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Rave Song Records: Press & Reviews

B'zz Retrospective in San Francisco Magazine "ZERO"

By JIM KAZ Feb. 2006

Article featuring an interview of Mike Tafoya re: The B'zz

For Zero magazine; the Retro Active column by Jim Kaz

Copyright Zeromag.com San Francisco, CA. Feb, 2006

The B'zz/ Get Up/ Epic Records, 1983

by Jim Kaz



I first discovered the band The B'zz while scouring used record bins as a kid. The band's sole album Get Up, and its cover featuring a killer bee with a spiked stinger, was enough to pique my interest. Their whimsical logo fit right in with the 80s new wave scene but was embellished in heavy-rock-style metallic silver, which confused me a bit. Was this a new wave band gone metal, or, a hard rock band gone camp? I wasn't exactly sure, and to this day, almost 20 years later, I?m still not. But generally, this is the stuff I've always found most intriguing: artists that break with the status quo.
The Chicago-based B'zz were born out of the ashes of The Boyzz, a loud and greasy, boogie biker band. The band released one album on Epic Records called Too Wild To Tame in 1978. Yearning to expand his musical horizons, guitarist Michael Tafoya took fellow members keyboardist Anatole Halinkovitch, (later rechristened Tony Hall) and bassist Dave Angel with him and set out to form a more musically well-rounded venture. They soon hooked up with singer Tom Holland and drummer Steve Riley who were both working as replacement members in a reformed version of psychedelic dirt-head legends Steppenwolf. In a recent chat with Tafoya, he enlightened me about the band's auspicious beginnings. "We formed the B'zz with a plan to get signed again, so we just wrote more and more songs. Starting in 1981, the band spent around a half of a year in L.A. to shop around for a label."

A privileged appearance on Dick Clark's American Bandstand clinched it (the band being the only unsigned act to ever appear on the show), and a deal was struck with Epic Records once again. "It was no easy task getting signed, since The Boyzz had a soured relationship with Epic," says Tafoya. Get Up was produced by Tom Werman (Ted Nugent, Motly Crue hit the stores in January 1983, at a time when the music scene was further splintering. [Epic] could not get together on how to market the band. We weren't Haircut 100, or Iron Maiden. And [bands like] REO Speedwagon, Styx and Journey seemed so 'old' to us; we couldn't see being compared only to them. The Epic A&R guys kept trying to pin us down to a particular style or genre and I for one just didn't have an answer for those categorizing suits. Epic seemed confused because we rocked hard, but also made a radio-friendly record," Tafoya says. And he's right, Get Up is chock full of radio-ready pop gems, that are offset by a few tasty arena rockers like the excellent opener "Get up Get Angry." Opening with a sparse, infectious guitar riff courtesy of Tafoya, Holland's somber Morrison-esque croon enters subtly before a wash of textured synths color the mix. After the next verse, everything kicks into gear and the song gets its AC/DC groove on in high style. With a track like this as the band?s centerpiece (a video was also shot for it), it's easy to see why The B'zz defied simple categorization. "We referred to our sound as a "melting pot" of American rock and English attitude, with a little pop, a little hard rock and a lot of flow. We wanted our songs to ring on the radio and have power, which I feel we accomplished," adds Tafoya. "Too Much To Ask For," "Take Your Time" and "Caught In the Middle" are pure power pop, somewhere between Cheap Trick and skinny-tie, pop hipsters The Plimsouls. The majestic ballad "Steal My Love" further confuses things, sounding more at home alongside power ballads by mainstream AOR bands like Foreigner or Journey. With its epic, choir-style chorus and warm guitar and keyboard flourishes, it should've been huge.

The album also features a few good old American pool-hall bruisers in "When You Love," and "I Love the Way," bolstering the band's appeal with the Eddie-and-the-Cruisers, bar-band crowd, yet another aspect of the period's diverse musical landscape. Then there's the obviously Motown-inspired "Not My Girl" towards the end of the album that slinks and shuffles melodiously through a tidal wave of fluid vocal bits.

Being out of synch with the trends and times eventually wore the band down and they all went their separate ways. "We were together for about three years, and with the pressure going on throughout that time, we just imploded," says Tafoya. After the B'zz, Hall embarked on a solo career, and wound up composing the music for TV's America's Most Wanted. Tom Holland would go on to form the band "Holland," and pursue a harder-rocking direction?the band's lone album Little Monsters is another lost classic. He'd also later surface with Tafoya again in Raw Dogs. And if Steve Riley?s name looks familiar, it?s because he'd later join Hollywood shlock-rockers W.A.S.P., then L.A. Guns, where he remains to this day. Dave Angel still doe's occasional production work and Michael Tafoya still records and tours with the much heavier and appropriately titled "Tafoya's Lost Boyzz. Get Up was reissued on CD in 2004 by French label Bad Reputation Records, and it sounds pretty damn good.

