My meager satire can in no way ever approach the dizzying heights of absurdity that is the Human Condition...still, one must try. -- tony powers
My bio, as well as listener reviews, follows this review of the new CD WHO COULD IMAGINE:
by: Manq - Rate Your Music Blog (Oct 14, 2008)
Here is the disclaimer right here. Let’s just get this out in the open. This is my review of Who Could Imagine from Tony Powers. An album that contains a re-worked, re-recorded version of a song so great, that if I wound up on deserted island dodging Komodo Dragons and busting open coconuts I would want it with me by whatever means available, IPOD, cd, cassette tape, etc. That song being, "Don’t Nobody Move (This is A Heist)." It’s just become a part of me. No matter how many times I hear it, it makes me laugh, it makes me sing, it makes me shake my tookus around, and damned if it doesn’t make me think about shit too. Could you ask for more in a five minute pop song?
I came across this song around 2001 or 2002 while hooking up with a pal in Vegas. He graciously offered to let me hook up my IPOD to his laptop and click and drag as many songs as my little portable hard drive would hold. So, I proceeded, asking a ton of questions about this artist and that. When I asked about Tony Powers, he laughed and said that DNMTIAH was an old classic that they would sometimes throw on at bar time in First Avenue after the club music, perhaps to chase the sheep out, perhaps to celebrate the end of the dance music madness and to usher in whatever the after hours may hold for those willing to seek out more for themselves. Well, I took to the song like a shark to chum and haven’t released my grip ever since. It’s a a keeper. It’s a fav. You get the point.
So, not long after that Mr. Powers name would come up in my conversation tween me and my pal. He became an enigma of sorts. Every once in awhile. after hearing my song, I’d go on a manic search. But each time I didn’t get very far. I usually wound up on some long neglected message board with a few other fans of the man and his music looking for more info, more music, a copy of a video that had been played on USA’s “ Night Flight” program, HBO, etc.... Perhaps it was the time. Because this was a time before youtube, before myspace became a thriving musical tour de force. Perhaps I was one or two digits from finding the info I was looking for. I did learn that Tony established a niche for himself as an actor in some notable TV shows and films such as Goodfellas. But all this was an after taste for a meal I hadn’t sat down to eat yet. Sheesh.
Well, fast forward to 2008 and please extend my gratitude for the umpteenth time to Al Gore for ahem..inventing the internet. In some kinda weird Truman Show-esque turn of events I actually got a a hello notice from one Tony Powers right here on Rate Your Music. I was a little blown away. And happy to find out that he is alive and well right here in sunny Los Angeles, CA. It gets better...he is still creating music. A little care package arrived in the post for me. And I promised Tony that I would write something about him and his new opus right here.
The new opus being 2007’s WHO COULD IMAGINE on Virtual Goose Records. 17 songs....I’m not really into numbers but I’ve always had a thing for 17. But I digress and that’s for another time kids. I’ve been a busy little buddy lately mostly with the jobby job keeping me glued to my chair and being stressed out over the usual mundane workplace madness. If you read up Tony Powers at www.tonypowersmusic.com or by googling his name, you will learn that he is an established songwriter from back in the day. So, I was very curious to hear what has been cooking up on this new full length collection.
The disc starts out on a serious note with the opener "How Do Ya". I was driving down Sunset one nite drinking it, coming up with my own meaning. You know..making it all about me. As, it stands I gave the companion video a YouTube viewing just hours later and saw the intended message behind the song. It’s a reality sammich for all of us. Served up cold. Tony’s grave, nearly speaking voice lets you draw your own conclusions. But the video is a compelling piece, a state of the nation address. Shame on George Bush. Shame on You. It’s a song to be absorbed more than enjoyed. A ballsy first song. But it sets the tone and let’s you know that there is some serious shit up ahead.
Song # 2, "Cartoon", jumps head first out your speakers. It’s got the big band swing and beat. David Lee Roth never had it so good. It’s the street smart Tony we know we know from DNMTIAH, calling us all baboons and asking is this the feature or is this a cartoon? Ha Ha. Funny stuff and toe tapping good. You got themes of the everyman in "Disposable". What’s up with this guy...has he been spying on me? It’s equal parts espionage and admonishment...“We simply toss and replace.” Disposable times indeed. The song has a straight ahead rock feel but cleverly morphs into a near circus parade sendup as the outro.
