keni burke at the jazz café
Keni Burke is most famous for his song ‘Risin’ To The Top’ because it has been sampled on more than 20 recent hits. But some of us have known about Keni since he was Kenneth, a child prodigy with his brothers and sister in their family group the Five Stairsteps. In an interview with Curtis Mayfield as early as ’71 he told me about Keni’s amazing dexterity on electric bass – even then. The Stairsteps were the first family of soul, way before the Jacksons and by rights they should have been even bigger. Their debut came on Mayfield’s Windy C label in 1966, where they had five big R&B singles followed by two more on Buddah and four on Curtom. Their career hit came in 1970 with ‘Ooh Child’ a superb slice of soul driven by Keni’s bass. But in the mid ‘70s the group broke up and went back to school to finish their educations. Five years later lead singer and elder brother Clarence formed Invisible Man Band with the nucleus second and third brothers James, Dennis and Keni. They scored three single R&B hits, the biggest being ‘All Night Thing’ (#9 on Mango in March 1980) but after two albums they called it a day. Keni however was really busy playing bass on sessions with just about everybody and that’s how he ran into Billy Preston who took the Stairsteps to George Harrison at Dark Horse and they made their superb 2nd Resurrection album and scored a big hit with ‘From Us To You’. But the follow-ups didn’t follow through and the group disbanded with Keni going solo with his first album on Dark Horse. It was a great debut and clear that Keni was not just a singer and bassist but a talented songwriter as well. Still in great demand in the studio his next album You’re The Best was issued on RCA in ’81 and his self-penned ‘Let Somebody Love You’ went into the R&B singles chart. He also wrote a great song for this album with Mayfield ‘Never Stop Loving Me’ and ‘Gotta Find My Way Back To Your Heart’ with Bill Withers. His next album Changes was cut at Sigma Studios in Philadelphia, Produced and Arranged by Keni and featured the single ‘Risin’ To The Top’. Though it was pitched at a more commercial dance market it didn’t sell well at the time and RCA dropped him. Keni went back to the studio work and didn’t release any of his own music for 10 years when a single track ‘Friends Or Lovers’ turned up on an Expansion CD EP. He must have kept in touch with label manager Ralph Tee who issued the Nothin’ But Love album in 1998. Keni played sang Arranged and Produced this album through his company Risin’ Productions Inc. Clarence did some engineering and Keni’s sons Osaze and Keni Jr. sang the backgrounds - so it was a family affair. This unfortunately is his last recording to date although there have been a few compilations issued from his back catalogue.
So it was a little surprising to see announcements earlier this year that Keni was coming to the UK to play one date only at London’s Jazz Café. There was a stampede for tickets and we all waited for Saturday the 9th of October to roll around. On the night gradually the Café began to fill up and the fans kept on coming. It was only when I tried to get upstairs that I found out that it was a private party up there to celebrate Ralph Tees’ 50th birthday. So no chance to talk to Keni or snap any photos, the bouncer could not be persuaded. So it was back to the bar. Some time after 9.00 Ralph appeared on stage and introduced the current Burke band to a roar of approval and on bounded Keni with a black hat on his head and a bass guitar in his hand. The band were funky but tight and Keni worked his way through a few of his best numbers - ‘Let Somebody Love You’ and he finished with ‘Risin’ To The Top’ but you know, it was all so fast and it was so packed you couldn’t move in the stage area. His core fanbase loved every bass nuance and let him know their pleasure. But it was over in no time and they all went back upstairs, no doubt to continue their party. It seemed a long way to come to play so few numbers. I’ve seen a lot of great performances at the Jazz Café – from William Bell and Allen Toussaint to Terry Callier and Bettye Lavette and access has never been a problem. I’d been bigging Keni up to my two companions but they were not impressed either – apologies for no new photos. (peter burns)
Peter Anders has a new solo album So Far his first for nearly 40 years. In addition to being a great producer/ arranger Anders has written and co-written many fine songs that have been cut by an eclectic sweep of artists that include the Ronettes, Garnet Mimms & the Enchanters, Don & Juan, Dion, Darlene Love, the Crystals, Cher, the Dreamlovers, Bobby Bloom, Jackie Wilson, the Platters and many more. Not a great deal has been written about him in the past but his music has made a huge impact on me and over the years he has become one of my personal heroes.
