Angel has returned with their first album this century, Risen, on Cleopatra, featuring original vocalist Frank DiMino and original guitarist Punky Meadows for sixteen tracks of new music plus a finale of a new recording of the band’s classic “Tower.”
By Warren Kurtz
ANGEL beat Boston and Heart in Circus magazine’s mid-1970’s best new group poll. Over the next couple of years, Angel broadened their sound from progressive rock to a pop and hard rock balance. For their third album, the group was given their official logo, drawn by a seventeen-year-old fan Bob Petrick, with swirls that allowed “ANGEL” to also be read upside down. The group broke up in the early 1980s after releasing their concert double album Live Without a Net. Now they are back with Frank DiMino and Punky Meadows joined by Danny Farrow, Charlie Calv, Steve Ojane and Billy Orrico.
Angel band and logo photo courtesy of Danny Farrow.
GOLDMINE:There are a lot of wonderful songs on your new album, almost like your double live album in terms of quantity and quality.
PUNKY MEADOWS:Risen is diversified, with a lot of great songs on it. I am glad that you like it. We like to give the fans what they want and give them their money’s worth too. We are all pretty prolific songwriters. We never have trouble coming up with songs and narrowed it down to what we believe are the best ones.
GM:Before we get to the new album, let’s look back at three older songs. An original composition from your album White Hot was relegated to be considered as the flip side of your cover of The Rascals’ “Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore.” DJs were curious on your version of this early Rascals song, and it gained airplay, causing the intended A side, “Flying With Broken Wings (Without You)” to be unfortunately overlooked, which is such a beautiful Beatles-eque ballad, that sounds like it could have been on The Beatles’ Abbey Road album.
FRANK DIMINO: It was one of the slow ones on the White Hot album. Once Punky did that guitar climb it was easy to head into a Beatles-like lyric and sound, so we just went with it.
PM: I have always loved The Beatles and I had that little riff kicking around for a while and then Frank put that beautiful melody to it, too. In the end the drums pick it up. I am glad you like that song. People don’t talk about it that much, but I like that song, too. Back in those days, disc jockeys would flip over 45s and could play either side. That doesn’t happen anymore. That was back in our days on the Casablanca label.
Flip side: Flying With Broken Wings (Without You)
A side: I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore
Top 100 debut: April 1, 1978
Peak Position No. 44
GM:Punky, speaking about labels, you were on the first single on Jerry Ross’ Heritage label, in 1968, ahead of the three big hits from Bill Deal & The Rhondels on that label, with “And Suddenly” as a member of The Cherry People, with harmonies that remind me a bit of The Cowsills.
PM: Prior to Heritage, as a producer, Jerry had hits with Jay and The Techniques’ “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie,” Keith’s “98.6,” and others. He was a cool guy when we met him. We moved to New York City at the time and played the same venue all summer, the Café Wha? in Greenwich Village. Ron Haffkine found us there, and he was associated with Heritage, but they wanted to package us like The Monkees, saying we were young and cute. They had different songwriters come in and give us songs to sing. Then we went to California, for my first time out there, and we played at places like The Whisky. I saw Mick Jagger walking down the street one day. It was so cool. I was just a kid, seventeen at the time. We filmed a Monkees-like video for Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand,” dressed in Edwardian costumes, like Henry VIII and “And Suddenly” was playing in the background. It was a fun experience but by that time, the Monkees’ image and style had gone away, to Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and others, so we left that all behind, went back to D.C. and played in bars to get experience.
GM:Frank, you are on the 1983 Flashdance soundtrack singing the edgy “Seduce Me Tonight” as part of the studio group Cycle V.
FD: After Angel broke up, I was doing a lot of studio work with Giorgio Moroder. At the time, I was doing three or four songs for the movie Metropolis and he wanted me to record some songs with him and Keith Forsey. At that time the Saturday Night Fever sequel Staying Alive was predicted to be a huge hit. Flashdance was planned as a little movie which needed some songs. At that particular part of the film they wanted to use The Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar,” but there was no way they were going to pay The Rolling Stones the high fee they wanted for this low budget movie. They called Giorgio and he suggested using a song he wrote with Keith called “Seduce Me Tonight.” It was literally at the end of the day and we did that song in about an hour, since it was just going to be thrown out there, in a film that few would see. Then, all of sudden, Flashdance became one of the biggest hit films of the year.
GM:We talked earlier about The Beatles. On the new album the opening melody of "Tell Me Why" reminds me of the British Invasion.
FD: We grew up on the British Invasion so that will always be part of our background in our writing, drawing from that time.
PM: When I wrote the music to it, it did remind me of a 1960s kind of thing, or early 1970s. That opening is something that I have been kicking around in my head for almost two years. Frank put the words and melody together and it is a great little pop song. It is pretty infectious actually. We like to have variety on our albums to take you for a ride with different moods and experiences. It is meant to be a power pop song, like how Cheap Trick or The Raspberries would do it.