We get a reworked "Don’t Nobody Move..." that is fuller sounding. A little snappier. Damn. Maybe even ....better? It’s pretty faithful to the original. Still among the finest songs ever written. I had it on one day at work and one of the twenty somethings sauntered in while the sax solo was blowing. “What is that - the closing music to SNL?”, he piped. Move along youngster!!!
You won’t find any Political Correctness on "The Old Right Winger Blues" as Tony Powers drops the "N" word. Holy shit. He said it. I doubt many of today’s young tatted up wannabe hipsters have the stugatts to pull that off. But damn it you’ll hear it right here in this fine blusey send up.
The sweet ballad "Lorraine" contains something. Some slight smidgen of melody or something, maybe the pretty acoustic guitar solo that totally reminds me of Willie Nelson’s "September Song" off of Stardust. Beautiful.
The barrel house swagger of "Etiquette" is another golden nugget with a lot of quotable lyrics about farting in elevators and KY jelly while the drunken background sing along pleading for "Abby" of Dear Abby fame is priceless.
"Sadly" is another reflective ballad with a sweet electric guitar solo from Peter Andrews. It’s good thought provoking albeit heavy stuff. No punches are being pulled here. And sadly it is an apt description of where the USA finds itself on unsavory footing these days.
Man..."Goin’ Into Space"...if there was any justice this would be played on MTV all day long. Does MTV even show any videos anymore? I ditched my TV four years ago and haven’t looked back. Tony’s voice so suits this music. Criminey.....is that samba???? It’s party music carrying on the desolate theme. "...It’s great day for the human race. We're all done here. Let’s go fuck up some other place. La La La La....." Fooking classic. And how fooking sad of me to say so.
The existential, "The Answer" is pure poetry. All I can say is that you are not alone Tony!!!! "Joe’s Theme" and "Cradle To Grave" continue on with some fine balladry and Tony really exercises his pipes on "Joes’ Theme". WHO COULD IMAGINE concludes with a simple yet grand statement with "Nothin’ But My Time". I read the lyrics and I think I learned something. Now to just hold on to that lesson every single day..... Ha. I’ll have to play this over and over.
I’ll wrap this up with saying that this is a very cohesive record, it’s got sharp insights and grand statements, it’s got melody, it’s got a range of musical styles spanning the pop spectrum, it’s got a unique vocalist with quite a lot to say. And speaking of vocalist...Tony’s got an interesting style. He’s no doubt got the pipes to be a crooner of the standards from a time before I was born. But...when he intones with that Leon Redbone-like warble laying it down like a wizened alley cat, man......he’s the best.
Manq - Rate Your Music Blog (Oct 14, 2008)
So -- Thanks for clicking on to check me out. I hope that after you've read the above review-- and the Bio and listener reviews below-- you'll then want to listen to a few SAMPLES of the new CD WHO COULD IMAGINE here on CD Baby. Of course, I hope you like the samples enough to want to buy the CD.
You also might want to use the LINKS at the bottom of the CD song list on the left to go directly to my WEBSITE www.tonypowersmusic.com and read all the lyrics of the CD. And--there's also a direct LINK to my award-winning musicfilm/video "Don't Nobody Move (This is a Heist)" which is track 4 on the new CD, as well as a link to my newest musicfilm/video of the cd's track 1 "How Do Ya".
Incidentally, you should know that "Heist" won the Silver Medal at the prestigious Annual International Film and Video Festival of New York, the Gold Medal at the International Music Video Festival of Saint-Tropez, and was named the Best Video of the Year by Details Magazine.
I am a born and bred New Yorker. (dragged up in The East Bronx--lived in Manhattan). I've been a singer/songwriter most of my life, first working in the "music business" as a contracted writer for Trio Music-- which was the publishing company of the great Leiber and Stoller-- in New Yorks' famous Brill Building, and then moving over to Don Kirschner's Screen Gems-Columbia Music (now EMI). My songs have been recorded by such diverse artists as Louis Armstrong, Darlene Love, and Kiss.. with many, many artists in between-- and have been featured in many Movies, TV shows, commercials, and even Broadway Musicals. Quite a few of those songs were "hits" ( 98.6, Lazy Day, Remember When, Today I Met The Boy I'm Gonna Marry, Why Do Lovers Break Each Other's Hearts ).
I finally had to quit tho' because I found writing solely for commercial purposes was far too limiting and restrictive. Since then I've only written about what was, and is, important to me...and, hopefully, to us all. My songs concern the "human condition/comedy" seen from a working-class viewpoint, and are, for the most part social and political comments usually couched in dark humor--with a little bit (okay, sometimes a lot) of anger, sometimes masked as sarcasm, sometimes just outright, slipping into the mix.
