With a pedigree dating back to the early days of the Electric Light Orchestra, members of The Orchestra continue to tour and perform the music of ELO to generations of fans.
All six group members were once part of ELO II, which formed shortly after the original group disbanded.
On Oct. 7, The Orchestra will bring ELO’s catalog of classic and symphonic rock hits to Easton’s State Theatre for an intimate performance.
Mik Kaminski (violin) is the longest-term member of the group, having not only worked with ELO II and The Orchestra but has also recorded many of ELO’s biggest hits and toured the world with Jeff Lynne and the original lineup from 1973 through the early eighties.
In addition to being a keyboardist and vocalist for The Orchestra, Eric Troyer has contributed his talent as a session artist on monster hits for John Lennon, Billy Joel, Bonnie Tyler and more.
The Orchestra includes Kaminski (violin), Troyer (vocals, keyboards, guitar), Parthenon Huxley (guitar, vocals), Gordon Townsend (drums, vocals), Glen Burtnik (bass, vocals) and Louis Clark (orchestral keyboard, cello, guitar).
I spoke with Mik Kaminski and Eric Troyer about the upcoming State Theatre show, the music of ELO, and more.
James Wood for The Morning Call: What can fans expect from The Orchestra’s performance at the State Theatre?
Mik Kaminski: They can expect to hear all of the ELO hits that I’ve been playing for nearly 50 years. I still get great fun out of playing songs like “Mr. Blue Sky,” “Living Thing” and all the other favorites. As long as the audience is with us we’ll be doing it as long as we can.
Eric Troyer: We’ve been touring all around the world playing the songs the way they were written and recorded by Electric Light Orchestra. Mik was in the original ELO lineup and I’ve been doing it since the ELO II days that started in 1988. It’s an engaging and exciting show to watch. We really enjoy playing this music.
What do you think makes the music of ELO so timeless and special?
Troyer: It’s classic rock, a high point of the rock and roll era that speaks to everybody. These songs are still used in movies and many other things. It carries the torch and becomes familiar to other generations. We have a lot of young people coming out to see us.
Kaminski: Every time you walk into a supermarket there’s an ELO tune playing. It’s embedded in people’s heads. Jeff Lynne’s writing was, and still is, brilliant. He’s a very talented guy.
Ranked by Billboard as the #1 Adult Contemporary Artist of all-time, Barry Manilow’s unparalleled career is made up of virtually every facet of music, including performing, recording, arranging, and producing.
With more than 85 million albums sold, Manilow is also ranked as one of the world’s all-time best-selling artists, with songs that include such timeless classics as “Mandy,” “I Write The Songs,” “Could it Be Magic,” Looks Like We Made It,” “Weekend In New England,” and “Copacabana (At The Copa).”
On Friday, August 12, Manilow will bring his musical legacy and arsenal of hits to PPL Center in Allentown, PA as part of his “Manilow: Hits 2022 Tour.”
Every stop on Manilow’s current East Coast jaunt will also bestow a Manilow Music Project’s Music Teacher Award, where a winning teacher from each city, based on voting, will receive a five-thousand-dollar cash award and another five thousand in “Manilow bucks” to purchase instruments for their school’s music program.
I recently spoke with Barry Manilow about his new tour, music, and some of the most memorable moments of his career in this exclusive new interview.
What can fans expect from your performance at PPLCenter in Allentown?
Barry Manilow: There were years that I was out doing shows with medleys of big band songs and show tunes and album cuts. These days, I know what people want. They want to hear the songs they know and I’m happy to give it to them. I’m very lucky that I’ve got ninety minutes of hit records that I can go to. Every song is familiar to audiences. They sometimes sing even louder than I do at these shows and we all have a great time together. With the world the way that it is being an entertainer is a big responsibility. So, the lights will go down, the doors will close, and I’ll get to take them into a place that feels safe, joyful, and full of music. That’s my job and I love doing it.
As an original member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band Kiss, Ace Frehley and his Spaceman image inspired legions of fans to pick up a guitar to try and imitate his musical wizardry.