Although the B'zz would only make one album and get caught up in a morass of label politics and marketing cluster-fucks, they left an indelible impression with Get Up, which is now considered a cult classic. So if you think about it, The B'zz may have really just been an ?alternative? band all along. For more info on Michael Tafoya, The B'zz and The Boyzz, go to Tafoyaslostboyzz.com. For questions, comments, or something you'd like to see in future columns, hit me up at: retrohead77@yahoo.com. Cheers.
San Francisco Magazine "ZERO"
-THE WILLING-
-“UNFINISHED BUSINESS”-
-Rave Song Records-

THEN & NOW:
LEGENDARY CHICAGOLAND MUSICIANS REUNITE AFTER 35 YEARS TO RELEASE “UNFINISHED BUSINESS”

Aurora Illinois, (12/07/09): In 1979, Dave Angel was the long-haired, wild-eyed bass player of The Boyzz from Illinoizz, the ear splitting, hard driving biker band that roared out of St. Charles Illinois to released Too Wild To Tame (Epic Records, 1978) and tour the world.

Fast-forward thirty years later, and it might appear as though the boy has been tamed. Gone is the unruly mane of hair and motorcycle boots, replaced by the calm demeanor and clean cut look that’s befitting the family man and hospital administrator Angel has become. But the raw passion for music still burns. “I was in the car listening to The Eagles ‘Long Road out of Eden,’ says Angel, and I thought I would love to record a band that can sing like that. Then I thought, wait a minute, I used to be in a band that could sing like that!”

That band, of course, was not The Boyzz. It was Ultima Thule, the 1970s progressive rock band Angel played in before The Boyzz, along with future Boyzz drummer Kent Cooper, short time Boyzz guitarist Rich Wigstone, Dan Smith (Piano), Chris Gough (Guitar), and John Krahenbuhl (Organ). The band fronted five lead vocalists and built a following throughout the Midwest with its strong harmonies and flawless covers of hits by bands like The Beatles, Crosby, Stills and Nash and The Moody Blues. But music was changing in the mid 70s, and the melodic sound of Ultima Thule was muscled out by bands like Aerosmith, Kiss and Blue Oyster Cult. So, Angel, Wigstone and Cooper left Ultima Thule to form the Chicago-based super group that became The Boyzz.

“It was tough on all of us when we split up,” recalls Angel. But after hearing the harmonies of The Eagles reborn on Eden, Angel, who now owns Rave Song Records, realized what he had to do. “I called each one of my former band mates individually and said we have some unfinished business. What do you think about getting back together to write and record a CD? It would have to be all six of us, or nothing at all. And to a man, they were in!”

The result is Unfinished Business (Rave Song Records, 2010) a CD of entirely new material, written and recorded by this band of old friends under their new moniker, The Willing. “Our old name has since been taken by a Scandinavian Metal band,” says Angel, “so the group chose “The Willing,” as in ‘willing and able to do whatever it takes to make the CD.’ I’m glad it’s a new name because we really are a new band with a new attitude. We’re re-discovering, re-committing and re-inventing ourselves. Lots of bands rehash the past but this is all new music with a whole new sound.”

It’s a sound The Willing calls New/Classic, which perfectly captures the band’s ability to blend its Classic Rock roots into new material as seamlessly as it blends the voices of its five lead vocalists into a cohesive sound. Already, their New/Classic sound has been compared to everything from 1960s British Pop to modern day Indie Pop, and that’s just the first single, She’ll Be Running. The 13 tracks on Unfinished Business draw from an even broader palette of influences. The opening track, Sunrise, and the closing track, Evening, both echo the more ethereal and layered soundscapes of Pink Floyd. The strong vocals but heavy rhythms of Mary Anne’s on Fire, Queen of the City and Only Love Can Change The World pulsate with all the power of 70s Arena Rock. And there’s even two power ballads on the CD, Hold Me and Gone, that sound as classic as Aerosmith or Foreigner, yet as contemporary as Daughtry. It’s a range of sounds and influences that’s only possible because of the depth of talent within the band. Five of the six members (all but Cooper) contribute songs to the CD and five of the six (all but Gough) take turns singing lead vocals, sometimes within the same song. But the thread that holds it all together is the blending of the various voices into the unmatched harmonies that have been the signature of this group since Ultima Thule.

And yet, Unfinished Business is more about looking forward than looking back. Because along with their new name and new sound, The Willing is pioneering a new approach to writing and recording by posting rough mixes and unfinished tracks on its website (www.thewillingband.com) so fans can listen and post feedback before the CD is even released. The first single, She’ll Be Running, was posted as just an acoustic guitar guide track and then built up track by track into a complete song. “Fans have had so much fun with it,” says Angel, “we’re taking it one step further.” The Willing has found a way to let its fans become the producer and make their own re-mixes of select tracks from Unfinished Business through a partnership with Remix Galaxy (www.remixgalaxy.com). “It’s cool, you can add phasing and other effects, turn it into a dance mix, whatever you want to do. It’s fun! And it’s a great way to get the listener involved.”

So now that their business is finished, where do The Willing go from here? They’re all family men and successful businessmen in fields as diverse as retail, marketing, health care and organic produce. So it’s unlikely they will quit their day jobs, buy a van and go on tour. “Success for us”, says Angel “would be finding an audience among people of our own age, the Boomers who grew up listening to good Classic Rock. Some money would be nice, but it’s really about recognition and appreciation for the music and the fact that we’re together, we finished the CD and we did it ourselves.” A video in support of Unfinished Business & the follow up CD is already in the works.
D.K. - The Willing 2010 Press Release (Jan 10, 2010)