Side Show


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1  (-1969-70)

- Ken Bichel -- keyboards, synthesizers, backing vocals, trumpet,

  melodica

- Paul Giovanni (RIP 1990) -- vocals, guitar

- Gregg Kreutz -- bass, vocals, backing vocals

- Ken Zeserson -- lead guitar, sax, backing vocals

 

  supporting musicians

- Gordon Gottlieb -- drums

- Cissy Houston -- backing vocals

- Ted Hoyle -- cello

- Bill Lavornia -- drums

- Arif Marfin -- percussion, string arrangement

- Chuck Rainey -- bass

- John Sachs -- guitar

- Todd Studd - trombone

 

 

 

- Forever Children (Paul Giovanni)

- Gershon Kingsley's First Moog Quartet

- Magnet (Paul Giovanni)

- The Purple Valley (Ken Zeserson)

- Radio Lodson (Ken Zeserson)

- Lonnie Liston Smith and the Cosmic Echoes

- The Stories (Ken Bichel)

 


 

Genre: pop

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Side Show

Company: Atlantic

Catalog:  SD 8261
Year:
 1970

Country/State: New York, New York

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: includes lyric sheet

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 30004

Price: $30.00

The late Paul Giovanni seems to have been the brainchild/front man for the short-lived New York based Side Show.

 

 

Singer/guitarist Giovanni started his entertain career in New York's mid-'60s theater scene.  His musical  career started under the moniker of The Forever Children, releasing a rare 45 for ABC:

 

- 1967's 'Only the Rain' b/w 'Merry Go Round' (ABC catalog number 45-10947)

 

 

 

 

 

With the Forever Children enjoying a short recording career (the one single), Giovanni met bassist Gregg Kreutz while performing summer stock theater in Massachusetts.  The pair found a common interest in music, deciding to form a rock band that could incorporate some of their theatrical interests.   Recruiting Julliard trained keyboardist Ken Bichel and guitarist Ken Zeserson, as Side Show they attracted the attention of Atlantic Records which signed them to a contract, resulting in the release of 1970's "Side Show".  Produced by Arif Mardin, the album featured contributions from three of the four members - the lone non-writer being keyboardist Bichel.  Musically this was one of the weirdest albums in my collection.  While lots of albums reflect different musical inspirations and directions, those differences have seldom been as apparent as on this LP.  Exemplified by tracks like 'Joanna', 'Cold Coffee' and 'Ah!', these guys couldn't figure out if they wanted to be a pop group; a rock band, or Broadway composers.  The result was an album with some truly schizophrenic tendencies - hyper catchy hooks, paired with movie soundtrack orchestration and Dylan-esque lyrics (check out 'The Duel').  As performers it was kind of hard to get a baring on these guys.  Giovanni wasn't the most distinguished  singer you've come across; some of those performance marred by his penchant for Broadway stage flourishes.  Given all the sessions players credited on the album it was hard to tell what roll the rest of the band had.  As lead guitarist Zeserson was okay, but just wasn't given a lot of face time in producer Mardin's arrangements.  The same was true for bassist Kreutz.  Given Chuck Rainey was listed as a player, Kreutz may not have had much opportunity to play.

 

Unwilling, or unable to tour, the band quickly fell apart.

 

"Side Show" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Cold Coffee   (Gregg Kreutz) - 3:34   rating: **** stars

As mentioned, I had no idea what to expect from this album, but it certainly wasn't this big, commercial ballad ...  Giovanni's performance was a little on the operatic side, but the backing vocals and the chorus were sweet and radio-ready.  Elsewhere Ken Zeserson's guitar solo sounded like it had been recorded in a different State.  The solo was so low in the mix as to be almost non-existent.   Still, this one remains a hit waiting for someone to come along and do a remake.