Peter Andreoli was born 28 April 1941 in Providence, Rhode Island. He grew up in a musical family playing ukulele and guitar from an early age, performing with his sister Caroline and neighborhood friend Freddie Pesaturo at church and social functions. During the early ‘50s Peter was increasingly impressed by the R&B and Rock ‘n’ Roll music he heard on the radio that became an indelible influence on his future music. While still at Mount Pleasant High School in 1956 he was invited to replace Donald Baker as lead singer with a local group called the Videls, whose line up at that time was Norman Marzano, Maurice “Jimmy Boo” Bouchard, Dino Amaral, Bobby Calitri and guitarist John Corsi. The quintets vocal sound was classic Doo Wop and over the next year or so they began to make a local impact while performing at college gigs and record hops. Bouchard sidesteped into management and was replaced by Frank Bianchini who stayed a short time and when Corsi left, Peter brought in friend and collaborator Vini Poncia, who in addition to his role as vocalist, acted as MD and guitarist. During 1957 the Videls became very popular in Rhode Island and the surrounding area and bookings for their live dates began to balloon. In the summer of ’58 Bouchard secured a record deal with Joe Criscione’s Rhody label and the group went to Boston to record their first single ‘Place In My Heart’/ ‘Be My Girl’ (The ‘A’ side became Anders first published song – co-written with Bouchard). This single became a local hit selling more than 5000 copies over the next few months making the Videls the top attraction in the region. They began performing at larger venues and their fanbase mushroomed. Peter and Vini started writing songs together at this time as the Videls moved up a gear and the line up made it’s final change when Herbert Rickey replaced the departing Dino Amaral, who joined another local group the Corals. Now the Videls were on a roll and with the encouragement of local songwriter Jimmie Crane and Lucky Carle, who worked at Peer-Southern Music Publishers in New York, they began to make regular appearances in New York and were soon snapped up and signed to Kapp Records subsidiary JDS. Their first New York session with producer Joe Sherman yielded the group’s first national hit Anders & Poncia’s ‘Mr. Lonely’ and the guys toured America with Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars that included a TV spot on American Bandstand. They also appeared on Clay Cole’s TV Show in 1959 where they first met the Mystics.
While they were still hot, Medieval reissued ‘A Place In My Heart’ and their follow up ‘Now That Summer Is Here’, though it didn’t chart nationally, it was also reissued on the Tic Tac Toe label. The Videls moved over to Kapp and the group cut two more singles with Sherman ‘The Streets Of Love/ I’ll Keep On Waiting’ and ‘A Letter From Ann/ This Years Mr. New’ but they couldn’t match ‘Mr. Lonely’s’ success and they returned to Rhode Island minus Peter, who became an apprentice to the iconic songwriter Doc Pomus. The Videls broke up and Peter & Vini teamed up with Allie Contrera and George Galfo and began making appearances in Rhode Island as the Mystics (sometimes Abie Cracoliici would join them). That year they made an appearance as the Mystics (in two borrowed suits) on The Clay Cole TV Show singing ‘Darling I Know Now’. The following week the same line up appeared on the same show in the same suits as the Videls. The Videls gave it one more shot with ‘We Belong Together/ It’s All Over’ on Musicnote (neither of which Anders sang lead on) but no one was listening. By ’63 Pomus had written many hits including ‘Save The Last Dance For Me’, ‘Lonely Avenue’, ‘Mess Of The Blues’, ‘Can’t Get Used To Losing You’ and ‘Teenager In Love’. Doc secured a contract with Hill & Range Music for Peter who in turn convinced his partner in song Vini to join him at the Forrest Hotel. Pretty soon they were rubbing shoulders with all the other young talent at the Brill Building that included Goffin & King, Barry & Greenwich, Mann & Weil, Neil Diamond as well as Pomus & Shuman among many other great songwriters. Peter & Vini, in addition to writing dozens of songs for Hill & Range both tried to gain solo success - Peter with ‘I’m Your Slave/ Remember Me’ on Morty Craft’s Corvair label and Vini (as Vinnie Parelle) with ‘Walk Away/ Fool Around Fool’ for another Craft label Elmor. Both flopped so the duo tried again as Pete & Vinnie with a dancer ‘Hand Clappin’ Pts 1 & 2’ (co-written with Doc Pomus) on Big Top, their publishers label.
