Buffalo’s TALAS had gone through many changes over their years of activity from the early 70s to the mid 80s. The 3-man line up of Billy Sheehan, Paul Varga and Dave Cosentino had reunited a number of times, but in 2017 Billy Sheehan reassembled the last incarnation of the band he was in (pre David Lee Roth Band; MK 2) – with singer Phil Naro, drummer Mark Miller, and new guitarist Kire Najdovski (in place of Mitch Perry). The band played several shows over the few years prior to Covid shutting down shows, and then the passing of Phil Naro (RIP). But in there the band signed with Metal Blade and recorded a new album. In fact they recorded the album they really intended to in 1985! Almost all of these songs came from that period of the band, with a couple having been included on the band’s 1984 live release Live Speed On Ice. So, for fans one could say this was long overdue and a most welcome album.
1985 kicks off with “Inner Mounting Flame”, a hard driving fast rocker that sets the tone for what’s to come, you’d be hard pressed to find a better album opener IN 1985! The album was recorded in Mark Miller’s house, and it’s very energetic and has a very live feel to it all. Tracks like “Do You Feel Any Better” (originally on the live ’84 album), “On The Take”, “Come When You Call”, “I’ll Take The Night”, and “Close To The Killer” are all enjoyable Talas rockers. Also included is “Power To Break Away”, which pre-dates the Phil Naro years (see youtube), and debuted on Mk 1’s 1998 live album If We Only Knew Then What We Know Now, and “Crystal Clear” – which also was included on the live ’84 album, as well as covered by Jim Crean (on his Velvet Crush album, feat Naro on backing vocals). The one ‘new’ track is “Black & Blue”, which a bit slower paced, near ballad; Phil’s vocal on the verses reminds me a bit of Kiss’ “I Love It Loud”. A good addition to the mix.
A great return album from Talas, though saddened that Phil Naro is no longer here to see it and see the reaction. The guy did an amazing job leaving fans with 2 excellent albums – Talas 1985 and Lips Turn Blue LTB (released a few months ago). Rockers will dig this album, it sounds awesome, probably a bit heavier than Talas’ 2 early studio albums, with lots of cool intros, riffs, and guitar solos. Love the album cover, very 80s, very fitting!
TALAS are back with the release of their new album 1985, which will see a September 23, 2022 release via Metal Blade Records. Fans can preorder the album and check out the new single “Crystal Clear”.
Formed in the mid 70s and dissolved in 1985, TALAS may have never reached arena-headlining status but they were an integral part of the early 80s hard rock scene, and their long awaited return does not disappoint. “The time was right and we were all into it, no one needed any convincing, we were all instantly excited to do it,” explains bassist Billy Sheehan, who is rejoined by drummer Mark Miller and powerhouse vocalist Phil Naro, as well as new recruit Kire Najdovski on guitar. “It’s like we never stopped – everything fell together so easily. It was quite wonderful.” Now they return with 1985, 11 tracks of classic hard rock, picking up where they left off, and it is a release that will have old school fans salivating and new followers fired up with its big riffs, seductive choruses and killer soloing – basically everything that could be wanted from a TALAS record.
Najdovski may be relatively new to the band, but his playing is pure Talas. “He’s a great player with great ideas and a joy to work with. Phil had worked with him previously, so I trusted his judgement, and it worked out perfectly.” The band also welcomed former guitarist Mitch Perry to appear on the record, playing on the two songs that he wrote, “Crystal Clear” and “On The Take”, adding an extra dimension and bringing back more of that old school vibe.
Asked why people should be excited for this comeback, Sheehan answers enthusiastically. “Because so many of them were there, with us, and a million other great bands that made the 80s such a special musical experience. And also there are so many who might not have been there but have fallen in love with that spirit as well. We feel a very special bond with them all.”
With all but one song – “Black And Blue” – written in 1985, the album would have been their fourth full-length had they not split, and while they have worked hard to get the best out of them they have not tampered with the tracks or given them a modern twist, letting them live in the era in which they were created. “We wanted a snapshot of our musical life from 1985,” explains Sheehan. “It’s the same spirit, mostly the same people, and it’s bringing the 80s into 2022. The 80s were an amazing time for music and bands, and we were all excited to go back to that, and I would say the record is raw, real, honest, and exhilarating.”