His 1978 release was the highest selling of the four Kiss solo albums. His reunion with the band in the mid-late 90′s helped return the group to sold-out stadium performances. In 2011, Frehley’s autobiography, “No Regrets,” also turned the artist into a bona fide New York Times bestselling author.
As he celebrates nearly 50 years as an artist, Frehley is set to bring an arsenal of Kiss and solo hits to a performance 8 p.m. Friday at Stroudsburg’s Sherman Theater.
I recently spoke with Frehley about his local show, his tenure with Kiss, memorable moments, and even asked him the elusive question of whether he’ll be joining his former bandmates one last time in this exclusive new interview.
James Wood for The Morning Call: What can fans expect from your performance at The Sherman Theater?
Ace Frehley: We talk with fans often and they pretty much tell us which songs are their favorites, so we’ll be performing a variety of Ace and Kiss hits. Songs like “Cold Gin,” “Rip It Out,” “Detroit Rock City,” and “Deuce.” I’ll also be doing my light and smoking guitar effect.
You mentioned the song “Cold Gin,” which appeared on Kiss’ debut album. Can you tell me the origin of that track?
I actually wrote that song while I was on a subway going to rehearsal. I came up with the guitar riff and then the lyrics came. But I don’t have any set formula for how I write. Sometimes I’ll write the lyrics first and the music will come second. There’s no set way of writing songs.
Touting itself as the most authentic Queen live show since the days of the original lineup, Almost Queen delivers a high-energy live performance that showcases Queen’s signature four-part harmonies, lavish costumes, and intricate musical interludes.
The band, featuring Joseph Russo (”Freddie Mercury” / vocals), Steve Leonard (”Brian May” / guitar and vocals), John Cappadona (”Roger Taylor” / drums and vocals) and Randy Gregg (”John Deacon” / bass and vocals) prides itself on capturing the intricate sound of the studio albums and bringing it (live) to the stage.
Fans can expect to hear Queen classics like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You,” “We Are The Champions,” “Another One Bites The Dust,” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”
With the overwhelming success of the Academy Award-winning film, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” fans may lament not having been able to have experienced the original line-up, but Almost Queen promises to be the next best thing.
I recently spoke with Almost Queen bassist Randy Gregg about the band’s multiple performances in the Lehigh Valley area and more in this exclusive new interview.
James Wood for The Morning Call: What first attracted you to the original band and how did you become involved in Almost Queen?
Randy Gregg: Queen has been one of my favorite bands ever since I was five years old. Back then a neighbor of mine would play Queen records all the time and one day he played me “Tie Your Mother Down.” I guess my jaw must have dropped because he said, “Oh, you like this?” [laughs]. Then he put on “Bohemian Rhapsody” and that was it.
I began writing the Queen logo all over my kindergarten workbook. As time went on and I became musical and toured in other bands, I quickly realized that Queen was the best band around. I remember I had just come off a tour with Thin Lizzy when I got a call asking if I’d be interested in playing in a Queen band. For me, it was a no-brainer. Even after eighteen years in this band I still get chills playing on stage. There’s not one song that I don’t like to perform.
Two legendary artists are set team up for an evening of guitar-driven blues and classic rock when guitarist G.E. Smith and British drummer Simon Kirke (Free, Bad Company) bring their “We Rock U Roll” tour to the Sellersville Theater X p.m. Saturday
Smith, a Stroudsburg native and frequent performer at the theater, is no stranger to music fans. He served as guitarist for Daryl Hall and John Oates during their formative years in the 80s — performing on albums with monster hits like “Kiss on My List” and “Private Eyes.” He was with them in Philadelphia for the Live Aid festival in 1985 where he also played with Mick Jagger and Tina Turner.
Smith would later become music director of “Saturday Night Live.” A position he held for 10 years before returning to touring as a sideman with such artists as Bob Dylan and Roger Waters.
Although they’ve occasionally worked together in the past, Smith and Kirke’s performance marks the first time the pair has taken their friendship and love of music out on the road.
I recently spoke to G.E. Smith about the upcoming “We Rock U Roll” performance in Sellersville (8 p.m. Saturday), his Stroudsburg upbringing, and much more in this exclusive new interview.
James Wood for The Morning Call: What do you like most about performing at The Sellersville Theater?
