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Thumbs-Up for New Colony Six / RJM Band Album “Sides”

Posted by on Jan 7, 2008 in Music | 0 comments

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(Left, the New Colony Six and RJM Band collection “Sides.” Center, Ray Graffia back in the day. Right, Ray rocking out in November 2007 in New York City.)

Here’s the verdict on New Colony Six’s “Sides” album — it’s pretty essential listening for all you garage music fans. Of primary interest to the most Nugget-headed is the unearthing of a monstrous version of “Rap-A-Tap” — apparently the version favored by the songwriters Ronnie Rice and Ray Graffia.

How do I know? Well, I had an e-chat with New Colony Six co-founder Graffia. I had caught the Chicago-based ‘Six at Cavestomp this past November and although some may unfairly typecast them as a ballads band, they stomped through garage classics such as “At the Rivers Edge,” “A Heart Is Made of Many Things” and “I Confess” from their stone-cold classic first album “Breakthrough” and “Love You So Much” from the also-great second album “Colonized.” And of course, “Rap-A-Tap”!

Even though the Sonics reunion grabbed most of the media attention for the festival, New Colony Six ruled Saturday night, especially after co-headliner Strawberry Alarm Clock turned in a sludgy and indulgent performance — complete with a 15-minute drum solo that pushed more than half the crowd out to the bar area.

Graffia was in fine voice and spirits, dancing, as I wrote in this space earlier, “like a little kid after nap time.” After co-founding the band in 1965, Graffia left in 1969 and formed the Raymond John Michael Band, aka the RJM Band.

But all good things that end come back together and the 21st century finds Graffia back with New Colony Six.

“Sides” the CD was released late in 2007 and includes unreleased songs and alternate takes from not only New Colony Six’s first two albums but also the RJM Band.

Incredibly, the album closes with the title track with vocals that Graffia laid down less than a year ago. I didn’t have the liner notes because I bought the album through iTunes — and I had thought the song had been recorded — and sung — back in the day! And I mean that as a mark of quality!

There is only one song in the collection that rubs me the wrong way, and it was recorded post Graffia’s departure, so I can’t blame him for it!

In any case, this album is the next logical step after “Breakthrough” and “Colonized.” I would readily compare New Colony Six favorably with the Zombies, complete with timeless vocal harmonies. Such a tie-in leads wonderfully into the Q&A with Ray (his replies in reader-friendly all-caps):

–The first time I heard New Colony Six, I thought it was the Zombies. (I hope you take that as a compliment!)

ONE OF MY FAVORITE BANDS FROM THE INVASION – THRILLED TO BE IN THE SAME SENTENCE WITH THEM

— Both you and Colin Blunstone have a certain cool plaintiveness in your voices.

THE PROSECUTION RESTS; THE PLAINTIVE IS TOO COOL – WHAT – PARDON THE NONSENSICAL REPLY HERE – LEFT WORK EARLY AND HAD TO SHOVEL SNOW – TOO LITTLE OXYGEN TO THE BRAIN PERHAPS?

— Former Zombies members Chris White and Rod Argent formed the band Argent to go in a more commercial direction than their old band. Is it fair to see Raymond John Michael Band in that light?

I’D SAY MUCH THE OPPOSITE SINCE RJM LIVE WAS SOME BLUES, ORIGINALS AND COVERS OF BANDS RANGING FROM LED ZEP ALBUM CUTS TO ELECTRIC FLAG TO OBSCURE MUSIC WHICH LEFT MANY FOLKS SCRATCHING THEIR HEADS – WE HAD BEEN SO PIGEOH-HOLED AS BALLADEERS BY THE TIME OF RJM’S FORMATION THAT PLAYING GARAGE AND ROCK & ROLL WAS ALL WE WANTED TO DO. OF COURSE, WE DID WANT TO ACHIEVE COMMERCIAL SUCCESS TOO, HENCE THE DECISION TO COVER THE BEEGEES TUNE. [“Let There Be Love,” ed.] WE FIGURED THAT THE COLONY TIE IN WITH THREE OF US [two other original ‘Sixers — Craig Kemp and James Chitkowski a.k.a. Chic James — were also in RJM Band, ed.], ALONG WITH A STRONG BALLAD, MIGHT AT LEAST GET US AIRPLAY AND WHEN THAT FAILED TO MATERIALIZE WE RELEASED RICH KID BLUES [a song by Terry Reid] TAKING THE OPPOSITE APPROACH. TO THIS DAY I BELIEVE THAT NC6’S MANAGEMENT PLAYED BLOCKER FOR OUR GETTING ON THE RADIO – HECK WE EVEN HAD LONDON RECORDS AS OUR LABEL (AS THEY SIGNED US AWAY FROM A LOCAL LABEL – NOT SENTAR [New Colony Six’s original label]) BUT THE TWO MAIN DUDES BACKING NC6 WERE REALLY POWERFUL FOLKS AT THE TIME SO I WILL PROBABLY GO TO MY GRAVE THINKING THAT IS WHAT HAPPENED. BUT, WHY WHINE – C’EST LA VIE, EH?

