Savage Grace

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1966-69) as The Scarlet Letter

- Ron Koss (aka Kossajda)  (RIP 2004) -- vocals, guitar

- John Seamor -- keyboards

- Larry Zack -- drums, percussion


  line up 2 (1969-72) as Savage Grace

- Ron Koss (aka Kossajda)  (RIP 2004) -- vocals, guitar

NEW - Al Jacquez -- vocals, bass

- John Seamor -- keyboards

- Larry Zack -- drums, percussion


  line up 3 

NEW- Jan Claire -- keyboards (replaced John Seanor)

NEW - Bill Gordon -- drums, percussion (replaced Larry Zack)

NEW- Mark Gougeon -- bass

NEW- Jeff Jones -- guitar

- Ron Koss (aka Kossajda)  (RIP 2004) -- vocals, guitar

- Al Jacquez -- vocals, bass


  line up 4 (2005-present) 

NEW - Frank Charboneaux -- drums, percussion (replaced 

  Bill Gordon)

- Mark Gougeon -- bass

- Al Jacquez -- vocals, bass

NEW- Jim King -- keyboards (replaced Jan Claire)

NEW - Mark Tomorsky -- guitar (replaced Jeff Jones)





- Frigid Pink (Bill Gordon)

- Guardian Angel (Jeff James)

- The Hideaways (Al Jacquez)

- Al Jacquez (solo efforts)

- Lightnin' (Mark Gougeon and Jeff James)

- Measured Grace (Mark Gougeon and Al Jacquez)

- Scarlet Letter (Ron Koss, John Seamor, and Larry Zack)

- Seanor and Koss (John Seanor and Ron Koss)

- Dick Wagner Band (Al Jacquez)





Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Savage Grace

Company: Reprise

Catalog: RS 6399

Country/State: Detroit, Michigan

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1579

Price: $20.00


By the mid-'60s guitarist Ron Kossajda (aka Ron Koss), had become an in-demand Detroit-based sessions player.  In 1967 he hooked up with keyboardist John Seamor, and drummer Larry Zack (who had also made a name for himself work as a house musician for jazz musician/Top Dog producer Artie Fields), forming The Scarlet Letter.  


Time of the Detroit bar circuit saw them signed by Bob Shad's Mainstream Records, where the trio recorded a pair of obscure singles:

- 1968's 'Macaroni Mountain' b/w 'Outside Woman' (Mainstream catalog number 691)

- 1968's 'Mary Maiden' b/w 'Timekeeper' (Mainstream catalog number 696)


Adding former The Hideaways singer/bassist Al Jacquez to the line-up and changing their name to Savage Grace, the band continued playing any venue that would have them.  A date opening for CCR caught the attention of Reprise Records, which signed them to a contract.


Al Jacquez - John Seanor - Ron Koss - Larry Zack


Produced by Joe Wissert, 1969's "Savage Grace" is an interesting "also ran" collection.  These guys had a ton of talent and were apparently a dynamite live act (their liver performances got them signed to Reprise), but for some reason their debut album failed to catchy fire.  I've listened to the collection dozens of times over the years and it's one of those albums where the individual performances actually stand-up better than the unified album.  Tracks like 'Hey Lenore', their cover of  Dylan's 'All Along the Watchtower' and ' Ivy' were all phenomenal,  built when listening to the whole album, they just kind of mesh in with the background.   Interestingly I've seen a couple of reviews that tag them as a progressive band and while I guess I can kind of hear it, to my ears that description is at best a stretch.  Powered by Jacquez and Koss' rugged voices, most of these nine tracks (the track listing only showed eight songs), were best described as hard rock, though other genres occasionally poked their heads into the mix - country on the opener 'Come On Down', psychedelia on 'Night of the Hunter', jazz (their instrumental cover of Oscar Peterson's 'Hymn To Freedom'), and radio-friendly pop on 'Ivy'.   


"Savage Grace" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Come On Down  (Ron Koss)  rating: *** stars

To my ears 'Come On Down' sounded like a Creedence Clearwater Revival tune that had been given a hard rock arrangement.  Actually the arrangement wasn't particularly hard rock-ish, rather Koss and Jacquez delivered the lyrics like they were intent on shredding the voice boxes.  Reprise tapped it as the US single:


- 1970's 'Come On Down' b/w 'Hymn To Freedom' (Reprise catalog number 0924)  

2.) Lady Rain  (John Seanor)   rating: *** stars

Penned by keyboardist Seanor, 'Lady Rain' was an unexpectedly pretty power ballad.  The song somehow managed to combine snippets of Procol Harum, classical moves, Flamenco guitar, and shredding lead guitar into a fascinating hodgepodge.

3.) Dear Lenore  (Ron Koss)    rating: **** stars

Showcasing plenty of percussion, Seanor's piano (which included a nifty nod to The Beatles 'Tomorrow Never Knows'), and some of Jacquez and Koss' best vocals 'Dear Lenore' offered up a distinctive lysergic edge that was quite different from the band's patented rock sound.   The tune's always reminded me a bit of mid-career Donovan. 

4.) All Along the Watchtower   (Bob Dylan) -   rating: *** stars

Opening up with a Seanor harpsichord arrangement that left you wondering what you'd stumbled into,  the arrangement quickly shifted into the melody we all know and love - yeah, there were some strange classical edges here and there, but overall they turned in a nice cover.  


For some reason the song was released as a Norwegian single.     


(side 2)
1.) Hymn To Freedom (instrumental)   (Oscar Peterson - H. Hamilton) 
  rating: *** stars

'Hymn To Freedom' was improvised by Oscar Peterson in the studio and originally recorded as an instrumental.  Producer Norman Granz subsequently asked Harriette Hamilton to write the lyrics and over the years the song's become a civil rights anthem with every children's chorus in the world seemingly including it in their repertoire.  The Savage Grace cover wasn't bad, picking up energy as it cruised along, but I always wondered why they elected to do this one as an instrumental. 

2.) 1984   (Ron Koss - John Seanor)   rating: *** stars

Co-written by Kiss and Seanor (they also shared lead vocals), '1984' was probably the album's most outright commercial rocker.  The track actually had kind of an '80s AOR feel. 

3.) Night of the Hunter  (Ron Koss)     rating: *** stars

Complete with heavily treated vocals, 'Night of the Hunter' found the band diving headlong into a weir mix of psychedelic and progressive moves.  While I've always liked the harpsichord powered tune, it must have sounded dated even when released. 

4.) Turn Your Head  (Ron Koss)  rating: *** stars

'Turn Your Head' started out as a pretty, mainstream ballad, but quickly morphed into their most progressive-oriented performance.

5.) Ivy  (Ron Koss)    rating: **** stars

I guess you'd have to call it a bonus track since it didn't show on the track listing, or the liner notes.  Shame since it was the album's best rocker with kind of a ragged Badfinger feel.   Reprise tapped it as a promo single:

- 1971's 'Ivy' b/w 'Save It for Me' (Reprise catalog number 0988)