G.E. Smith: Well, one great thing is that I’ll get to stay at my brother’s house in Stroudsburg [laughs]. Sellersville is a good feeling theater. I like that town. There’s a nice hotel next door where we’ll have dinner, and a lot of people I know from the area will also come to the gig. These are people I grew up around.
Ann Wilson is one of the premier hard-rock vocalists of all time. Smashing boundaries with longstanding Seattle outfit Heart, she’s enjoyed a decades-long career resulting in more than 35 million albums sold and an induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Wilson recorded much of her new solo album, Fierce Bliss, at the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama, and enlisted the company of a trio of guitar powerhouses for good measure: co-producer Tom Bukovac, Warren Haynes and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Haynes, who last worked with Wilson on her Immortal solo release, returns for Fierce Bliss, bringing along Gov’t Mule for a pair of original songs: Gladiator and Angel’s Blues.
Shepherd accompanies Wilson on two covers: a monstrous version of the Robin Trower classic, Bridge of Sighs, and an ambitious take on the Eurythmics’ hit, Missionary Man, the latter of which has Wilson backed by a 40-person gospel choir.
An ethereal duet version of Queen classic Love of My Life with Vince Gill is also featured on the album, as well as fantasy art by Roger Dean, renowned for his work designing Yes’s sleeve artwork.
We spoke with Ann Wilson about Fierce Bliss, working with Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Warren Haynes and her favorite memories of Heart.
Was it your desire to create a guitar-driven album?
“Yeah, that’s what I’m comfortable with and what speaks to me. I was blessed to get into the company of Tom Bukovac, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Warren Haynes. They’re great players who are also great humans. After we got vaccinated, we all put on masks and went to Muscle Shoals, where Tom had put together this band with Tony Lucido on bass and Sean Lane on drums.”
The band 10,000 Maniacs has covered a lot of ground during its 40 years together. From small niche market to international stardom, their current status is among the cornerstones of alternative music.
The band’s live show celebrates their musical legacy by embracing songs spanning its entire catalog and features a lineup still anchored by four of the six original members.
Viola player and backing vocalist Mary Ramsey began touring and recording with the Maniacs more than 30 years ago. She assumed the role of lead vocalist shortly after the departure of Natalie Merchant. Ramsey’s first album fronting the band was 1997′s Love Among The Ruins. The album featured the group’s ethereal take on the Roxy Music hit, “More Than This.”
The band will play will perform selections from their vast collection of hits at 7 p.m. April 26 at ArtsQuest’s Musikfest Cafe. Listeners can expect a few surprises during an intimate performance.
Fans can enjoy songs like the aforementioned “More Than This” as well as “These Are Days,” “My Mother The War,” “Rainy Day,” and “Because The Night,” the Patti Smith classic that became a monster hit for the band during its MTV Unplugged special.
10,000 Maniacs is Mary Ramsey (vocals, viola), Steven Gustafson (bass), Dennis Drew (keyboards), John Lombardo (guitar, vocals), Jeff Erickson (lead guitar) and Jerome Augustyniak (drums)
I recently spoke with vocalist/viola player Ramsey about the show and more in this exclusive new interview.
James Wood for The Morning Call: What can fans expect from the 10,000 Maniacs’ performance at SteelStacks?
Mary Ramsey: We have a variety of tunes from the Maniacs catalog over the years to choose from. We’ll be playing the hits as well as a few surprise covers. There’s a song John Lombardo will sing called “My Mother The War,” which goes way back. I have an electric five-string Zeta viola I play so we’ll do some Celtic tunes here and there as well. It’s an interesting blend of different sounds that work nicely together.
The band has been celebrating its 40th anniversary and you’ve been with them for more than 25 years. Can you give me some of the backstory on how you came to join the group?
I suppose it was all fate, John Lombardo had left the group for a while in the 80s and the two of us met and started a duo called John and Mary and were signed to Ryko Records. In 1990, 10,000 Maniacs released the Hope Chest CD. Some of John’s contributions to that CD were a few of the first songs the band had written, and they asked us to open for them. That was when Natalie [Merchant] asked if I’d like to sing background vocals and add strings to their set. That’s how I got on the MTV Unplugged performance. It was a thrill.