The album was recorded in Miller’s living room, in the house he built, utilizing a mobile recording setup, and according to Sheehan the sessions were “an absolute joy.” Coordinating everything remotely during the pandemic – with Russ Mackay handling the engineering/mixing/mastering from Toronto – was the hardest aspect of recording, but they managed to pull it all together, making a record that sounds cohesive from start to finish, giving no suggestion that it was anything but a smooth process. As well as Mitch Perry’s guest appearance the band also invited Naro’s son, James, to appear on the record, who “sang some harmonies – like father, like son, he sounded really great.” There are hopes to tour the record, though sadly, after a years long battle with cancer, Naro passed in 2021, but thankfully he recorded all of his parts prior to his death, and 1985 stands as a great epitaph to a great vocalist.
1985 will be available in the following formats: – Digital – Digipak-CD – 180g Black Vinyl (EU exclusive) – Gold Vinyl (EU exclusive – limited to 300 copies) – Clear/Pale Green Marbled Vinyl (EU exclusive – limited to 300 copies) – White/Black Marbled Vinyl (US)
DON MANCUSO is the guitarist and a major songwriter in the band LIPS TURN BLUE. The band started out as DDRIVE years ago, which had originally taken the name of Don’s second solo album DDrive, from 2004. Upon starting the band’s new album the band decided to change the name due to the name D_Drive also being used by a young prog-metal band from Tokyo. In the ’70s Don was part of the legendary band Black Sheep, along with singer Lou Grammatico – who went on to Foreigner. Black Sheep released 2 classic albums on Capitol Records. Don went on to various bands including Cheater, Red Heart, as well The Lou Gramm Band (see their 2009 self-titled album).
In this interview Don discusses the new Lips Turn Blue album – the making of it, the songs, the late Phil Naro, LTB’s current happenings, as well a bit on Black Sheep, and what else he has on the go.
For more, check out all the links below!
How much of the album was done when Phil was still with you?
Probably 90 per cent of it was done while Phil was still with us. He couldn’t sing after he went through the 2nd round of the chemo and therapy he was doing, trying to beat it, but he was in on what songs we were going to pull from earlier albums. You know, we ended up using a couple of songs, where he couldn’t sing, we had to go back in the catalogue and we picked up a couple of DDrive songs and we re-did those around his vocals.
You co-wrote most of the songs with Phil. Were the lyrics his and it was all put together from that?
It was a group effort – Phil and I wrote a couple of songs, and Phil and I and the keyboard player, Eric Beiber wrote. We all contributed with music, words, ideas, melodies. And there was a couple that Eric wrote with just Phil and Steve Major, the producer up in Toronto.
Can we talk about some of the songs? I just saw the new video for “Pray For Tomorrow”.
That was a total remake. That’s what started the album going. Phil had some friends during the pandemic that said it would be a great idea to do an acoustic version of it, and we said ‘it’s a good idea – we’re sitting around anyway.’ We all kinda chipped in at our home studios and we got that rendition of it.
“Just Push” was the first single. Can you tell me anything about that song?
That was an idea Phil brought to the table, and him and I worked on it actually til we completed the song. It was during the pandemic, so we couldn’t actually work face to face. We were working on the internet, doing tracks with the other guys, and the producer coordinated it, sending all the tracks up to Toronto to have them mixed. It was our first take on the pandemic.
I like “Build My Castle”, that’s a great one. and I like Phil’s intro to that, it’s kind of a different approach.
Steve came up with. It’s actually off my 2nd solo album with Phil. And he wanted to re-do it in a different light, so we added keyboard passages, and melodies with keyboards, and changed the solos around a little bit, and he did the thing with intro and the chant in the breakdown in the middle, also. A great song. That was actually getting some airplay in Pittsburgh.
“Better Than I Used To Be” ?
