Saturday, January 22, 2011

band or group?

The Terry Adams Rock and Roll Quartet
Berkeley Cafe, Raleigh, NC Jan. 21, 2011

Someone on the radio was discussing how a "band" plays their own music and a "group" plays other people's music. One of my favorite bands ever was NRBQ. As strange as it seems to ME, there are actually folks that didn't "get" them. I can't believe that there are people alive that couldn't find a place for their ass inside that massive dry river basin of a groove they always laid down. And on top of that, the vocals, especially harmonies sounded like the Everly Brothers on steroids. So you had this rockin' ass band with beautifully sung melodies so what was there NOT to "get"? Never figgered that out. They were savants too, so unassuming and without pretense and no major label corporate "direction" to point to and frown on. They WERE the music they made. All of that ended in the early '90's when Big Al left. Go to YouTube and watch the Connie Chung interview with them. Terry Adams in that interview says "If any one of us left it wouldn't be the same" and followed it with something to the affect of what any member of a great band knows, no one member is greater than the sum of the bands parts. Al has done quite well for himself as a writer and player in Nashville, meanwhile NRBQ struggled. Replacing Al's presence on stage was a daunting task, not to mention his guitar playing wild abandon. Johnny Spampinato could more than take care of the guitar part of the equation but I'm sure even he knew that Al was a big part of what made the cartoon so funny...and the band so fun. Ten to 15 years of dwindling crowds told the guys it was time for a change. Terry had some health issues that found him in Florida for a few years. When he re-emerged last year at the Berkeley Cafe in Raleigh I was actually astounded at the ensemble he had gathered. Not only did the drummer play like Tommy, he KINDA looked (no offense) like him too! The cute, skinny heartthrob bass player was an amazing singer and player, leaving all the holes that make you love great bass playing.
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As my friend, Bob Davis put it "I think the boy has done his James Jamerson homework". Guitar player Scott, sings and plays so much like Big Al that it's downright scary! So that was then, about a year ago. At the time I saw them as remarkable understudies. They had learned their parts to perfection.
So what made last night SO much better? Ladies and Gentlemen the Terry Adams Rock and Roll Quartet is now a BAND. They are a force. They have GREAT new songs that could easily have been slipped into an NRBQ show. Last night they sang like innocent children, nailing the notes and breaking your heart with every word. When Pete, the bass player sang "Things to you" I felt the swoon of every girl in the house swirling through. I can't believe I could EVER say this and I pray it never gets back to Joey but, DAY-YAMM! NObody could have sang it any purtier! NO-BAH-DEE! He sang it with the emotion of someone who had just written the song, which he did not! Scott, like I said before, has Al's voice down...and now he's got his GROWL, his confidence and yes..his presence. You can tell that he is still, to this day blown away by Al's playing but all the while he adds a little sauce of his own to the parts. "It Feels Good" was the solo that made him throw his head back and almost vibrate with the joy that it was giving him to play it.
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But tonight it wasn't Al's solo, it was his. I really think that's what blew everybody away last night. The great new songs were theirs, the singing was their own and even the NRBQ songs seemed to be theirs. They were definitely a band and NOT a group of individuals, understudies if you will, trying to imitate art. They are now their own brand of art, their own cartoon.The Terry Adams Rock and Roll Quartet is now a band that reminds you of why you go see bands and why you always wanted to be part of one...especially one like this.
When it was all over, people were hugging and walking around in a daze like there had been an earthquake or something. We were all asking around, checking each other's pulse, making sure everyone was alright. Oh yeah, we were alright.
Much MORE than alright.
Oh, and did I mention...they had a pretty good piano player too!


EPS said...

aw HAY-ULL yeah. Props to every word, TA. The second most fun thing was watching YOU love it!!!

Anonymous said...

I miss NRBQ so much. Especially what they did in the 60's, 70's and 80's. The rest may be forgotten. Take a song like deaf, dumb and blind for instance. Pure fucking perfection it is. Lately I've been enjoying the Ludlow Garage 1970 live cd and also the Derbytown 1982 dvd. Daddy-o I love them so.


Tim said...

Wow! Crap!! Wow!!! I haven't seen the Q since Al left because he could not be replaced. When I saw TARRQ coming to a venue near me I was very intrigued. Wrote it on the calendar, told the wife , and had it hangin there as a big definite maybe. Well I didn't go.... Crap! Wow!! Crap!!!

Anonymous said...

Really great appreciation, even tho' I kinda wish you had "given the drummer some."

Anonymous said...

Truth be told, by the early 1990s the band was in a rut, in the live set they were bringing in new songs like Action Jackson and the new songs weren't as good. I assumed that when Big Al left that it was really over for them but I saw one of the last gigs they ever performed, an outdoor festival in New Brunswick, New Jersey and it was them at their best, basically straight R&B.

rem2rigs said...

FAN-tas-tic. Better than alright it is, it is! I miss NRBQ like the rest of us, but having the ability to see these guys play their instruments in a fresh new light for me makes up for it and a whole lot more... Everyone is having fun, throwing around new ideas, reworking old ideas in new and exciting ways.... The music speaks for itself. And it's a whole lotta' fun! it's still chock full of that vitamin Q' we all crave in our lives. Thank the band for making it available to us!~ And thank you for posting this. -Todd

TA said...

deepest apologies for not giving Conrad more props, he was an integral part of laying down that big fat groove we were all so infected by. He, like the rest of the guys never missed a beat and was absolutely blowing all of our minds the entire night!

Anonymous said...

I don't know that I've EVER, been so jealous- but so happy to hear he's still laying it down like that.

LOVE me some 'Q, love me some Terry Adams- Unadulterated, frenzied, unbridled genius- So good it borders on painful.

Pleasure to hear about it, ya lucky bast'ige...


ed said...

saw em the night before in VA. first time any Q member played here in 7 years.. hopefully they'll come around again, and hopefully Oakteam does too!