Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1971)
- Jonathon Round (aka John Mariotto) -- vocals, guitar (RIP 2009)
supporting musicians: (1971)
- Jack Ashford -- percussion
- Bob Babbitt -- bass
- Dave Banks -- backing vocals
- Jack Boesen -- strings
- Fred Boldt -- sax
- Dennis Coffey -- guitar
- John Griffith -- keyboards
- Edgar Clanton -- backing vocals
- Boob Coward -- flute, oboe
- LeRoy Fenstermacher -- strings
- Sam Fozzini -- drums
- Barbara Fickitt --strings
- Leo Harrison -- trombone
- George Hawkins -- trombone -
- Parke Grout -- trombone
- Virginia Hoffman -- strings
- David Ireland -- strings
- Emanuel Johnson-- backing vocals
- Doris Jones -- backing vocals
- LaVerna Mason -- backing vocals
- Thaddeus Markiewicz -- strings
- Carl Raetz -- trombone
- Felix Resnick -- strings
- Sylvester Rivers -- keyboards
- Alvin Score -- strings
- Haim Shtrum -- strings
- Beatriz Staples -- strings
- Mike Theodore -- synthesizer, guitar
- Santo Urso -- strings
- Pat Webb -- backing vocals
- none known
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: Jonathon Round
Country/State: Detroit, Michigan
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: gimmick cover
Catalog ID: --
I have to say for an unknown artist, the amount of posthumous material available on Jonathon Round is stunning. It seems like every person who met him, saw one of the man's performances, or bought a copy of his 1971 album has written some sort of remembrance. And in an age where we can't agree on anything and nothing seems off limits to criticism, virtually every comment underscores what a great guy Round was. I never met the man, but you really can't go through life with a better outcome. = )
Born John Mariotto, he was the oldest in a family of ten children; exhibiting an interest in theatrics while in high school. He was active in his high school drama program, learning to sing and play guitar. By the early 1970s Mariotto had turned his attention to music. Working under the stage name Jonathon Round, performances throughout Detroit and the local area (coffee houses, clubs, small schools), eventually attracted the attention of Armen Boladian's Westbound label which signed him to a recording contract. Given Round was a acoustic folk musician, you had to wonder why an R&B/soul oriented label like Westbound would have signed him. It certainly seems like an odd match, but then it there was money to be made ...
Released in 1971, "Jonathon Round" teamed the singer with producers Dennis Coffey and Mike Theodore. The album offered up an off mixture of Round originals and popular covers. In spite of a couple of interesting performances, the collection apparently failed to capture Round's live sound. Given Round was a solo, acoustic act, that's probably not a major surprise. Trying to picture Coffey and Theodore struggling with how to record Round would have been interesting. Given their earlier successes with funk bands like Funkadelic and The Ohio Players, I can understand why Westbound management felt the need to play around and "commercialize" Round's sound. Looking at the list of supporting musicians, you can see the label brought some heavy hitters, including strings and horns, to the project. It's also easy to see why their efforts were doomed to failure. Round was clearly a gifted performer with a big voice and judging by tracks like 'Train-a-cominí' an accomplished acoustic guitarist. Not as impressive, his theatrical background came through on many of the songs. While the effect might have been enduring in an intimate club setting, Coffey and Theodore rode it for all it was worth; pushing material like 'And I Will Not Be Moved' and his cover of The Rolling Stones' 'Sympathy For The Devil' into campy territory. To my ears much of this sounded like a precursor to the material Meatloaf and John Steinman would ride to platinum sales in the early-'80s. That's great if you were a fan of 'Paradise By the Dashboard Light.' Not so impressive if you weren't a fan. Trolling the internet I found a short entry Round had posted about the album. His frustration with the album is apparent.
"Thank you all for remembering the work. The Westbound Album was the first deal I made after having started performing in the early seventies. Anyone who signed a contract in those days found out very quickly how little say they had over artistic issues. Overall I am proud of what was done. Many of the decisions made came about as a result of having signed with an R&B label. Many of the artistic decisions were made by folks who had been doing R&B all their careers. A second and then an independently produced third album were done but unfortunately never released. Either of these two more accurately reflect where I was artistically at the time. Perhaps I'll get a chance to post some cuts from these some time in the future. Once again, thanks for the memories. PS - There is no truth to the rumor that I was ever at any party where "spiked" kind bud was passed out. I'm still looking for the guy who started that story -- and so is my lawyer."