Among the many people they met was future collaborator Ritchie Cordell and up and coming producer Phil Spector. Spector had defected from his deal with Leiber/ Stoller Productions, set up his own label Philles on the West Coast with Lester Sill in 1961 and had begun issuing singles. The first ‘There’s No Other Like My Baby’ by the Crystals in January 1962. Spector’s first #1 came almost a year later when the Crystals ‘He’s A Rebel’ (written by Gene Pitney) topped the Hot 100. The ‘genius’ producer plundered the writing talents of Brill stars Mann & Weill, Goffin & King and Barry & Greenwich for his Philles creations but by 1964 he had poached Anders & Poncia from Hill & Range and taken them to Los Angeles where they wrote and produced in a hectic period for his company. At Gold Star studios they worked alongside Spector’s infamous house band – the Wrecking Crew, who’s rolling cast included Nino Tempo, Steve Douglas, Jack Nitzsche, Hal Blaine, Ray Pohlman, Sonny Bono, Lou Blackburn and many others. From time to time they even featured luminaries such as Barney Kessell, Herb Alpert, Leon Russell (aka Russell Bridges), Harold Battiste, Glen Campbell, King Curtis, Plas Johnson, Sandy Nelson, Art Pepper, Billy Preston, Brian Wilson and of course engineer Larry Levine was always there. Peter & Vini worked with Darlene Love – ‘(He’s A) Quiet Guy’, ‘Strange Love’, ‘Stumble & Fall’ (also later recorded by Rosiland Clark WB ’74), Cher (then known as Bonnie Jo Mason) producing her first single ‘Ringo, I Love You’, ‘(When) I Get Scared’ by The Lovelites (written with Pomus). But their biggest success came with the Ronettes and ‘The Best Part Of Breaking Up’ (#39 Pop) followed by ‘Do I Love You’ (#34 Pop) in the summer of ’64. Other Ronettes tracks featured A&P compositions on their best selling album Presenting The Fabulous Ronettes that contained ‘How Does It Feel’ plus the ‘Soldier Baby Of Mine’ rarity. Anders & Poncia also got the chance to issue a couple of singles of their own under pseudo names such as the Treasures on Lennon/ McCartneys’ ‘Hold Me Tight’ (issued on Shirley 500) and allegedly as Gene Toone & the Blazers ‘You’re My Baby/ Jose’ (issued on Annette 1001). Some of the above records were not issued in America but later found release on a series of albums in the UK distributed by Polydor for their subsidiary Phil Spector International in the mid ‘70s. But after working 18 months with Tycoon of Teen, Peter & Vini were ready to get back to New York and their own careers.
