PART ONE: INTERVIEW WITH JEROME MAZZA OF PINNACLE POINT
GOLDMINE: Last year, when we had our interview about your solo album and your work on the album by Steve Walsh, who most readers know as the former lead singer of Kansas, we discussed you working on the next album by your group Pinnacle Point. Symphony of Mind has arrived and is so Kansas-like. I really enjoy it a lot. There must have been a lot of hard work to make this album a creative success.
JEROME MAZZA: Thanks a lot. It took us about two and a half years. We were really trying to write something great that hopefully people will like.
GM: Let’s start with the band Kansas. In 1974, I was watching Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and he introduced this new band on his Kirshner label. The first song was “Can I Tell You,” and within the first minute I was hooked with Steve Walsh’s voice and Robbie Steinhardt’s violin. I bought that first Kansas album, and continued buying their albums for years. Finally with their fourth album, Leftoverture, they had a hit with my wife Donna’s favorite Kansas song “Carry on Wayward Son” which had “Questions of My Childhood” on its flip side, also from that 1976 album.
JM: I love the entire Leftoverture album, with the song “The Wall” being my favorite song, which followed “Carry on Wayward Son” on the first side. On side two I loved “Questions of My Childhood,” with great lyrics. There were only eight songs on the album and half of them were in the five to eight minute range, offering so much music per song. Some people think that our band’s name Pinnacle Point was inspired by the song “Pinnacle” from Kansas’ third album Masque, but we are actually named after a place on the coast of South Africa called Pinnacle Point, but “Pinnacle” and Kansas’ “Point of No Return” songs fit beautifully with our name.
Flip side: Questions of My Childhood
A side: Carry on Wayward Son
Top 100 debut: December 25, 1976
Peak position: 11
Kirshner ZS8 4267
GM: Let’s discuss some of the new Pinnacle Point songs. I watched the exciting video for “Weight of the World,” which has such a driving beat, rocks like Deep Purple and certainly is catchy.
JM: Oh yes. It is written by Torben Enevoldsen. Torben and I were talking and said that we really wanted something upbeat, high energy, and little more commercial. He blew me away with this song. It is smoking hot, his guitar solos are fantastic, and it has a timely message, where people might feel the weight of the world right now, but the time will come and we’ll get through it.
GM: The violin on “Hero” really stands out for me along with the piano and multiple tempos. You are surrounded by some wonderful musicians.
JM: We found a gem with violinist Valeria Pozharitskaya, from the country of Belarus, through a referral service. I went through sixteen different violinists to find her because the violinist who played on the first album was in the middle of a tour and couldn’t commit to any recording sessions. The other violinists we tried were classically trained, but I didn’t think they had the feeling we were looking for with these songs. I emailed Valeria the track “In the Wake of Hope,” which might be the toughest one. In less than two hours she came back and nailed it. She wants to come to the U.S. so that we can play live concerts, hopefully in 2021.
GM: John Rodgers does a wonderful job on piano on that song.
JM: He is very good. He played on about half the songs on the album with a piano waterfall style that we loved for those tracks.
GM: In addition to her work on “Hero” and “In the Wake of Hope,” Valeria also stands out on “Shadows of Peace.”
JM: That is my favorite song on the album because it highlights all of the musicians. In addition to the violin, there are some great guitar solos from Rich Ayala on that song, who wrote that song. We have people from all over the world on the album. Our drummer Mark Prator and I are in Florida, Howard Helm, on keyboards, is in Oregon, John Rodgers on piano and strings, who helped with the writing, is in California along with Rich, Takeaki Itoh on bass is in Japan, Torben is in Denmark and Valeria is in Belarus.
GM: On the song “Beyond” your voice reminds me of Steve Perry. It is incredible.
JM: Oh, thank you so much. That is a heck of a compliment. He is one of my favorites. Rich helped me finish the lyrics on that one.
GM: The title tune “Symphony of Mind” is a great finale for the album.
