The Chesapeake Juke Box Band
Band members Related acts
line up 1: (1972)
- Rusty McFinn (aka Freddie McFinn, aka Freddie Natarz) -- vocals
- Steve Sawyer (aka Steve Katz, aka Stephen Katz-Sawyer)
(RIP 2007) -- vocals
- Steve Sawyer (solo efforts)
- The Sands of Time (Steve Sawyer)
Rating: 4 stars ****
Title: The Chesapeake Jukebox Band
Company: Greene Bottle
Country/State: New York, New York
Grade (cover/record): NM/NM
Comments: gimmick, gatefold sleeve
Catalog ID: 6056
Admission - I bought this one at a yard sale strictly for the cover. Based on the label and some of the song titles I figured it was going to be faceless country, but I simply loved the jukebox cover art (another admission - I own a Wurlitzer 2500S).
Songwriters Freddie Natarz (aka Rusty McFinn) and Steve Katz (aka Steve Sawyer) met in the late-'60s while working in New York City. McFinn was a staff writer working under Mercury Records' myriad of affiliated labels. He also worked as a producer handling acts on the Mercury family of labels including Roulette and White Whale. The pair found a sponsor in the form of producer Charles Greene (best known for his work with The Buffalo Springfield, Iron Butterfly and Sonny and Cher. Greene put the pair on his payroll as songwriters and had them relocate to California, but by the early-'70s they were back in NYC where they scored a recording contract with Greene's newly formed Greene Bottle Record label. With visions of creating a pop opus they went into New York's Record Plant Studios and began working with producer/musician Ron Frangipane. Months and months went by with the pair gabbing studio time whenever it was available and driving New York cabs to pay their bills. Finally released in 1972 "The Chesapeake Jukebox Band" served to showcase an intriguing collection that sounded way more 1967 than 1972. The pair were credited with writing all ten tracks, as well as sharing lead vocals and judging by tracks like 'Until We Meet Again' and 'Has To Be' they clearly had a Beatles infatuation. That was further underscore by the side long 'Martha & Wally Fitzbee's Memorabillia' extended suite. Nothing wrong with having a Beatles fixation, but there was more to it than that. Aided by Frangipane and a collection of un-credited New York sessions players, this was more than mindless imitation. Yeah, it served as a heartfelt tribute to The Fab Four (collectively and as individuals), but also served as a who's who list of other influences. It certainly wasn't the most original album you've ever heard, but it made for a fantastic game of 'spot-the-influence' with nods to the likes of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, The Bee Gees, the Curt Boettcher school of sunshine pop, The Turtles, etc. It was also a collection that sounded great on an upscale stereo system (or quality headphones)
Chesapeake Jukebox Band" track listing:
1.) Until We Meet Again (Rusty McFinn - Steve Sawyer) - 3:14 rating: **** stars
Complete with waves of Beatles and pop culture references (Brian Wilson, Tiny Tim, Perry Como, etc.), 'Until We Meet Again' simply reeked of mid-'60s Fab Four worship. That said, it was a playful kind of homage with one of those pop-psych melodies that Paul McCartney effortlessly threw out, though the vocals recalled John Lennon (who was apparently recording in the Record Plant at the same time). The icing on the cake came in the form of the George Harrison-styled guitar and the gentle way the tune faded out. Almost pastoral. Easy to see why it was tapped as a single.
- 1972's 'Until We Meet Again' b/w 'This Time' (Green Bottle catalog number GBA-100)
2.) Love (Rusty McFinn - Steve Sawyer) - 5:00 rating: **** stars
To my ears the harmonica-propelled ballad 'Love' sounded more like a Turtles track than a Beatles effort. Pretty with some nice harmony vocals, but not particularly memorable. And then about halfway through the song started to bounce all over the musical spectrum including morphing into a sing-along anthem that recalled 'All You Need Is Love' and ending with a trumpet power Latin-esque piece.
3.) Jennifer (Rusty McFinn - Steve Sawyer) - 2:37 rating: *** stars
'Jennifer' was another oddity. Half of the song sounding like something Brian Wilson might have written while stoned, sitting at his piano in that infamous living room sandbox. The second half of the song sounded like something off of "Magical Mystery Tour". Always liked the anonymous drums on this one.
