Rock Island

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1969-70)

- Bob "Cobb" Bussinger -- vocals, keyboards

- Tony Curico  - bass

- Mike Kennedy (RIP 2006) -- vocals, lead guitar

- Frank Schallis (RIP 2000) -- drums, percussion, vocals

- B.J. Taylor -- vocals


  line up 2: (1970)

- Bob "Cobb" Bussinger -- vocals, keyboards

- Mike Kennedy (RIP 2006) -- vocals, lead guitar

NEW - Ray Macino -- drums, percussion (replaced Frank Schallis)

NEW - Tony Marc -- bass (replaced Tony Curico)

- B.J. Taylor -- vocals





- Al Barrett's Linemen (B.J. Taylor)

- Cobb Bussinger (solo efforts)

- The Contells (Tony Curico)

- Tony Curico (solo efforts)

- The Nicky Hopkins Band (Mike Kennedy)

- Horsepower (Mike Kennedy)

- Mike Kennedy and Horsepower (Mike Kennedy)

- The Many Few (Robert Bussinger, Mike Kennedy and 

  Frank Schallis)

- Rain (Bob "Cobb" Bussinger, Mike Kennedy and Frank Schallis)

- Silverspoon (Mike Kennedy)



Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Rock Island

Company: Project 3

Catalog:  PR 4005 SD

Country/State: Glenside, Pennsylvania

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 33070

Price: $100.00

This album caught my attention as someone who's picked up a couple Enoch Light's Project 3 releases (notably some of The Free Design catalog).  Project 3 albums tend towards easy listening titles (Enoch Light and the Light Brigade, Enoch Light and His Orchestra), which made this rock release jump out at you.


Based on their name, I always thought these guys were from Chicago - i.e. I though the name was inspired by the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad.   Not the first time I've been wrong, since they were apparently based in Glenside which was a suburb of Philadelphia.  


Keyboardist Bob "Cobb" Bussinger, guitarist Mike Kennedy and drummer Frank Schallis played together in the band The Many Few.  When The Many Few called it quits they moved on to form Rock Island, expanding the line-up to include bassist Tony Curico and lead singer B.J. Taylor.  Armed with a self-financed demo, the band made a concerted effort to attract a major label, finding an interested party in producer Jeff Hest.  Sign to Enoch Light's Project 3 label, 1970's "Rock Island" teamed the band with Hest producing and label owner Light serving as executive producer.  Recorded in New York's A&R Studios, the album showcased a largely original collection of original material.  With all five members contributing to the writing chores (producer Hest contributed one track), the songs were uniformly consistent, though exhibiting more variety than your standard early-'70s release.  As lead singer Taylor had a decent voice that was well suited for hard rock moves.  Interesting all of the members were featured on backing vocals and when given an opportunity, those group vocals were surprisingly commercial and impressive - check out the opener 'Blue, Blue Lady'.  Exemplified by guitar and organ powered tunes like 'Runnin' Through My Mind' and 'I Remember', steady, mid-Western rock seemed to be their stock-in-trade (yeah, I know they were from Philly).  Those tracks were good, but nothing that was truly memorable.  That made some of the atypical efforts the standout performances.  'When I was a Boy' was interesting in the way it bounced between acoustic ballad and jazzy moves.  'Hard and Never Easy' and pulled out a similar trick, melding conventional rock with an unexpected country refrain.  'Won't You Stay Another Day' showcased a jazzy vibe with some of the group's wonderful harmonies.  Best of the lot showcasing their collective strengths was the single 'Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You'.


In support of the album the band played select dates in New York and Philadelphia, but anti-war civil unrest saw many clubs cancel their performance schedule, leaving Rock Island with few touring alternatives.


Rock Island" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Blue, Blue Lady   (Mike Kennedy) - 3:02   rating: *** stars

Funny, but looking at the cover I was expecting a mid-Western sludge rock band.  Maybe something along the lines of David Warner and Crow.  Shows you how far off expectations can be ...  While I wouldn't exactly call it a pop song, 'Blue, Blue Lady' slammed together a rock baseline with some surprisingly commercial backing harmonies.  Those group harmonies would have given CS&N a run for their money.