GM:Yes, The Raspberries, from my wife Donna and my hometown of Cleveland and one of the debuts you described in the the article 10 Albums That Changed My Life in our April 2018 Goldmine issue. If our time now was the late 1980s or 1990s your power ballad “I.O.U.” would be a hit single.
PM: It is a beautiful song. I am glad you like it. Frank did an amazing job on that. Every time I hear that song, my eyes kind of well up. He sang it so beautifully, especially at the end when he hit the last note and went so high. When I play that little guitar riff at the end, I picture Roy Rogers and Dale Evans riding off into the sunset.
GM:Regarding vocals, the harmonies in “Over My Head” deliver another very strong point on the album.
FD: Thank you. We all worked on that. Punky, Danny and I tried to figure our what the best sounds were. We tried to do what we did with the White Hot album on this.
PM: We have always liked harmonies and background vocals and that comes from loving The Beatles, Queen and The Eagles. I think it adds more color and flavor to the song.
GM:Around the time of the White Hot album, I was also listening to the Canadian bands Prism and Chilliwack. When Charlie’s keyboards begin on “Desire,” I think of Prism and others might think of Styx.
PM: Also, the guitar at the beginning is really an old school guitar style from the 1970s, like Free’s “All Right Now” bluesy rock and roll riff. As the chords are changing from A to D to G, I pound out the A note at the same time. I love that sound, like a Bad Company hit. Then it gets very modern due to the keyboards. Not only is there a chorus but almost a second chorus too, like what you might hear on an Archies record. Not only do I like Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin but I also like ABBA, David Cassidy, and the bubblegum music. I am the first one in the car to turn up “Sugar, Sugar.” It is fun to put in segments like that which can take you by surprise. There are plenty of songs on Risen to sing along to and play air guitar with.
GM:Danny Farrow told me that “Don't Want You to Go" is a song he started working on that he thought had a real catchy chorus and melody and that he brought some heavier stuff to the table to capture all the eras of the band. He said you are both great songwriters and he is very happy with the way “Don’t Want You to Go” turned out for the album.
PM: Danny brings a lot to the group. He is the one that got me out of retirement. Danny wears all different hats in this band. He is our manager. He is a really great guitar player and a very talented guy. He is a big fan of Angel and KISS and grew up on this music. He really looks out for us.
GM:Charlie Calv says the song “1975” is one of those epic pieces that take you up and down and around, giving the fans a nice nostalgic feel, looking back at the year Angel first got together and released their first record. He told me, Punky, that you had played him the beginnings of this song about a year or two ago when you were first working on the initial idea, and you wanted him to come up with a really nice keyboard introduction to it and says that the guys did a great job of capturing the essence of the song.
PM: Charlie is another one who grew up on Angel. I met him when I did my solo album, Fallen Angel. He knows all of Gregg Guiffria’s original keyboard parts for Angel. Charlie is another one who does a lot of business stuff for us too. There are no big egos in this band. Everybody is easy to get along with. That’s what makes it so much fun.
GM:I certainly hear Billy playing drums. What power!
PM: He is Billy “The Beast” Orrico. Angel’s original drummer, Barry Brandt, was one of Billy’s biggest idols. When we did the remake of “Tower,” I watched Billy on the video screen, and he played drums just like Barry. He is great.
FD: I think he captures the essence of Barry, when he was with us in our formative years. It is great to have Billy with us. I love the way he plays.
GM:And there is Steve Ojane on bass.
FD: He is another one who is a great addition to the band. He is one of the pieces that brought the rhythm section together. All the guys in the band are really great to work with.
PM: Steve is also great showman on stage. It is important to give the audience a great time.
GM:“We Were the Wild” is another great and steady new song, recalling the 1970s.
FD: Thank you. That is another one that Danny brought to the table. It was easy for me to write the melody and lyrics for that one. We worked it out as a band at rehearsal.
PM: It has a cool, haunting chorus too. The song just doesn’t let up.
GM:“Stand Up” is another anthem-like favorite of mine.
FD: I think that will be a great song to play live, too.
PM: There are a lot of bullies in this world and Frank did a great job on the lyrics to make this an inspirational song. It is very sincere, encouraging the listener to stand up and rise above the issues.
GM:Finally, the first song that was sent to me ahead of the album was “Under the Gun.” What a great, crisp performance with exciting guitar playing.
PM: It has a modern rock sound to it, but still sounds like Angel.
FD: Thank you. It is an exciting track and when we were recording it, I think we knew it was going to be exciting. We definitely will be playing that in our concerts. We have the dates listed on my website.
L to R: Charlie, Billy, Punky, Frank, Danny and Steve, courtesy of Danny Farrow.
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, writing the In Memoriam and Fabulous Flip Sides series. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, as part of “Moments to Remember” at wvcr.com or iHeart Radio – search WVCR.