On their return to the East Coast they cut an ode to the West Coast Surfer lifestyle they’d left behind ‘New York’s A Lonely Town’ as the Tradewinds and Leiber & Stoller released it on their Red Bird label. When the single shot to #32 on the Hot 100 Vini and Peter had to bring in and Norman Marzano and Bobby Calitri from the Videls for performances and national tours. The Tradewinds appeared on ‘Shindig’ performing ‘New York’s A Lonely Town’. Red Bird issued two more singles ‘The Girl From Greenwich Village/ There’s A Rock ‘n’ Roll Show In Town’ (#129 Pop) and ‘Summertime Girl/ The Party Starts At Nine’ and the line up of the Tradewinds began to change with the addition of two New Jersey singer/ musicians Paul Naumann, Jimmy Calvert and New York drummer Joe Grotsky, who became the Tradewinds roadband, which freed Peter & Vini so they could keep working in the studio, writing and recording the songs. 1965 turned out to be a remarkable year for Anders & Poncia who not only had the success with the Tradewinds but Elvis Presley chose their song ‘Harem Holiday’ for the lead title in his latest movie ‘Harem Scarum’. As Red Bird began it’s agonizing collapse due to the machinations of George Goldner, Peter and Vini took an offer to join Artie Ripp’s Kama Sutra Records, who were flying high with the hits of the Lovin’ Spoonful. They immediately began recording tracks for their first album and their next single ‘Mind Excursion’ caught the interest of young America and sold its way into the Hot 100 cruising to #51. Leiber & Stoller leased the ‘New York’s A Lonely Town’ masters to Kama Sutra and the Tradewinds road band went out on a nationwide tour to promote the Excursions album. Anders, Poncia and Ripp formed a new studio group the Innocence and so not to compete with themselves began constructing a new album using some of the songs of Don Ciccone a talented writer from the Critters who Peter and Vini had been producing for Kapp. Ciccone was in the US Air Force at this time and Peter & Vini flew down to his base in Delaware to collaborate on songs for the Innocence album. They scored immediately with Ciccone’s ‘There’s Got To Be A Word’ (# 34 Pop singles), Peter, Vini and Artie appeared lip-syncing on Disco Teen (a Newark Channel 47 TV Rock Show) but none of their following four singles followed through and Peter took his second stab a solo stardom with ‘Sunrise Highway’ on sister label Buddah in mid ’67.
While Anders and Poncia had been working on their own careers in music, behind the scenes they had developed their skills in the studio. Not only were they singer/ composer/ musicians they were increasingly in demand as producers and arrangers by a wide variety of singers. Initially they had worked with the Mystics in 1959 and then supplied songs to Don & Juan (‘Is It Alright’) while at Big Top, Garnet Mimms (‘One Woman Man’ UA) the following year, before their Californian adventure when in addition to their work with Spector they wrote songs for the Barons (‘Wild Inside’ Imperial), this was at a time when Beatlemania was at it’s height and they dominated the US charts. Many US groups wanted that sound and Peter & Vini wrote several songs in that genre so ‘Make Up Your Mind’ and ‘Anything A Fool Can Do’ showed some Beatle influence. Joey Costa cut (‘Don’t Try To Change Me’ RCA) and Candy & the Kisses (‘Soldier Baby Of Mine’ Cameo) then Country star Hank Locklin cut ‘Give Your Wife A Kiss’ for RCA. After returning to New York they teamed up with producer Jerry Ross to write ‘You Gave Me Somebody To Love’ for the Dreamlovers (Warner Bros.) that was also cut later by Tony Bruno, Manfred Mann (HMV) and the Fortunes (Decca) in the UK. Another song that proved popular with other artists was ‘Hard To Get Thing Called Love’ Jackie Wilson on Brunswick in ‘71 and the Platters on Musicor in ’68, Peter & Vini co-wrote ‘Gonna Make Him My Baby’ for Mrs. Janice Ross (Jerry’s wife) who’s professional name was April Young (Columbia) while at Kama Sutra and produced and wrote for the Goodtimes on ‘Hard Life’ and ‘Bad Misunderstanding’ plus a number of other unissued songs. They produced (and may have actually been in - with Richard Perry) the Mulberry Fruit Band on Buddah for ‘The Audition’, and ‘Yes We Have No Bananas’. TV/ movie star Vince Edwards, who came to prominence as ‘Ben Casey’ in the early ‘60s also made his mark as a singer and Peter & Vini produced ‘To Be With You’ and a version of the Tony Bruno classic ‘Nylon Stockings’ for him in 1967. They cut a session with Bobby Bloom for Kama Sutra with whom they wrote a number of songs including ‘Love Don’t Let Me Down’, ‘Where Is The Woman’, ‘Count On Me’ and ‘Was I Dreamin’’ this time using the talents of arranger Jimmy Wisner, who they worked quite a lot with in the ‘60s. They started working with the Critters, a talented group who included Donald Ciccone, also gifted writer, and Jim Ryan. A&P produced a dozen or so tracks for Kapp in mid 1966-67 including ‘Bad Misunderstanding’ (using the Tradewinds backing track), ‘Marrying Kind Of Love’ (also cut by the Rascals but as yet unissued), 'Streets Of Love’ and a Ciccone song ‘Mr. Dyingly Sad’ that went to #17 on the Hot 100 in September ’66. In August the following year their production of Ryan’s ‘Don’t Let The Rain Fall Down On Me’ also went to #39 on the US Top 40. The list goes on but in a whirlwind of activity Peter and Vini worked alongside Richie Cordell, Tommy James & the Shondells, Bo Gentry, Kenny Laguna and Jay & the Americans to name but a few.