I now live in Los Angeles, where I continue to write songs and work as an Actor in Film and TV. As an Actor some of my credits are; Jimmy Two-Times in Martin Scorceses' "Goodfellas", (as Anthony Powers), Captain Mason in "Cadillac Man", I co-starred on "The King Of Queens" twice, co-starred on "NYPD Blue" twice, and my last film appearance was as Bank Mgr. John Modica in Stephen Spielberg's "Catch Me If You Can".
Thank you again for taking the time to check me out. I hope you enjoy my music. I hope it both makes you laugh...and think.
That was me in my own words. The following Biographical sketch is by author Penny Stallings:
I first discovered that my friend Tony Powers had something of an underground cult following a few years ago in New Orleans where a group of us from L.A. had gathered for Jazzfest. From out of nowhere, a young guy approached him and asked him if he was who he is. Now that alone is not so out-of-the-ordinary. Tony is one of those guys everybody knows – or thinks they do. If not from the movies he’s been in, then from the part he played in the fabled Brill Building scene back in the 60s when he wrote a string of hits (“Today I Met the Boy I’m Gonna Marry,” “Remember Then,” “98.6,” “Lazy Day,” “Why Do Lovers Break Each Others Hearts,” etc. etc.) with people like Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector while working as a contract writer for the famed duo of Leiber and Stoller. And sure enough, the guy launched into an animated recitation of the lyrics to one of Tony’s songs. But these were not the syrupy sentiments of a one of the old hits. No, these were the lyrics of “Don’t Nobody Move (This is a Heist)”. … one of the elegantly twisted compositions Tony had himself recorded years ago on his own self-produced albums Home-Made and Under the Cover of Darkness
“…I wuz underneath my dresser
Just in case of sneak attack
When this television quiz show called
To ask where I wuz at
I said "I'm underneath my dresser...
An' they're poundin' on my door"
The audience went wild 'n the emcee said
"Would you like to try for more?"
Yes I would!”...
You have to wonder how the same guy – Tony, that is - who had written about wedding bells and “lazy days just right for lovin’ away” would end up wailing for more underneath that dresser. But like any number of other Brill Building alums who made their hit making bones during the sixties and early seventies, Tony had begun to chafe under the two-and-a-half minute tyranny of traditional pop song structure. His disenchantment with the formula was right up front for all to hear in “The Day I Lost My Watch…”
“…So I drank some beers,
For a couple of years
An’ I got so wrecked that I figured I
Well, I wrote some shit
That they called a hit”…
Unaccountably, this is the song Tony chose to turn music-publishing mogul Don Kirshner on to his new direction. It was a cold winter day in 1968, when Tony – more than a little manic – burst into Kirshner’s New York office decked out to-die-for in a black silk mohair suit, a silver silk tie, a white-on-white French-cuffed shirt…and barefoot, to play him “Watch” – which in addition to the snippy part about the ‘shit that they called a hit” related the story of a man who lost his watch and learned to tell time with, well, his crotch. Not exactly Top Ten material. And not exactly the Tony Powers Kirshner knew either. “He thought I was nuts,” Tony says now. “And he was right.”
As anyone will tell you who knew Tony then – or now - there was not much new in that. The difference was that he was no longer content simply to write criminally catchy tunes for others. The time had come for him to unleash his muse and with it, his own highly personal, highly idiosyncratic music. The new songs had all the pop top and bluesy bottom of his hits, but they were also asymmetrical, too long and too short, and their lyrics floated big ideas by rhyming big-ass words like words like anthropoid, paranoid, and Sigmund Freud. Tony’s shit – his own real true shit - was a mix of Man Ray and Ray Charles – a surreal blend of comedy and metaphysical poetry that was light years away from his earlier hits – the kind of cerebral whimsy that flourishes in underground circles, sometimes becoming legendary while at the same time remaining obscure. We’re talking about a very cool tree falling in a very hip forest.
