Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1972)

- April Lawton (RIP 2006) -- vocals, lead guitar, bass, keyboards,


- Mitch Mitchell (RIP) -- drums

- Mike Pinera -- vocals, rhythm guitar

- Russ Smith (RIP) -- vocals, bass

- Tommy Sullivan -- vocals, keyboards, reeds, percussion, sax, bass


  line up 2 (1972-73)

- April Lawton (RIP 2006) -- vocals, lead guitar, bass,  keyboards,


- Tommy Sullivan -- vocals, keyboards, reeds, percussion, sax, bass

NEW Jimmy Walker -- vocals, percussion




- Blues Image (Mike Pinera)\

- Cactus (Mike Pinera)

Jimi Hendrix Experience (Mitch Mitchell)

- The Image (Mike Pinera)

- Iron Butterfly (Mike Pinera)

- Mike Pinera (solo efforts)




Genre: rock

Rating: 2 stars **

Title:  Ramatan

Company: Atlantic

Catalog: SD 7236

Country/State: Florida

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 2526

Catalog ID: 1

Price: $15.00


On the surface Ramatam had an impressive musical heritage which should have seen them become a major act.


 - Lead guitarist April Lawton had both the looks and talent to become a megastar.  Urban legend had it that she worked with Jimi Hendrix (no apparent truth to it).  

- Mitch Mitchell underscored the Hendrix relationship, having been the drummer for The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

- Mike Pinera had stints with Blues Image and Iron Butterfly on his resume.


LP back cover left to right:  Lawton - Mitchell - Pinera - Smith - Sullivan


Signed by Atlantic, the band debuted with 1972's cleverly-titled "Ramatam".  Produced by Tom Dowd, the album had it's moments, but ultimately was too diverse to make much of an impression.  With stabs at blues, country-rock,  hard rock, and jazz it was simply impossible to figure out who these guys were.  Adding to the problems, horn arrangements sank several tracks, while Dowd gave the album a weird muddy sound (at least my copy of the album).


"Ramatam" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Whiskey Place   (April Lawton - Tom Sullivan - Mike Pinera - Russ Smith - Mitch Mitchell) - 3:23     rating: *** stars

The group penned 'Whiskey Place' wasn't a bad rocker.  Nothing particularly original, but energetic with the highlight being Lawton's tasty lead guitar (easy to see where the Hendrix comparisons came from).  Unfortunately much of her work was largely drown out by the needlessly fussy horn arrangement which almost seemed like it had been written for a different song.

2.) Heart Song   (Mike Pinera - Les Sampson) - 4:57   rating: *** stars

Mike Pinera's 'Heart Song' started out as a mellow, almost new age piece, before picking up some steam.  The good news was that Pinera's husky voice was far better than Sullivan and  he showcased it to good effect on this one.  While Tom Sullivan's flute solos didn't do much for me, the song gave Lawton an opportunity to showcase some nice jazzy runs. 

3.) Ask Brother Ask   (Mike Pinera) - 5:04   rating: *** stars

'Ask Brother Ask' could have been a killer song.  Buried in this mess were what sounded like at least two great tunes and one crappy effort that somehow got smashed together into one seemingly endless mess.  While the group vocals sucked, the mid-section of the song was surprisingly funky with Lawton and Pinera turning in some real guitar pyrotechnics.  Unfortunately, the last part of the track degenerated into discordant horns.  

4.) What I Dream I Am   (April Lawton - Tom Sullivan) - 4:00    rating: **** stars

'What I Dream I Am' was a pretty country-rocker.  The most conventional and commercial track on the first side, it's always reminded me of a mixture of Poco and Brewer and Shipley.  The vocals were a bit shrill, but it was pretty, if not particularly original. 

