition by two members of the group, Harry Palmer, Jr. who wrote the lyrics and collaborated with Wally Magee on the music. Although the album will contain separate bands, the composition as performed by the group is a 45-minute program with no breaks. The recording session for the album consisted of an actual performance and the entire album was done in one take. The members of the group insisted on the presence involved in a live performance rather than re-recording to obtain the perfection ordinarily associated with many takes at a recording session.
"Trilogy for the Masses" is a deceptively contemporary composition. Beginning with a string quartet, the music slowly evolves into dramatic rock, a term the group has applied to their interpretation of hard rock. Throughout the work are heard strains of the blues and folk ballads, closing again with a string quartet. The composers describe "Trilogy for the Masses" as an expression of today's atmosphere of confusion and the search for a stable society. "Trilogy" is performed as a 45-minute program in order to convey the fluid feeling of constant change and motion in the world of today and the lyrical message bears out this theme.
Magee & Palmer
FORD THEATRE is an assortment of six musicians who together have spent almost 30 man-years learning their craft and preparing themselves for the grand moment of overnight triumph. And as that new success takes hold upon the release of "Trilogy for the Masses," their "total sound experience" album from ABC Records, FORD THEATRE looks back on five years of close involvement with the modern music movement. During that time the group travelled the range of rock and roll, and met the medium's changing definitions with each passing year.
No one is really sure how the name FORD THEATRE happened in the first place. The obvious connection does not hold up, since the group insists that there is no direct tie with the old theatrical hall in Washington where President Lincoln was shot.
"Somebody just heard the two words 'Ford Theatre' one day, and they sounded much more telling as a name for an act than 'The Continentals'-- which we and every other group had already tried," explains 26 year old Harry Palmer Jr., who fills the roles of guitarist, songwriter, and group grandfather with equal and enviable aplomb.
"FORD THEATRE means a great deal to us," he continues. "The 'Ford' part makes it quite likely that someday we'll earn a lot of money doing auto commercials. And the idea of 'Theatre' suggests something serious and meaningful and dramatic. Actually, we think of our music as 'dramatic rock'"-- and playing it today takes FORD THEATRE a long distance from the sort of pre-Beatles rock and roll they used to perform at bar mitzvahs, Italian weddings, and school proms in Massachusetts.
The then Continentals were playing in their home town of Milford, Massachusetts (which lies somewhere between Boston and Worcester) when they were first "discovered" in 1964 by Fred Cenedella, their present manager, who was booking talent at the time for dances at the University of Massachusetts to help pay his tuition bills.
"Personally and musically, they worked well together even then," says Cenedella today, "even though they did have an accordion lead which gave them a kind of Italian town society band image. They played a combination of their own songs and big record hits by other groups."
Palmer, who was not then a member of the group, met Cenedella in Boston in 1965 during a visit there with friends. Quickly finding a common ground in pop, the two began discussing the group which Cenedella had once booked for college proms and fraternity dates, but with which he had since been out of touch for months. Palmer put a song together, Cenedella re-discovered The Continentals, and in a short time they all came up with an arrangement of the song which literally "grabbed" everybody.
"This started a new evolution for them," Cenedella goes on, "and it took them through a multitude of rock forms into their very own concept of total environment rock. The kind of thing they do today is their own creation completely, and they've been tremendously successful at it from the start. This was in the summer of 1967 at the Unicorn in Boston, where they also used the name FORD THEATRE for the first time."
It was then too that Dick Summer, an astute disc jockey at WBZ in Boston (now at WNEW-FM in New York), climbed on the FORD THEATRE bandwagon and steered the group to Bob Thiele, executive producer at ABC Records in New York. Thiele asked for a demonstration recording, and the group obliged by cutting a complete one-track album in little over two hours.
In such an unusual manner was FORD THEATRE's recording career born, and in a like manner has it grown. Their initial album release of the intricate, free-flowing, multi-movement "Trilogy for the Masses," composed by Harry Palmer and Wally Magee and recorded in one all-encompassing take, has already been widely hailed for its ultimate musicianship, sheer inventiveness, and dramatically contrasting moods.
The music itself may very well point to a brand new direction for pop: it utilizes the mood-creating tool of calculated monotony, and it highlights the resultant hypnosis effect as the foundation for a jolting transition to new moods and new variations through the interplay of instruments.
One of the most interesting factors in this musical formula is the harmonic interplay between two lead guitars as they construct a sort of momentary counterpoint effect. Yet this is only a single departure. One listener has noted that "Trilogy" is a "deceptively contemporary composition." As such, it is punctuated throughout with unmistakable strains of blues and folk ballads, bound between an opening and a closing statement voiced by the string quartet.
Serious musicianship abounds in this first recorded statement by a group which can be expected to blaze new and exciting trails in contemporary pop...a group which, incidentally, hopes to perform someday under veteran maestro Arthur Fiedler, an acknowledged fan and student of pop, with his celebrated Boston Pops Orchestra.
Some of FORD THEATRE will go on to even more disciplined musical education at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, and another plans to enroll at the University of Mass.
JIM ALTIERI (Bass)
Jimmy, who weighs 300 pounds, has been (judiciously) described as the cornerstone of FORD THEATRE. He playes a monstrously big Gretsch bass guitar which most of the other members of the group can't even begin to lift. Jimmy has been driving a truck for some time for his father, who suffers from a heart condition. A sensitive young man, Jimmy is extremely close to his parents and he hopes to make it primarily for them. On the lighter (?) side, he likes girls, motorcycles, and the Byrds' music. And he digs the color black.
