The Raz Band titled its 2015 album Madison Park, after the Old Bridge Township community where frontman Michael “Raz” Rescigno grew up. It’s about a half hour drive from Long Branch, where the band will be playing on Sept. 17, at the Brighton Bar.
Rescigno, who currently lives in Los Angeles, has some all-star support in the Raz Band. As a member of the British power-pop band Badfinger in the ’70s, guitarist Joey Molland played on hits such as “No Matter What,” “Day After Day” and “Baby Blue.” Keyboardist Joe Vitale has worked with artists such as Joe Walsh, The Eagles and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Drummer Jeff “Hutch” Hutchinson and bassist Jim Manzo round out the group. (Vitale won’t be in Long Branch, since he has a gig with Walsh in Colorado that night).
The Grip Weeds, The Easy Outs and Stone Baby will also perform at the Brighton Bar. I talked with Rescigno and Molland by phone earlier this week.
Q: So how did Joey end up in the band?
Rescigno: Hutch and I left New Jersey in ’78, and we went to L.A. One of the reasons we went to L.A. was because we knew Joey was living there. We figured we’d find him, he’d like us, and work with us. That was our plan.
Molland: Not much of a plan, really. (laughs)
Q: And you just found him and introduced yourself?
Rescigno: Well, I originally met him at a Badfinger concert when I was a kid, and then every time Badfinger would come to town, I’d manage to get backstage and say hello. So we went to L.A., and then at a Badfinger concert at the Roxy, I went backstage and reintroduced myself. Joey gave me his number and invited me to come over and hang out. And I went over there, and we just started playing guitars, and talking music, and getting to know each other. We had a lot of commonalities.
Q: What year was that?
Rescigno: The first thing we ever recorded together was 1979. It was a song called “The Boy,” which ended up on first Raz album.
Q: And since then, you’ve been working together on and off?
Rescigno: Yeah, pretty much. Joey’s played on almost every record I’ve done — six of the eight. And then along the way, we just decided, “Why don’t we just be a band?”
Molland: We’d do these recordings out in L.A. If I was in town out there, he’d ask me to go and play, and I’d go and play. We had a lot of fun doing this stuff, and over the years, we’ve recorded 50 songs or something. But for Madison Park, I suggested this record label that I work with out of England — Gonzo — and Gonzo agreed to put it out.
They put it out … and from that, that’s kind of solidified it into a band kind of thing. Now we’re starting to do dates: This date at the Shore is the first date that we’re going to do, and hopefully we’ll get some more. Please, people, we need some more dates! We’re all really excited about it. That’s what we’re trying to do here: Get this band on the road.
Q: Joey, is it possible to say what you like about Michael’s music?
Molland: I think Raz is a real original, in the way he does his music. What attracted to me was that, and the fact that it’s completely different to the way I do music, which is based in traditional forms of music, if you like. But Raz is more of a punky, edgy kind of music. He talked about things in a kind of language that I didn’t talk about things in, in my songs. That’s what it is, and that’s what I enjoy about it. It gives me a new kind of freedom, when I play, and I just enjoy myself.
Q: Are you all out in California now?
Molland: Raz and the guys are out in California. I live in Minnesota, and Vitale lives in Ohio.
Q: So it must be a complicated thing just to get everyone together.
Molland: We’re all used to traveling — jetting about, and doing stuff.
Q: Do you have any future recording plans?
Rescigno: Yes, we have two plans. One is going to be a record of all-new material, and this one will have songs not only written by me and Hutch and Jimmy, but Joey and Joe Vitale will contribute songs. So that’s on the schedule. And we also plan on doing a live album. The original plan was to go to The Cavern Club (in Liverpool) and record the live album there, but we’re also talking about possibly coming back to Jersey in the spring and doing it here.
The live album will be really cool, because it touches on all types of stuff, besides our music: Some of Joey’s solo songs that we really like, that fit with what we’re doing, and some of the songs Vitale wrote that other people recorded, that no one’s really heard him sing on.
Q: What are those songs?
Rescigno: “Rocky Mountain Way,” which Joe wrote with Joe Walsh. “Pretty Maids All in a Row,” from the Hotel California album. “Live It Up,” by Crosby, Stills & Nash. Those three, specifically, and then a couple of his solo songs as well.
Q: How did this show in New Jersey come about?
Rescigno: I developed a friendship on Facebook with Bruce Ferguson, of The Easy Outs. I really like their album that they put out last year, and he really liked our record. Then he asked me to start writing some songs with him, for his solo album. So we started writing songs together. Then I said, “You know, I’d really like to come back to Jersey to do a show.” So his wife, who manages The Easy Outs, is the one who booked the show. And The Grip Weeds are on the show because Kurt (Reil), from The Grip Weeds, produces The Easy Outs.
Coincidentally, there’s this other pop artist named Ray Paul, who was also working with Kurt at his studio in Highland Park, and we just played with Ray out in L.A. It’s kind of funny how it’s all tied together. Ray opened for Joey and Badfinger, years ago; Ray recorded with Kurt; Kurt records with Bruce; I’m writing with Bruce, and I’m going to play on his solo album. It’s kind of an organic thing.
The Raz Band performs with The Grip Weeds, The Easy Outs and Stone Baby at The Brighton Bar in Long Branch, Sept. 17. Doors open at 7 p.m.; visit brightonbar.com. For information about The Raz Band, visit the group’s Facebook page.
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