Yes. That’s one of my favorites. That one is close to my heart. I actually wrote the basic hook part, and most of the lyrics on it – with Phil’s help. And Eric Beiber contributed, I think he wrote the solo section. That’s a good one. It’s the story of my life – haha – ‘I may not be perfect, but I’m always better than I used to be.’
There’s a couple of things on here that have kinda reflective lyrics, and I’m wondering if those are things that Phil wrote – “No Need For You To Call” and “Life’s Crazy Ride”
“No Need To Call” was one that I helped him with. He had just had a falling out with his fiancé, and I had a new girlfriend, and we kind of wrote that one. And the other one – that was basically how he summed up his life before it was over — for everybody, not just for him, for all of us.
Was he well aware of his situation when he wrote that stuff?
Oh God yeah. He was in the middle of wondering how long it was going to be. It was tough.
What stands out for you on the album – what are you happiest with?
I think “Sit Up” is one of my more .. .I mean even though it’s a real R & B metal tune, it’s got a great hook to it, and it’s one of those ones that makes you want to move. That one, and “Better Than I Used To Be”. There’s a couple of Eric’s that I really like, that are really amazing.
“Chain On Me”?
That was one that Lou and I wrote with Bruce (Turgon). We re-did it from the Black Sheep days; it was on the Encouraging Words album. That was Phil’s last request, he said ‘I always wanted to do that song.’ And I was like – ‘you got it – let’s do it!’. And he did it, he pulled it off great.
The last cut on the album Lou sings on.
Yes. That’s from my 2nd solo album. And we decided to add that in to the que when Phil really couldn’t do any more. And we didn’t want to put anything out that was half-baked. So we took a song that Phil and I wrote from my 2nd solo album, and had the new guys play on it. The only other original guy we left on it was Joe Lana, he also passed away 5-6 years ago.
Who’s idea was it to do the Beatles’ cover? It’s an interesting choice.
That was mine and Phil’s. That was another one originally off of my 2nd solo album that we always loved, so we said ‘let’s re-do this one too!’
Now when I see the album – I love the cover, but I see there is no vinyl option of it , yet. When I look on Discogs and on Amazon I only see the CD.
No? I thought they were going to do that, I heard they were going to do it. I know I want vinyl.
Now you guys have moved on, and you have Iggy Marino as your new frontman. How many shows have you done?
We’ve done 2 shows so far, one in Rochester, and one in Phoenix, Arizona.
So you are part way or mostly done a new album as well?
Yes, about half way. We’ve got a lot of it in the can.
Will we still see Phil in any of the credits?
Oh yeah, he’ll be on 2 or 3 of them, I think, as far as credits. He wasn’t able to sing on them, but he was part of writing them, And I think we did have some vocal parts that are still usable that we’ll probably slip in here or there, I’m sure.
Is there a projected date for the next album?
No. We’re just trying to put together a tour, and get out and promote the Hell out of this one. It’s going to take time, I mean we’re not a super huge classic rock band or anything, so we’re going to be toughing it out for probably the next 6 months to a year to try and get that out there. And in the interim we’ll slowly widdle away at the next album.
Are you still working with Lou at all, on the side?
No. I still play with him periodically when he needs me, and he calls me up and says ‘I’m in trouble I need a guitar player and a band.’ But he’s actually retired, but he’s been doing these guest spots with other groups who want to bring him in to the fold just for a few gigs, or special shows, kind of ‘all-star’ band stuff.
I just want to ask about Black Sheep. Is there anything in the vaults that would interest you guys in putting them out as reissued with anything extra?
No, probably not. Lou was actually thinking about that a few years ago and tried to check in to who owned it, and it was like a circle-jerk, no one could really nail it down as to who owned it. So to do something like that might be a lawsuit in the making. I’ve got digital copies of the mastered albums that I just turn friends on to, and give it to them if they want it.
That’s a shame there’s not newer pressings of them out there because they’re hard to find and they’re albums.
Oh they are! That’s why I’m glad I’ve got the digital remaster of it. I was really fortunate because it’s a cut-out in the catalogue now, and luckily a DJ who happened to get a copy of it before they burned them all, he sent them to me, and I was ‘Oh thank you – you’re my hero!’
