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In Memoriam: Michael Stanley’s 10 Albums That Changed My Life

Cleveland music legend and friend of Goldmine, Michael Stanley shared 10 albums that influenced him. His fellow Michael Stanley Band member and long-time friend Jonah Koslen offers his heartfelt remembrances.
Recent photo, courtesy of Michael Stanley

Recent photo, courtesy of Michael Stanley

Singer-songwriter, guitarist and band leader Michael Stanley passed away on March 5, at the age of 72. We had been working with Michael on a 40th anniversary article of The Michael Stanley Band’s Top 40 debut at the time of his passing.

In 1969, while in college, Michael Stanley released his first album as part of the band Silk. After two solo albums featuring “Rosewood Bitters,” “Moving Right Along,” and “Let’s Get the Show on the Road” in the early 1970s, The Michael Stanley Band was formed in the middle of the decade, receiving FM radio airplay and enjoying a live Midwest regional hit single with “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Mind,” written by Jonah Koslen.

The Michael Stanley Band, 1975 promotion photo, back row: Jonah Koslen, Dan Pechhio, Tommy Dobeck, front row: Michael Stanley

The Michael Stanley Band, 1975 promotion photo, back row: Jonah Koslen, Dan Pechhio, Tommy Dobeck, front row: Michael Stanley

Jonah shared his heartfelt remembrances with Goldmine, “How can I possibly put into words my almost fifty year personal and professional relationship with my brother, Michael Stanley. It was 1973, and we were wide eyed and full of promise, hope and confidence. Michael, Tommy Dobeck, Dan Pecchio, (and soon Bob Pelander) and I began the initial four year run of MSB. It changed our lives and impacted a generation of music fans in ways we couldn’t have possibly imagined. We experienced a hurricane of experiences and emotions that are impossible to describe. You just had to be there. The creative process we went through during those early years was so invigorating, exciting, maddening, frustrating, rewarding, and ultimately resulted in the stuff of magic. Michael and I were truly creative and spiritual kin, bonding for a lifetime. Later when we went our separate ways, we continued to make sure our paths crossed time and time again. It was always like coming home. Michael will always be in my heart. I can’t possibly express how grateful I am for him taking a chance on that skinny, young hippie from Beachwood, Ohio and encouraging our lifelong musical partnership and close friendship. I mourn the loss of my friend, but I also celebrate the personal life and musical legacy of truly one of the best. Rest in peace my brother. Love you always.”

MSB Stage Pass

After the 1977 MSB Stage Pass double album, recorded live at The Agora Ballroom in Cleveland, Jonah left the group and formed the band Breathless, who celebrated their 40th anniversary of their Top 100 singles debut last year. In our 2020 Goldmine interview with Jonah Koslen, Jonah recounted his days with MSB and Breathless.

In 1981, The Michael Stanley Band finally broke through to the national Top 40 with the single “He Can’t Love You,” featuring Clarence Clemons’ sax solo, their first of seven Top 100 singles, including the Top 40 single “My Town” in 1983. The group also had strong flip sides including “Carolyn” and “Highlife,” which Michael shared with Goldmine its story, “Lyrically it was conceived after sitting next to a very strange lady on a flight from Cleveland to L.A. and I captured the in-flight conversation. Bob Pelander wrote all the music and Ricky Bell played some seriously gritty sax on the track. It was one that we did really well in concert."

In recent years, Michael released albums, reviewed in Goldmine, which included former members of MSB, with Bill Szymczyk as the sound engineer.

From 1990 through February 2021, Michael was the afternoon drive time disc jockey on Cleveland’s classic rock station WNCX, where he would include a Cleveland Connection song on his show each afternoon and each May 4 he would play a Northeast Ohio song as a memorial to the 1970 Kent State University shootings.


MSB Robbins

Marty Robbins, The Song of Robbins

This album has been with me all the way from its release in 1957 and I return to it often. Just a great little four-piece band, great tunes and a great singer. It was also the first time I’d ever heard the magical sound of a dobro and it has my all-time favorite versions of “Lovesick Blues” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and they probably cut the whole thing in an hour!

MSB Otis

Otis Redding, Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul

The album opens with “Ole Man Trouble” and you’re thinking, well, it can’t get much better than that…and then it does! “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” just might be the best R&B cut ever and the combination of Otis with Booker T & The MG’s set the bar about as high as it goes.

MSB Rickie

Rickie Lee Jones, Pirates

This 1981 outing never ceases to amaze and inspire me and is one of the truly great “break-up” albums of all-time. And on top of the great songs and performances, it’s one of the most beautifully produced and engineered albums I’ve ever heard.

MSB Bruce

Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run

This album still hits me as hard as it did the very first time I heard it. Any writer would be thrilled to have an album that just had “Thunder Road” or “Born to Run” on it but then he goes and wraps up the whole thing with “Jungleland” which to me is the single greatest rock song/track ever.

MSB Joni

Joni Mitchell, For the Roses

Most “best of” lists seem to go with Blue which is an amazing album but for me this follow up is the one. This album was her first one to feature piano over guitar and the songs and her performances are incredible. It’s a simple sounding album but I always find something new each time I return to it.

MSB Aretha

Aretha Franklin, Aretha's Gold

It’s pretty simple: great songs, great playing and one of the greatest vocalists ever!

MSB Byrds

The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man

Right from Roger McGuinn’s opening 12-string riff my musical world changed. Add those great tunes and the Byrds’ unique harmonies and I was all in and “jangle rock” was born.

MSB Dylan

Bob Dylan, Bringing it All Back Home

This was the album where it all stated to change, both for Dylan and for the rest of us. It was a validation for songwriters to meld rock ‘n’ roll and a more grown up lyrical approach. And side two, the acoustic side, is the best side of any Dylan album ever.

MSB Astral

Van Morrison, Astral Weeks

This is an album that’s hard to label as far as style goes but I think that’s the point and the beauty of it. It is what it is and what it is with its free-flowing grooves and stream of consciousness lyrics are just amazing.

MSB Stones

The Rolling Stones, England's Newest Hit Makers

I could have just as easily picked Sticky Fingers or Exile on Main Street but this one coincided with the start of my first band and became our touchstone. If we could perform reasonable versions of these tunes then maybe we had a chance. And the whole album is worth it for their version of “Not Fade Away.”