Broadway’s Tony Award-winning musical, “Hairspray,” is on a 60-city U.S tour including two performances at Easton’s historic State Theatre on April 16.
The production is under the original guidance of director Jack O’Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell.
The show tells the story of 16-year-old Tracy Turnblad in 1960′s Baltimore as she sets out to dance her way onto TV’s most popular program and winds up changing the world. It features a score of hit songs, including “Welcome to the 60′s,” “Good Morning Baltimore,” and “You Can’t Stop the Beat.”
The touring version of “Hairspray” stars Andrew Levitt, who fans know as Nina West (from “RuPaul’s Drag Race”), as Edna Turnblad. The ensemble cast also features Niki Metcalf as Tracy Turnblad and Sandie Lee as Motormouth Maybelle.
I recently spoke with Metcalf about the show’s themes, big hair and more in this exclusive interview.
James Wood for The Morning Call: What can fans expect from the upcoming performances of “Hairspray?”
Niki Metcalf: “Hairspray” is about a lot of things. There’s love, acceptance, dancing and singing as well as a lot of fun, laughs and joy. It’s got something for every kind of audience member. I play Tracy Turnblad. She’s a sixteen-year-old who has big dreams, a big heart and even bigger hair [laughs].
We start off the show with Tracy wanting to be on the Corny Collins show in 1960′s Baltimore. Then she meets a community of incredible people who teach her how to change the world for the better and stand up for what is right.
Since beginning her artistic journey in watercolor, self-taught artist Maria Zinca has created an abstract world that’s both visually dreamy and soothingly surreal. The artist’s strength comes from her innate ability to draw the viewer’s attention to a pre-determined focal point location through the use of color, lines, objects and reflection.
Zinca’s dynamic use of angles and ubiquitous vision of rainy day and night scenes of her bustling Bucharest city tastefully captures the feel, essence, and energy of the streets.
Zinca continues to challenge herself with every painting she does and believes the type of materials you use is crucial in allowing you to ignore the timing and struggles with the watercolor medium itself, and focus more on putting the vision into the finished painting.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Maria Zinca about her art and career in this exclusive new interview.
How did your artistic journey begin?
Maria Zinca:I don’t know exactly when but I’ve liked to draw ever since I was a little child. I’m a self-taught artist who was born with a need to paint. At some point, when I was between twenty and thirty years old, I started decorating my house and was looking for pictures or paintings to fill up my walls. I wasn’t painting much during that time and started looking for ideas on places like Pinterest. I saw a few watercolors and thought, I can do this myself.
I started painting but was using cheap paper and everything was a mess. That’s when I started seeing what other people were doing with watercolor and knew I had to learn more. I started getting better quality paper, brushes, and pigments with the ambition of painting more and more.
How did you overcome challenges and struggles in those early paintings?
Zinca: I still struggle at times with not being able to do exactly what I want. When I started out, I would struggle with pigments, because I used cheap paints. When the painting dried, the colors were not very saturated, so I’d put another layer and then another layer. The paper was bad and didn’t help me. That’s when you get a feeling that you’re not good and think, I won’t do this again, but then tomorrow you’ll be back to paint another one. It’s a carousel of being on and off.
How would you describe your style?
Zinca:I like abstract paintings and am always trying to get away from reality as much as I can. To build a painting that doesn’t look like a photo. You can always take a photo, print it and then put it on your wall. With painting, you can go into a different reality you can’t mimic in other mediums. I want the viewer to be able to see the car, the building, or the man walking the street, but I don’t want to paint the entire car window or the detail on the man’s face. I want the feel and energy of the street. That’s what I try to put in my paintings.
What’s your creative process like? Where do you draw your inspiration?
Zinca: I like to take walks and when I’m in the street, I feel all this light, people and life around me. I try to express that in my paintings. I’m always looking for the mood, feeling and story from the street. I like to take a lot of pictures of my city and sometimes I’ll watch YouTube videos of someone walking down a city street with a camera for two hours on a rainy day. I’ll watch and then screen shot an image of everything I like. Most of the work is made even before I even start painting. I spend a lot of time preparing by thinking about composition, focus points, colors, and mood. I use a tablet with the Procreate app and draw what I visualize. When I have the sketch on my tablet as close as I visualize, I start painting. But I don’t copy an exact sketch of the image. Sometimes a painting asks for itself what needs to be done.