–With Sides coming out now, is it odd for you to see the RJM Band material on the same disc as the New Colony Six songs?

NOT ODD TO ME AT ALL. WHAT WAS ODD WAS OUR OPENING FOR NC6 AT ONE GIG – NEVER WORKED HARDER IN MY LIFE TO WIN OVER THE CROWD! BESIDES BEING A SONG ON THE CD, WE CHOSE “SIDES” AS THE CD TITLE BECAUSE THE DISC SHOWS TWO SIDES (OR MORE) TO HALF OF THE FOUNDERS OF THE COLONY – I SAW RJM AS THE NEXT GENERATION NC6.

–Could you have done RJM Band songs such as “Gwendolyn,” “I Can’t Believe That We’re Alone” and “Hitch-Hiker” while you were in New Colony Six?

ONLY AS ALBUM CUTS AT BEST AND IF I BROUGHT “ICBTWA” TO NC6, MANAGEMENT SURELY WOULD HAVE HAD RONNIE RICE SING IT. I THINK RJM’S MUSICAL DIRECTION WAS TRUER TO THE COLONY’S ROOTS THAN WE HAD BECOME RIGHT BEFORE I LEFT THE BAND.

–Who are Bobby and Georgia in the gender-bending RJM Band romp “Bobby and Georgia”?

TRULY NO ONE – JUST AN ANDROGYNOUS NAME (BOBBY/BOBBIE) AND ANOTHER THAT OFTEN CAME TO BE (IN THE WEIRD WORLD OF MY MIND) WHEN A DAD NAMED GEORGE BEGAT A DAUGHTER AND WAS DISAPPOINTED ENOUGH TO NAME HER GEORGIA. I WONDER IF YOU RECOGNIZED THE TUNED POP BOTTLES THAT WE TOOTED AMIDST THE SILLINESS THAT WAS B&G?

–What is the story with the unearthed wondrously fuzzed-out version of “Rap-A-Tap” (even more garage-y than the alternate version Sundazed added onto the Colonization reissue)?

THAT WAS RONNIE’S AND MY VISION OF THE SONG WHEN WE WROTE IT, BUT MANAGEMENT SAW IT MORE ALONG THE LINES OF I’M JUST WAITIN’ ANTICIPATIN’ – [a horn-heavy song on second album “Colonization.” ed.] HENCE THE OTHER ARRANGEMENT

— Are there more goodies in the vaults?

AL CAPONE’S COLLECTION OF DOILIES BUT NOT MUCH MORE THAN THAT…

–For me, the only sour note on Sides is New Colony Six’s foray into Southern boogie rock, “Muddy Feet (On the Mississippi)” complete with a chorus that mentions “angels flying high in heaven.”

PERSONALLY I LIKE THE TUNE – AT LEAST IT WAS NOT A FREAKIN’ BALLAD! ON THE OTHER HAND, IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN SOMETHING FOR JOHN FOGERTY, ALLMAN BROTHERS, DOOBIES OR SOME SUCH, NOT NC6.

— Were the Six considering going in that direction? Had you left by then?

SINCE ELVIS (AND I) HAD INDEED LEFT THE BUILDING BY THE TIME OF ITS RECORDING, I CANNOT SAY WITH SURETY WHAT DROVE THE BAND TO BRING IT INTO THE STUDIO.