Round" track listing:
1.) In Quest Of The Unicorn (Jonathon Round) - 4:50 rating: **** stars
Given I had no expectations for this album, the opener proved a mild surprise. Kind of sharp and biting, Round's voice wasn't instantly likeable, but it quickly grew on you and backed by a tight band, his performance was energetic. Overlooking the theatric lyrics and delivery (Jim Steinman and Meatloaf would have been happy to have recorded this one), 'In Quest of the Unicorn' sported a nice, pounding melody that ended up worming its way into your head. One of the set's most conventional and enjoyable tunes.
2.) Donít It Make You Wanna Go Home (Joe South) - 3:01 rating: ** stars
I grew up on the Joe South original so any cover was going to have a high mountain to climb in terms of comparisons. Round's version was recognizable as the same song, but backed by a shrill chorus, his half-shouted, operatic delivery was about as appealing as chalk on a blackboard. Bad idea from start to finish ... For some reason the song was released as a single in France:
- 1971's 'Donít It Make You Wanna Go Home' b/w 'Train-a-cominí' (Stateside catalog number 2 C 006 928009)
- 1971's 'Donít It Make You Wanna Go Home' b/w 'To Love Somebody' (Tesla catalog number TE 20057)
3.) Tolu (Jonathon Round) - 5:06 rating: *** stars
Apparently inspired by a girlfriend (aren't most ballads?), 'Tolu' was a pretty enough ballad, though the lyrics ("saving karma") were a bit heavy on '70s clichťs. The song was a nice chance to hear how good Round's voice, though once again, the heavy orchestration and Round's overly dramatic delivery served to detract from the overall effect. If you've ever heard Richard Harris' 'MacArthurPark' you'll have a feeling of what to expect.
4.) Sympathy For The Devil (Mick Jagger - Keith Richards) - 5:55 rating: **** stars
Round's unique cover of The Rolling Stone classic is the album's best known performance (admittedly that isn't saying a great deal). Folks are going to fall into one of two categories on this one. Some will love the way Round upped the dark and sinister aspects of the song with sound effects and spoken word segments. The rest of the crowd is going to see it as laughably campy. Apparently a highlight of his live set, here it just comes off as Saturday-morning-cartoon-scary. Accordingly I increasingly find myself in the latter camp, though I'll give it an extra star for being an original interpretation that was worth hearing at least once.
This may be the strangest Bee Gees cover I've ever heard. The song remained recognizable, but barely. Round's version hit the accelerator and added chirping female backing vocals. You had to wonder if his over-the-top, hyperactive delivery was meant to compliment The Gibbs, or he was simply making fun of them.
2.) Traveliní Mama Blues (Jonathon Round) - 4:06 rating: **** stars
I guess 'Traveliní Mama Blues' was meant as Round's Canned Heat moment. Actually this acoustic blues number was one of the album's highlights and it was nice to hear Round without the typical operatic touches.
3.) Young Sadie (Dancing Lady) (Jonathon Round) - 4:40 rating: *** stars
Kicked along by some Dennis Coffey fuzz guitar and a weird instrumental section that sounded like something borrowed from a James Bond theme, 'Young Sadie (Dancing Lady)' was one track where Round's operatic delivery actually worked.
4.) Train-a-cominí (Jonathon Round) - 2:30 rating: *** stars
The acoustic 'Train-a-cominí' may the track that came the closest to capturing Round's live sound. His acoustic guitar work was certainly enjoyable and the song was energetic, if lyrically a little bit on the strange side. It was an odd choice, but Westbound tapped the song as a 45:
- 1971's 'Train-a-comin'' b/w 'Donít It Make You Wanna Go Home' (Westbound catalog number W-186)
5.) And I Will Not Be Moved (Jonathon Round) - 5:30 rating: ** stars
The closer 'And I Will Not Be Moved' found Round moving back into his theatric environment. Yeah, the statement of artistic independence and personal beliefs was admirable, but sounding like a second tier version of Meatloaf really didn't do the man any favors.
The album generated few sales and plans for a pair of follow-up albums were shelved. The resulting tapes have never been released. Round continued playing for a couple of years, but in the late 1970s relocated to Chicago where he turned his attention to theater. Back to Detroit, in 1983 he formed The Detroit Times Theatre Company, teaching improvisation, writing and producing a variety of local improvational shows, including ďAn Evening at the Paradise, a Punk-Rock MusicalĒ. Hum, that would have been interesting to see. In his later years Round lived in Central City, Colorado where he turned his attention to writing, including a planned book on improvisational theater. He suffered a heart attack; underwent open heart surgery and suffered from worsening health before passed away in February, 2009.
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