Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1978-79)
- Jack Blades -- bass, vocals
- Gregory Eckler -- vocals, drums, percussion
- Brad Gillis -- lead guitar, vocals
- Max Haskett (RIP) -- vocals, trumpet
- Dennis Marcellino -- vocals, guitar, sax
- Jerry Martini -- sax, vocals
- Jim Pugh -- keyboards, vocals
- Jack Blades (solo efforts)
- Cold Blood (Max Haskett)
- Robert Cray Band (Jim Pugh)
- Eckler (Gregory Eckler)
- Pacific Gas and Electric (Max Haskett)
- Dennis Marcellino (solo efforts)
- Night Ranger (Jack Glades and Brad Gillis)
- Shaw-Blades (Jack Blades)
- Sly and the Family Stone (Gerald Martini)
- Stereo (Jack Blades and Brad Gillis)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Company: 20th Century Fox
Country/State: San Francisco, California
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: cut top right corner
Catalog ID: 1157
Jerry Martini had been a member of Sly and the Family Stone, but by the mid-'70s he was growing increasingly unhappy with Sly Stone's increasingly erratic behavior and began looking for another project. That project turned into the criminally overlooked horn-rock outfit Rubicon. Showcasing the talents of Martini on sax, bassist Jack Blades, drummer Gregory Eckler, lead guitarist Brad Gillis, singer/trumpet player Max Haskett, Dennis Marcellino, and keyboardist Jim Pugh, the band found a manager in the form of Carl Bernhardt who helped the group score a recording deal with 20th Century Fox.
Produced by Richard Podolor, "Rubicon" featured a collection of original material that ran the spectrum from Chicago-styled horn-rock ('Far Away'), to passable funk ('Vanilla Gorilla'), and more conventional rockers ('Closely'). On the surface the album wasn't particularly original, but it was one of those collections where the band's enthusiasm came through and more than compensated for other artistic short-comings. Unlike their live shows which apparently spotlighted the Haskett - Marcellino - Martini horn section, with the exception of the closer 'That's the Way Things Are' most of these nine tracks kept the horns under control, avoiding the outright experimentation that plagued so many of their horn-rock competitors. Think along the lines of Tower of Power and you won't be too far off. Having two really good lead vocalists (Haskett and Marcellino) and one decent singer ('Eckler') certainly didn't hurt their overall sound, nor did the addition of a gifted bassist (Blades) and a good rock guitarist (Gillis).
"Rubicon" track listing:
1.) And the Moon's Out Tonight (Gerald Martini) - 3:28
I'm normally not a big horn rock fan, but 'And the Moon's Out Tonight' was one of those exceptions. Surprisingly funky, I'm not sure who handled lead vocals on this one (I think it was Haskett), but their deep, soulful voice was simply killer giving the song a really nice soul-rock edge. This is the tune I would have tapped as the single. rating: **** stars
2.) Far Away (Max Haskett) - 4:59
The keyboard powered 'Far Away' was a surprisingly enjoyable ballad that put horn-rock outfits like BS&T and Chicago to shame. Wonderful harmony vocals on this one. rating: *** stars
3.) Closely (Dennis Marcellino) - 5:30
With Marcellino handling lead vocals, 'Closely' found the band dropping the horns in favor of a hard rock attack that showcased one of Gillis' best pre-Night Ranger solos. Another nice surprise. rating: **** stars
4.) Vanilla Gorilla (Gerald Martini - Max Haskett) - 5:06
Say what you will, but powered by Jack Blades slap bass line (Larry Graham would have been proud), this was easily one of the funkiest tracks ever recorded by a white band. Jim Pugh's cheesy synthesizers were almost as good. Wild Cherry could only dream about doing something as good. The band's live show apparently included a roadie dressed in a gorilla suit chasing Blades around during the song. rating: **** stars
I can actually remember hearing 'I'm Gonna Take Care of Everything' on the radio and thinking it was a pretty AOR ballad. Shows you my ignorance. In retrospect it was a wonderful ballad sounding a bit like a cross between Tom Johnston-era Doobie Brothers, early Steely Dan, and Toto. Having one of the best hooks of the year certainly didn't hurt. Released as a single, the tune proved the band's only brush with top-40 success (# 28 pop).