With these levels of success came the pressure of long hours and high expectations. Peter who had been experimenting with soft and hard drugs since high school began to excess and often disappeared for days at a time leaving Vini with the problems of carrying their projects alone. With their Kama Sutra deal on the point of expiring they formed their own production company with Frankie Meluso - Map City (Meluso Anders Poncia) and together they cut records with The Blue Jays, We The People and Bobby Bloom that were good and earned positive critical approval. Peter, with no one to keep him on the rails except Vini began to get down with the drugs. Fortunately their friend Richard Perry had landed a job as a staff producer with Warner Brothers in Los Angeles and offered them a job as writer/ producer/ artists on the label. They jumped at the opportunity and flew out to the West Coast where they set up base once again. The trio immediately began writing, recording and developing new ideas for a project that would become the highpoint in their careers. The Anders & Poncia Album when it was completed was an artistic triumph, a concept album containing many of their finest songs beautifully executed and produced. Though a commercial failure at the time, this album is held in the highest regard by fans, collectors and connoisseurs who consider it in the same class as Love’s Forever Changes, Captain Beefheart’s Safe As Milk, Dion’s Laurie album, the Beach Boys Pet Sounds even the Beatles Sgt. Pepper! From start to finish the album is sensational. All songs were written and sung by Anders and Poncia except their amazing reworking of Leiber & Stoller’s ‘Smokey Joes Café’ that features the magic bottleneck guitar of Ry Cooder. The superb arrangements were by Gene Page and Richard Perry who was also producer. From what I was told later, Perry had lock the writers in a room to get some of the songs finished and they were writing the last one in the car on the way to the studio to cut the final session. But Richard finally put the album to bed and it got released. The ten remaining tracks are the very best of what Anders & Poncia achieved as a group and that’s saying something. There are no highlights, all the songs are great – my particular favourites vary and playing it now the passage featuring ‘Take His Love’, ‘Make A Change To Something Better’, ‘Lucky’ and the final track ‘The Height Of My Life’ that Vini took a rare lead on - one of their greatest songs, are flavour of this particular month. From time to time I still wonder whether Anders cut a lead on another take of that one. Sadly the album has never been issued on CD, so any chance of new generations re-discovering it is unlikely. They must have felt such disappointment at the albums commercial failure. The duo retreated back to Map City and they tried to write an autobiographical musical, that they never completed. After a year in the doldrums Map dissolved and they both went their separate ways.
Vini Poncia went on to work for Richard Perry Productions, writing and producing. He wrote a couple of songs with Ringo Starr for Ringo (Apple ’73) on which he got a namecheck, he also contributed to and sang backgrounds on a couple of Starr’s later albums. Poncia produced singer songwriter David Pomeranz on Arista in 1976 for Perry Productions and captured a very good album that should have ignited Pomeranz career - but didn’t. Vini went on to toil with other Beatles. He won a Grammy for his work with Leo Sayer (co-writer of the big hit ‘You Make Me Feel Like Dancing’) and produced Melissa Manchester, Lynda Carter, The Faragher Brothers, Fanny, Peter Criss (x Kiss singer) and that led to him producing two Kiss albums.
