The Bliss Band

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1978-80)

- Paul Bliss -- vocals, keyboards

- Andy Brown -- bass, backing vocals

- Nigel Elliot -- drums

- Phil Palmer -- lead guitar, vocals 

- Alan Park -- keyboards


  backing musicians:

- Greg Adams -- horns

- Jeff Baxter -- guitar, pedal steel guitar

- Emilio Catillo -- horns

- Victor Feldman -- percussion, vibes

- Venetta Fields -- backing vocals

- Michael Gillette -- horns

- Keith Knudsen (RIP) -- drums

- Stephen Kupkda -- horns

- Shirlee Matthews -- backing vocals

- Maureen McDonald -- backing vocals

- Michael McDonald -- backing vocals

- Leonard Pickett -- horns



- Paul Bliss (solo efforts)

- Dog Soldier (Paul Bliss)

- The Hollies (Paul Bliss)






Genre: pop

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Dinner with Raoul

Company: Columbia

Catalog: JC 35511

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: white label promo copy; timing strip on cover

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 340

Price: $20.00


Anytime I read a review that makes a direct comparison to another band I automatically click into skeptical mode.  How many times have you read the adjective "Beatlesque" used with a review only to discover the writer didn't have a clue as to what that word meant ?  Well, in the case of The Bliss Band the comparison wasn't to the Fab Four, rather was to Steely Dan.   While not as common as Beatle references, I've seen more than my share of Steely Dan comparisons; most of them way off the mark.   Interestingly, in the case of The Bliss Band, there are some grounds for the comparison.


After an album with Dog Soldier and a stint in the David Essex Band, in the mid-'70s singer/keyboard player Paul Bliss decided to strike out on his own.  Heading for Los Angeles he formed the cleverly titled Bliss Band  featuring the talents of bass player Andy Brown, drummer Nigel Elliot, lead guitarist Phil Palmer (who had also supported David Essex), and keyboard player Alan Park.  Signed by Columbia, the band's 1978 debut "Dinner with Raoul" teamed them with former Steely Dan guitarist Jeff Skunk Baxter serving in the producer's chair.   With Bliss responsible for all ten tracks, the album had a distinctive '70s AOR vibe that really did sound like a Steely Dan, or perhaps a Michael McDonald-era Doobie Brothers album.  The comparison was underscored by cameos from Doobie Brother drummer Keith Knudsen and McDonald himself who provided backing vocals on two tracks - 'Slipaway' and 'Stay a Little Longer'.  Virtually all of the songs stood as prime '70s AOR fodder which should have immense appeal to folks who grew up on The Doobies, or Steely Dan.   That also means folks who aren't appreciative of corporate rock will probably want to steer clear of the album with a passion.  


"Dinner with Raoul" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Rio   (Paul Bliss) - 3:37   rating: **** stars

Anyone doubting the Steely Dan comparisons should listen to the opener 'Rio'.  Like Becker and Fagen's mid-career material, the song combined a jazzy flavor with a sneakily commercial melody, interesting lyrics, and Bliss' vocals which weren't technically all that impressive, but suited the song perfectly.  Add in some Michael McDonald-styled backing vocals and ...  voila; ersatz Steely Dan, or perhaps a good Pablo Cruise song.   No, there wasn't a single original note, or concept on the song, but it was still a blast to hear.

2.) Over the Hill   (Paul Bliss) - 3:19   rating: *** stars

Kicked along by Brown's bass and Park's clavinet, 'Over the Hill' found the band dipping their collective feet into funk (well, as funky as these guys could get).  Mildly enjoyable with a nice lead guitar break from Elliott.   Imagine a second tier Little Feat and you'd have a feel for this one.

3.) Slipaway   (Paul Bliss) - 3:42   rating: **** stars

'Slipaway' was a pretty, mid-tempo ballad with strumming acoustic guitars and some nice band harmony vocals.  The track was also notable for McDonald's instantly recognizable backing vocals which had the perhaps unintended consequence of giving you the feeling you'd heard this one somewhere else - if you're old enough, you'll recall for a period of time McDonald's voice literally saturated the airwaves..  Very commercial, the track was tapped as a single, though it's hard to understand why radio didn't turn it into a big hit.   The album was tapped for a single that saw both a 7" and 12" format release


- 1978's 'Slipaway' b/w 'Take It If You Need It' (Columbia catalog number 4-10857)

- 1978's 'Slipaway' b/w 'On the Highway' (Columbia catalog number AS 535)

  4.) Don't Do Me Any Favours   (Paul Bliss) - 4:01    rating: **** stars

With a distinctive smooth jazzy melody and suitably eclectic lyrics, the keyboard powered 'Don't Do Me Any Favours' would not have sounded out of place on one of Steely Dan's mid-'70s albums - say "Katy Lied".  In fact, it's fun to play spot-the-influence on this one as it sounds like Bliss borrowed little snippets of Dan songs to cobble this one together.   Bliss' voice wasn't as unique, or likeable as Fagen's, but the song still exhibited that special Dan vibe.  

