Bull Angus

Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1971-72)

- Geno Charles -- drums, percussion 

- Larry LaFalce -- guitar, backing vocals

- Dino Paolillo -- guitar, backing vocals

- Ron Piccolo -- vocals, keyboards 

- Frankie Previte -- vocals, percussion, recorder 

- Lenny Venditti -- bass 



- Frankie and the Knockouts (Frankie Previte)

- Larry LaFalce (solo efforts)

- The Oxford Watchband (Frankie Previte)

- The Pyramid (Larry LaFalce and Lenny Venditti)

- The Revells (Ron Piccolo)



Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Bull Angus

Company: Mercury

Catalog: SMR-1-649

Country/State: Poughkeepsie, New York

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve; promo sticker on cover

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5752

Price: $70.00


I'm not sure how to best describe this short-lived Poughkeepsie, New York-based outfit.  With a line-up featuring drummer Geno Charles, twin lead guitarists Larry LaFalce and Dino Paolillo, keyboardist Ron Piccolo, lead singer Frankie Previte, and bassist Lenny Venditti, they've always struck me as falling somewhere in the hard rock spectrum between an American version of Uriah Heep (also signed to Mercury at the time) and perhaps a less oppressive version of Deep Purple.  I know those comparisons are going to send a bunch of folks scurrying for the next review, but the results were actually surprisingly impressing and enjoyable.




They apparently came together in the late-1960s with most of the members having paid their dues in various Hudson Valley, New York outfits such as The Oxford Watchband (Previte), The Pyramid (LaFalce and Venditti), and The Revells (Piccolo).  The name came from a farm they rented as a rehearsal site in Rhinebeck, New York which was surrounded by nearby Angus farms.  Club dates and extensive local touring caught the attention of Mercury which signed them resulting in the release of 1971's "Bull Angus".  Produced by Vinny Testa, the album featured a first-rate set of all-original hard rock.  Largely written by the team of  Previte, LaFalce, and Paolillo, nothing here was particularly original, or groundbreaking, but by the same token all ten tracks were uniformly strong and enjoyable.  Previte had the perfect voice for the genre; capable of effortlessly shifting gears from metal growl, to higher register squeals in an instant.  Also deserving credit were twin lead guitarists LaFalce and Paolillo.  Speaking of which the liner notes included the following helpful information:  "stereo notes: Larry's the guitar on the left, Dino's on the right".  On a practical level anyone who enjoyed prime-era Uriah Heep was going to take comfort in guitar and keyboard-propelled rockers like the opener 'Run Don't Stop' and the equally slamming 'Mother's Favorite Lover (Margaret)'.  Bet these guys were a hoot to see live.  Another PBR over here ...



As mentioned before, a really good and grossly overlooked early-1970s hard rock effort that truly sounded better when you cranked up the volume.  Well worth owning, particularly since you can still score it on the cheap.  Also, Dan Clyne's cover art was neat.




"Bull Angus" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Run Don't Stop   (Frankie Previte - Larry La Falce - Dino Paolillo) - 4:23    rating: **** stars

Opening up with 'Run Don't Stop' the album started with a blazing rocker that had all; pounding rhythm, killer melody, crushing guitars, and a nice vocal from Previte.  When this one kicked into gear, it really got moving.  Easy to see why Mercury tapped the tune as the single:





- 1971's 'Run Don't Stop' b/w 'Uncle Duggie's Fun Bus Ride' (Mercury catalog number 73265)









2.) Mother's Favorite Lover (Margaret)   (Frankie Previte - Larry La Falce - Dino Paolillo) - 3:43   rating: *** stars

Kicked along by Piccolo's organ, and Previte's snarling vocals, 'Mother's Favorite Lover (Margaret)' always reminded me of Deep Purple - okay, I'll admit Previte's jazzy recorder solo wasn't a Deep Purple-ish trait.  Great subject matter to boot; a mom with lesbian tendencies.

3.) Uncle Duggie's Fun Bus Ride   (Frankie Previte - Larry La Falce - Dino Paolillo) - 4:27    rating: **** stars

The subject matter's always been a mystery to me (though kind of ominous), but 'Uncle Duggie's Fun Bus Ride' sported a catchy melody, some killer lead guitar, and showcased the band's killer harmony vocals.  Very nice.  Shame it was relegated to the "B" side on the debut single.. 

4.) A Time Like Ours   (Frankie Previte - Larry La Falce - Dino Paolillo) - 6:24   rating: *** stars

In marked contrast to the rest of the album, 'A Time Like Ours found the band pursuing a distinctive progressive direction.  Mind you, propelled by some nifty twin lead guitar from LaFalce and Paolillo, it wasn't pompous ELP-styled prog, rather stood as one of the unexpected album highlights.  The song was also interesting for showcasing the band's unexpectedly tight harmony vocals.    


(side 2)
1.) Miss Casey   (Frankie Previte - Lenny Venditti - Larry La Falce - Dino Paolillo) - 7:28    
rating: **** stars

For some reason I've associated 'Miss Casey' with Spinal Tap.  I'm assuming that the song wasn't meant to be humorous, but within the confines of this seven and a half minute song the band somehow managed to cobble together all the elements that are now associated with a stereotyped hard rock song - screaming lead vocals, dumber-than-dirt, hyper sexist lyrics ("you're my morning do"), wailing organ, blazing twin lead guitars, awesome Cro-Magnon bass line, and multiple time changes.  And I love every moment of it ...     

