Felix Harp


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1971-72)

- David Adomites -- bass, keyboards

- Michael Ardisson -- vocals, drums, percussion

- Billy Hricsina -- vocals, lead guitar

- David Lenart (RIP 1978) -- lead guitar, slide guitar, 

  mandolin

 

  line up 2 (1972-74)

- David Adomites -- bass, keyboards 

- Michael Ardisson -- drums, percussion 

- Eric Beam -- vocals, keyboards

- Billy Hricsina -- vocals, lead guitar, slide 

 

 

 

- Strawberry Way (Eric Beam)

 

 

 


 

Genre: pop

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  The First of Felix Harp

Company: Western World Music

Catalog:  WWM 2000
Year:
 1972

Country/State: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 911

Price: $40.00

 

I actually owned this early-1970s private press LP for a couple of years before I became aware of the fact that the band had been subjected to a pair of mid-1970s releases by the Guinness 'tax scam' label.   It would be interesting to know if the band were aware they'd been re-issued by Guinness; let alone how the process worked.

 

Anyhow, here's a Pittsburgh-based obscurity.  Formed in 1970, Felix Harp consisted of bassist David Adomites, drummer Michael Ardisson, singer/guitarist Billy Hricsina, and lead guitarist David Lenart.  Still in their teens, the quartet generated some buzz on the local club circuit, eventually capturing the attention of Louis Guarino who signed them to the small Western World Music label.

 

The few brief reviews of 1972's Guarino produced "The First of Felix Harp"  you'll find aren't particularly positive,  I'll go out on a limb and beg to differ.  First, I'll readily admit this isn't a lost classic, but song for song it's as good as anything Eric Carmen and the Raspberries or the hoard of early-1970s power poppers ever released. It's even more impressive when you consider these guys were still in high school when they recorded the album.   Pretty high praise there !   The big problem with this set was that producer Guarino and engineer Tony Bongiovi Jr. apparently did think these guys were strong enough to stand without extensive backing.  As a result they literally drown the band in over-the-top orchestration (courtesy of James Drake and  Lewis del Gatto).  That was unfortunate since these guys were actually quite good on their own (check out 'Mother').    

 

- 'Black' started off as a pretty, but rather standard acoustic ballad, however once it got rolling it became quite good.  Yeah, the string arrangement was a major irritation, but Hricsina's fragile voice was well suited to the genre and at least to my ears he sounded a little but like the guys in Styx.  The track was also tapped as an instantly obscure single.   rating: *** stars

- A mid tempo number, 'Dear' also took awhile to get going, but was rescued by a nice chorus.  The somewhat arch structure also reminded me a bit of Styx.   rating: ** stars

- One of the standout tracks, 'Life' sounded like a strange cross pollination of a Beatles tune and something The Free Design might have done.  Complete with punchy horns, it was different but quite engaging and would have made a nice single.   In fact it was a single, though it got relegated to a 'B' side (see below).    rating: **** stars

- 'There Comes a Time' was another pretty ballad that propelled by the group vocals recalled Styx at their most commercial.  It also sported some first rate slide guitar  that sounded like something off of a Badfinger album.  Very nice.   rating: *** stars

- There really isn't much you can do with a Paul Williams ballad and 'My Love and I' was pretty sappy, though to their credit the performance got better once they got rolling and the electric guitar kicked in.  Adomites provided some nice bass throughout and once again their harmony work was excellent.   rating: ** stars

- Overlooking the clichéd lyrics, 'Mother' was atypical in that it was one of the few tracks without extensive orchestration.  The first half was a decent enough ballad, but the song definitely improved when the slide guitar kicked in.   rating: ** stars

- Boasting a great melody and guitar hook, the rocker 'Never Should Have Let It Happen' was the most commercial track on the set.   rating: **** stars

- Another rocker that benefited from the absence of orchestration, 'Try Not To Listen' also had considerable FM commercial potential.   rating: *** stars

- One of two numbers penned by drummer Ardisson, normally straightforward blues numbers don't do a great deal for me, but 'Love Has Been All Around' had a couple of things going for it, including the absence of orchestration and some great lead guitar.   rating: *** stars  

- The second Ardisson composition, 'She Done Me Wrong' sounded like the song Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown were always looking for.  Terrific slice of blues-rock that would have sounded great on FM radio.   rating: *** stars

 

As mentioned above, Western World released at least one single off the LP:

 

- 1970's'Black' b/w 'Life' (Western World catalog number WWM 101)

 

  

 

The album doesn't seem to have done anything commercially.  In fact I've only seen two copies and both were promo sets, making me wonder whether there were actually any stock releases.