Peter did some writing with Marty Kupersmith aka Marty Sanders for Jay & the Americans (‘You Ain’t Gonna Wake Up Cryin’’) and also with Tony Bruno for his album (An Original issued by Capitol in 1970) that included ‘Hard To Get A Little Thing Called Love’, ‘What's Yesterday’ PA/ VP/ TB (Also cut by Dean Martin) and ‘Small Town Bring Down’ and they worked on several TV commercials together. He also wrote ‘Music Man’ for Jackie DeShannon. Anders got a deal with Artie Ripp on Family Records and cut his superb solo album Peter Anders that was issued by Phillips in the UK in 1972. All 10 tracks were written by Peter with various co-scribes (Miller/ Laguna/ Ginsberg/ Goffin/ Burton etc) and featured a great group of musicians (and 6 morticians baby) and high production values once again. (Danny Kootch, Eric Gale, Jimmy Calvert, Billy Joel, Norman Marzano, Clydie King – some names from his past all made contributions). From the explosive start ‘You’re Safe Now’ this collection of superb songs has you hanging on every line. ‘Yesterday’s Too Many Dreams Away’ and ‘‘Til It’s All Blown Away’ perhaps are just two songs that aptly sum the mood of this collection up but in it’s entirety, this is a fine selection of songs, presumably written in the three year gap since the Warner Brothers album. If I had a criticism of this album, and I don’t really, unlike The Anders & Poncia Album that struck the perfect mixture of sincerity and tongue in cheek humour - Peter Anders has no detectable humour and though the background vocals are great, I miss Poncia’s superb emotional siren wailing in the background. I’m sure Peter did too, after all he dedicated ‘A Year Ago Today’ to Vini, written on the anniversary of his departure. Many of these songs succinctly captured events in my life and no doubt many others who heard them, because some days love ain’t always your friend.
Anders was offered a writer/ producer post by the London based arm of MoWest records in 1973 through label manager Trevor Churchill and relocated to the UK with writing partner Kenny Laguna. His wife of the time Barbara and son Peter also came, plus friends Paul Naumann and Richie Cordell. The Anders rented a house in Hampstead. These guys were high rollers at the time and not much work seemed to get done at MoWest, one single I do remember was by a group called the Rockits, who did a great Anders/ Laguna song ‘Living Without You’ in 1973. ‘Angels Listened In’ was recorded with the Sons Of The Sword (featuring Paul Naumann) but was not issued. When I asked Trevor about Anders work with Edwin Starr recently he told me “This was the famous session where Glyn Johns was engineering and Anders was badgering Edwin to improve the vocal. Edwin stepped up to the plate and gave a staggering performance. When Glyn was asked to play it back he muttered “I hit the wrong button”. Edwin never topped it. I have no idea what the song titles were”. It was nearly 40 years ago but I remember going to a large house/ studio in Walm Lane, Willesden that they were all using. Peter also wrote a couple of songs for ‘Stardust’, a movie that was written by Ray Connolly and starred David Essex, Adam Faith, Billy Fury and Keith Moon. The songs used ‘Make Me Good’ and ‘You Kept Me Waiting’ (by Naumann), were performed by Jim MacLaine (Essex) and the Stray Cats and issued on the soundtrack album. Peter and Barbara helped me put an Anders discography together that I published later on but they were soon gone, back to the States. Just before he left the UK there was talk of Peter writing some songs for the Charlie Thomas Drifters, who were about to cut an album in New York with Musicor, the possible songs discussed ‘Keep On Driftin’’ and ‘No Strings’ were suggested but in the end it came to nothing, as so many deals do, and plans for the album were shelved. As it turned out, due to a US court case by the Johnny Moore Drifters, the CT Drifters lost a great opportunity to establish their claim to their name and in the end, only had a couple of singles released on the label. Once the dust had settled from their departure I found cassette tapes of some of Anders demos in my house, the original of ‘No Strings’ (that was never issued by him but a version was recorded by Gino Cunico) and an unplugged version of ‘Living Without You’ that I later realized was as much about his struggle with drugs as lost love.