2.) Carolyn   (Paul Giovanni) - 4:06   rating: *** stars

'Carolyn' opened up with some nice acoustic guitar, but was then notable for lots and lots of words; not much in the way of a melody ...  In fact, this one sounded like a bunch of different song ideas that were haphazardly stitched together into kind of an aural stew.  At least Zeserson's guitar playing was better mixed this time around.

3.) The Duel   (Gregg Kreutz - Ken Zeserson - Paul Giovanni) - 5:19   rating: *** stars

Sounding like a psycho stalking scene for a "B" flick, the opening segment of 'The Duel' was seemingly a precursor to some of Giovanni's  forthcoming projects.  Musically it was kind of an interesting song-story with an unexpected narrative twist.  Ken Bichel provided the barrel house piano and fire-alarm synthesizer sounds.  Not to hard to picture this one in the soundtrack to a Broadway play.

4.) The Pill   (Paul Giovanni) - 4:39   rating: *** stars

After the experimental touches on 'The Duel', 'The Pill' came as a head spinning change in direction, mixing what must have been a highly controversial lyric with the album's most poppy melody.  

5.) Ah!   (Paul Giovanni) - 4:05   rating: *** stars

'Ah!' was another big ballad that found Giovanni trying to balance pop, rock and theatric influences.  He got close and had his voice been stronger, he might have been able to pull it off.  

 

(side 2)

1.) Joanna  (Gregg Kreutz - Ken Zeserson) - 4:34  rating: *** stars

Opening up with soundtrack orchestration, 'Joanna' quickly devolved into MOR ballad with navel gazing lyrics would have made Jimmy Webb proud.  It was probably the album's most conventional and commercial performance.  

2.) Jinx  (Ken Zeserson - Paul Giovanni) - 3:29  rating: *** stars

Sweet, breezy, old timey fashion ballad - imagine something Spanky and Our Gang might have recorded.  Admittedly their harmony vocals were blissful.   rating: ** stars

3.) Supper  (Gregg Kreutz - Ken Zeserson - Paul Giovanni) - 3:54  rating: *** stars

Another song where the mix of pop and show tune rendered the results irritating to my ears.

4.) Rooster  (Gregg Kreutz - Ken Zeserson) - 3:13   rating: ** stars

Bassist Kreutz took lead vocals on 'Rooster'.  The result was a weird country-tinged tune that for some reason has always made me think of a cross between The Grateful Dad and The Velvet Underground.  One really weird song ...

5.) Joe  (Gregg Kreutz - Ken Zeserson - Paul Giovanni) - 4:46   rating: **** stars

Starting as a litling ballad, but gathering energy as it went along, 'Joe' was probably the album's prettiest performance ...  It was certainly Giovanni's best performance, showing he had a nice voice that was at its best when he avoided the theatrics.

 

 

 

 

Under the name Magnet, in 1973 Giovanni recruited Peter Brewis, Gary Carpenter, Michael Cole, Ian Cutler, Bernard Murray and Andrew Tompkins to record the soundtrack for the British horror film "Wicker Man".  With Giovanni handling several of the vocals, the album featured a weird mix of English folk tunes and sound effects.

 

In 1998 the British Trunk label released the soundtrack "The Wicker Man (The Original Motion Picture Soundytrack Music & Effects)" (Trunk catalog BARKED 004).  

 

In the mid-'70s Giovanni returned to the stage, among other things, writing and staging the Tony nominated "The Crucifer of Blood" (later made into an instantly forgotten film) and composing a obscure musical "Shot Thru the Heart".  In the late '80s he taught theater at the University of South Carolina.  He died of AIDS related pneumonia in June,1990.   

 

Bichel has remained active on Broadway, as a sessions player and as a concert pianist.

 

Kreutz became an in-demand painter as well as penning various books and articles and three plays.  He has a website at: http://www.greggkreutz.com/

 

Zeserson still plays in local bands, but paid his bills working in the health care marketing field.  Here's a link to his bio:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/ken-zeserson-8b94206

 

 

 

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