Category: Morning Call

Blues guitarist Joanne Shaw Taylor, playing Easton’s State Theatre, talks about rocking with Joe Bonamassa and her musical personality

Blues guitarist Joanne Shaw Taylor, at age 16, was discovered by Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics and over the past two decades, has proven herself as a guitarist and prolific songwriter.

She’s received praise fans and artists like Joe Bonamassa, Stevie Wonder and Annie Lennox for her distinctive style and soulful voice.

Taylor has released three albums in the past year, including “The Blues Album” (produced by Bonamassa and Josh Smith) which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart.

Her new album, “Nobody’s Fool,” is another collection of catchy hooks and riffs and includes the lead single “Just No Getting Over You (Dream Cruise)” as well as Taylor’s spin on The Eurythmics’ hit “Missionary Man.” Bonamassa also joins Taylor on the original song, “Won’t Be Fooled Again.”

Taylor brings her infectious blues prowess to Easton’s State Theatre on Nov. 12.

I spoke with Joanne Shaw Taylor about the show, her new album and more in this exclusive Morning Call interview.

James Wood for The Morning Call: Is your tour stop in Easton part of a larger run of dates you’ll be doing?

Taylor: We’re doing three weeks here in the States in November and then straight to the UK for three more weeks. We’ve got a bigger Spring run through the U.S. in March and April that’ll start in Florida and make its way out west.

What can fans expect from your upcoming performance at The State Theatre?

For people who know my stuff, it’ll be a bit of a mix. In the past year, we’ve done three albums: “The Blues Album,” “Blues From The Heart: Live,” and the new album, “Nobody’s Fool.” With COVID kind of shutting down touring for a bit, all of that material is still fresh. I say this tongue in cheek, but I’ll also play a selection of greatest hits from the older albums. It’ll be a good night of the best of my catalogue played by an explosive band.

Read the rest of my

Interview with Joanne Shaw Taylor by Clicking Here.

Easton State Theatre concert preview: The Orchestra is set to play ELO’s greatest hits

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.

Read the rest of my

Interview with Mik Kaminski and Eric Troyer by Clicking Here.

Barry Manilow, set to play Allentown, reveals secrets behind the songs and personal triumphs

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.

Read the rest of my

Interview with Barry Manilow by Clicking Here!

Sherman Theater concert preview: Kiss’ Ace Frehley talks about crazy memories and possible band reunion

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. 

Ace Frehley – Photo by Jay Gilbert

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.

Read the rest of my

Interview with Ace Frehley by Clicking Here.

Concert preview: Almost Queen are the champions of Freddie Mercury and company’s rhapsodies

Almost Queen

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.” 

Almost Queen will perform at The Sherman Theater on Saturday (8 p.m.) and at The Sellersville Theater May 29.

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.

Read the rest of my

Interview with Randy Gregg by Clicking Here!

Former ‘SNL’ bandleader and Stroudsburg native G.E. Smith joins Bad Company drummer for Sellersville show

G.E. Smith

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.

Read the rest of my

Interview with G.E. Smith by Clicking Here.

ArtsQuest concert preview: 10,000 Maniacs’ Mary Ramsey talks about her start on MTV’s Unplugged and 40th-anniversary tour

10000 Maniacs: Photo by Jeff Fasano

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.

Read the rest of my

Interview with Mary Ramsey by Clicking Here.

Concert preview: 1970s hitmakers America coming to Penn’s Peak

America – Photo By Christie Goodwin

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.

Read the rest of my

Interview with Dewey Bunnell by Clicking Here.

Interview: 80s hitmaker Howard Jones, coming to Sellersville Theater, talks about songwriting, playing Live Aid, and touring with Ringo

Photo: David Conn

For three decades, electronic pioneer Howard Jones has been a regular presence on the international touring scene. He’s been performing his arsenal of hits and fan favorites, like “No One Is To Blame,” “New Song,” “Hide & Seek,” and “Things Can Only Get Better” in various band configurations, including his high-tech electronic setup.

But perhaps there is no better way to appreciate the foundational impact of Jones’ music than when it’s stripped down to its barest of bones. Jones will do just that when he brings his acclaimed Acoustic Trio Tour to The Sellersville Theater at 8 p.m. Feb. 20.

Joining Jones on stage that evening will be two of his longtime friends, Nick Beggs and Robin Boult, for an evening of musical fellowship.

Jones will certainly have no shortage of stories to tell. Since bursting onto the contemporary music scene in 1983, he’s sold more than 8 million albums. His monstrous 1985 album alone, Dream Into Action, went platinum in the US and featured four smash hits, including the aforementioned “No One Is To Blame” and “Things Can Only Get Better.”

A few of his other credits include performing solo at the piano at the Live Aid festival in 1985 and touring as part of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band.

I recently spoke with Howard Jones about this and his upcoming performance in Sellersville.

James Wood for The Morning Call: What can fans expect from your upcoming performance in Sellersville?

Howard Jones: We had been halfway through an original run of the trio tour when COVID struck. Everything was being canceled and we had to get home pretty quick. These dates are fulfilling the ones we didn’t get to do. It’s the trio tour with Nick Beggs on the bass end (he plays an instrument called the Chapman Stick and double bass), Robin Boult plays guitar and I’m on piano and vocals. Nick and Rob are two of my best friends in the world. Touring with them is a total pleasure and I hope that gets reflected in the music that we present. It’ll be the three of us enjoying ourselves on stage.

Read the rest of my

Interview with Howard Jones by Clicking Here

Interview: Al Franken, coming to ArtsQuest, talks about his resignation from the Senate, lying liars, and the big issues facing our country

Al Franken

Al Franken is a comedian, New York Times bestselling author, radio host, political activist and, perhaps most notably, former United States Senator — where he served on the Judiciary, Energy and Indian Affairs committees.

Franken was also one of the original writers for “Saturday Night Live,” where he scored 15 Emmy nominations [winning five] as both writer and producer.

Now, four years removed from his position as Senator of Minnesota — and noncommittal when it comes to the idea of another possible run — Franken is on the road with his stand-up comedy show, “Al Franken: The Only Former U.S. Senator Currently on Tour Tour.”

His show promises to feature unique satire, candid conversation about what’s going on in the world, and stories about his time in the Senate.

I recently spoke with him on the phone about his upcoming appearance at ArtsQuest’s Musikfest Cafe (8 p.m. Feb 18) and more.

James Wood for The Morning Call: How would you describe your style of comedy?

Franken: It’s satire to some degree and a lot of it is about politics. I was a big fan of guys like George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce and all the other comedians who’ve talked about satirical comedy and commentary. It has a point of view, but the emphasis is really on laughs.

What else can fans expect from your appearance at SteelStacks?

I do about an hour and a half of standup and really enjoy the craft. I used to have a partner, Tom Davis, who would go out on the road with me. He and I were two of the original “SNL” writers.

It’s a little different now going out single. For this tour, I started working up a show at the Comedy Cellar and talk a lot about what’s going on right now and about my experience in politics. I also talk about running for the Senate and having everything I’ve ever said as a comedian, ironically or satirically, used against me and put through the de-humorizor [laughs].

The show is a lot of fun for the audience and for me. I originally did a run of 15 cities, and we’ve just added 16 more.

Read the rest of my

Interview with Al Franken by Clicking Here.