Mariah were a Chicago band with a huge history that intersects several artists/bands, including Jamestown Massacre and Survivor.
Written by: gdmonline
LABEL: United Artists
SERIAL: UA LA493
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: V.J Comforte – vocals, percussion * Len Fogerty – guitars, vocals * Frankie Sullivan – guitars * Ed Burek – bass * Mark Ayers – keyboards * Wayne Di Varco – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Hey Mama * 02 Rock And Roll Band * 03 Mystic Lady * 04 Reunion * 05 Asleep At The Wheel * 06 Broadway * 07 Nomad Man * 08 Feel It * 09 I Was Born
Here’s a Chicago band with a huge history that intersects several artists/bands. This band started life off as The Jamestown Massacre way back in 1967. The groups two leading lights were VIC (V.J) Comforte and Dave Bickler.
The band played all over Chicago during 1969-1974, and touched hands with the likes of Jim Peterik, Barry Mraz and Bob De Stocki. The band went through numerous lineup changes, and by 1975, they had changed names to Mariah and settled on the above lineup. Of note is the Survivor connection, with Bickler, Sullivan and Peterik all having a hand in the fortunes of the band.
By this stage, Mariah decided to move from Chicago to Los Angeles to further their cause, and with a deal in the can with United Artists, their debut album appeared later that year in 1975, but further issues also came out in 1976 in other territories. If you like acts such as Emperor, Starcastle, Doobie Brothers and Legs Diamond, then this beautiful 70’s flavoured album should move your world.
Strong and melodic vocal harmonies abound on this album. The dual guitar work from Fogerty and Sullivan crackle and spark all the way through, but it’s the keyboard/organ work from ivories man Mark Ayers that gives this band colour. Ayers ploughs into his work with the same enthusiasm as Herb Schildt and Mike Prince.
Leading out with ‘Hey Mama’ the band tear up a Foghat like boogie number with zest. ‘Rock And Roll Band’ is similar to the well-heeled Boston track of the same name, which by the lyrics, sounds very autobiographical. You know the lyrics.. ‘we were just another band out of Boston..’. In this case Mariah’s lyrics read ‘we were born in Chicago just about a year ago.. six guys working to get together a show..’. Overall this is a fun workout!
‘Mystic Lady’ takes on the persona of Legs Diamond, with the ever-present organ hovering in the background. Equally grinding is the slow-plough of ‘Reunion’, the Starcastle harmony like vocals lift this one off the ground. Slightly different is the bar-room boogie of ‘Asleep At The Wheel’, lightweight and fun.
‘Broadway’ also has a boogie flavoured backbeat, but drifts to the middle ground of hard rock as it progresses. ‘Nomad Man’ is heavy on acoustic flavours with the occasional high-riding electric guitar solo shining through a la Firefall and America.
For me, the stand out track on the album is the incredible ‘Feel It’, with references points to Creed, Emperor and numerous others. Refer the video below. Great track! The album finishes with another electric/acoustic effort ‘I Was Born’. Those harmonies still flow with abundance.
Things didn’t quite work out for the band, unfortunately, and eventually, the line-up fizzled out, with most of the band returning home to Chicago. Sullivan would hook up with Peterik and Bickler to form the nucleus of Survivor, and success was achieved well into the 80’s.
There is a wealth of info out there on The Jamestown Massacre, who I understand actually reformed not long ago, with Comforte and past/early members Jeff Quinn, Glenn Messmer joining forces again with two new additions. Would be interesting to see how this reunion fares. If Mariah was anything to go by, then it would be well worth the inquiry.
Asleep At The Wheel
Entire Album (Select Tracks)