It was no surprise, but with some regret when I heard of Peter’s split from Barbara. News filtered through friends from time to time and the next bulletin came in 1976 when another of Anders great songs ‘If I Can Just Get Through Tonight’ was issued on Dion’s Streetheart album – this song was later recorded by singer/ songwriter Phoebe Snow. Peter formed a new partnership with Neil Merryweather (ex Merryweather and Mama Lion) in 1977 and Anders recorded a new version of ‘Mind Excursion’ for 20th Century that surprisingly got a UK release.
Together they headed for the UK to pick up on some old contacts but disaster struck when the authorities turned Anders back due to previous drug misdemeanors and Merryweather went on alone to find some UK success. Peter returned home to Rhode Island determined to kick his drug habits and in a struggle lasting a decade he was in out of rehab seven times before he finally overcame his addiction. He made a conscious decision to remain out of the music business and avoid further temptation so subsequently he dropped off the radar. During his period in the wilderness a number of his songs resurfaced with a new coat of paint when Roni Griffith saw the hit potential in ‘The Best Part Of Breaking Up’ on Making Waves (’82) and soul Queen Darlene Love cut ‘Everybody Needs’, an Anders/ Laguna song, on a CBS 12” and album Paint Another Picture in 1988, that Kenny also produced. However in 1991 Peter was contacted by his old friend Vini who informed him about some outstanding royalties from Phoebe Snow’s recent recording of ‘If I Can Just Get Through Tonight’. The old partners reconnected and occasionally wrote a song or two that restored Peter’s confidence enough to make his return to music. He accepted an offer from reissue label Taragon to help them realize a Videls CD project that not only made some of their early sides available but recreated the group for new recordings. Anders contacted the original members and they all (minus Poncia) reunited to record a dozen new songs, all written by Peter (with a couple of assists) and the album was released in 1996. The following year he was inducted into the Rhode Island Songwriters Association Hall of Fame. Old friend Ritchie Cordell and Anders reunited in 1998 and formed a new songwriting partnership. They had known each other since 1959 when Anders was with in the Videls the first time around. Peter had sung backing vocals and played harmonica on Cordell’s production of Tommy James & the Shondells big hit ‘Mony Mony’. Cordell had many hits with Tommy James, he also wrote a couple of songs with Anders when they both had offices in the Brill Building circa 1965. This new partnership began writing together to create a solo album for Anders One Small Miracle for his return as a performer. The duo wrote and recorded a number of demos that included ‘You’re Still The One’, One Real Love’, ‘The Dutchman’s Gold’ and ‘Born To Rock & Roll’ and the rough-cut was sent to possible interested parties, who might finance the finished album – unfortunately there were no takers. Anders went on to extend his writing scope with Rick Bellaire, John Dunn and Carleen Machado. Richie Cordell died from cancer in 2004.
