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(The RAZ Band left to right: Jim, Joey, Joe, Hutch and Raz)

Shoreworld: The Raz Band – The Best Of Raz

—by John Pfeiffer, July 20, 2016

Michael Raz Rescigno has been involved with music most of his life. Starting over 32 years ago, Raz (as he likes to be called) has stayed deep in musical experimentation and performance-based expression in his quest to achieve excellence and harmonious interaction with his musical partners.

His latest project is a “Greatest Hits” starting in 1984 and going straight through to 2015 when he released his most recent full-length, Madison Park, under the Raz Band moniker. Raz states that “Madison Park was a diverse collection of music from the last few years of our lives.” With production direction from friends and now full-time band members Joey Molland (Badfinger) and Joe Vitale (Joe Walsh, Crosby, Stills and Nash and the Eagles), Raz and company forged ahead and ended up with an excellent 16-song platter that took them to an entirely different level as a group and as writers and producers.

Following the November 2015 release of the critically acclaimed Madison Park by The Raz Band, Gonzo Multimedia has just released The Best Of Raz. This career-spanning CD takes the listener on Raz’s 32-year musical journey and features songs beginning with Raz’s critically acclaimed 1984 debut record, Criminals Off The Streets, through Gonzo’s 2015 release of Madison Park.

This 19-song CD also includes songs from the albums The Best Of L.A 1987, the Raz album, Raz’s cassette EP Listen produced by Joey Molland, the Tough Love CD produced by Joe Vitale, the It’s All About Me CD produced by Michael Raz, Jeff Hutchinson, Joe Vitale & Joey Molland, plus two bonus tracks recorded live in 1984 at the legendary Los Angeles nightclub, Madame Wong’s West.

Guest performers include the aforementioned Joey Molland (Badfinger), Joe Vitale (Joe Walsh/Crosby, Stills & Nash/the Eagles), as well as Stu Cook (Credence Clearwater Revival), Carla Olson and Marc Droubay (Survivor).

The disc starts off with “The Boy.” Steeped in the alternative birth sounds of bands such as The Records, “The Boy” is a melodic romp through rock and roll radio land. Featuring Raz on guitar and vocals, the song also showcases the musical stylings of Jeff Hutchinson on drums, tasty riffage supplied by Peter Wiggins on guitar, Jim Serpiello on piano, Kenny Miles on bass and Craig Williams on saxophone. Tight and tasty, “The Boy” is an excellent example of stellar ’80s music. If you like sax-based pop rock, you’re going to love “The Boy.”

Up next is “Say Ya Love Me.” Quirky and bouncy, this is another sax-based tune that hisses like a coiled viper on a hot desert road. Dangerous rhythms and outlandish guitars drive this song to the barn with all the style of ’80s greats such as Tommy Conwell And The Young Rumblers or Tommy Tutone.

“Time Marches On” takes the player next. Featuring Joey Molland on backing vocals, the song also features Tommy Amato on drums, James Cleaver on bass, Bob Lorenz on organ and Stan Kabuki on sax. Upbeat and poppy as all get out, “Time Marches On” embraces the period and flourishes well. Stan Kabuki blends well with the organ work of Bob Lorenz. Amato’s drum work is the perfect backbeat to Raz’s vocal attack.

Moving around the disc a bit, I came to an interesting number called “Down At The Gulf.” Filled with raucous guitar work courtesy of Raz, Pat Whisnant and Ruben DeFentes, the song is a veritable symphony of colorful sounds. The keyboard work of Bob Lorenz adds synthesized magic to the guitar cornucopia that makes up most of this rock tune. This is pure and unadulterated album-oriented rock. The disc also features the versatile talents of Bobby Hayden on backing vocals, Rick Bozzo on bass and Gina La Carr on vocals.

Another cool tune is “Tough Love.” Featuring Hutchinson on vocals and drums, Raz on guitar and vocals, Jim Manzo on bass and Joe Vitale on keys, “Tough Love” is a complicated but ingenious compositional creation that sounds like nothing I’ve heard. The arrangement is impressive, and the melodic structure is most interesting. I guess it could be something close to say Missing Persons, but even that comparative is a generality from me. Vitale’s choice of keyboard sounds makes this song a winner in my book.