Did Black Sheep have any regional hot spots, aside from where you guys were from in Rochester and New York – any places where you guys got a lot of air-play or had a hit?
Yeah, we had a hit in Knoxville, Tennessee. We had a hit in Japan. And I think in Europe there were a couple of classic rock stations that were giving us a lot of air-play – like in Germany, Switzerland, Austria.
Was that back when the albums came out?
Yes, when the albums were out and we were touring with Kiss, Hall & Oats, and Ten Years After, and all that.
What else are you working on now?
Basically, right now my main focus for original acts is Lips Turn Blue because we’ve got the deal with MIG Records over in Germany, and the record’s doing good. Then I’m still working with Tony Carbone and Derek Crom in Johnny Smoke. We’re going to be coming to Buffalo in January, I think, at The Rock. And I’m still working with Lisa Gee, from Chicago, who’s last albums and EPs were done with a different drummer, he’s a session drummer out in California, but now I’ve been working with Carmine Appice on her new stuff. We’ve got 5 songs in the can; she’s going to be releasing an EP, and she’s got 1 song we’re still finishing up, it’ll be a separate single with Carmine. (ed: single premiers June 18)
I interviewed Carmine a few months ago. A busy guy.
Yeah he is. Great musician, I love working with him.
Do you know the name Mike Marconi?
Oh God yes! I used to go watch him when I was in Black Sheep just to learn new licks and get my sound down. He was one of the guys – him and Mike Nicoles were my local heros. He’s a good guy, great guitar player. He was in a band called Wale here. They were a good band. They were the one voted ‘most likely to succeed’ over Black Sheep. haha. We fooled them.
Can you give me a bit of insight in to Phil as a writing partner, bandmember, and person, how you got along with him and that?
We got along great because we loved writing together, and playing together. Every opportunity we would get we would both work at it, but we were always involved in other projects to keep moving forward, learn more stuff, and hopefully grab more contacts.
Anything else you can add in about the album..
It was the biggest labor of love any of us have ever done. It was like pulling teeth to get it out. Luckily we were blessed with a guy that got behind us – Bruce Pilato, he manages the band and he kind of tied up all the lose ends and got it to a point where we can get it out to people. So, you gotta hand it to him.
Are you guys going to be adding a store to the website to order CDs and merchandise directly?
Yeah. We want to. Because I mean with the gigs we played we probably could’ve sold hundreds of those t-shirts with the cover art on them.
Do you know much about it (the cover)?
Yes. It was done by a gentleman in the mid-west who’s referred to as ‘Man In The Mountain’ , and he does all graphic art covers, a lot of CD stuff, and big time artwork.
LIPS TURN BLUE is the band formerly known as DDrive, which features guitarist Don Mancuso [ex Black Sheep], and the late Phil Naro on vocals & guitar. this album also features keyboardist Eric Beiber, bass player Mike Mullane, as well as a few drummers (Roy Stein is the band’s permanent drummer), backing singers, and guests – most notably Lou Gramm! Producer Steve Major also adds guitar and percussion. Most songs here co-written by Naro & Mancuso, with a few others adding to variety of tracks here.
First off is the awesome cover shot by Martin Kornick / Man In the Mountain ! Love the photo and the blue. Makes me wonder why no one issued this on blue vinyl!?
LTB features 13 tracks, a few of which have been re-worked from previous releases, most notably a cool remake of Black Sheep’s “Chain On Me” (the 70s band that featured Mancuso and Lou Gramm, as well as co-writer Bruce Turgon) – love that piano intro and Hammond organ! The band also revisit their own “Pray For Tomorrow”, which is a timely and memorable; a song of hope featuring a fine vocal from Naro, as well as acoustic guitar and mandolin from Mancuso. “Pray For Tomorrow” has been made in to the 2nd video from the album, with the band also offering the video in efforts to raise money for the people of Ukraine.