4.) This Time (Rusty McFinn - Steve Sawyer) - 3:40 rating: **** stars
Opening up with ocean sound effects and elaborate orchestration including some 'Penny Lane' styled trumpets, 'This Time' sounded like the pair were doing the best to channel The Bee Gees. The song was actually pretty good, but the overblown arrangements threatened to drown out the vocals. This time out the hyper-busy bass line caught me attention.
5.) Has To Be (Rusty McFinn - Steve Sawyer) - 3:44 rating: *** stars
Opening up with some seriously frenetic drumming (Keith Moon would have been happy), 'Has To Be' found the band diving headlong back into the Britpop sound. Turning in their best John Lennon imitation, this one blended a hard rock edge with treated vocals, and studio effects, before suddenly shifting gears into a 'Golden Slumbers' styled ballad. Admittedly it was actually far better than that description makes it sound.
Side two's 'Martha & Wally Fitzbee's Memorabillia' was billed as a side long suite. Shoot, why not trot out a pop opera? You'd certainly be hard pressed to come up with a title that sounded more '67 than this one.
2.) Daisy's for the 8th of May (Rusty McFinn - Steve Sawyer) - 4:37 rating: *** stars
The highly orchestrated 'Daisy's for the 8th of May' started out as a The Bee Gees-meet-the-Beach-Boys mash-up. Quite strange, but it also sported some of the album's best backing harmonies and a short klezmer segment.
3.) Sad Nite In Boston (Rusty McFinn - Steve Sawyer) - 3:28 rating: ** stars
'Sad Nite In Boston' sported the album's best guitar solo, but the rest of the song was best described as second-rate Bee Gees.
4.) Fizbee's Tavern (Rusty McFinn - Steve Sawyer) - 4:57 rating: *** stars
'Complete with Thomas Damron Foster spoken word segments, Fizbee's Tavern' sounded like John Lennon trying to re-write 'Eleanor Rigby'. Another very dark and strange composition.
5.) Chesapeake Juke Box Band (Rusty McFinn - Steve Sawyer) - 4:58 rating: **** stars
The title track started out with Bee Gees-styled group vocals. From a breezy pop song, a couple of minutes in 'Chesapeake Juke Box Band' took on a more rock oriented structure, ultimately turning into the album's 'heaviest' performance.
6.) The Door's Unlatched (Rusty McFinn - Steve Sawyer) - 1:56 rating: *** stars
Starting out with a surprisingly funky bass line, 'The Door's Unlatched' abruptly shifted gear s turning into a stark piano ballad which saw the title repeated over and over with heavily treated vocal effects. That ended the album on an distinctively acid soaked note. The shutting door sound effect at the very end of the song was pretty funny.
I saw a small interview were the pair apparently hoped to recruit a touring band and even record a follow-up album, but Greene Bottle had little in the way of resources and the album quickly disappeared with little publicity of support.
Any self-respecting Beatles fan should score a copy of this one (and you can still find copies on the cheap, plus it's been reissued by the Revola label.
Always liked the gimmick cover art.
Sawyer appeared a couple of years later with an odd tribute 45:
- 1976's 'Hey Fonzi (Add Your Name To the List of American Heroes)' b/w 'Benji's Cincinnati' (Casablanca catalog number NB 855)
When the Happy Days tribute died Sawyer reworked the song. Credited to The Sands of Time and featuring a number of The Tokens, the song was released on Don Krishner's Kirshner label as 'A Tribute to the Beach Boys 76'.
- 1976's 'A Tribute To The Beach Boys '76' b/w 'Benji's Cincinnati' (Kirshner catalog number ZS8 4263)
After that single tanked Sawyer starting a company selling office supplies. Sadly, only 59 he died of an unexpected heart attack in 2007.
As for Rusty McFinn ... well in 2017 he turned up on the Steve Hoffman Music Forum with an interesting discussion of the the group; particularly the ugly ending to the project: Chesapeake Juke Box Band (1971-1972) | Steve Hoffman Music Forums.
In 2005 the Rev-Ola label remastered and reissued the collection in CD format (Rev-Ola catalog number (CR REV 133). The CD included three previously unreleased tracks the pair had recorded after the collapse of The Chesapeake Juke Box Band:
1.) Don't Howdy Doody Me (Rusty McFinn - Steve Sawyer) -
2.) Don't Cry Your Eyes Out (Rusty McFinn - Steve Sawyer) -
3.) Crime of the Century (Rusty McFinn - Steve Sawyer) -
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