5.) On the Highway   (Paul Bliss) - 3:25    rating: *** stars

Opening up with some tasty dual lead guitar, the rollicking 'On the Highway' recalled something off the debut Dan LP ("Can't Buy a Thrill").   Dan-ish, but more commercial than most of their stuff,  I happen to love that album so I thought this track was pretty good.  Another one that sounded like McDonald was on backing vocals, though the liner notes didn't show it.  


(side 2)
1.) Right Place, Right Time
   (Paul Bliss) - 5:12    rating: **** stars

A slinky, catchy rocker 'Right Place, Right Time' found them going back to the Steely Dan catalog; this time the debut album for inspiration.  Geez, even the backing vocals (Vanetta Fields, Shirlee Matthew, and Maureen McDonald) sounded Dan-ish.  

2.) Stay a Little Longer   (Paul Bliss) - 3:04    rating: ** stars

Other than the nice chorus, 'Stay a Little Longer' was a modest disappointment - one of the songs that truly deserved the 'corporate rock' label.  This one sounded like a Spencer-Tarney Band release.   Interestingly, for some reason, Bliss' vocal on this one has always reminded me of The Scorpion's lead singer.  

3.) Here Goes   (Paul Bliss) - 4:22   rating: ** stars

With a modest country tinge, 'Here Goes' was another miss.   Shrill and not particularly tuneful, I could live without this one. 

4.) Whatever Happened   (Paul Bliss) - 4:03     rating: *** stars

Another tune with a country edge (Baxter on pedal steel guitar), 'Whatever Happened' was another tune with a Dan feel; particularly when the song picked up some steam via Palmer's tasty guitar solo.  

5.) Take It If You Need It   (Paul Bliss) - 2:55     rating: **** stars
The electric piano opening and propulsive rhythm that opened 'Take It If You Need It' have always reminded me of a Lake song, or perhaps a good Toto effort.  Kicked along by another string Palmer solo, it made a nice way to end the album.   


I love this album (including the William Stout cover art), but if you're looking for something full of original ideas and sounds, then this probably isn't going to have a great deal of appeal for you.






Genre: pop

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Neon Smiles

Company: Columbia

Catalog: JC 36070

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD 341

Price: SOLD $20.00


While the 1978 Bliss Band debut "Dinner with Raoul" did little commercially, Columbia released a follow-up album the following year.  Produced by Geoff Westley, musically "Neon Smiles" wasn't a major change in musical direction.  Once again namesake Bliss was responsible for all ten tracks and the general feel was again AOR-ish though this time around the nods to Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers were less obvious.   In its place the sound was more varied, recalling the likes of Night Ranger, Toto, and a cast of hundreds of Southern California AOR bands. That gave material like 'How Do I Survive', 'Hollywood', and 'That's the Way That It Is' a distinctive 'corporate' rock  sheen.  In fact the entire album was commercial in an '80s AOR fashion, but abandoning their Doobies/Steely Dan infatuation certainly didn't help them in the originality department.  On the other hand, if you liked the debut, then you were liable to like this one as well.


(side 1)

1.) Stagefright   (Paul Bliss) - 4:34

2.) How Do I Survive?  (Paul Bliss) - 4:08

This was one of those songs that sounded like it had been written to ensure radio airplay.   Unfortunately it sounded very calculated; saved by an incideously catchy title track refrain.   rating: *** stars

3.) Hollywood  (Paul Bliss) - 3:51

4.) Someone Else's Eyes  (Paul Bliss) - 4:21

A classic big ballad; showcasing Bliss and piano, 'Someone Else's Eyes' was another tune that oozed sincerity and radio readiness.   Best adjective I can come up with ...  cloying.   rating: ** stars

5.) Doctor   (Paul Bliss) - 4:31

Always loved the bubbly clavinet on 'Doctor', though the rest of the song was pretty pedestrian with one of the dumbest deathg-of-rock-and-roll lyrics you've ever heard.   I guess that explains why Columbia tapped it as a single.   rating: *** stars.  


(side 2)

1.) Chicago  (Paul Bliss) - 5:40

Sadly, 'Chicago' was one of the few tracks that harkened back to the debut's Steely Dan infatuation.  One of the album's prettiest ballads, it's also one of my favorite performances.   rating: **** stars

2.) We Never Had It So Good  (Paul Bliss) - 3:14

3.)  If It Takes Until Forever  (Paul Bliss) - 2:37

4.) Something About You   (Paul Bliss) - 3:59

5.) That's The Way That It Is  (Paul Bliss) - 7:15

Hum, Bliss and company make a socio-political statement ?  Bliss and company make a play for the hair band market ?  Beats me, though I'll tell you the original is far better than the covers by Uriah Heep (1982's "Abominog"), The President ("Just Appointed", or Graham Bonnet).   rating: *** stars




Bliss subsequently enjoyed some success as a songwriter.  He played with an early-'80s version of The Hollies and also became a member of The Moody Blues touring band and in 1997 got around to releasing an obscure album which seemingly collected previously recorded material, including what sounded like some Bliss Band tracks - "The Edge of Coincidence" (Cool catalog number COOL 036), which I'll admit to never having heard.