Band members Related acts
line up 1: (1968-69)
- Joe Di Marzo --
- The Esquires (Danny Mahony and Jay Saving)
- The New Hobbits
- Billy Vera and the Constants (Al Esposito)
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: The Bag
Catalog: DL 75057
Country/State: New York, USA
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: SOLD 4100
Price: SOLD $35.00
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.
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,
Dimes' was a killer garage rocker. 'Got
Away' recalled Otis Redding and Steve Cropper discovering the magic of fuzz
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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..
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.
on a gritty Savino guitar riff, 'Down and Out' was a tasty soul-influenced
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.
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
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