5.) Wayso   (April Lawton - Tom Sullivan - Mike Pinera - Russ Smith - Mitch Mitchell) - 3:25   

rating: ** stars 

'Wayso' was seemingly a stab at showcasing their blues roots.  Unfortunately whatever energy the song had was quickly lost to the crappy horn arrangement and Lawton's flaying leads.  Sometimes less is more and this was one of those cases where the song would have benefited from less lead guitar.   


(side 2)
1.) Changing Days   (April Lawton - Tom Sullivan) - 3:28  rating: *** stars

'Changing Days' was another pretty country rocker.  The song also served to showcase some beautiful harmony vocals.  Shame they didn't incorporate more of this talent into their catalog.  The track was also tapped as a single.    


- 1972's 'Changing Days' b/w 'Wild Like Wine' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2916)

2.) Strange Place   (Mike Pinera0 -  6:06  rating: ** stars 

'Strange Place' sounded like a cross between a Jim Morrison solo effort and a Blood, Sweat and Tears outtake.  Yeah, it was that bad and happened to be the album's longest song.  On a positive note, Lawton got to showcase her wah-wah skills.    

3.) Wild Like Wine   (Russ Smith) - 3:48    rating: **** stars

Praise the Lord, 'Wild Like Wine' offered up a rocker without horns !   The song itself was okay, but to my ears the highlight was Lawton's voice box solo.  Very Joe Walsh-ish !   My pick for best song on the album. 

4.) Canít Sit Still   (April Lawton - Tom Sullivan) - 6:02   rating: *** stars

'Canít Sit Still' ended the album with another horn-propelled rocker.  Like much of the album, the band made the mistake of confusing complexity with quality.  Yeah, there was no doubt that Lawton was a talented player, but too often the results came off as nothing more than rapid fire noise.  


Given their collective talents, this one was nowhere near as impressive as one would have hoped for.


Unfortunately, following the album's release the band fractured with Mitchell, Pinera, and Smith calling it quits.  Pinera reappeared in a late inning edition of Cactus (The New Cactus Band).




SRB 8/2009




Genre: rock

Rating:  2 stars **

Title:  In April Came the Dawning of the Red Suns

Company: Atlantic

Catalog: SD-7261

Country/State: Florida

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve; original lyric inner sleeve

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD 5802

Price: SOLD $15.00


In the wake of their first album, Ramatam underwent a major personnel upheaval that saw original drummer Mitch Mitchell, rhythm guitarist Mike Pinera, and singer/bassist Russ Smith tender their resignations.  The three were quickly replaced by drummer Tommy Walker.  


inner sleeve photo left to right:

Jimmy Walker - Tommy Sullivan - April Lawton


Produced by Geoffrey Haslam, the blow hard title served as an indication the group's 1973 follow-up "In April Came the Dawning of the Red Sunswas going to be a trying affair.  In spite of the personnel shake up these folks were still a band without a distinctive sound.  With all three principals contributing to the writing chores, musically the eleven tracks bounced all over the spectrum, with only a couple of songs making a lasting impression.  Mind you, versatility was a nice trait for a band to have, but when it included stabs at a Sousa march ('Stars and Stripes Forever') and a slice of classical guitar ('Excerpt from Guitar Concerto # 1'), the results were simply ill focused and frustrating.   The biggest disappointment though was Lawton.  She was obviously an extremely talented player (she was also credited with vocals, bass, keyboards, and harmonica), but throughout most of the album her performances were either loud and busy, or simply buried in the mix.  For the most part those talents simply weren't spotlighted very well.


"In April Came the Dawning of the Red Suns" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) The Land   (April Lawton - Tommy Sullivan) - 6:22      rating: **** stars

Overlooking the inept orchestration, 'The Land' sounded like a meeting between America and Crosby, Stills, and Nash.  A pretty country-rock number, the track would have been far better with a stripped down arrangement since the strings simply distracted you from the nice melody and wonderful group harmonies.  As it was, the song was one of the standout performances on the album.