 

"The First of Felix Harp" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Black   (Eric Beam)  - 
2.) Dear   (Eric Beam)  - 
3.) Life   (Eric Beam)  - 
4.) There Comes A Time   (Eric Beam)  - 
5.) My Love and I   (Paul Williams) - 

 

(side 2)
1.) Mother   (Eric Beam)  - 
2.) Never Should Have Let It Happen   (Eric Beam)  - 
3.) Try Not To Listen   (Eric Beam)  - 
4.) Love Has Been All Around
   (Michael Ardisson)  - 
5.) She Done Me Wrong   (Michael Ardisson) - 

 

 

 

 


Genre: pop

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Dear

Company: Guinness

Catalog: GNS 36053
Year:
 1977

Country/State: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG

Comments: little bit of water damage along bottom right corner of the sleeve; cut top right corner

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD 5696

Price: SOLD $30.00

 

 

Released by the Guinness label in 1977, "Dear" is a great example of a 'tax scam' label reaching out and re-issuing earlier studio material.   In this case, the source material was a 1972 album entitled "The First of Felix Harp" released by the small Western World Music label.  Technically it wasn't a straight reissue since the Guinness release changed the running order and replaced two of the original selections with new material - gone were the songs 'Life' and 'Try Not To Listen', replaced by 'Jackie's Back In Town' and 'The Wind and the Sea'.   Keyboardist Eric Beam was kind enough to drop me a line explaining that the 'new' material' reflected quick mix tapes that were never intended as a final product, hence explaining there unfinished sound.  Be sure to read his fascinating email below.  Anyhow, since these are the same songs, I'll just grab my song-by-song comments from the earlier album:

 

- Another rocker that benefited from the absence of orchestration, 'Try Not To Listen' also had considerable FM commercial potential.   rating: *** stars

- A mid tempo number, 'Dear' also took awhile to get going, but was rescued by a nice chorus.  The somewhat arch structure also reminded me a bit of Styx.   rating: *** stars

- 'Black' started off as a pretty, but rather standard acoustic ballad, however once it got rolling it became quite good.  Yeah, the string arrangement was a major irritation, but Hricsina's fragile voice was well suited to the genre and at least to my ears he sounded a little but like the guys in Styx.   rating: *** stars

- Boasting a great melody and guitar hook, the rocker 'Never Should Have Let It Happen' was the most commercial track on the set.   rating: **** stars

- Overlooking the clichéd lyrics, 'Mother' was atypical in that it was one of the few tracks without extensive orchestration.  The first half was a decent enough ballad, but the song definitely improved when the slide guitar kicked in.   rating: *** stars

- One of the two replaced songs, 'Jackie's Back In Town' was a nice slice of Beatlesque-styled power pop.  Complete with sound effects it actually reminded me of something Brian Wilson might have done in the mid-1960s.  Truth be told it didn't sound much like anything else on the album, but that wasn't meant as a criticism since it may have been the most impressive song on the album.   rating: ***** stars

- The other new track, in spite of a slightly flat vocal performance, 'The Wind and the Sea' was a stark ballad that was better than anything on the original release.  Very nice.   rating: **** stars

- 'There Comes a Time' was another pretty ballad that propelled by the group vocals recalled Styx at their most commercial.  It also sported some first rate slide guitar  that sounded like something off of a Badfinger album.  Very nice.   rating: **** stars

- There really isn't much you can do with a Paul Williams ballad and 'My Love and I' was pretty sappy, though to their credit the performance got better once they got rolling and the electric guitar kicked in.  Adomites provided some nice bass throughout and once again their harmony work was excellent.   rating: ** stars

- One of two numbers penned by drummer Ardisson, normally straightforward blues numbers don't do a great deal for me, but 'Love Has Been All Around' had a couple of things going for it, including the absence of orchestration and some great lead guitar.     rating: ** stars

 

"Dear" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Try Not To Listen   (Eric Beam)  - 

2.) Dear   (Eric Beam)  - 

3.) Black   (Eric Beam)  - 

4.) Never Should Have Let It Happen   (Eric Beam)  - 

5.) Mother   (Eric Beam)  - 

 

(side 2)
1.) Jackie's Back In Town   (Eric Beam)  - 

2.) The Wind and the Sea   (Eric Beam)  - 

3.) There Comes a Time   (Eric Beam)  - 

4.) My Love and I   (Paul Williams) - 

5.) Love Is All Around   (Michael Ardisson)  - 

 

 

 

 


