Jan 26, 2012 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
No wonder Jack Lipton calls himself “Forgotten Boy.”
In the late-1970s, he was the leather-clad lead singer for the Syracuse rock band The Penetrators. Heavily influenced by the Rolling Stones, the back-to-basics quartet released several seven-inch singles with titles like “Teenage Lifestyle” and “Rock’n’Roll Face.”
Hardly anybody bought them.
Though heralded by a handful of local punk-rock cognoscenti, The Penetrators — Lipton, Eliot “Spike” Kagan, bassist Paul Bawol and drummer Curtis Seals — disbanded in 1985.
Hardly anybody missed them.
The Penetrators’ singles were compiled by Venus Records on the 1988 LP called, “Kings of Basement Rock.” Other anthologists from California to Italy included Penetrators’ cuts on their retro-collections.
Hardly anybody paid attention.
Doyle drops in
In 2008, Lipton and Kagan reunited to wax a new disc called “Bad Woman” on which Lipton sang a menacing rendition of Sam the Sham’s “Li’l Red Riding Hood.”
Hardly anybody noticed.
But “Bad Woman” had good mojo. Syracuse guitar god Mark Doyle guested on the disc, adding some oomph to tracks like “Talk Talk” and “The Last Time.”
“I had a ball, and I filed it in my memory for future use,” Doyle remembered. A few years later, when Doyle started a British blues-rock cover band called Mark Doyle & The Maniacs, “I thought of Jack immediately,” he said.
So Lipton sang lead for The Maniacs, and the band won Syracuse Area Music Awards in 2009 and 2011 and both times Lipton stood at the podium with his fellow Maniacs, trophy in hand.
Lipton has spent years blowing the roofs off of West End garages and sweating it out in dank basement studios from DeWitt to Des Plaines.
Somebody had finally noticed!
So, The Maniacs’ success notwithstanding, you can understand why Lipton titled his new solo CD “Forgotten Boy.” He may be 56 now, but — remember this — “Penetrator Jack” keeps rockin’ like a derecho.
The disc opens with the sound of helicopter rotors and police sirens and a dispatcher’s live-wire voice introducing “Maniac,” in which the singer’s persona, released after 20 years in the big house, proclaims “I’m a maniac for you, girl!” The six-minute story-song — which first appeared on The Maniacs’ “Comin’ Home” CD — is a perfect vehicle for Lipton’s declarative, deep-voiced delivery well-complemented by Doyle’s tuneful and trebly guitar lines.
“Maniac” was co-written by Doyle but Lipton collaborated with Maniacs’ second guitarist Terry Quill on three tracks, the rhythmic and relentless “She’s Gonna Remind You,” the staccato “What She Said” and “Somebody,” which sounds like the Hollies on crystal meth.
“What She Said” pulls you in with its clipped verses offset by an unusually tender chorus all supported by a nifty guitar-powered arrangement. Doyle knows how to bring it down for the choruses before making like a jackhammer on the instrumental leads.
On the other hand, the Stax-like “Take Me Back” — co-written by Lipton and guitarist Norm Phillips — features a horn arrangement that gives the tune solid backbone, a fine foundation for Jack’s gritty, sometimes soulful vocals. Doyle’s guitar lines behind Lipton’s recitation parallels the singer’s plaintive entreaties before the B3 takes over and the horns – trumpeter Jeff Stockham and tenor saxophonist Mike Dubaniewicz — drive it home.
‘Gotta Have Her’
A couple covers and a couple Penetrators “classics” complete the disc. Willie Dixon’s “Back Door Man” lets Lipton show a libidinous side, a thumping “It’s My Life” outdoes the Animals, and the three late-70s tracks offer perspective on Lipton’s progression over the years. On the old stuff, his voice is higher, his volume louder and his phasing more haphazard.
“Gotta Have Her” was the Penetrators’ first single in 1976, “No. 1 Band in Town” was a tongue-in-cheek band anthem featuring prominent use of the F-word, while “Search and Destroy” was produced by drummer Ducky Carlisle and features the rudimentary guitar stylings of The Flashcubes’ Paul Armstrong.
Lipton’s ready for his rediscovery. He was interviewed Jan. 15 on the Rochester Institute of Technology radio station, and he hopes to schedule some CD-release gigs by springtime; jackpenetrator.com.
I’ll never forget the first time I caught fiddler Hal Casey up close and personal. It was summer 1974 at a parking-lot pickin’ session alongside a performers’ schoolbus-cum-tour bus at a bluegrass festival outside Hannibal. Hal wore his usual wide-brimmed hat with domed crown and a feather.
But he wasn’t playing his usual bluegrass. He was bowing the blues – deep, dark, blue notes so full of tone and feeling they quickly attracted a circle of awestruck listeners who surrounded the inner circle of four or five musicians.
A big-boned, beer-bellied white girl in OshKosh B’Gosh overalls faced Hal directly as she belted out the world-weary words, and Hal answered each moanin’ phrase with fiddle riffs that grew more ferocious as the tune unwound.
When it was over, the over-sized singer threw her meaty arms around Hal’s neck and he smiled widely. The transfixed audience exploded with cheers and raised cans of Genny Cream. It was one of those rare musical moments, one for the memory banks.
Hal Casey was playin’ the blues!
Former state fiddle champion and Syracuse Area Music Awards Hall of Famer Hal Casey died Jan. 17 at age 83.
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