–Graffia’s (the band) track “Sides” from which the title is taken sounds pretty promising. What can you tell me about that project?

THANK YOU FIRST AND FOREMOST – IT IS A SONG I HAD WRITTEN AND FORGOT ABOUT UNTIL MY BROTHER, RON – 10 YEARS YOUNGER THAN ME AND THE REAL MUSICAL TALENT IN THE FAMILY – AND I UNEARTHED A REEL TO REEL REHEARSAL TAPE FOR RJM THAT FEATURED THE TUNE. HE IMMEDIATELY HEARD IT AS IF THROUGH PETE TOWNSEND’S OR KETIH MOON’S EARS AND BANGED OUT THE ENTIRE MUSICAL TRACK. I PUT VOCALS TO THE SONG THIS PAST EASTER (RESURRECTION OF A RECORDING CAREER MAYBE?) AND, SHOULD WE GET ENOUGH COMMENTS LIKE YOURS AND/OR AIRPLAY SOME PLACE – EVEN OVERSEAS, WE ARE TALKING ABOUT DOING MORE SONGS TOGETHER AND HAVE A FEW IDEAS ALREADY AT LEAST A MOMENT OR TWO BEYOND GERMINATION.

–What do you think of original copies of “Breakthrough” going for several hundred dollars on eBay?

STUNNED AND AGGRAVATED – THE FORMER OVER THE PRICES; THE LATTER BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE A COUPLE 100 COPIES TO DRIBBLE OUT TO THE BUYING PUBLIC!

— Why has interest in bands and songs from the 60s been rising?

I CAN ONLY SAY HOW BLESSED I FEEL THAT IT IS HAPPENING BUT HAVEN’T A CLUE WHY. MY SOLE THEORY IS THE DEARTH OF GOOD MUSIC BEING SHOVED AT TODAY’S RECORD BUYERS – CONSIDER BRITNEY AGUILERA, OR JAY Z OR JAY LO OR JB AND THE SUNSHINE BAND OR RAP – NONE OF WHICH APPEAL MUCH TO ME. SHOOT IT CAN’T BE US BOOMERS PULLING STRINGS BECAUSE MOST OF US ARE ALREADY BEYOND THE STAGE OF ADDING TO OUR ALBUM COLLECTIONS. DO YOU THINK IT COULD BE BECAUSE PARENTS LISTEN TO OLDIES STATIONS AND THEIR KIDS FIND THE MUSIC TO BE ACTUAL MUSIC AS OPPOSED TO WHAT IS BEING RELEASED BY THE POSERS I LISTED ABOVE? A SECOND THEORY GENERATED ON THE FLY AND OFF THE CUFF!

–What advice would you give to people who are just starting a band?

HAVE A PLAN “B”. WITH THE LOSS OF SO MANY VENUES TO DJS AND PRE-RECORDED MUSIC, I CANNOT FATHOM HOW A BAND CAN EARN A LIVING TODAY DOING GIGS. THEN, CONSIDER THE EXTREMELY LIMITED OPPORTUNITIES FOR AIRPLAY AND THE EXTREME COSTS OF DOING VIDEOS, AND YOU CAN UNDERSTAND MY INITIAL SENTENCE. I’LL BET THERE ARE DOZENS IF NOT 100S OF GROUPS WHO JUST GAVE UP BECAUSE IT IS SO TOUGH TO BREAK-OUT POST Y2K… AND THAT IS A REAL SHAME. PLACES LIKE MYSPACE AND YOUTUBE ARE (I HOPE NOT) THE FINAL FRONTIER. INDIE SEEMS TO ME TO BE THE ONLY AVENUE OPEN FOR 99% OF STRUGGLING MUSICAL ARTISTS, SO EVERYBODY SUPPORT LIVE MUSIC AND DOWNLOAD A COUPLE BUCKS WORTH OF TUNES FROM ANY BAND WHOSE STUFF YOU ENJOY. AND WITH THAT, I WILL JUMP OFF MY SOAPBOX AND HEAD OFF TO THE KITCHEN TO HEAT UP A CAN OF SOUP AND MAKE SOME TOAST FOR FRIDAY NIGHT DIN-DIN – MMMM MMMM GOOD!

Go here now!

http://www.myspace.com/colonyjr

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