Genre: pop

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Time To Give

Company: Guinness

Catalog: GNS 36054
Year:
 1977

Country/State: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Grade (cover/record): NM/NM

Comments: sealed; cut top right corner

Available:  2

Catalog ID:  126

Price:  $50.00

 

There isn't a great deal of material out there of either of the band's earlier albums and there's literally nothing to be found on 1977's "Time To Give".  This time out all ten tracks were credited to Eric Beam, but judging by the overarching sound, these tracks were probably recorded in the early 1970s.  Pure speculation on my part, but I'd guess they were probably recorded at roughly the same time the debut album was cut. Musically these ten tracks were all over the place, though you had to give these guys credit for being willing to try out difference things.  True, lots of it didn't work well, but it made for a varied and occasionally engrossing listening experience.

 

- Sounding like something The Free Design might have done with Mary Hopkins, the harpsichord and balalaika propelled 'Shoes' was an odd way to start the album.  Don't ask me how, or why, but for some reason this song was actually quite good.  It had one of those melodies that climbed into your head and wouldn't leave.   The song also sported one of the album's best guitar solos.    rating: **** stars  

- A stab at deep, insightful social commentary, 'Something You'll Hear In a Song' seemed to want to redo and improve on 'Eleanor Rigby'.  Not a good choice since this one simply came off as being pompous, self-pitying (c'mon, get over it guy), and boring.  The children's chorus didn't help it one bit.   rating: ** stars  

- 'Jessica Lancer' started out with some nice stabbing organ and kind of druggy flavor.  Unfortunately another sensitive singer/songwriter lyric killed it for me.   rating: ** stars  

- Thank goodness, 'She Done Me Wrong' found the band finally taking a stab at a rock number.  Opening with a tasty lead guitar, the track took a while to get going, but compared to the rest of the set, was a genuine rocker.  Not great by any means, but the lead guitar was okay.    rating: *** stars  

- Side one's most commercial track, 'New Found Lair' had a tasty pounding electric keyboard hook and some multi-layered harmony vocals that actually gave the song a light progressive touch.  Imagine a really, really young Styx  ...  Totally unexpected and quite enjoyable.  My only complaint on this one was that the left channel suddenly dropped at the end of the song and it faded out far too early.    rating: **** stars  

- Borrowed from the original 1972 album, side 2 started out with a wonderful slice of 1967-styled sunshine pop.  One of the standout tracks, 'Life' sounded like a strange cross pollination of a Beatles tune and something The Free Design might have done.  Complete with punchy horns, it was different but quite engaging and would have made a nice single.   rating: **** stars

- The title track was a pretty keyboard ballad with some nice fuzz guitar and a harpsichord solo (yes, I'm a sucker for harpsichord).  Unfortunately it suffered from a flat Billy Hricsina lead vocal.  Shame they didn't go back and re-cut it with a better performance.  Given the abrupt ending, this one also sounded like it was prematurely cut in order to fit the album    rating: ** stars  

- 'Follow Me' started out as a commercial pop-rocker sounding like something Badfinger might have cut, but then incorporate an engaging little progressive segment, before returning to pop-rock.  Fantastic David Lenart lead guitar performance.  Probably my favorite song on the LP.   rating: **** stars

- Side two's most commercial effort, 'Gettin' It Better Together' blended Beach Boy harmonies with a top-40 melody and a great bass pattern from David Adomites.  Could've been a radio staple.   rating: **** stars  

- 'Cowboy' found the band taking a stab at country-rock.  Pretty melody and gorgeous vocal harmonies.  The song also sported one of the weirdest synthesizers I've ever heard - anyone know what they were playing?  And Eric Beam provided the answer below !!!   rating: *** stars  

 

So of the their three releases, where's this one stack up?  Well, I'd buy it first.  It wasn't all that different from the first two, but struck me as the most adventuresome and enjoyable of the set.  By the way, since the collection never saw much in the way of distribution the then-scandalous cover probably didn't make much difference.  That said, whoever the model was, she was blessing with some amazing breasts ...

 

"Time To Give" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Shoes   (Eric Beam) - 3:10

2.) Something You'll Hear In a Song   (Eric Beam) - 3:06

3.) Jessica Lancer   (Eric Beam) - 3:05

4.) She Done Me Wrong   (Eric Beam) - 3:05

5.) New Found Lair   (Eric Beam) - 2:16

 

(side 2)
1.) Life   (Eric Beam) - 2:19

2.) Time To Give   (Eric Beam) - 2:49

3.) Follow Me   (Eric Beam) - 2:39

4.) Gettin' It Better Together   (Eric Beam) - 2:35

5.) Cowboy   (Eric Beam) - 2:39

 

 

The band apparently struggled on through 1974 releasing a non-LP single on the small North American Music Industries (NAMI) label:

 

 

- 'She Didn't Forget Her Shoes (Johnny & Louise)' b/w '' (NAMI catalog number 2011)

 

Beam quit in 1974 with the survivors continuing for a couple of years as The Felix Harp Band.