“Buck-it” is up next and follows the proverbial lineage of The Knack and early Blondie. Featuring the same crew as the last song, “Buck-it” squirms and writhes its wild way through high verses and solid choruses on its way to somewhere else. This is the non-conforming narrative of punk rock from back in the day and it’s great.

“Sitting On My Bed” features the vocal performance of Carla Olsen. Carla is joined by Joey Molland on lead guitar as well as Raz, Hutchinson, and Manzo. As much of a ballad as I’ve heard so far, “Sitting On My Bed” is a slow rolling trip through the time-tested feeling of love. It reminds me of the Beatles as far as composition and arrangement. Molland supplies some tasty licks as the band keeps pace with the sweet sounds of Olsen’s vocal magic.

“Naked On The Floor” is up next. Done in the outlandish style of The Ramones, “Naked On The Floor” is the fast-paced action that delivers another healthy dose of radio-friendly rock tuneage. This song features Raz on some pretty bodacious guitar, as well as Paul Marshall on backing vocals. Hutchinson and Manzo supply the rhythmic backbeats, and they make a bang up job of delivering boisterous and addictive music to the aficionado of punk-tinged rock music. Choruses are dead on and catchy as hell.

Another outstanding tune is “$1.50 For Your Love.” Featuring Molland on guitar and slide, Joe Vitale on piano and vocals, the song also features the beautiful work of Paul Littteral on trumpet and Paulie Cerra on saxophones. Part R&B, part down-home honkin’ boogie woogie, “$1.50 For Your Love” gets down in the dirt and has probably had the girls dancing in the aisles on more than one occasion. The horn arrangements are seamless and everything works together well. This is the ultimate feel-good song conceived in a simpler time and during a great creative period for music.

There are many songs that I couldn’t get to due to time restrictions and space, but all in all The Best Of Raz is a fantastic look back to front in the life of a musician that’s managed to keep himself deep in the game and writing great songs along the way. This 19-song CD pretty much covers everything from the 1984’s debut Criminals Off The Streets to last year’s Madison Park. The association with Joey Molland and Joe Vitale is also a high point, and I’m glad to see that they connect in their writing and producing duties as they excel in all areas. The Raz Band members are also key components to Raz’s sound and all of us at The Aquarian wish him well in future endeavors.

If you get a chance to see the band live, I would naturally suggest that you do so as soon as possible, as it’s a winning combination and will be worth your time. To find out about live shows and how to get the latest record, head over to facebook.com/The-Raz-Band
and talk to Raz yourself.

The Raz Band, including Badfinger’s Joey Molland, to perform at Brighton Bar

By: JAY LUSTIG | September 16, 2016

The Raz Band titled its 2015 album Madison Park, after the Old Bridge Township community where frontman Michael “Raz” Rescigno grew up. It’s about a half hour drive from Long Branch, where the band will be playing on Sept. 17, at the Brighton Bar.

Rescigno, who currently lives in Los Angeles, has some all-star support in the Raz Band. As a member of the British power-pop band Badfinger in the ’70s, guitarist Joey Molland played on hits such as “No Matter What,” “Day After Day” and “Baby Blue.” Keyboardist Joe Vitale has worked with artists such as Joe Walsh, The Eagles and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Drummer Jeff “Hutch” Hutchinson and bassist Jim Manzo round out the group. (Vitale won’t be in Long Branch, since he has a gig with Walsh in Colorado that night).

The Grip Weeds, The Easy Outs and Stone Baby will also perform at the Brighton Bar. I talked with Rescigno and Molland by phone earlier this week.

Q: So how did Joey end up in the band?

Rescigno: Hutch and I left New Jersey in ’78, and we went to L.A. One of the reasons we went to L.A. was because we knew Joey was living there. We figured we’d find him, he’d like us, and work with us. That was our plan.