2.) I Want To Love You (Jack Blades) - 3:11
Decent, if anonymous blue-eyed soul ballad that sounded like something Pablo Cruise of one of those late-'70 California bands might have churned out. rating: *** stars
3.) Cheatin' (Gregory Eckler - James Pugh) - 3:46
Another slinky funk tune with Haskett handling lead vocals. Nice with the horns adding a nice punchy edge to the tune. rating: *** stars
4.) It's All for the Show (Gregory Eckert) - 3:50
And just when I thought I'd figure these guys out, along comes Eckert's 'It's All for the Show'. A completely unexpected slice of country-rock, in spire of the life's-tough-on-the-road lyric, this one would have made Firefall, or any of the other Southern California folk-rock outfits proud. rating: **** stars
5.) That's the Way Things Are (Jerry Martini - Lynn Mederos) - 5:41
Another slice of early Doobies with a funky edge, this one started out promisingly enough with a nice display of Blades' slap bass, but ultimately it wasn't enough to keep the horns from taking the song over. rating: *** stars
As mentioned, the album spun off a single:
- 1978's 'I'm Gonna Take Care of Everything' b/w 'That's The Way Things Are' (20th Century Fox catalog number TC 2362)
Jack Blades and Brad Gillis went on to join Night Ranger. Blades also recorded an album with former Styx singer/guitarist Tommy Shaw.
For anyone interested, while poking around online I found this extensive 20th Century Fox marketing department prepared band biography:
The San Francisco Bay Area continues its reputation for spawning landmark musical groups with the launching of RUBICON on 20th Century Records. RUBICON is a vibrant, high-energy, seven-man band with an unmatched musical versatility. The band boasts of three capable lead vocalists and all members can handle harmony and background parts. All seven guys write music and are able to communicate their musical ideas in an articulate, verbal manner as well as through their instruments.
Perhaps the supreme musical talent to emerge from the Bay Area so far has been Sly and the Family Stone. The piercing, vibrant horn contributions to such Top Ten smashes as "Stand", "Everyday People", and "Thank You (falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" were propelled by Jerry Martini, the organizer and guiding thrust of RUBICON. An experienced, understanding, and perceptive professional, Jerry has drawn on his ten years membership in Sly's Family Stone to carve out the doctrines and goals of RUBICON. When Jerry helped put Sly's band together in 1966, he was determined to learn and absorb as much as he could about the music industry and he never lost sight of that objective. The ten years that followed saw him contribute musically to seven gold albums, one platinum album, exciting, explosive concerts in every major city in the U.S. and Europe, and a riveting show-stopping performance of "Dance To The Music", "Music Lover", and "I Want To Take You Higher" at Woodstock in 1969, the peak performance at the ultimate rock concert. Their highly visual and excitingly musical performance was captured on film and repeatedly singled-out and applauded by film critics upon the release of the movie Woodstock by Warner Brothers in 1970.
Born in Colorado, Jerry's interest in music began at the age of two when he sang in public for the first time. At the age of twelve, he was performing on local television shows. In 1966, Jerry convinced Sly Stone to put a band together and this began what Jerry refers to as an "invaluable and unforgettable musical experience". While cultivating and developing RUBICON, Jerry along with the other RUBICON horn players Max Haskett and Dennis Marcellino, has added his unique horn style to several recording sessions including Graham Central Station's recent hit album Now Do You Wanna Dance.
Dennis Marcellino brings his exceptional versatility on the saxophone, tambourine, and flute to RUBICON as well as a resonant lead vocal. Professional acting lessons have enhanced his substantial ability to project himself to his audience. His musical honing includes two years with Sly and the Family Stone, as well as stints with Elvin Bishop and The Electric Flagg. His laid-back, mellow persona is a reflection of his deep interest and exploration of mysticism and Eastern philosophies.
At twenty, Bradley Gillis is RUBICON's youngest and newest member. He received a guitar for his eighth birthday and he has been playing ever since. Brad's guitar styling is reminiscent of Jeff Beck and he adds a strong rock flavor to the band. His striking good looks, are complemented by a confident, exuberant attitude and a ready willingness to learn as much as he can about his first love - music.
The distinctive bass guitar sound that highlights RUBICON is supplied by Jack Blades who has been playing bass since the age of twelve. A native of Palm Springs, California, Jack's genuine enthusiasm for his music saw him join many local bands in Southern California. Jack was a pre-med student at San Diego State University when he first met Jerry who was so impressed with Jack's playing that he decided to put a band together structured around Jack's style of playing and convinced him to move to San Francisco and work there until Jerry was ready to put the group together.
Jack's friendship with RUBICON's drummer and lead vocalist, Greg Eckler, predates the birth of RUBICON. Greg and Jack have played together a number of years ago and were familiar with each other's musical styles prior to joining forces in RUBICON. Born in Kentucky, Greg played the trumpet in high school and college where he learned to read and write music. A great showman, his facial appearance bears a striking resemblance to Elton John, but Greg's way around his double bass drum set is uniquely his own.