There are a few tracks reworked here from Mancuso’s 2nd solo album, titled DDrive – the upbeat (and a favorite here) “Build My Castle”, and though the original was good this is a great production, adding a vocal intro and love the keyboard & guitar exchange here, as well as the solo – this track sounds like it would be an exciting in the live set. As well there’s Lou Gramm singing the Mancuso / Naro penned “A Little Outside” (a nice close to the album), and a cover of Beatles’ favorite “Hey Bulldog”. Favorite tracks here also include the opener (lead single) “Just Push” and “Better Than I Used To Be” (great AOR rocker – love the keyboard runs in this one from Eric Beiber) – actually the first 5 songs here make this worth getting! A couple of excellent ballads included here as well, “No Need For You To Call” and “Life’s Crazy Ride”, both reflective, and one of Phil’s best vocal performances on the latter.
Lips Turn Blue is one of two albums Phil Naro completed before his passing. LTD will appeal to fans of melodic rock, classic AOR, and anyone familiar with Phil’s vocals (the guy did a lot in his career!). Cheers to Don Mancuso and the band and producer Steve Major for getting this album done and out. Lips Turn Blue are currently working on a 2nd album and live dates with new singer Iggy Marino.
New York rockers turn tragedy into triumph; after the passing of legendary lead vocalist Phil Naro, band releases brilliant debut album and adds new singer/ musician, Iggy Marino.
LIPS TURN BLUE, formerly known in the Upstate New York region as the popular club act, DDRIVE, has regrouped and returned with a new name, a brilliant debut album, a world-wide record contract, and a new member in singer/musician Iggy Marino. The band (nicknamed LTB) which also includes guitarist Don Mancuso, keyboardist Eric Bieber, bassist Mike Mullane, and drummer Roy Stein are currently preparing for the release of its new album and some select concert dates.
Pre-orders / pre saves available here: https://lipsturnblue.lnk.to/justpushThe group’s first single, “Just Push” will be released March 23rd. That will be followed by other singles: “Pray For Tomorrow,” an ode to the turbulent times much of the world is experiencing; “Blood Moon,” and “Crazy In Love.” The debut album, LIPS TURN BLUE will have its worldwide release this coming May 4th., to coincide with the one year anniversary of the week he passed away.
When the band’s lead vocalist and co-songwriter Phil Naro sadly passed away after a valiant battle against cancer the group’s future was in doubt. Naro and the other band members had just secured a worldwide record deal with the European-based label, MIG RECORDS, and had put the finishing touches on the album when his illness returned, and tragedy struck.
As his illness progressed the band members assured Naro the record would be released, and they would continue to pursue his artistic vision for the material he felt was his best work as a songwriter and vocalist. Now, with the record deal signed, a release date set and a dynamic new vocalist in place, their promise to their fallen musical comrade can finally be fulfilled.
Iggy Marino came to the band after an extensive search for a new vocalist. He is a recent Nazareth College graduate whose instructors at the school included LTB drummer Roy Stein and its manager, Bruce Pilato, who both teach music-industry courses there.
“We feel we have a great singer and fellow musician in place that the music touches and motivates,” says Don Mancuso. “We want to get this amazing music out there. It needs to be played to as many music fans as possible. After our period of mourning Phil’s loss, we now have the drive and experience to take this music on the road and finish our next album, which is already well in the works.”
Adds Eric Bieber, who, in addition to his skill has a classically trained keyboardist and longtime professional performing musician, recently retired as a physician and hospital executive administrator. “Phil was passionate in his desire to have this music heard and performed. We are honored to be able to carry on his legacy by doing just that. Iggy Marino is a remarkable young musician who will take the band in yet another direction with some of the new material. He is also a fan of the existing album and will be faithful to Phil’s vision.”
Lou Gramm, founding member and former lead vocalist of FOREIGNER, appears on the album’s final track, “A Little Outside.”
“We believe this is one of the strongest debut albums we have heard in many years,” says Bernd Ramien, A&R & Director of Catalog Marketing for MIG (Made-In Germany-Music GmbH), which signed the band soon after only hearing a few tracks from the debut album. “We had thought and hoped Phil would overcome his illness, but when he sadly left us, we were determined to make sure this album and band could carry on.”