What do you think is the most challenging part about painting in watercolor?
Zinca: With watercolor, you have to express everything in that hour and second from when you pick up the brush. Sometimes I’ll be tired when I come into the shop and that can be seen in the painting. Watercolor sees your state of mind and energy when you’re painting. I love that challenge.
What are the keys to creating a great watercolor painting?
Zinca: There are a lot: The focus point, the message and concept of the painting. You have to tell a story and not just paint a pretty painting. Make the painting interesting using different methods like dry brushing and wet on wet. Having one part of the painting where it’s evenly blended and another part that’s very harsh. Build interest with color, composition, and different techniques to make the viewer go to the focus point. When I’m sketching, I think about all of that. Guiding the viewer to the focal point with color, composition, and technique.
What’s the best bit of advice you can give to an aspiring watercolorist?
Zinca: The most important thing is to paint every day and not give up. Just like exercise, if you paint every day, you’ll get better. Get used to the medium and brushes. Know your pigments and paper and get rid of the unknown element. It’s like when you’re in a car and you just focus on the drive. Know your materials so well that you don’t have to struggle and can focus only on painting. You also have to study. Even if you didn’t go to art school, look at books on composition and learn from others.
Are there any projects you’re currently working on?
Zinca: I do have other activities I do. I have a tattoo workshop and a gallery. I’m working on exhibitions and trying to help other artists here in Romania. I’ve also started focusing on making large portraits in watercolor. It’s very challenging. This is the next thing I’m going to do.
For more than five decades, the multiplatinum selling group America (featuring founding members Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley), has been captivating audiences with their ubiquitous blend of acoustic-driven, harmony-rich sounds.
Some of their biggest hits, including “A Horse With No Name,” “Ventura Highway,” “Sister Golden Hair,” and “I Need You,” have gone on to become staples of classic rock radio.
Following their eponymous #1 debut album and winning Best New Artist at the 1973 Grammy awards, America went on to work with famed Beatles producer George Martin on a string of hugely successful albums. They’ve toured the world multiple times, performed the musical score for 1982′s “The Last Unicorn,” were inducted into the Vocal Hall of Fame in 2006, and received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012.
Their most recent project is the 50th-anniversary box set, aptly titled, “Half Century,”
The group is currently back on tour, with a lineup that includes Richard Campbell (bass/vocals), Ryland Steen (drums/percussion) and Steve Fekete (guitars/keyboards/vocals). They’ll make a stop at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe 8 p.m. Saturday.
I recently spoke with Dewey Bunnell about the band’s longevity, songwriting and more in this exclusive new interview.
James Wood for The Morning Call: America recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Looking back now with all this perspective, what thoughts come to mind?
Dewey Bunnell: I don’t think anyone could have expected the kind of success we had in that first decade or how it’s lasted so long. We believed in ourselves and were expressing lyrically some themes and topics that were relevant to ourselves, our generation, and the times. Now we have multiple generations of fans who are still appreciating the music and showing it by coming to shows and listening to the music.
You and Gerry were teenagers when you wrote some of your early hits. How did the songs “A Horse With No Name” and “Ventura Highway” come about?
There’s really no hidden meaning behind “Horse …” It’s a travel log about finding oneself in an isolated place, like the desert. Growing up, our families were in the Air Force, so we traveled a lot as kids. I gravitated toward places like the wilderness, rivers, lakes, and the desert and was trying to capture that. There’s a lot of self-study and figuring out what you want to do with your life when you’re nineteen or twenty and right out of high school. It’s a song about introspection.
“Ventura Highway” was similar in that the lyric was about travel to some degree and about seeing the west coast for the first time. It was the ‘60s when my family lived there, which was a very impressionable time for me. At the time, the surf scene was blowing up; The Beach Boys, sun and surf, free wind blowing through your hair. All of that imagery was what I was trying to capture in that song.