One Track Mind: Mark Rivera, "Turn Me Loose" (2012)

That broiling sax on the rollicking roadhouse blues “Turn Me Loose” sounds instantly familiar — and it should. After all, Mark Rivera has performed for decades with Billy Joel and Ringo Starr. That’s him on Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer,” too.

“Turn Me Loose,” however, drops any of the sleek pop sophistication that might have been associated with those sides — opting for a bellowing R&B menace.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Toto co-founder Steve Lukather, a live-long Beatles fan, still can’t get over being asked to join the newest edition of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band.]

Rivera’s thrillingly disorderly band, a group that sounds like it’s closing out a particularly raucous night at some roadside dive, includes Steve Conte (New York Dolls, Eric Burdon) and Johnny Gale on guitars; Jaff Kazee (Southside Johnny, Bon Jovi) on keyboards; John Conte (Levon Helm, John Mayer) on bass; and Charlie Drayton (Keith Richards, Courtney Love) on drums. “Turn Me Loose” was co-written with producer Jimmy Bralower. Together with a meat-grinding vocal from Rivera himself, they concoct a sex-soaked song that’s long on attitude, fire and smoky propulsion.

“Turn Me Loose” is the lead track for the forthcoming Rivera album Common Bond, recorded at Avatar Studios in New York City and due in mid-November of 2012. Meantime, Rivera is continuing a summer tour with Ringo Starr’s latest All-Starr band, featuring Santana/Journey co-founder Gregg Rolie, Toto cofounder and legendary sideman Steve Lukather, Todd Rundgren, Richard Page from Mr. Mister and others.

Here are the remaining dates for Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band. For more information, go to http://www.ringostarr.com/index/home/:

July 10, 2012 – Beaver Creek, CO
July 11 – Usana Ampitheater, Salt Lake, UT
July 13 – Northern Quest, Airway Heights, WA
July 14 – Chateau St. Michelle, Woodinville, WA
July 15 – Edgefield, Portland, OR
July 17 – Mountain Winery, Saratoga, CA
July 19 – Pechanga Casino, Temecula, CA
July 20 – Humphrey’s, San Diego, CA
July 21 – The Greek, Los Angeles, CA

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Here’s a look back at some of our recent thoughts on Todd Rundgren, Gregg Rolie, Steve Lukather and Toto, Mr. Mister and — of course — Ringo Starr. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

GIMME FIVE: RINGO STARR SINGING SONGS BY THE OTHER BEATLES: As with the decades-old hit solo album for which it’s named, Starr’s Ringo 2012 includes an array of name guest stars. Unfortunately, unlike 1973’s Ringo, none of those friendly assists come from his fellow ex-Beatles. Joe Walsh, Dave Stewart and Kenny Wayne Shepherd are fine, and all. But the truth is, the combination of Starr and material written by Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison has provided Ringo with many (some might say most) of his career highlights. Here’s our take on the Top 5 — with five more honorable mentions.

SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: GREGG ROLIE, FOUNDING MEMBER OF SANTANA AND JOURNEY: Gregg Rolie, a 1998 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, has learned a lot about himself since taking fame’s exit ramp to start a family almost 30 years ago. He’s put into perspective the work done as a founding member of Santana, a stint that saw Rolie co-produce the group’s first four albums beginning in 1969. The bluesy B-3 stylist then added to an overstuffed resume that already included an appearance at Woodstock, leaving with Neal Schon to launch Journey. There, he helped craft a series of 1970s recordings that set the stage for that band’s arena-rock supernova moment in the 1980s.

SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: TOTO: Critics hung soft rock around their necks after the success of tunes like “I Won’t Hold You Back,” “99” and “I’ll Be Over You.” But Toto was never so easily identifiable. A closer listen uncovers a musical pallette that brings in heavier guitar sounds, funk, soul, R&B, jazz, even prog rock. Top 5 hits like “Hold the Line,” “Rosanna,” and “Africa,” each as listenable as they can be, scarcely hint at that kind of complexity. Can this legacy be saved? That’s where we come in.

MR. MISTER – PULL (2010): The best album Mr. Mister ever created. For those who want to scoff at anything ’80s, this may sound like faint praise, but it is not. Where the band had previously created albums that worked mainly as vehicles to deliver some hits, Pull picks up where Go On left off, where it seemed that album was too hesitant to go. The band of “Kyrie” fame is not the band heard on Pull, that much is true, but the music is much stronger as a whole. Where the band has gone is more akin to the territory Talk Talk explored in the transitional album The Colour Of Spring.

SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: TODD RUNDGREN: Perhaps Todd Rundgren’s own restive muse — he’s dabbled in every major rock subgenre over the past four decades — simply makes him too difficult to categorize. Maybe Rundgren never stuck with one thing long enough. Somehow, this pop music maverick hasn’t consistently found the wider fame he so richly deserves. At least outside of our crowded listening stations at the Something Else! Reviews Towers. We love us some Rundgren. Let’s count the ways …

ONE TRACK MIND: JOURNEY, “FEELING THAT WAY/ ANYTIME (1978; 2011 reissue): A new Greatest Hits Vol. 2 was, in some ways, more interesting than Journey’s initial best-of compilation — if only because its songs haven’t necessarily become ear-wormingly familiar. Perhaps the most potent examples are these twin 1978 gems from Infinity, Journey’s first project with Steve Perry. His appearance would immediately transform an interesting, if often unfocused jam band — co-led by Santana alums Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon — into a hit-making juggernaut. This album easily became the band’s biggest seller to date, as Journey moved toward a tighter focus on songcraft.

SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: STEVE LUKATHER OF TOTO: We asked Lukather to dig into his role in a staggering number of hit projects — from Boz Scaggs and Olivia Newton-John to Larry Carlton and Michael Jackson. But you don’t talk to the legendary guitarist without talking about Toto. So, we also found out more during a memorable SER Sitdown on the complicated history of the band’s lead singers, and what the future holds for Toto after the departure of two Porcaro brothers. Oh, and why Lukather still keeps a copy of Meet the Beatles in heavy rotation, even today.

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.