Concrete Apple


Band members                            Related acts

  line up 1 (1973-76)

- Mike Gammone -- rhythm guitar, vocals

- Rocky Gammone -- drums, percussion

- John M. Schiavone -- bass, vocals

- ??? - lead guitar

 

  line up 2 (1976-?)

- Mike Gammone -- lead guitar, vocals 

- Rocky Gammone -- drums, percussion

- John M. Schiavone -- bass, vocals

- ??? -- rhythm guitar

 

  line up 3 (1982)

NEW - Mario Casciano -- vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards

- Mike Gammone -- bass, vocals (replaced John M. Schiavone)

- Rocky Gammone -- drums, percussion

NEW - Dave Roberts -- lead guitar, vocals

 

  supporting musicians  (1982)

- Dave Ellis -- horns

 

 

 

- Two Edged Sword (Rocky Gammone)

 

 

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Ripe 'n' Ready

Company: private press

Catalog: 207022 A/B
Year:
 1982

Country/State: Brooklyn, New York

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: includes lyric insert, black and white band photo; promo copy

Available: 1 

Catalog ID: 5988

Price: $300.00

 

In most instances, with a little bit of effort researching on the web you can find at least some information on a band.  Not the case with Brooklyn's Concrete Apple.  Good luck finding anything on this outfit. In fact, other than the liner notes on this 1982 LP, they're virtual unknowns to me.

 

Formed in 1973, by the time the band got around to releasing this album, the line-up  featured rhythm guitarist/keyboard player Mario Casciano, bassist Mike Gammone, drummer Rocky Gammone, and lead guitarist Dave Roberts.  Casciano was apparently the band's front man, credited with penning all twelve tracks.  He also had a strange link to The Beatles - as a 15 year old Beatles fan living in Brooklyn, he heard a radio interview where Lennon talked about how he'd seen a UFO.  From details in the interview Casciano somehow managed to figure out where Lennon was living and one day after school simply appeared at Lennon's door asking for an autographs  That led to  a series of odd jobs and for a couple of years in the mid-1970s he actually worked as Lennon's assistant/boy Friday.  (I'm guessing that relationship had something to do with the band name ... - turned out I was wrong in that assumption - see below.  Drummer Rocky Gammone came up with the name after a brief flirtation with 'Cement Apple'.)

 

Their sole LP, 1982's "Ripe 'n' Ready" was recorded at New York's Systems Two Studios with Casciano and Audie Lebensfeld producing.  Even if you didn't know about Casciano's Beatles fixation, his affection for the Fab Four was obvious throughout many of these twelve tracks.  Not to sound snotty, but Casciano and company weren't good enough to nail The Beatles sophisticated sound exactly (few bands can do it), but as it turned out, those performance and technical limitations actually worked to the band's advantage, giving the set an amateurish, low-tech sound that was actually quite fun.  As mentioned, Casciano wrote all twelve songs, handled lead vocals, and rhythm guitar.  He wasn't the greatest singer you'd ever heard (ballads such as 'Alone with the Rain' were particularly painful), but he was enthusiastic which compensated for at least some of the other shortcomings.  The same basic statement described the rest of the band, though lead guitarist Dave Roberts was actually quite good.    

 

"Ripe 'n' Ready" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Midtown   (Mario Casciano) - 2:42.   rating: **** stars

Complete down to faux-English accents, 'Midtown' proudly wore it's Beatles-influences front and center.  Built on a nifty 'up and down' guitar figure, this wasn't the most ambitious song you'd ever heard, but the low-tech sound and production gave the song considerable charm.   Great backing harmonies ...  

2,) Journey Thru Time   (Mario Casciano) - 3:04.   rating: **** stars

Showcasing more of a Hollies feel, ''Journey Thru Time' was equally likeable.  Yeah, Casciano's vocal was a bit shrill (but then you could say the same thing about Graham Nash).  One of the album's best melodies with a nice lead solo from Roberts. 

3.) Waitin' For Baby   (Mario Casciano) - 3:05   rating; *** stars

Musically 'Waitin' For Baby' was pretty ragged sounding like an unfinished demo.  Mike Gammone's bass line essentially overpowering the rest of the band and the song itself.  The song was also one of the few that didn't have a distinctive Bealtes-inspired flavor.  (Okay, I'll admit the weird middle-of-the-song guitar solo sounded like a George Harrison outtake.)  

4.) Sidewalk Cafe   (Mario Casciano) - 4:54   rating; *** stars

A nice, conventional rocker, Sidewalk Cafe', shame the song faded out just as the band started to take off.  Yes, the cowbell percussion was a major irritant.

5.) Alone with the Rain   (Mario Casciano) - 2:30   rating; ** stars

A conventional ballad, 'Alone with the Rain' was a thorough mess.  Musically the song was a plodding mess and Casciano's out-of-tune, yelping vocal didn't exactly improve the performance.  Bad, bad, really bad ...   

6.) Tell the World I'm Here   (Mario Casciano) - 3:57    rating; *** stars

'Tell the World I'm Here' was a mid-tempo number with a weird new-wave angst edge to it. Once again the performances was a bit ragged and low-tech, but so what?   