Molland: Not much of a plan, really. (laughs)

Q: And you just found him and introduced yourself?


Rescigno: Well, I originally met him at a Badfinger concert when I was a kid, and then every time Badfinger would come to town, I’d manage to get backstage and say hello. So we went to L.A., and then at a Badfinger concert at the Roxy, I went backstage and reintroduced myself. Joey gave me his number and invited me to come over and hang out. And I went over there, and we just started playing guitars, and talking music, and getting to know each other. We had a lot of commonalities.

Q: What year was that?


Rescigno: The first thing we ever recorded together was 1979. It was a song called “The Boy,” which ended up on first Raz album.

Q: And since then, you’ve been working together on and off?

Rescigno: Yeah, pretty much. Joey’s played on almost every record I’ve done — six of the eight. And then along the way, we just decided, “Why don’t we just be a band?”

Molland: We’d do these recordings out in L.A. If I was in town out there, he’d ask me to go and play, and I’d go and play. We had a lot of fun doing this stuff, and over the years, we’ve recorded 50 songs or something. But for Madison Park, I suggested this record label that I work with out of England — Gonzo — and Gonzo agreed to put it out.

They put it out … and from that, that’s kind of solidified it into a band kind of thing. Now we’re starting to do dates: This date at the Shore is the first date that we’re going to do, and hopefully we’ll get some more. Please, people, we need some more dates! We’re all really excited about it. That’s what we’re trying to do here: Get this band on the road.

Q: Joey, is it possible to say what you like about Michael’s music?

Molland: I think Raz is a real original, in the way he does his music. What attracted to me was that, and the fact that it’s completely different to the way I do music, which is based in traditional forms of music, if you like. But Raz is more of a punky, edgy kind of music. He talked about things in a kind of language that I didn’t talk about things in, in my songs. That’s what it is, and that’s what I enjoy about it. It gives me a new kind of freedom, when I play, and I just enjoy myself.

Q: Are you all out in California now?

Molland: Raz and the guys are out in California. I live in Minnesota, and Vitale lives in Ohio.

Q: So it must be a complicated thing just to get everyone together.

Molland: We’re all used to traveling — jetting about, and doing stuff.

Q: Do you have any future recording plans?

Rescigno: Yes, we have two plans. One is going to be a record of all-new material, and this one will have songs not only written by me and Hutch and Jimmy, but Joey and Joe Vitale will contribute songs. So that’s on the schedule. And we also plan on doing a live album. The original plan was to go to The Cavern Club (in Liverpool) and record the live album there, but we’re also talking about possibly coming back to Jersey in the spring and doing it here.

The live album will be really cool, because it touches on all types of stuff, besides our music: Some of Joey’s solo songs that we really like, that fit with what we’re doing, and some of the songs Vitale wrote that other people recorded, that no one’s really heard him sing on.

Q: What are those songs?

Rescigno: “Rocky Mountain Way,” which Joe wrote with Joe Walsh. “Pretty Maids All in a Row,” from the Hotel California album. “Live It Up,” by Crosby, Stills & Nash. Those three, specifically, and then a couple of his solo songs as well.

Q: How did this show in New Jersey come about?

Rescigno: I developed a friendship on Facebook with Bruce Ferguson, of The Easy Outs. I really like their album that they put out last year, and he really liked our record. Then he asked me to start writing some songs with him, for his solo album. So we started writing songs together. Then I said, “You know, I’d really like to come back to Jersey to do a show.” So his wife, who manages The Easy Outs, is the one who booked the show. And The Grip Weeds are on the show because Kurt (Reil), from The Grip Weeds, produces The Easy Outs.

Coincidentally, there’s this other pop artist named Ray Paul, who was also working with Kurt at his studio in Highland Park, and we just played with Ray out in L.A. It’s kind of funny how it’s all tied together. Ray opened for Joey and Badfinger, years ago; Ray recorded with Kurt; Kurt records with Bruce; I’m writing with Bruce, and I’m going to play on his solo album. It’s kind of an organic thing.

 
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