At the moment, MIG has plans to release three singles by the time the full album is available this coming April. The group is currently booking tour dates to coincide with the album’s release. Based in Hannover, Germany but distributed worldwide, MIG Music has released albums by an extraordinary roster of acts that includes: Joe Jackson, Sheila E, Jack Bruce of Cream, Roger McGuinn, Ron Wood, Muddy Waters, Pee Wee Ellis, Maceo Parker, Weather Report, Nash Albert, Pat Travers Band, Vanilla Fudge, Richard Thompson, George Thorogood, Public Image Ltd, and many others. For All Things LIPS TURN BLUE, please visit:
Rochester born singer Phil Naro had a very busy and successful career fronting a number of bands, notably Talas. Sadly Phil passed last May after battling cancer. Phil also was a part of a number of tribute acts, such as Ozone Baby (Led Zeppelin), as well as worked with Classic Albums Live and the Platinum Rock All-Stars. In 2009 Phil won a Daytime Emmy Award for his performance of the theme song to the animated TV show “6Teen”. Phil kept busy right til the end, finishing 2 albums. Phil was a great talent and a classy guy, who was always friendly and just seemed happy performing. Billy Sheehan once described Phil as “the best attitude singer” he knew.
Sheehan would reform Talas with Phil 5 years ago, and play a number of shows. They would also sign a record deal with Metal Blade Records and record a new Talas studio album just prior to Phil’s passing. It is the first Talas studio album since 1982. Phil joined Talas after that, singing on the band’s 1984 Live Speed On Ice, before eventually moving on to numerous short lived gigs like Coney Hatch, Naro, Blood Red Flower, 24K,…. The first single from the forthcoming Talas album is “Inner Mounting Flame”; a thundering hard rocker in classic Talas form which Sheehan describes as – “a bombastic, high-speed chaos of adrenaline that we would often use as our opening song at the live TALAS shows in 1985. We stayed close to the original arrangement – this was such a blast to record, and Phil sang his ass off on it. The song title came from a very famous fusion bands album title (The Mahavishnu Orchestra – Inner Mounting Flame), and was our take on what that flame might be about.” The song is produced by Billy Sheehan, Russ Mackay, Scott Bush and Talas – which also consists of drummer Mark Miller, and new addition Kire Najdovski on guitar. As a fan of Talas, this track simply an amazing surprise – not just getting to finally hear it, but the fact that it is so energetic, and so well performed and produced. Phil sounds better than ever on it, so I am really looking forward to the rest of the album. There should be more news soon. Check out the Talas V2 Facebook group for updates – https://www.facebook.com/talasv2
Within days of watching the new Talas clip repeatedly there came a press release and Another video release featuring Phil Naro for the first single from the forthcoming LIPS TURN BLUE album. Lips Turn Blue is the band formerly known as DDRIVE, along with former Black Sheep / Lou Gramm guitarist Don Mancuso, as well as keyboardist Eric Bieber, bassist Mike Mullane, and drummer Roy Stein. DDrive had released 2 full albums plus a mini-album over the years but changed the name for this newest recording (see Japanese metal band D_Drive).
The first single is “Just Push”, an easily likeable aor rock track, with a great chorus, a bit of funky guitar, and well placed keys. Phil sounds excellent on this one too. It’s a fun upbeat tune, and is the first of a few singles from LTB’s album, The band signed to MIG Records (Europe), who will release the album in May, a year after Phil Naro’s passing. as well as LTB’s next one that has already been started, and will feature new singer Iggy Marino. https://m.facebook.com/Lips-Turn-Blue
More on Lips Turn Blue in a future post…. But check out Mitch Lafon’s interview with Don Mancuso [below] for some insight and news. www.Lipsturnblue.com
Phil can also be heard on Cactus’ Tightrope album from 2021, as he co-wrote and sang on the track “Wear It Out”. One can spend hours going through Youtube checking out all the albums and projects Phil was a part of, some great stuff to be discovered there.