For several years that forest was the club scene in L.A. and New York where Tony put together various bands for gigs at The Troubadour and The Wilshire Ebell Theater in L.A., and Reno Sweeney’s, The Ballroom, JP’s, and The Savoy in New York, that attracted audiences of friends, family, show biz elite, artists and outcasts. Before long, the scene surrounding his live performances attracted the attention of a critic at Billboard who went on the write of his “haunting melodies and strong but rough vocals.” Next to sing his praises was the New York Times, which compared his music and lyrics to those of Kurt Weil and Randy Newman. On a roll, he came up with the idea to create a 26-minute three-song video shot on film in New York around “Heist.” Now this was not to be one of your typical singer lip-syncing in extreme close-up videos - but rather a mini-movie with a maniacal Tony roaming the streets of New York and falling into raucous vignettes featuring his actor-buddies Peter Reigert, John Goodman, Treat Williams, Stephen Collins, Marcia Strassman, J.C. Quinn, and, in one of the other pieces, “Odyssey” , Lois Chiles. The “Heist” video won the Gold Medal at The International Music Video Festival of Saint-Tropez, the Silver Medal at The Annual International Film and Video Festival of New York, and was named as Details Magazine’s Video of the Year. It also managed to outrank Grandmaster Flash, Duran Duran, and Men at Work on the Rockamerica Video Chart. Before long it was a staple on HBO, and the USA network’s uber cool Night Flight – where it provided the perfect foil for monologues by a kindred retro futurist, the late, much lamented Peter Ivers. Exposure on HBO and Night Flight in particular meant that Tony had gone national, thereby building a following of fans who revered him for all the peculiarities that confounded AM radio programmers and record company execs.
Tony was an underground artist. A rebel – albeit a suave one - who would never ever be any good. So much so, that he wanted nothing to do with the major record labels unless, of course, they were willing to make it worth his while with piles of green and total freedom to do whatever the hell he wanted. And that’s what he told Columbia Records when they offered him a deal, but the suits just didn’t get him and deep down inside, he didn’t really want them to. Nowhere was Tony’s disenchantment with the mainstream music business establishment more evident than on his second album Under The Cover of Darkness, a nosegay of violets and grenades, which he – no surprise – produced himself. The violets were the unexpectedly sweet love songs, the grenades several irate, eerily prophetic tracks that anticipate climate change, frenzied consumerism, extinct rainforests, and what was then only a twinkle in Dick Cheney’s eye – the Patriot Act. “…It’s the world we knew would be brave,” he writes, They’re watching our lives, cradle to grave…” Tony even managed to beat Joni Mitchell to the ironic punch with “Goin’ Into Space” – an eco-lament which preceded the release of her celebrated “Big Yellow Taxi” by a year.
“…Bang the bugle,
Blow the drum,
Tell the planets here we come,
To build a station far from earth,
Just three hundred billion worth”
And when the housing, and the schools,
And the jobs, and all the fools, and the water,
And the air, get so bad then
We’ll go there”…
Of course, the more pointed and off-kilter the song, the less chance it had to see the light of airplay. . And while the last thing Tony wanted was to work within the confines of the record business, he did want his songs to be heard. His frustration jumped off the cover of his first LP Home-Made in the form of rambling handwritten notes much like those on the label of a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s All-Purpose Peppermint Soap. Touting the album’s no-tech virtues, he proudly listed its lack of echo, reverb, and overdubbing. Home-Made – as its title hinted - had only “one track, no engineer, no rehearsal, no musicians, no studio, no producer, no gushing executives.” Anyone misguided enough to desire those devices was advised to supply their own. In another scrawled digression Tony made himself available for personal appearances but only in his own living room, “various hallways and bathrooms, and at his friends homes.” Clearly, the man was pissed.
Predictably, the songs on both albums were effectively written off as too wordy, too opinionated, and too blatantly trippy for mass consumption. Sensitive – and cantankerous – soul that he is, Tony swore off the music business for good. Or for the time being anyway. Embracing the free flowing spirit of the times, he lit out for Europe where he spent time just spending time in cool places like Morocco and Spain. His wanderings eventually led him to Los Angeles where he took up residence atop a hill in Laurel Canyon – at the time an enclave of singer-songwriters like Warren Zevon, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell and others. Whether he liked it or not, Tony was still a part of the music business – if only because of the royalties he continued to earn on his 60s hits – now classics –which were frequently used in films and television shows. And he and his band continued to gig around town at clubs like the Troubadour. However an attempt to write (“utter crap”) for mass-market consumption while on staff at Herb Alpert’s Irving-Almo Music was a misbegotten mess. Retreating back to the sanity of his own insane ingenuity he spent the next year writing A Manhattan Rhapsody, a musical set in a speakeasy during the Depression. A trip home to New York to find backers for the show lengthened into an extended stay during which he formed yet another band and once again began gigging around the city. But by this point, Tony’s career was about to take a serious detour as he caught the eye of the town’s casting agents. And it’s not hard to understand why.