-2.) Pot of Gold   (Larry La Falce) - 3:51     rating: **** stars

Penned by LaFalce, 'Pot of Gold' was the most mainstream and commercial track.  With a strong melody, a great lead guitar pattern, and some wonderful harmony vocals, this one would have made a dandy FM hit.  

3.) Cy   (Frankie Previte - Dino Paolillo) - 5:30    rating: **** stars

Coming as a totally unexpected surprise, the acoustic ballad 'Cy' showcased the band's 'sensitive' side.  Beautiful song with fantastic acoustic guitars and it even included a but of scatting.  Damn, wish I could play something half as good ...   rating: **** stars

4.) No Cream for the Maid   (Frankie Previte - Lenny Venditti - Larry La Falce - Dino Paolillo) - 6:43     rating: **** stars

Time to get heavy ...  'No Cream for the Maid' (hysterical title), found the band shifting their standard metal moves to incorporate some progressive moves.  Such hybrids usually fall flat on their faces, but these guys were talented enough to pull it off resulting in one of the album's best tracks.    




Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Free for All

Company: Mercury

Catalog: SRM-1-629

Country/State: Poughkeepsie, New York

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5830

Price: $70.00



While 1971's "Bull Angus" didn't do a great deal commercially, it garnered favorable reviews from the critics, leading Mercury Records to finance a second album - 1972's "Free for All".  Again produced by Vinny Testa, when I compare this one against the debut, it comes off on the losing end.  Much of the debut's energy and enthusiasm was missing this time around.  You got the feeling these guys were feeling pressure from Mercury to come up with a more contemporary and commercial sound. They apparently weren't sure how to respond and the results were generally disappointing.  Tracks like 'Drivin' Me Wild', a remake of The Buffalo Springfield's 'City Boy' and a stab at George Harrison's "Savoy Truffle' were all listless and ill conceived.  Adding to the problems, Testa's production gave the album a heavy, slight muddy sound.  Maybe just my audio equipment, or perhaps my ancient ears, but adjective "sludge" comes to mind.  So much for the criticisms.  The set wasn't a complete wipe-out.  The album's most progressive performance, the closer ' Train Woman Lee' generated some energy, as did the Southern-rock tinged opener 'Lone Stranger.'   Released as an instantly obscure single, the ballad ' (We're The) Children Of Our Dreams' sported one of their prettiest melodies and displayed their ability to harmonize.  Unfortunately it was too little to late and in spite of another round of touring, by the end of the year the band was history.




Using Filippo Lippi'sfamed  "Worship of the Golden Calf" made for an interesting album cover.  Always wondered how Mercury got permission to use the image.








"Free For All" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Lone Stranger   (Larry LaFalce) - 6:49   rating: **** stars

'Opening 'Lone Stranger', Larry LaFalce and Dino Paolillo's twin guitars sounded promising.  The addition of some nice Ron Piccolo keyboards and a catchy group chorus gave the song a bit of energy.  Funny, to my ears it sounded like Southern rock - not what I would have expected from  a New York band.  As it turned out, this was one of the album highlights.

2.) City Boy  (Stephen Stills - Neil Merryweather) - 6:50   rating: ** stars

When I saw this was a cover of a Buffalo Springfield tune, I had to go back and listen to it to make sure that was a true statement.  It is true - to a degree.  The original appeared on 1966's "Buffalo Springfield" album under the title 'Hot Dusty Road.'  The original had a tasty folk/country rock melody with Stephen Stills and Randy Meisner sharing a bucolic lead vocal.  This version is basically a mess.  The original melody was largely lost in favor of a second-rate bar band approach. Frankie Previte's unsteady lead vocals were merely irritating.  My suggestion - go find the Springfield original

3.) Loving Till End   (Larry LaFalce) - 5:40  rating: ** stars

The opening acoustic guitar and flute arrangement was unexpectedly pastoral, but then the song exploded into a big, overblown ballad and that ballad managed to spotlight the worst aspect of Previte's voice.  One of the few nods to progressive music on the album.  Pass.

(side 2)
1.) Savoy Truffle   (George Harrison) - 4:43  rating: *** stars

Supposedly inspired by buddy Eric Clapton's fondness for chocolates, I've always had a sweet spot for this George Harrison rocker ...  LOL   Their arrangement doesn't really mess with the original melody, but going in a boogie-rock direction did nothing to improve the song.  
2.) Drivin' Me Wild   (Larry LaFalce - Frankie Previte - Geno Charles - Dino Paolillo) - 4:43
  rating: *** stars

The sole group composition, 'Drivin' Me Wild' featured the album's hardest rocking tune.  Kind of a Grand Funk Railroad vibe here that wasn't bad, but Testa's production gave the song a heavy, muddy sound.
3.) (We're The) Children Of Our Dreams   (Frankie Previte - Ron Piccolo) - 5:34  
rating: **** stars

Easily the album's best performance, '(We're The) Children Of Our Dreams' sported the strongest melody and a beautiful chorus.  It was also one of the few tracks where Previte didn't over-sing.  Mercury tapped the tune as a single, but seemingly did little to promote it:

- 1972's 'Children Of Our Dreams' b/w 'Loving Till End' (Mercury catalog number 73313)

4.) Train Woman Lee    (Frankie Previte) - 5:45   rating: **** stars

Powered by a nifty Piccolo keyboard pattern, 'Train Woman Lee' was easily the album's most progressive tune.  The band actually sounded like they were having fun on this one.  Another album highlight.