Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Brooklyn Bridge

We recently did a show with The Brooklyn Bridge, with a few original members still with the band, at The Cannery in Las Vegas. They were great ... and great guys too. Some of the best singing I have ever heard ... Johnny Maestro would be proud. (Between The Brooklyn Bridge, and another amazing vocalist, Dennis Tufano, I don't think there are better vocalists to be heard on any stage anywhere!) I knew you would agree with me once you had the chance to see them in concert. 
Mitch Schecter / The Rip Chords

Hi Kent -
One point from your excellent review of a recent Brooklyn Bridge concert: “"Your Husband - My Wife" (a pretty controversial tune for its time back in 1969)” ... but not so controversial that the disc was banned or received no airplay. It did climb to #46 on the Hot 100. Today, a song with such lyrics about marital infidelity would be controversial. By the same yardstick, when Time magazine reviewed a revival of the 60s’ rock musical, “Hair” in 2008, they noted that: “today Hair seems, if anything, more daring than ever.”  Our ability to “push the envelope” in the 60s was one of the reasons it may have been the most exciting decade ever.   
Mike Edwards  

I was ready to read your review!  I have wondered about The Brooklyn Bridge myself.  Lately their concert schedule has been quite active, with good reviews from their fellow performers. I am still in a spin having attended Maestro's last concert ... so I am glad to hear that they are still sounding so good and that this beautiful music is living on.
As for Felix:  Good for him getting more appropriate musicians.  Since he is an instructor, I always wondered if these kids were only doing this for a grade,  The grade I would have given them for attitude and 'keeping your brain and body in the group' would have been lacking.
Shelley J Sweet-Tufano
I think a lot of effort and rehearsal went into the medleys Felix put together for his live show ... everything had to be precisely timed to work and, for the most part, it did.  It just sometimes felt like overkill.  He lead guitarist is quite accomplished ... and really wailed on some of his solos ... but some of Felix's music doesn't require the full-blown, over the top treatment.  Quite honestly, it takes away from some of the charm that made them such delightful blue-eyed soul recordings in the first place.  (Sometimes less is more.) 
As for The Brooklyn Bridge, HIGHLY recommended ... you will not be disappointed.  See them again and experience this music the way it was meant to be heard.  The Arcada audience (which doesn't typically skew "old" when it comes to '50's and early '60's music) were on their feet for most of the show ... they LOVED them!!!  (kk)

I enjoyed your review of the Brooklyn Bridge and Felix Cavliere. Do you know how many original members are still with Brooklyn Bridge?
-- Tom Cuddy

Sadly, as we see so often to be the case these days, very little information is given on this artist's website or their better-traveled Facebook Page.  Even writing to them prior to my review prompted no response ... so I had to go with a far more "generic" analysis than I had originally planned.

Here is what I have been able to find out, however ...

The Brooklyn Bridge formed in 1968 through the combination of two separate groups.

Lead singer Johnny Maestro already had a successful musical career, first with The Crests (who hit The Top 40 with hits like "Sixteen Candles", #2, 1959; "Six Nights A Week", #28, 1959, "The Angels Listened In, #22, 1959, "Step By Step, "#14, 1960 and "Trouble In Paradise, "#20, 1960) as well as as a solo artist ("Model Girl, #20, 1961 and "What A Surprise, #33, 1961).

After the Crests split up (and a couple of attempts to reform the band failed to generate much interest), Maestro joined The Del Satins, a group that most famously backed up Dion on many of his early '60's recordings.  (After splitting off from The Belmonts to go solo, Dion was able to recapture that familiar sound by hitching his wagon to The Del Satins, which included Les Cauchi and Fred Ferrara.  The group also backed Ernie Maresca and were regulars on The Clay Cole Show)

In 1968 The Del Satins competed in a Long Island Battle Of The Bands.  One of their competitors was a group called The Rhythm Method, a seven-member band fronted by the husband and wife team of Tom Sullivan and Carolyn Wood.  After the competition, the bands exchanged compliments and, in effect, formed a mutual admiration society.  Several months later, they merged into an eleven member conglomerate that now featured Maestro, Cauchi and Ferrara from The Del Satins and Sullivan (sax) and Wood (organ) from The Rhythm Method, along with their support team of Artie Cantanzarita (drums), Shelly Davis (trumpet), Mike Gregorio (vocals), Richie Macioce (guitar), Jimmy Rosica (bass) and Joe Ruvio (sax).  Rosica eventually gave up playing the bass guitar in order to move up front as a vocalist and now performs both tasks with the current version of the band..

If marketing a three-member hold-over group from the doo-wop days seemed like a difficult sell in the heavy music climate of 1968, booking an eleven piece band amounted to nearly insurmountable odds.  In fact, one agency flat out told them that booking their eleven piece band "is going to be as easy to sell as the Brooklyn Bridge" ... which immediately stuck as their name.

When a representative from the newly formed Buddah Records (up to this point, probably the premier label for bubblegum rock) caught their act at The Cheetah in New York City, he signed the group on the spot.  Their breakthrough hit, "Worst That Could Happen" was written by the hottest songwriter on the scene at the time, Jimmy Webb.  (It had already been recorded by The Fifth Dimension, who had recorded an entire album of Webb material to rather dismal sales results.)  In the hands of The Brooklyn Bridge, however, the record sky-rocketed to #3 on the national charts ... and other Hot 100 Hits followed.

The Brooklyn Bridge went through numerous personnel changes over the years.  Maestro remained at the helm until he took ill several years ago.  (Johnny passed away in 2010 from cancer.  Original member Fred Ferrara died a year later.)  Three original members are still with the group today:  Les Cauchi, Jimmy Rosica and Joe Ruvio (although there are a couple of other current members who have been with the band for 30+ years).  Marty D'Amico (keyboards and vocals), Jimmy Sarle (lead guitar) and Lou Agiesta (drums) are all part of the current line-up and have been with the group since the 1970's.  (In concert the other night, they introduced Agiesta has having been their drummer for the past 200 years!)

After Maestro's passing, the group recruited Joe "Bean" Esposito, who had previously sung with Brooklyn Dreams (who backed up Donna Summer on her Top Five Hit, "Heaven Knows" in 1979.)  Over the years, he has also worked with Aretha Franklin, LaBelle, Stephen Stills, Laura Branigan and Brenda Russell (as well as many others.)  A song he sang in the film "The Karate Kid", "You're The Best" has recently been reworked as a television commercial which is airing now in numerous spots.   I can only tell you that Esposito's voice is as smooth as silk ... if anybody was EVER going to try and replace Johnny Maestro as the front man of The Brooklyn Bridge, this spot couldn't have gone to a more talented vocalist.  He literally gave us chills the other night with his spot-on, crystal clear readings of not only hits by The Brooklyn Bridge and The Crests, but incredible performances of '50's and '60's classics like "My Prayer" by The Platters and "Unchained Melody" by The Righteous Brothers.