JOHN MAZZARELLI (Organ and vocals)
Known to his colleagues as "Mazz," he is described by some as "absolutely crazy" and by all as an inveterate punster. He is as likely to be found (as not), long hair a-dangling, playing a yo-yo on a street corner. He began with FORD THEATRE as an accordionist playing at dances and weddings, but now he specializes in the organ and singing, and plays drums and piano as well. Enjoys golf, bowling, "hanging around;" wants to be wealthy and famous; and likes Dionne Warwick, Vanilla Fudge, and Hendrix. He has two years at Worcester Junior College under his belt and he plans to attend the Berklee School of Music. He's also worked college concerts and Boston night clubs.
HARRY PALMER JR. (Guitar and composing)
A native of Wayne, New Jersey, Harry is the oldest in the group as well as the only non-Yankee. He comes by his music through a long-time close association with two cousins who had classical training all their lives, and he is a very straight type who can't even get his hair to grow long. Harry attended Vanderbilt and Fairleigh Dickinson Universities and Eastern Nazarene College. He hopes to expand his composing and performing skill into writing and producing for other artists, and to go into management too. Particularly fond of Dylan, Donovan, Simon and Garfunkel, Dionne Warwick, and Astrud Gilberto, Harry writes virtually all the music and lyrics for FORD THEATRE.
JOE SCOTT (Vocals)
The youngest member of the group, Joe has a way of looking scared. Until he starts belting out his lyrics, and then the audience just flips out. He is so into it all that the air seems to crackle when he's at work, yet he doesn't even jump up and down-- just puts out about one- thousand percent in the vocal department. He wants to study literature and drama, and will pursue these studies when he becomes a student at the University of Massachusetts in the near future. As a singer, he looks with special favor on the vocalistics of Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, The Byrds, Dionne Warwick, and Lainie Kazan. His ambition? To be a great musical success.
BOB TAMAGNI (Drums)
Curious and serious about music and almost everything else, Bob is a high school graduate aiming for the Berklee School of Music. He has a lot of fun playing drums (a friend says "he plays with a fluid intensity"), but he exhibits the disciplined musicianship that comes from ten years of training... and from a lifetime with a father who was a fine saxophonist. His favorite artists are Dionne Warwick and Lou Rawls, and he has the frank ambition to be either a millionaire or a solid professional musician... and possibly both.
BUTCH WEBSTER (Guitar)
Shy, with an old-style Beatle haircut, Butch looks a little like every mother's son, the kind mothers want to love. Very close to his own mother, who as always worked hard, he is her sole provider, a position which lends an added note of seriousness to his efforts. He claims to have loved "every minute of the suffering and the let-downs" which FORD THEATRE, like every other group, has gone through in its day. And he likes Dionne Warwick and Vanilla Fudge, girls in general, guitars, and green grass. Once in awhile too, he manages a round or two of golf.
(from Ron Grevatt Associates NYC)
'Trilogy for the Masses'
By JEROME GROSSMAN|
Of The Telegram Staff
MILFORD -- The sound curtain goes up on the new Ford Theatre this week.
The only requirememnt for the 45-minute show is that you bring your own chair. Now playing is Trilogy for the Masses.
What sounds like a movie theatre is actually a new rock music group that has just cut its first record album called Trilogy for the Masses.
Group members are Jimmy Altieri, John Mazzarelli, Joe Scott, Butch Webster, Bob Tamagni, and Harry Palmer, all of Milford.
Although the present six members have only been together since October, several in the group have played together for five years.
How the present group got together, gained their name, and managed to cut a record album of all original songs is somewhat of a modern success story that is just beginning.
Didn't Meet Needs
Beginning with a few jobs at local weddings and anniversaries, they soon found that the type of musict they played met neither their aesthetic nor financial needs.
Switching to rock music they began to play record hops and dances. Soon they were playing at local colleges.
In 1965 they met Harry Palmer, who began to write for the group. They made two demonstration records but nothing developed from them.
As the group members changed so did the name they went by. About to play one night during a hootenanny at the Unicorn Coffee House in Boston, they were asked how they wanted to be introduced.
Recalling the name of an old group one of them was once in, they quickly replied, "Ford Theatre." The name stuck.
It was shortly after that that ABC Records became interested in them. Their talent was obvious. ABC signed a contract with them.
The result was their new album of original numbers written by Harry Palmer and Wally Magee of Braintree. ABC gave them $12,000 front money for equipment and a percentage of the record sales.
John calls the record "dramatic rock that is not just something to listen to but is an entire presentation."
"The words tell a story that connects one song with another to form a complete whole," Bob said.
Thus, with a theme running completely through the album, --(TEXT MISSING)-- forth," the group plays a show continuously for 45 minutes until the story has ended.
They say they have created a vision of America in all its present chaos and agony. As Harry explains it, "We're trying to get at the kind of desperation and searching that people are going through."
Soon the group will begin a seven-city tour that will include Chicago, New York and Philadelphia. On the promotional trip they will be playing local television shows.
"It's been hard work to get this far," Jimmy said, "but we don't intend to stop now." Jimm, who left high school in 1962, has been driving a truck to earn money for his music equipment.
Butch gradated from Milford High in 1965 and later opened the Milford Music Center. After three months he found that the group took too much of his time and he left the music store business.
John, who also graduated in 1965, managed to squeeze in two years at Worcester Junior College before joing the group full time. Both he and Bob hope to go to the Berklee School of Music in Boston in the fall if they can fit it in.
Joe will start at the University of Massachusetts this fall unless a tour comes up and delays his entrance. Harry, who was teaching English, now devotes all his time to the group.
With their first album coming out this week, they are all anxious for its success. Now that the curtain is up, the Ford Theatre will begin its road show. Don't forget to bring your own chair.
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