My friend and former colleague Mark “Elder” Voger knows how to keep a secret. For many years, I worked closely with him at The Star-Ledger. I knew he was a musician, and was knowledgeable about artists in a wide range of genres. But I didn’t know that he had been working, for six years, on a benefit album with some of New Jersey’s finest musicians.
It’s called From the Heart, and it’s available now; for more information, visit markvoger.com. All proceeds will go to the fight against spinal muscular atrophy. (Mark’s brother Brian is a friend of the family of Steven Potter, who is living with the disease and who inspired the annual Steven’s Walk fundraisers.)
Mark handled guitar, vocals, songwriting and arranging on the album, Brian played bass and also produced, recorded and mixed it. Joining the Voger brothers (who have previously played together in the band The Burners, Scream and Mad Jack) is drummer John Young of Sordid Past.
The songs are all originals, and range in style to gritty blues-rock (“Barman”) to synth-led prog-rock (“Heaven the Hard Way”), with forays into country (“Moving Day”), heavy metal (“What You Got”) and other genres along the way. “The 14 original songs on From the Heart are rooted in ’70s rock, which is where we came in. We love our Zeppelin, our Purple, our Tull, our Who …,” write the Voger brothers on markvoger.com.
Chipping in on various tracks are veteran players well known to fans of New Jersey music, including guitarists Billy Hector and Matt O’Ree and harmonica player Ken “Stringbean” Sorensen. Drummer Sim Cain, whose credits range from the J. Geils Band to Ween, is credited with percussion on four tracks, and Ron Howden of the progressive-rock group Nektar plays percussion and contributes a spoken word segment to “Washed Away.”
Other contributors include Reggie Wu of Heaven’s Edge, Georgie Rumbol of The Dead End Kids, and session musician Jim “Sparks” Sinclair.
“No two of them approached this thing the same way,” wrote Brian Voger in an email. “Reggie Wu learned the song inside-out. Billy Hector and Sparks just winged it, and gave me gold. Stringbean knew exactly what he wanted to do, and got it down in one take. Matt O’Ree had incredible instincts, and responded to every nuance in the song he played on (‘The Tower Dam’).”