Anders & Poncia songs that seemed to avoid detection were J&D Long’s ‘Now Or Ever Again’ (Island Sound), BT’s cover of Peter’s ‘Sudden Creek’, Salt Water Taffy had ‘Whence I Make Thee Mine’ - Buddah (‘68) and ‘Summertime Girl’ - Metromedia, the Symbols ‘The Best Part Of Breaking Up’ on President (’68) also cut by the Seashells on CBS (’72), Love Generation ‘Sunrise Highway’ Imperial (’68) and a ballad ‘Guess Who, You’ written with Don Ciccone and cut by Vic Dana, again to name but a few. In 1988 Japanese Teichiku Records issued 2CDs The Innocence vs The Tradewinds combined both the Kama Sutra albums on one CD. Down the years other versions of Anders & Poncia songs have surfaced on various compilation CDs. The second Teichiku issue entitled Anders & Poncia Rarities contains 18 rare tracks, mostly singles that include ‘So It Goes’, ‘Virgin To The Night’ – A&P, ‘Sunrise Highway/ Baby Baby’ Peter Anders, ‘The Day Turns Me On’ the Innocence, several mentioned here earlier and two versions of ‘Down When It’s Up – Up When It’s Down’ by Don Ciccone and Lou Christie, ‘Small Town Bring Down’ Tony Bruno, and two tracks by Gino Cunico ‘Yesterdays Too Many Dreams Away’ and ‘No Strings’. A UK compilation by Bob Fisher for his Sequel label in 1993 Mynd Excursions contained six tracks by the Tradewinds, six by the Innocence, and an assortment of rarities by the Vacels, the Boys, Brooklyn Bridge etc. (see discography for details). Brill Tone Productions & Masterworx issued a 2CD set called Masterworks by Pete Anders and Vini Poncia in 2005 containing 64 tracks including previously unissued takes of ‘New York’s A Lonely Town’, ‘Anything A Fool Can Do’, ‘Mary Ann’ (also recorded by the Crystals – Philles and the Love Notes – Cameo), ‘Make Up Your Mind’, ‘(I Just Go) Wild Inside’ (Tradewinds), ‘Hold Me Tight’ (Treasures), Four Videls tracks - ‘A Letter From Ann’, ‘This Years Mr. New’, ‘Streets Of Love’ and ‘I’ll Keep Waitin’’, a dozen Pete & Vinnie sides from 1963 - ‘Why Can't We Try It Again’, ‘Laughing Fool’, ‘Remember Me’, ‘Why Does The Dance Have To End’, ‘Hand Clappin’ Time (Pts 1 & 2)’, ‘Laughs Laughs (The Life of the Party)’, ‘Ballad of The Willow Tree’, ‘After The Party's Over’, ‘What'll I Do With The Pieces’, ‘She's The Girl Who Stole My Baby’, ‘Understand Me’. In addition to Peter’s bid for solo success Vini also recorded several solo sides in 1963-’64 – ‘Give Your Wife A Kiss From Me’, ‘Don't Try To Change Me’, ‘Take It On The Chin’ and ‘Summer In The South’ among them. Also included on this CD is ‘He's My Eddie Baby’ (PA/ VP) by the (New York) Lovelites (see discography for more details). In 2010 Revola issued a 13 track Innocence album and Excursions by the Tradewinds (10 tracks) with an extra 2 tracks by the Good Times added. For many reasons reissues of Peter’s music on CD have failed to come to fruition, though there have been several attempts to get them issued in the UK. So still a few of his recordings with the Videls, solo and with Vini have yet to be issued on CD including The Anders & Poncia Album and Peter Anders and this is without their combined productions and Map City.
For me, Peter Anders at his height was one of the great singer/ songwriters, his lyrics are perpetually hip and the ethereal harmonies of the Tradewinds, Innocence and Anders & Poncia are unforgettable. I’ve never been a great believer in genres, classification was always more about selling music than making it but Peter could sing it all, his voice is unique and was clandestinely influential in the ‘60s. His creative palette spanned Doo Wop, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Pop and Folk Rock and he delivered it all with expressive perfection. His records with Vini Poncia and since then, rate highly among the finest examples of contemporary music from any era. Unfortunately not enough people thought so and he has never received the accolades and recognition he deserves. As he would say – “So It Goes”. Looking back over his recorded work, the four albums really stand out but it’s all good in it’s way, from the Doo-Wop of the Videls to the torch ballads on the Peter Anders album, as a dedicated fan I could never get enough. I want to listen to all the demos and the rarities and with the songs and production that he supplied for many other artists there is so much to admire - but almost without fail his versions of his songs were nearly always superior. If this feature has wetted your appetite then visit www.peteranders.com his website currently in construction and give his new album So Far a listen – you can get it on ebay. (peter burns)
Peter Anders Discography compiled by Peter Burns
Thanks to Trevor Churchill and Norman Jopling
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