Sunday, August 9, 2009

Bird And Animal Names In Rock And Roll History- part twenty-four

Let’s continue our article series about “bird” and “animal” band names and individuals in rock and roll history:

Formed in the 1980s, the Boston-based band Buffalo Tom has received critical acclaim for their thundering guitar hooks and innovative folk-tinged songs. Produced by J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr, some say that the band was just an extension of Mascis, who produced their first album in 1989.

However, Buffalo Tom was able to strip away these comparisons and was able to develop their own musical niche by blending their meat and potatoes rock and roll to go along with their insightful ballads.

In fact, on the band’s second album, 1990s “Birdbrain,” saw the trio guitarist Bill Janovitz, bassist Chris Colbourn, and drummer Tom Maginnis broaden their musical horizons with improved sonics and lyrical content and found themselves becoming popular on alternative radio play lists.

In 1992, Buffalo Tom’s breakthrough album “Let Me Come Over,” was filled with a gritty set of rock and roll adeptly mixed with melancholy ballads, including the splendid cut “Taillights Fade.” But, despite the increased airplay and critical praise, the album didn’t sell particularly well.

The follow-up album, 1993s “Big Red Letter Day” was a much more radio-ready, polished production, but the record received limited radio play and MTV requests. However, Buffalo Tom became one of the more popular alternative rock bands by the mid nineties in part because of the minor alternative hit single “Sodajerk,” which was featured on the soundtrack to the 1994 television series “My So-Called Life.”

After a year-long tour, the band regrouped and in the summer of 1995 released the LP “Sleep Eyed,” which musically brought the band back to their roots and the musical styling of the LP “Let me Come Over.” In 1998, the band released “Smitten” and two years later released a best of album called “Asides from Buffalo Tom.” After almost a decade of inactivity, Buffalo Tom returned in 2007 with an appearance at SXSW and a new full-length album on the New West label, “Three Easy Pieces.”

In 2009, Buffalo Tom have been writing and rehearsing about 15 new songs in one of the coldest, bleakest Boston winters in recent memory. Buffalo Tom also played their first show in quite some time at Boston's Paradise Rock Club, Friday June 26, 2009. Expect more to come from this seminal alternative rock and roll band.

Since 2002, the Aardvarks have been praised by bar owners, employees and fans alike for their ability to cater to any crowd by performing eclectic sets of musical genres and by adding their compelling repertoire of sound for a variety of events including weddings, local festivals and weekend shows.

In 2002, guitarist/vocalist Mike Rauscher and piano player Ron Walls decided to take a break from the grind of being musicians and playing with a number of other bands that included the Honeybuzzards, Seamrippers and the Armadillos. However, their break did not last long and within a few weeks they formed a duo called, A Pair of Armadillos and the pair performed throughout Lehigh Valley, in Eastern Pennsylvania. In 2003, the duo added Bassist Scott Erickson and drummer Jay Sanita. Just a year later, the band went through more personnel changes, this time adding bassist Jon Novak and vocalist Jay Morgan. Remaining true to their penchant for naming the band after an animal (fits right into our theme), the new bandmates decided to try a new breed of 'A" animal and the Aardvarks, as we know them today, were born.

Since 2004, The Aardvarks have assembled a song catalog of over 100 songs and are constantly expanding their repertoire both with covers of popular hits as well as originals. They are very popular with the locals of Lehigh Valley and perform regularly throughout the region.

Despite record setting attendances and an impressive music catalog, perhaps the most endearing quality of The Aardvarks is their youth and energy. No matter the age or size of the crowd, type of event or location, the band delivers quality performances consistently making them a local favorite and guaranteed good time for friends, family, employees, guests and fans alike. Although the band may not have any national hits, they make our list because of their fondness to name their groups after animals.

There are a couple of other bands named the Aardvarks. David Waggoner (aka David Wagner) of the 1960s psychedelic band Crow released several 45rpm singles prior to joining up with that band. Several of these singles are highly collectible and can fetch anywhere between $20 to $800, depending on the record label and the songs contained on the record. We will explore more bands with this moniker in future articles.

The soft-rock pop duo of Jim Seals and Dash Crofts were formed in 1969 after a stint with singer Dean Beard in 1958. Beard was later invited to join the group the Champs (of Latin-rock hit fame, the instrumental smash hit “Tequila”) along with Seals and Crofts and they stayed with that group until 1965. After both worked as session musicians and in unsuccessful bands, they decided to team up and after two largely ignored album releases, the duo hit the big time after signing with Warner Brothers Records in 1971.

It was their second album on Warner Brothers Records (Summer Breeze-1972) that propelled Seals and Crofts to mainstream pop-rock success. With timeless, breezy and accessible songs such as “Hummingbird,” “Diamond Girl,” the perfect mellow summer song “Summer Breeze” and the Top 40 Billboard hit “We May Never Pass This Way Again,” the duo attained worldwide acceptance. But their fame was fleeting, and ignoring the advice of Warner Brothers Records executives, they released the album “Unborn Child,” that contained the blatantly anti-abortion song called “Momma, Don’t” (which was written by Crofts’ sister) and the album was a critical and commercial flop.

Over a year later the duo released the LP “I’ll Play For You” and the following year cut the album called “Get Closer,” with the title song topping out on the charts at number six. This was Seals and Crofts’ last Top 40 album release. They sang music for a Robby Benson’s movie “One on One” which produced the single called “My Fair Share” (number 28 on the Top 40 Billboard charts in 1977).

The following year the album “Takin’ It Easy” resulted in the duo’s last Top 40 single called “You’re In Love” and their final studio effort “The Longest Road” did not even enter the charts (despite musicians Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke making guest appearances). The pair were subsequently dropped by Warner Brothers Records and have played together sparingly for many years except for a short reunion tour in 1991-1992, and appearances together at religious gatherings promoting their faith (Baha I).

Come back next week for more of this interesting article series about bird and animal band names in rock and roll history!

Buffalo Tom Tidbits:

The band's name is derived from the band Buffalo Springfield and the first name of the drummer, who is the shyest of the three. Combining the two is something of a joke among the members.

Buffalo Tom also wrote the theme song to the extremely short-lived 1999 sitcom The Mike O'Malley Show.

In 1999 the song "Taillights Fade" was used in the Breckin Meyer/Elizabeth Berkley independent film Taillights Fade.

They also recorded The Jam's "Going Underground" for the 2000 tribute album Fire and Skill: The Songs of the Jam.

They were the final musical guest on Jon Stewart's The Jon Stewart Show wherein he showered the band with moderate enthusiasm for their sound and their musical integrity.

Seals and Crofts Tidbits:

Seals' younger brother, Dan Seals was also well known as one half of the successful soft rock band in the same time period, England Dan and John Ford Coley, as well as a very successful country artist in the mid-1980s. Dan Seals died on March 25, 2009.

Jim Seals and Dash Crofts are both members of the Baha'i Faith. A number of their songs are inspired by Baha'i writings, and several contain references to tenets of the faith and actual passages of Baha'i scriptures. When they appeared in concert they often remained on stage after the performance to talk about the faith while local Baha'is passed out literature to anyone who was interested.

Crofts has lived in Mexico, Australia and Nashville, playing country music and making an occasional hit single. Seals moved to Costa Rica and has lived on a coffee farm off & on since 1980, and Crofts now lives on a ranch in the Hill Country of central Texas.

In 2003, Seals and Crofts reunited and recorded a new album called “Traces” for the first time since 1998.

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