Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1975-77)
- Mark Ayers -- keyboards
- Ed Burek -- bass
- V.J Comforte -- vocals, percussion
- Wayne DiVarko -- drums, percussion
- Len Fogerty -- lead guitar, backing vocals
- Frankie Sullivan -- lead guitar
- The Jamestown Massacre (V.J Comforte)
- Survivor (Frankie Sullivan)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Company: United Artists
Country/State: Westmont, Illinois
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: 356
Today the short-lived Mariah is an all but unknown runner-up in the '70s AOR race. The band's roots trace back to 1967 at the Chicago-based The Jamestown Massacre which included singer/percussionist V.J Comforte in the line-up. Over the next seven years the band proved popular on the Chicago club and concert scene. Undergoing a chain of personnel changes, they recorded at least four singles, including a pair for Warner Brothers:
- 1969's 'Comin' Home To You' b/e The Next Road' (Destination no catalog number)
- 1972's 'Summer Sun' b/w 'Rhymes & Reasons' (Luv catalog number 104)
- 1972's 'Summer Sun' b/w "Words & Rhymes' (Warner Brothers catalog number 7603)
- 1974's 'Saturday Night' b/w 'Valley' (Warner Brothers catalog number 7787)
By 1974 the line-up had coalesced around keyboardist Mark Ayers, bassist Ed Burek, singer Comforte, drummer Wayne DiVarko, and lead guitarists Len Fogerty and Frankie Sullivan. Embolden by their Warner Brother contract they decided to relocate to Los Angeles. After changing their name to Mariah, the group scored a contract with United Artists, making their album debut with 1975's cleverly-titled "Mariah". Produced by Bob Destocki, there wasn't anything particularly original across these nine tracks with the band wholesale re-purposing influences from a broad spectrum of groups including The Doobies' smooth vocals, Foghat-styled boogie rock, Kansas and Styx-styled lite progressive moves, and Uriah Heep-styled heaviness. Songs like 'Reunion' and 'Broadway' were great for playing spot-the-influences. That said, the nine tracks were uniformly enjoyable; full of sparkling, radio-ready melodies; nice vocal harmonies, and enough hooks to please any top-40 dj. Comforte had the kind of voice that was perfectly suite for the AOR genre - tough, but friendly and commercial, while the band's Fogerty-Sullivan twin lead guitar attack was an added bonus on tracks like 'Rock and Roll Band'. Personal highlights were the closing rocker 'I Was Born' and the first single 'Hay Mama'. Baseline your expectations and this could be a nice surprise.
"Mariah" track listing:
1.) Hey Mama (N. Simper - P. Parks) - 3:08 rating: *** stars
Exemplified by the leadoff rocker 'Hey Mama', even if you didn't know anything about Mariah, you probably would have been able to peg them as a mid-'70s mid-American band. As mentioned, Comforte had an interesting voice - to my ears his slightly choking delivery sounded a lot like Head East's John Schlitt. Nice rollicking tune with a some nice lead guitar work and easy to see why it got tapped as the leadoff single.
- 1975's 'Hey Mama' b/w 'Mystic Lady' (United Artists catalog number UA-XW665-Y)
2.) Rock and Roll Band (V.J. Comforte - Mark Ayers - Ed Burek - Len Fogerty) - 4:16 rating: *** stars
In terms of lyrical originality the autobiographical band-history 'Rock and Roll Band' probably deserved a C-. Musically it reeked of plagiarism with Mark Ayers opening keyboards recalling Uriah Heep while the rest of the song sounded like a cross between Boston and Styx. On the positive side the Fogerty-Sullivan twin lead guitar attack was quite impressive. Shame the song faded out just as they were starting to really kick in.
3.) Mystic Lady (V.J. Comforte) - 2:42 rating: *** stars
Nice mid-tempo rocker that sounded a bit like a Uriah Heep track.
4.) Reunion (Jim Peterik) - 6:16 rating: *** stars
One of three tracks written by future survivor front man Jim Peterik, 'Reunion' found the band stretching out musically and lyrically in an effort to make a big statement about the problems confronting mid-'70s America (the opening radio newscast snippets touched on Watergate and a slew of other issues). Kicked along by Ayers' keyboards and some speed-of-light lead guitar, the song found the band gingerly dipping their collective toes into a lite-progressive genre. Imagine Styx working with a top-40 melody and you'll have a feel for this one.
The second single and another autographical band-on-the-road tune, 'Asleep At the Wheel' sounded a bunch like a Foghat boogie tune. Poor choice for the first single:
- 1975's 'Asleep At the Wheel' b/w 'Feel It' (United Artists catalog number UA-XW765-Y)
2.) Broadway (How You Gonna Keep 'em Down On Broadway After They've Seen the Film?) (Jim Peterik) - 4:14 rating: *** stars
Hum, the extended title was certainly interesting ... Always loved the keyboard and lead guitar combination, though the rest of the song bounced between conventional rocker and something that sounded like it had come off a David Lee Roth solo album (especially the end-of-song vamp).
3.) Nomad Man (JIm Peterik) - 3:24 rating: **** stars
The acoustic guitar driven opening has always reminded me a bit of REO Speedwagon's 'Ridin' the Storm Out' (which had been released a couple of years earlier), but the real draw on 'Nomad Man' was the band's surprisingly impressive harmony vocals. Another album highlight.
4.) Feel It (V.J. Comforte - Mark Ayers - Ed Burek - Len Fogerty) - 3:52 rating: ** stars
Other than the twin lead guitars, the bar band rocker 'Feel It' really didn't have much going for it ...
5.) I Was Born (Kenny Rankin) - 2:42 rating: **** stars
Opening up with some stellar wah-wah guitar (not sure if it was Fogerty or Sullivan), 'I Was Born' was easily the album's best performance. Built on a super commercial melody, Comforte's best vocal, and some nice harmony vocals, this one should have been released as a single.
The album vanished without a trace and the band subsequently called it quits. Guitarist Sullivan went on to success as a member of Survivor. The rest of the band returned to Chicago where Comforte eventually reformed The Jamestown Massacre.
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