The Bag

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1: (1968-69)

- Joe Di Marzo -- vocals
- Al Esposito -- drums, percussion
- Danny Mahony --  keyboards
- Jay Savino -- lead guitar 




- The Esquires (Danny Mahony and Jay Saving)

- The New Hobbits

- Billy Vera and the Constants (Al Esposito)





Genre: pop 

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  The Bag

Company: Decca

Catalog: DL 75057

Year: 1968

Country/State: New York, USA

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD 4100

Price: SOLD $35.00

Cost: $1.00


I've always wondered about this little known quartet. A number of reviewers have categorized the band's sound as psychedelic, but to my ears they sounded more like Young Rascal clones.


Keyboardist Danny Mahony and guitarist Jay Savino had been members of The Westchester-based The Esquires.   First rate players, they initially attracted attention backing nationally known touring acts including Chuck Berry, Martha & the Vandellas and Mary Wells.  With singer Joe Di Marzo and drummer Al Esposito in the line-up and now know as The Bag, the mid-'60s found the band relocating to New York where they attracted the attention of Laurie Records.  Laurie put them on the payroll as a studio demo band.  Using their off-hours time the band began recording their own material, in the process capturing the attention of the enigmatic singer/writer Jimmy Curtiss.  Curtiss helped the quartet score a contract with Decca Records.  Produced by Curtiss, 1968's "Real" showcased a mixture of originals with Di Marzo, Mahony and Savino all contributing material.  The set was rounded out by covers of Jerry Vance's 'I Want You By My Side' and Steve Kanyon's 'I'm Sitting By the Wayside of My Life.'   I owned the album for years and as hard as I tried, I couldn't get over describing it as an enjoyable set of blue-eyed soul. Propelled by Di Marzo's crusty voice, which occasionally bore an uncanny resemblance to Felix Cavaliere, tracks like 'I Want You By My Side' and 'I'm Sitting By the Wayside of My Life' were melodic and highly commercial.  Okay, back to the psych label for a moment: admittedly 'Red, Purple and Blue' had a nifty freak-out fade, while 'It's All Over' benefited from some tasty Savino lead fuzz guitar.  Listening to the collection for the first time in a decade I found myself far more impressed.  Yes, The Rascals comparison was still there, but the songs were consistently good and when they strayed from their blue-eyed soul tendencies, the results were usually quite entertaining.  As an example, co-written with producer Curtiss, 'Nickels 'n Dimes' was a killer garage rocker. 'Got Away' recalled Otis Redding and Steve Cropper discovering the magic of fuzz guitar.   Notoriously prickly, Curtiss repeatedly clashed with Decca management which didn't do The Bag much good.  In spite of having several singles released, the LP proved a commercial non-entity, vanishing into cut-out bins.  Within a matter of months The Bag was history, though that was not the end of their story.  See the New Hobbits for chapter 2.  

"Real" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Up In the Morning (Joe Di Marzo - Jay Savino) - 2:46   ratings: *** stars

I've listened to 'Up In the Morning' dozens of times and I'll be darn if I know what the opening sound effects were - a snorting horse?  A production line?    Once you got over the weird introduction the rest of the song underscored the Felix Cavaliere and the Young Rascals comparisons.  Joe Di Marzo had a classic blue-eyed soul voice and if you didn't know anything about these guys, you'd probably have been surprised to discover they were a bunch of Italian-Americans.  The song was tapped as one of the album's three singles:





- 1968's 'Up In the Morning' b/w 'Down and Out' (Decca catalog number 32409)








2.) I Want You By My Side (Jerry Vance) - 2:39   ratings: **** stars

The slow, Gospel-tinged Hammond B-3 chord powered opening reminded me of something Solomon Burke might have recorded.  And once again, the blue-eyed soul delivery bore an uncanny resemblance to The Young Rascals.  Solomon Burke and The Young Rascals - can't go wrong with those comparisons.  The song was tapped as the album's third and final single:





- 1968's 'I Want You By My Side' b/w 'Red, Purple and Blue' (Decca Catalog number 32463)





3.) I Don't Want To (Joe Di Marzo - Jay Savino) - 2:52   ratings: **** stars

Opening up with what sounded like a wah wah guitar, but was apparently just a treated vocal, 'I Don't Want To' was a bouncy pop song.  Powered by Mahony's Hammond organ, Di Marzo's vocals sounded a lot like Felix Cavaliere on this one.  The treated vocals/wah wah sound effects  reappeared about halfway through the tune and again at the end.
4.) Red, Purple and Blue (Marcia Hilman - Dan Mahony) - 4:14
   ratings: **** stars

Opening up with a brief Al Esposito drum solo, 'Red, Purple and Blue' found the band adding a touch of acid to their patented blue-eyed soul moves.  The results were surprisingly enjoyable with a great bass line and Di Marzo handling the lead vocals.  Mahony turning in some nice Hammond B-3 washes as the song reached its freak-out climax.
5.) Bide My Time (Joe Di Marzo - Jay Savino) - 2:38
   ratings: *** stars

I guess it's personal prejudice, but I'm always surprised to hear how good these guys sounded on the bluesy 'Bide My Time.'  To my ears the The Rascals never really handled the blues well, but The Bag did a nice job here.  Kudos to Jay Saving on lead guitar.

(side 1)

1.) Nickels 'n Dimes (Jim Curtiss - Dan Mahony) - 2:39   ratings: **** stars

The strumming acoustic guitar intro made me think I was in for a folk number, but then the tune exploded into a hardcore garage rocker.  Easily the toughest rocker in the album.  Awesome performance.  The track was tapped as the leadoff single:





- 1968's 'Nickels 'n Dimes' b/w 'Nobody's Child' (Decca catalog number 32279)








2.) Got Away (Dan Mahony) - 2:29  ratings: ***** stars

Imagine Otis Redding and Steve Cropper falling in love with a fuzz guitar.  Perhaps the album's most soulful performance, the addition of Saving's chunky fuzz guitar chords made for one of the album's coolest songs.  It should have been a massive hit..  
3.) Nobody's Child (Jim Curtiss - Dan Mahony) - 2:16
  ratings: **** stars

Complete with Stax-styled horns, 'Nobody's Child' was the kind of blue-eyed soul Cavaliere and the rest of The Rascals could only dream about writing.  
4.) Down and Out (Joe Di Marzo - Jay Savino) - 2:42 
rating: **** stars

Built on a gritty Savino guitar riff, 'Down and Out' was a tasty soul-influenced rocker.  
5.) It's All Over (Jay Savino) - 2:35 
rating: **** stars

Well it was written by guitarist Savino so the crunching opening guitar chords shouldn't have come as a surprise.  Another taunt rocker, complete with fuzz guitar moves, this was another one that offered up a tasty mash-up of blue-eyed soul and harder rock moves.  Almost a Hendrix vibe in the lead guitar and the vocals.
6.) I'm Sitting By the Wayside of My Life (Steve Kanyon) - 2:47 
rating: *** stars

The ballad 'I'm Sitting By the Wayside of My Life' opened up with some of Savio's prettiest guitar work.  From there the song faded into an over-emoted big ballad.  Very Rascals-ish.


Tom Mahony seems to have set up a small Facebook page for the band at:  (1) The Bag | Facebook