The thing about Tony that made him a sure bet as a character actor is that he was born a character and a half – a Bronx hipster who resembles unlikely cross between Cary Grant and Doodles Weaver. And he’s not exactly what you’d call shy. While younger actors tried everything from The Method to Scientology to break into the Business, Tony’s foray into acting swung effortlessly forward from one role to another – a TV show like NYPD Blue would lead to a film like Catch Me If You Can which then led back to TV to The King of Queens, and so on until he became better known for his work as a character actor in films like Cadillac Man and – most memorably – as Jimmy Two-Times in Goodfellas , than for his classic 60s hits.
Of course, if you’re gonna do the acting thing, sooner or later you’re gonna end up in Los Angeles- and so it was with Tony. Of course, Hollywood – both in reality and as a state-of-mind – is light years way from the New York street theater that originally informed Tony’s work. Even so, its’ a sweet life if you work it right. (Swimming pools. Movie stars.) Sure, there are dry spells, but - as Tony has frequently demonstrated those spells can easily be surmounted with a well-timed turn or two in a commercial. The music business on the other hand is venal and insular. Why would anyone, let alone a kindhearted sort and inveterate pleasure seeker like Tony get tangled up in that morass again if he didn’t absolutely have to? There would have to be some kind of a revolution, some kind of a powerful new zeitgeist strong enough to sneak up on him and suck him back into the fray.
Enter underground radio and the Internet. Slowly and randomly – and entirely absent Tony’s involvement or endorsement, his music and videos began showing up in new underground media. Norm N. Night played him on his satellite radio show Remember Then (named after one of Tony’s hits). And bootlegged copies of the video of “Heist” showed up on You Tube – where they got thousands of hits along with blissful messages from old fans:
‘…This video, a superb work of art, portrays the essence of NYC and highlights the hypocrisy of the criminal injustice system with the phrase: " in my court you don't chew gum "
And then there were those who were seeing Tony for the first time:
“...Absolutely, no doubt, hands down the best video ever made! Wow dude. Wow!”
It would seem that time and the collective hip had caught up to what Tony was doing musically decades ago. How could he ignore that? It’s not like he didn’t have plenty more to say. A whole CD’s worth in fact. Yes, the audience had gone wild and the emcee asked if he’d like to try for more.
Yes, he would!
The new CD Who Could Imagine revives some old favorites thanks to some stellar musicianship and a minimum of revision (a lucky consequence of their original prescience). The opener “How Do Ya” sets the tone by lobbing a musical grenade at war makers past, present, and future…and we’re off and running. Other new songs add “dead Iraqis, dead Marines, Darfur and sweet old N’awlins” to Tony’s list of the unjustly damned.
Luckily for us, the New Millennium Tony Powers is just as existentially apoplectic as the old one. Maybe more so. And his music – both sweet and sour - provides the perfect soundtrack for us all to dance our way to hell.
Penny Stallings, New Orleans 2007
Rantings and musings from a pixel pusher
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Let's go back in time. Before there was the internet. Before Youtube. Before DVD's. CD's were justing coming in their own. Laser Disks were exotic. When the idea of owning a "personal computer" was still a novel idea. Before MTV was international, let alone the darling of Viacom. When "music videos" could only be seen in a few places. When the idea of actually owning a copy of music videos was exotic.
So there I was, one weekend afternoon over at Marc Cerasini and Charles Hoffman's Red Hook apartment, with CJ Henderson (look up these amazing writers if you want to know why I find it important to mention them by name. In fact, buy their books dammit!) for the purpose of hanging out and watching videos. Marc had something special to show us. He couldn't rent DEVO's Video, (The Truth about De-Evolution) so the store clerk recommended something else. This was what I saw:
A full out sensory assault. With stream of consciousness lyrics that somehow moved between the works of Herbert Selby Jr. and William S. Burroughs via Ring Lardner and a visual style that was, and remains, between a waking nightmare and the best of the French New Wave and Sam Fuller. This was the 80's version of a New York that I remember. And then there was the star of it all. A thin dude with a profile that Lamont Cranston would be familiar with and an accent somewhere between North Yonkers and South Brooklyn, Tony Powers and his conspirators take us on a little evening stroll around some old haunts in Manhattan.
And that was only the first of three. Tony himself has posted Don't Nobody Move (This is a Heist) for us to view on youtube . Maybe soon, he will post the other two--"Odyssey" (with Lois Chiles), and "Midnite Trampoline" (with Corine Loraine).
Tony Powers. Buy his new album.
Posted by marcoshark on MySpace at 10:55 AM