2.) Runnin' Through My Mind   (Jeff Hest) - 5:07   rating: *** stars

Written by producer Hest, the rocker 'Runnin' Through My Mind' opened up with a lengthy Kennedy guitar  solo.  When Bussinger's organ was added to the mix I started to have Vanilla Fudge flashbacks.  Yeah, this was more along the lines of what I was expecting.  What made the song different though were Taylor's lounge act crooner vocals.  Strange performance.

3.) When I was a Boy   (Robert Bussinger - Frank Schallis) - 3:09   rating: **** stars

Having settled back ready for the next shot of guitar and organ metal, 'When I was a Boy' started out as a stark acoustic ballad, before revealing some totally unexpected jazzy moves. And then it abruptly shifted back to the original ballad motiff.  Maybe because it was just so different and unexpected, I'll give it an extra star.  

4.) I Keep On Tryin'   (Mike Kennedy - B.J. Taylor ) - 2:10   rating: ** stars

Perhaps 'I Keep On Tryin' wasn't Taylor's subtlest performance, but then 'I Keep On Tryin'' sounded like a studio jam that was composed on the fly.

5.) Hard and Never Easy  (Mike Kennedy) - 3:00    rating: *** stars

Lots of songs are stitched together from different compositions, but you'll seldom hear one where that's as obvious as 'Hard and Never Easy'.  The main segment was probably the album's most mainstream and commercial composition.  In contrast, the country-styled refrains came out of nowhere.  Kennedy's solos gave the song a Southern-rock vibe; Marshall Tucker Band comes to mind.  Jarring, if oddly memorable.   


(side 2)

1.) She Has Left Me   (Robert Bussinger - Frank Schallis) - 3:10    rating: *** stars

'She Has Left Me' opened up as a bluesy number and then shifted into more conventional rock territory.

2.) Won't You Stay Another Day   (Mike Kennedy - Frank Schallis) - 2:19   rating: **** stars

Another departure from their hard rock moves, propelled by Bussinger's tasteful jazzy organ fills and some light group harmony vocals, 'Won't You Stay Another Day' showcased a much more pop oriented sound.

3.) I Remember   (Mike Kennedy - B.J. Taylor) - 2:17  rating: ** stars

Another, routine and uninspired rocker with the harmony vocals on the refrain providing the hightlight.

4.) Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You   (Mike Kennedy - B. Devlin - B.J. Taylor) - 2:20

With the strongest melody and best hook, 'Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You' was easily the album's standout performance.  The song also managed to come up with a nice mix showcasing the combination of Taylor's rough hewn lead vocal and the sweet group harmonies.  The song was tapped as a 45.


- 1970's 'Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You' b/w 'Hard and Never Easy' (Project 3 catalog number PR 45-1382)





5.) Blues (Mike Kennedy - Robert Bussinger - B.J. Taylor) - 8:12   rating: *** stars

6.) Blues Reprise #1 - 0:37

7.) Blues Reprise #2 - 0:27

Truth in advertising ...  'Blues' and the two brief reprises offered up an okay set of electric blues. The focus was on Kennedy's fretwork, but stretching out over nine minutes, the tune eventually outstayed its welcome




Bussinger, Mike Kennedy and Frank Schallis continued their collaboration, reappearing in the band Rain, which recorded a 1972 album for Project 3


- 1972's "Rain" (Project 3 catalog number PR5072 SD).


The Out-Sider label reissued the collection:


- 2017's "Rain"  (Out-Side catalog number OSR061)




Bussinger remains active in music, having recorded a number of keyboard-oriented albums.


Kennedy reappeared in the metal band Horsepower.  Only 54, he died of cancer in November 2006.


Schallis reportedly passed on in 2000.