JM: Rich wrote that one about Kerry Livgren from Kansas because Rich is a big fan of Kansas and especially Kerry Livgren, who has been writing this symphony with John Elefante, also from Kansas. Rich asks in the lyrics, “What will he write? When can we hear it?” Obviously, Rich, Torben and I are big Kansas fans. In addition to their classic 1970s albums, I also love Power from 1986 and Somewhere to Elsewhere from 2000. I was honored to be on Steve Walsh’s Black Butterfly album that we discussed last year. I look forward to sharing our new Pinnacle Point songs on stage in 2021 in the U.S. We wanted to write something like a 1970s album, with some long songs on it. We had a lot of fun doing it and we are itching to play live. There are a few radio stations here playing our music and more coverage in Europe and Japan.
GM: Congratulations again on your powerful, entertaining and top notch album on Escape Music. I have four more new albums from the label that I will also be sharing with the readers in the article.
JM: Thank you for the coverage. I appreciate all that you do at Goldmine very much.
PART TWO: FOUR MORE NEW ALBUMS FROM ESCAPE MUSIC – most available now
STRANGERS by HEARTWIND – to be released November 20
Sweden’s Heartwind features the male and female vocal pair Stefan Nykvist and Nina Soderquist and their voices blend like Starship on the catchy “Amanda.” Their harmonies continue on “Angels Cry Again,” with a commanding chorus. In a year when we are mourning the loss of Eddie Van Halen, we can hear his influence in Goran Engvall’s guitar solo on the exciting “One Love.” In addition to providing keyboards throughout the album, Mikael Rosengren’s piano beautifully backdrops Nina’s vocal delivery on the Heart-like power ballad “One of Us is Crying.” Peter “Trumpeter” Svensson’s drumming on “Searching is Over Now” powerfully concludes Strangers.
ALIEN NATION by SIGNAL RED
Britain’s Signal Red is comprised of a nucleus of Lee Small on vocals and Steve Grocott on guitar, keyboards and strings, joined on this album by Steve Newman on bass and Daniel Zaman on drums. On the energetic opener “Wide Awake in Dreamland,” Steve Grocott plays electric guitar and keyboards with a blend heard on Van Halen’s 1980s records. On the intense and 2020 topical “Email to God” Lee asks, “On the behalf of humanity why is there so much tragedy?” Tempo and volume changes, along with vocal harmonies, are key elements of the powerful “Insomnia.” “Ghosts” opens with rapid fire drumming and the haunting continues on “Awakenings,” a steady tempo number, reflecting on the dreams of the summer of ’69.
SPIN THIS by SIMON SAYS
As we approach the 30th anniversary of the 1991 six song mini-album Spin This from Canada’s Simon Says, Escape Music has reissued the recording with added bonus tracks. Guitarist Gary Moffet from April Wine produced the album and you can hear his influence on the steady rock number, with a catchy chorus, “Love Don’t Come Easy.” The sextet embraces Canadian rock with the exciting “Let Me Know” sounding like Loverboy, the ballad “When I See You Standing There” being on par with one-hit wonder singles by Sheriff and Alias, and there is a touch of the softer sides of Trooper and Prism on “The Promise,” which was a successful single in Montreal. The first bonus track, “Simon Says,” breaks from the Canadian sound for an edgier up-tempo Deep Purple delivery.
SCANDALOUS – OVERLAND
Scandalous, from the UK’s Overland, has been released on CD and vinyl. Both formats open with “Don’t Give Up,” a splash of yacht rock, capturing the sounds of California’s Doobie Brothers, Pablo Cruise and Santana with Tommy Denander’s versatile guitarwork being showcased. Vocalist Steve Overland and Tommy co-wrote all the songs, including a back to back blues segment with “Changing Times” being more of a traditional sound with bassist Brian Anthony on a Hammond organ, followed by the danceable “The Trouble with Love,” capturing a Climax Blues Band style. Brian Tichy’s drums powerfully open “Black Heart,” which leads to a catchy chorus with Steve hitting high vocal notes and providing harmonies.