Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1971-73)

- Hank Barrio -- lead uitar

- Tom Bray -- trumpet

- Manny Esperaza -- vocals

- Steve Lawrence (RIP 1992) -- keyboards

- Sam Lombardo -- drums, percussion

- Joe McSweyn -- bass

- Jim Morris -- keyboards

- Ken Walther (RIP 1999) -- trombone, sax


  line up 2 (1973-76)

- Hank Barrio -- lead guitar

NEW - Stu Blumberg --  trumpet (replaced Tom Bray)

- Manny Esperaza -- vocals

- Sam Lombardo -- drums, percussion

- Joe McSweyn -- bass

- Jim Morris -- keyboards

NEW - Don Roberts --  sax (replaced Ken Walther)




Evergreen Blues

- Lalo and Mark

- Mark and the Escorts






Genre: horn-rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Elijah

Company: United Artists

Catalog: UAS 5098

Country/State: Los Angeles, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1063

Price: $20.00


How to describe Elijah ?   A Chicano Blood Sweat and Tears, or Chicago Transit Authority-styled horn rock outfit ?   Yeah, that would seem to be pretty on-target.  


Showcasing the talents of lead guitarist Rick Barrio (aka Hank Barrio), trumpeter Tom Bray, singer Manny Esparza, keyboardist Steve Lawrence, drummer Sam Lombardo, bassist Steve McSweyn, and trombonist Ken Walther, Elijah actually traces its roots to The Evergreen Blues (I've also seen the name shown as Ever Green Blues), who recorded a pair of late-60s albums - one for Mercury ("7 Do Eleven") and one for ABC ("Comin' On").   


inner sleeve left to right: 

Hank Barrio - Jim Morris - Ken Walther - Manny Esperaza - Sam Lombardo -  Joe McSweyn - 

Tom Bray - Steve Lawrence


By the early-'70s the band had morphed into Elijah, expanding the line-up to an eight piece with the addition of second keyboardist Jim Morris.  So I'll readily admit I'm not a gigantic horn rock fan, but 1972's Doug Gilmore and Terry Furlong produced "Elijah" was an exception to the rule.  One of the reasons had to do with the fact Esparaza had a truly soulful voice that continually attracted your attention, frequently leaving the horns in his dust.  With a voice that was highly versatile, Esparaza was comfortable across a broad waterfront including pop (Take a Ride''), conventional rock ('Prehistoric Rhythm'), funk ('Food for My Soul') and even soul (a first rate cover of Otis Redding's 'Nobody's Fault').  The fact these guys were quality writers didn't hurt the overall results either.  Yeah, if you paid too much attention the horns were occasionally annoying, but for the most part they blurred into the background.  


The band toured extensively in support of the album, opening for a wide variety of acts ranging from Cheech & Chong to Redbone, but with minimal promotion from United Artists, the album did little commercially - amazing given the popularity of early-'70s horn rock.


"Elijah" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Mama   (Manny Esparaza - S. Lawrence) - 3:08   rating: **** stars 

Normally I'm not a big horn rock fan, but 'Mama' was one of the rare exceptions to the rule.  As mentioned above, Esperaza had a surprisingly soulful voice and for the most part, the horn arrangement complimented the song's funky edge.  Add in some nice backing vocals and this was a pretty impressive way to kick off the album.  United Artists tapped the song as a single, though the label doesn't seem to have done much to promote the 45.  




- 1972's 'Mama' b/w 'Prehistoric Rhythm' (United Artists catalog number 50919)







2.) Say What You Wannna   (Sam Lombardo - Manny Esperaza - Hank Barrio) - 2:23   rating: **** stars 

'Say What You Wannna' was even more commercial than the opener, leaving  you to wonder how good the song would have been without the horn arrangement.    

3.) Elijah    (Sam Lombardo - Manny Esperaza - Joe McSweyn -  Hank Barrio - Jim Morris - Tom Bray - Ken Walther - Steve Lawrence) - 2:48   rating: **** stars 

So anyone who doubted these guys could get funky merely needed to check out the title track (along with the name, inspired by a Gideon Bible the band found in a hotel). 