Jim Pugh, keyboardist, has an intense driving passion for music. With substantial formal training, Jim is the group's most technically proficient member. Jim's enthusiasm for music is only paralleled by his passion for sports. Born in Chicago, Illinois, Jim has been a resident of the Bay Area since the early 70's. His interest in music knows no barriers and at one time in his career he was a member of a band that played only Mexican music. His wild, exuberant personality lies in perfect contrast to that of
Max Haskett, the mellow introspective, pipe-smoking, trumpet player of RUBICON. Max's soaring vocal range and sensitive interpretation of material makes him the choice to handle the greatest portion of the singing. Max was born and bred in the Bay Area an has been part of its music scene for many years. Most recently he was a member of Lydia Pense and Cold Blood and recorded several albums. Together these seven musicians form RUBICON, a new direction and innovative expression of what they care about -- music.
Rating: 2 stars **
Title: America Dreams
Company: 20th Century Fox
Country/State: San Francisco, California
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: minor edge wear
Catalog ID: SOLD 1159
Price: SOLD $9.00
1979's "America Dreams" found Rubicon continuing their partnership with producer Richard Polodor. Musically the album wasn't a major change in direction, but this time around the sound seemed far fussier and the band sounded distinctly tired and uninspired. With the whole band contributing to song writing chores you would have expected at least a couple of successes, but it wasn't to be. Of the ten tunes, only the ballad 'Washington '73' and the mid-tempo rocker 'Eyes of Mary' made much of an impression. On the positive side, anyone who liked Jack Blades' slap bass-stylings was going to be happy with his spotlight time on this one. Whereas Blades only got a couple of spotlight moments on the first album, his bass was prominent on about half of these songs. I'm a big fan, but I'll readily admit that by the end of the album, I'd had more than my fill of slap bass. Wish I could say more about the album, but it simply wasn't very good. By the way, the sleeve and inner label track listings are all out of whack. This lays out the proper song sequence.
Dreams" track listing:
1.) Love On the Run (Jack Blades - Jim Pugh - Brad Gillis - Gregory Eckert) -
Well, you could do worse than opening up with a car song ('39 Plymouth). Even better, this hard rock tune didn't include any horns. rating: *** stars
2.) Hungry for Your Love (Jerry Martini - Dennis Marcellino) -
Cocktail jazzy ballad .... with a vocal that sounded like "What Were Once Vices" era Doobie Brothers. rating: ** stars
3.) Dr. Spears (Jack Blades - Gregory Eckert - Jerry Martini) - 4:48
Strained blue-eyed funk track that was instantly forgettable ... rating: ** stars
4.) Washington '73 (Max Haskett) - 4:05
Pretty keyboard powered ballad that got an extra star for limiting the horns. rating: *** stars
5.) Let Yourself Go (Dennis Marcellino - Gregory Eckert) -
Give Marcellino credit for injecting a bit of energy into the proceedings with the slinky rocker 'Let Yourself Go'. Yeah, it paled compared to anything on the debut, but for this set it was one of the standout performances. rating: *** stars
1.) Eyes of Mary (Jack Blades - Jim Pugh - Max Haskett - Dennis Marcellino) - 4:48
The mid-tempo rocker 'Eyes of Mary' at least sported a memorable melody and some nice Gillis lead guitar. The track would have been even better without the busy horn arrangement that popped up mid-song. rating: *** stars
2.) Gimme Some Loving (Steve Winwood - Muff Winwood - Spencer Davis) - 3:48
Why the band decided to do a cover of this rock classic is kind of a mystery. Trying to "toughen" the tune up really didn't do anything to improve on the original. Similarly the prominent horns and the screechy lead vocals didn't really add much to the performance. rating: ** stars
3.) Higher and Higher (Max Haskett) -
The most interesting thing on this funky number was how much Haskett sounded like Doobie Brother Tom Johnston. Other than the jittery organ, the song itself was pretty forgettable. rating: *** stars
4.) Too Good To Be True (Dennis Marcellino) -
Horribly sappy ballad that you wouldn;t even dare play at a high school prom made even worse by a barely in-tune vocal. rating: * star
5.) America Dreams (Jack Blades - Jim Pugh - Max Haskett - Brad Gillis - Gregory Eckert - Dennis Marcellino) - 5:28
Well, I guess appropriating Henry Mancini's 'Peter Gunn Theme' was a cute idea (and they gave him a writing credit), but that may have been the highlight on this otherwise flatulent slice of funk, pop, and progressive moves. The constant time changes, including the sped up section, were simply irritating. Who knows why, but 20th Century Fox released the song as a 12" dance single. rating: ** stars
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