2.) Rainy Sunday Evening   (April Lawton - Tommy Sullivan) -  rating: *** stars  

Blending into 'The Land', ''Rainy Sunday Evenin' featured a more distinctive country feel.  Pretty, but not as impressive as the opener.    

3.) Betty Lou   (April Lawton - Tommy Sullivan) - 4:03   rating: ** stars  

With Sullivan handling the vocals, 'Betty Lou' was an okay slice of boogie-rock.  Truth be told, Sullivan wasn't a great singer, and on this one he seemed to be stretching those limited talents in an effort to give the track that need umph ...  The result was simply shrill.  The same was true for Lawton's brief solos.  

4.) I Can Only Love You   (April Lawton - Tommy Sullivan) - 5:33

Opening with a weird interlude of jazz, 'I Can Only Love You' was a straight ahead rocker.  The basic song was actually quite good, but the melody kept fading in and out.  Add in some needless horn charts, and frenetic, but poorly focused Lawton solos and what could have been one of the album standouts was merely professional and competent.  Actually this one was simply a mess.   rating: ** stars

5.) Excerpt from Guitar Concerto # 1 (instrumental)    (April Lawton - Tommy Sullivan) - 0:44

I'm guessing the brief instrumental 'Excerpt from Guitar Concerto # 1' was intended to showcase Lawton's dexterity and versatility.   Well, it was brief.   rating: ** stars

5.) Autumn Now   (April Lawton - Tommy Sullivan) - 3:50

'Autumn Now' ended the first side with a pretty, country-tinged acoustic ballad.  Imagine a Robbie Robertson and the Band vibe (with a touch of Gary Brooker organ) and you'd be in the right neighborhood.  This was one of the two songs on side one that I'd want to head again.   rating: *** stars


(side 2)
1.) Stars and Stripes Forever (Instrumental)   (John Philip Sousa - arranged by April Lawton - Tommy Sullivan - Jimmy Walker) - 2:15   rating: * star

Why would anyone bother to record a rock version of 'Stars and Stripes Forever'?    

2.) Bounty On My Table   (April Lawton - Tommy Sullivan) - 3:57    rating: *** stars  

A pretty acoustic ballad, 'Bounty On My Table' found the trio mining the America catalog again.  

3.) Downrange Party   (April Lawton - Tommy Sullivan) - 4:53    rating: ** stars

Apparently intended to showcase they could play real rock and roll, 'Downrange Party' simply came off as shrill and tuneless - imagine a bunch of stoned teenagers trying to emmulate Hendrix.  It also sounded like the track had been recorded over a bad long distance phone line.  Once again Lawton's solos were loud and frenetic, but not particularly memorable.  

4.) Free Fall (instrumental)   (April Lawton - Tommy Sullivan) - 1:00   rating: * star

'Free Fall' was sixty second of synthesizer noodling.  Guess they needed to turn in a set amount of music.  Yech.   

5.) Push a Little   (April Lawton - Tommy Sullivan) - 5:20    rating: * star

'Push a Little' found the band taking a stab at Southern rock.  Once again, there as a decent song buried in there somewhere, though good luck finding it buried in the horns and other debris.  At least Lawton got an opportunity to show she could play fast.  Very fast.  

6.) Rhinoceros   (April Lawton - Tommy Sullivan - Jimmy Walker) - 3:05   rating: * star

So why not end the album with a slice of 1950s-styled rock?  For anyone who thought that would be a good idea (I wasn't one of them), there was 'Rhinoceros'.   The jungle sound effects were interesting, though the song itself sucked. 


Wish I could be more upbeat about this one, but that's the way I hear it.


Following the second album Ramatam called it quits.  Lawton formed the cleverly named April Lawton Band which survived without much attention through the late 1970s.  At that point she quit the business, focusing her attention on family life, art and graphic design.  Sadly, only 56, she died of heart failure in November 2006.  For anyone interested, there's a small, but nice Lawton tribute site at: http://www.aprillawton.com/




SRB 8/2009