4.) Mean Man  (Larry Cronen - Hank Barrio) - 2:58   rating: **** stars 

Co-written with Yaqui member Larry Cronin, the opening sounded a bit like Three Dog Night doing 'Eli's Coming', but then went off in a bluesier vein.   Quite like it and it would have been even better with the horn solo  .... 

5.) Prehistoric Rhythm  (Pat Vegas - Lolly Vegas) - 5:02   rating: **** stars 

Having opened up for Redbone, I can see the link to the band's decision to include not one, but two  Redbone tunes on the album.   Penned by Pat and Lolly Vegas, 'Prehistoric Rhythm' was easily one of the album's hardest rockin' tunes and one of the standout performances.  


(side 2)
1.) Take a Ride   (Steve Lawrence -
Ken Walther) - 2:40      rating: *** stars

'Take a Ride' opened side two with what was t he album's most pop-oriented tune.  Surprising it wasn't tapped as a single.

2.) Nobody's Fault   (Otis Redding) - 2:30      rating: *** stars

Redding's one of those acts many band's don't even want to mess with, but giving kudos where due, Esparaza and company did the song justice.

3.) Food for My Soul   (Darryl Dragon) - 2:55   rating: **** stars 

The slinky ballad 'Food for My Soul' was one of the few tunes to reflect a distinctive Hispanic influence.  Killer Esperaza performance on this one.  My pick for the album's tune.  

4.) Chant 13th Hour   (Pat Vegas) - 3:17   rating: **** stars 

The second Redbone cover and showcasing the band's top-notch rhythm section,  'Chant 13th Hour' offered up a mesmerizing mixture of funk and Gospel-tinged moves.  

5.) Just a Few More Days    (Sam Lombardo - Manny Esperaza - Joe McSweyn -  Hank Barrio - Jim Morris - Tom Bray - Ken Walther - Steve Lawrence) - 2:39 rating: ** stars

The album's lone disappointment, their cover of the traditional spiritual 'Just a Few More Days' wasn't bad, rather lacked the enthusiasm and energy shown throughout the rest of the album.   







Genre: horn-rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Elijah Fanfares

Company: Sounds of the South

Catalog: 377

Country/State: Los Angeles, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD

Price: SOLD $20.00



With their self-titled 1972 debut album disappearing without a trace and left without a recording contract, 1972 saw Elijah paying their bills as the house band at LA's Whiskey a Go-Go.   The job brought them to the attention of a broad array of L.A. shakers and dealers, including Al Kooper.  Having recently set up his own MCA distributed label, Kooper promptly offered the band a contract on his Sounds of the South label (great title for a guy from New York City).   Jumping at the offer, with a couple of personnel changes (Stu Blumberg replacing Tom Bray on trumpet, and Don Roberts replacing Ken Walther on trombone and sax), the band signed up.    Recorded in Atlanta, the result was 1973's Kooper-produced  "Elijah Fanfares".   Unfortunately, the initial chemistry between Kooper and the band quickly evaporated ; the band reportedly unhappy with Kooper's authoritarian approach to the recording sessions, as well as the financial arrangements.


"Elijah Fanfares" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) It's Easy - 3:16

2.) Get Your Run Out - 4:53

3.) You'll Never Keep the Woman Satisfied - 3:36

4.) L.A. Nites - 3:51

5.) Come On In - 3:31


(side 2)

1.) My Baby - 2:57

2.) You Don;' Know Nothin' About Love - 4:48

3.) Wishful Thinking - 3:17

4.) A Good Thing (I'm On fire) - 4:04

5.) Baby Workout - 3:00



With no promotional support, like the debut, the sophomore album disappeared without a trace and the band returned to Los Angeles where they returned to the club scene before calling it quits in 1976.


Barrio hooked up with the late Hoyt Axton, serving as a member of his touring band through the early-'90s.  He then started touring with Albert King.


Bray, Lawrence, and Walther joined The Electric Flag for several years. Lawrence died in 1992 and Walther died in a 1999 car accident. 


Esperaza and Lombardo dropped out of music, focusing on family life.


McSweyn dropped out of music and turned his attention of oriental medicine.