 

As of 2006 Adomites still seemed to be active on the Pittsburgh music scene.  Last thing I could track down had him playing as a member of Rick Malis' backing band.

 

The internet is such a cool source of information; witness this email from band member Eric Beam:

 

Thank you for reviewing the three Felix Harp albums!  What motivated me to write to you the most was your question, "The song ("Cowboy") also sported one of the weirdest synthesizers I've ever heard.  Anyone know what they were playing?"  Shortly before I joined the band, they (the "producer"- the "tax scam" and many other scams guy) asked me to play an organ solo on the track.  I get bored easily, so I asked them to flip over the 12-track tape and let me play a solo to the backward music.  When flipped back over (to normal), the result was the unique sound you hear on the solo on "Cowboy." 

I was amazed at how much about us and the recordings you got correct. You must be good at research!  If you're interested: I joined the band when David Lenart quit (before the release of The First of Felix Harp).  However, I had pushed my way in previously by introducing my songs to Louis Guarino (the "producer").  The band learned several songs for that album (I played keyboards and sang on "Life").  David Lenart was the slide guitar player (also dobro on "Mother."  He also played acoustic guitar on "Mother" and "Black."  I did no performing on "My Love and I," "Love Has Been All Around" (Billy played the incredible leads on that song-at age 14 ), and "She Done Me Wrong." They did the pictures before I joined, so David Lenart's pictures are on/in the album. Billy sang on "Black" and "My Love and I," but was not the lead singer  - Michael Ardisson was most of the time. Billy became the lead and slide guitar player after David Lenart left.  He was an extremely gifted musician and good friend to many people who unfortunately died in a 1978 house fire. 

After the first album, the "producer" would get a "quick mix" on tape, then not pay the studio what he owed. Therefore, the studio kept the Master tapes.  Most of the tracks on Dear and Time to Give are these "quick mixes."  Most of the time, I sang on the 'quick mix" just so we could take a tape home to listen to it. Then, usually Michael would sing the lead when we went back. This is why the singing is bad on "Time to Give" (The song is really titled "The Line" - written by Billy H. and I wrote the music for the bridge (and arranged - I did most of the arranging) - so it wasn't Billy singing off key, it was me. Lou Guarino many times couldn't remember the names of the songs, or changed them to his liking, so many of the names on Time to Give are incorrect.  I need to play my copy but I don't currently have a turntable that works in order to determine which songs are actually on that album. 

- "The Wind and the Sea" (I sang the "flat performance") (Dear) is most likely a song titled "Remembering Me" which were the first 2 words in that song. The rest of the titles on Dear are correct. 

- Song number two on Time to Give is probably "In A Song You'll Hear Someday" (real title) - sorry you didn't like this song about my life and my belief (at the time) about Existentialism (not a religion). "

- Jessica Lancer" is really named "Savait," but when covered by Reparata (Mr. Guarino was also involved with that group), it was called "Jesabee Lancer, the Belly Dancer," or something close to that.  It was released (on Polydor Records) only in the UK as a single. 

- "New Found Lair" is really titled "Prelude." 

- "Gettin' It Better Together" is actually titled, "Hey, It's Getting Better." 

- You noted the single (NAMI Records), "She Didn't Forget Her Shoes," released after the first album, but didn't note that it is the same as "Shoes" on Time to Give. If you check Wikipedia and You Tube (type in Reparatashoes), you'll see what this song did after I left the band. Guarino got Reparata to sing the lead and the other 2 guys remixed it and sold it to Polydor. You can listen to it on You Tube-good quality and bad. I believe Guarino had something to do with the lawsuit that Dart Records initiated (and won) that prompted Polydor to stop promoting "Shoes" worldwide. It then went off the charts. 

I just found out recently about the sites on Wikipedia and You Tube. 

Well, I really didn't expect to write this much. Hope you find it interesting! When I told your story to friends and relatives-about you wife wanting you to sell all the albums, and that you were reviewing them first, I said, If he did "Felix Harp," he must be on "F" (assuming alphabetical order). Good luck in your quest! 

p.s. I should buy your copy of Time to Give - I think mine's scratched up. I want to have CDs made of all three.

Eric Beam, March 2010

 

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