 

(side 2)
1.) It Isn't Easy To Stay   (Mario Casciano) - 2:28   rating; **** stars

Returning to his Beatles fixation, 'It Isn't Easy To Stay' was also one of the album's best performances.  With a nice breezy  Latin influence and sporting one of Roberts best solos, this one actually could have been a single. 

2.) Fingerboard Road    (Mario Casciano) - 2:55    rating; *** stars

Lyrically it seemed to borrow more than a little from 'Penny Lane' era Lennon-McCartney, but compared to most of the songs on this album, 'Fingerboard Road' was a surprisingly sophisticated composition.

3.) A Long, Long Way from San Diego   (Mario Casciano) - 4:36   rating; ** stars

Songs opening with baseball sound effects tend to be pretty bad and 'A Long, Long Way from San Diego' was no exception to the rule.  With a 'happy time' melody this was one I couldn't wait to be over, though I've always wondered who the lyric was about.  I thought it might have been inspired by Tommy Lasorda, but he was an L.A. Dodger, not a San Diego Padre,    

4.) That Woman for Me   (Mario Casciano) - 3:00   rating; ** stars

'That Woman for Me' was another upbeat pop number that was sunk by Casciano's flat vocals and Dave Ellis' bleating sax arranement.   

5.) (It's Too Bad) Christmas Only Lasts a Day   (Mario Casciano) - 3:00   rating; ** stars

Wow, just when you thought it couldn't get much worse, along came '(It's Too Bad) Christmas Only Lasts a Day'.  Complete with bells and a yelping Casciano vocal this one was actually so bad it was funny.  Okay, okay, the sentiment was admirable, but the execution was lacking.  Put this one in the same league as Paul McCartney's hideous 'Wonderful Christmastime' and just skip it.  

6.) Another Happy Ending    (Mario Casciano) - 2:52   rating; ** stars

Ending with another ballad, 'Another Happy Ending' was at least marginally in tune.  Other than that and some cheesy synthesizers, this one was forgettable.

 

Given the absence of a record label and the inclusion of a lyric sheet a band photo, this looks like it was a self-financed vanity project.  I can't imagine more than a couple of hundred copies were pressed.  Certainly not a 'must own' album, but certainly a curiosity and might have some appeal to hardcore Beatles fans out there.  

 

 

Rocky appears to be the only one who's remained involved in music.  He now fronts a Christian rap outfit.

 

I was surprised to get this email:

"I was stunned to find this on the internet. I lived near where the group practiced and Mario lived in Brooklyn. The San Diego song was actually written about Dave Winfield whom I believe Mario had made some acquaintance. I actually had a copy of this album (since lost) that was autographed by Mike Gammone with the inscription "Lou - enjoy if you can". The breakup was soon after and fairly bitter if I recall.

 

 

I've actually been to some of their practice sessions. They did a live gig at Marine Park (Brooklyn) one summer too where they covered Beatles tunes. It was like a city sponsored battle of the local bands kind of thing. A childhood friend of mine was obsessed with the Beatles and became friends with the group, mainly with Mario. We literally lived a block away from where they practiced which was a small studio type apartment behind some retail stores on Coney Island Avenue and Avenue T. Mario also lived there. A bunch of us in the neighborhood would go there and listen to them from time to time over the summer that they put out the album. I am pretty sure that there was never a record deal and that it was a self financed thing (mainly Mario I believe).

Your assessment of the band was spot on having to only go on what you heard on the record. The one track I remember liking the best was "Midtown". It was kind of catchy. Where the hell did you come across the record?
 
It was a pretty weird dynamic looking back at it. From what I remember the three guys other than Mario really wanted to get away from the whole Beatles thing but they just couldn't get Mario away from it and it was pretty much his thing (equipment, place, etc.)

Lou Vivenzio October 2012

 

 

Thanks to John Schiavone for providing some additional information on the band:

 

Dear BadCat,

I was very surprised to come across a review of “Ripe ‘n Ready” by Concrete Apple and I thought I could fill you in a bit on the band and correct one assumption about the names.

The band in your review is the third incarnation of Concrete Apple. I was the bass player in the first two incarnations starting in 1973 and ending in 1976 or 1977. Mike and Rocky Gammone were the only two members of all three versions. Rocky was always the drummer. Mike started out as rhythm guitar in the first version, took over as lead in the second when our original lead left, and then moved over to bass in the third version when Mario and Dave came onboard and I left.

It’s a long time ago, but I believe the original lead guitarist (I haven’t forgotten anyone’s name, I just won’t mention them without permission) and Rocky came up with the name Concrete Apple (for a brief few seconds it was Cement Apple but Concrete sounded better) and was influenced by Rocky’s admiration of the Beatles. I came up with the album name “Ripe ‘n Ready” for the first set of originals by the first version of the band. The album you reviewed bears the same name, but none of the songs.

So just to be clear, Mario had nothing to do with choosing either the band’s name nor the album’s name. He was however the driving force behind the third version’s business and financial aspects.

Regards, John M. Schiavone   (January 2013)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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