Review by James West,
Getting your hands on the latest and greatest Rock and Roll in the 1970s was no easy task for a 14- year old. You could either BEG your parents to buy it; or you could try to BORROW it from friends who were lucky enough to already have it, or you could just STEAL it if you had the cojones and opportunity to get away with such a difficult task.
As my parents were big on the whole “You’re a teenager now, you can get a job and buy your own damn music” trip, and I definitely didn’t have the courage at the time to attempt the whole “Shove the album in my jacket and run out the door” routine (that came later with Van Halen), going the “Borrow-it” route was my best bet in getting to listen to the newest releases of the day.
The Classic Rock music scene of 1977 was wild and hot, with such releases as “Love Gun” by Kiss, “News Of The World” by Queen, and “Cat Scratch Fever” by Ted Nugent being the most sought after when they arrived in the record bins. Of course, Kiss was my favorite back then, so when my friend and “Borrow-it Buddy” Leslie showed me an album that was the Ying to Kiss’s Yang I simply couldn’t believe it!
Picture that scene in Raider’s Of The Lost Ark when they open the lid on the Ark and the golden rays mesmerize you; well, when Leslie revealed Angel- On Earth As It Is In Heaven to me it was one of those golden moments!
He uncovered one the most beautiful-looking albums I had ever laid eyes upon; this masterpiece of Rock art imagery featuring a logo that was an ambigram, which looked the same when looking at it both regularly and upside down. Then there was the band- who were all dressed in white robe-type costumes and had long, feathered hair, like mine but three-times as long. The band’s image was reflected on the cover also against a calming serene blue background. “On Earth As It Is In Heaven” was just that, and I couldn’t wait to hear the heavenly Rock this band had to offer.
When I first saw “Destroyer” by Kiss a year earlier I felt shocked and a little scared to be honest, so I kind of thought this Angel album may sound a little too mellow and soft for my hard rock palate. Then I heard the galloping beat and crashing guitars of “Can You Feel It” and I immediately fell in love at first listen to this great band. I was mesmerized by the guitar work of Punky Meadows especially, so much so that he started to rival my then guitar-hero Ace Frehley. The keyboards took a little getting used too, as before Angel, I didn’t feel they had any place in a rock song. But Greg Giuffria was a whole other animal on the keys. From spaceship sounds to lightning bolts to full-on hail storms, Greg was a complete monster with the soundscapes. He could also go toe to toe with Punky on the solos and sometimes you couldn’t even tell who was who during them. I gained a new-found respect for keyboard players after hearing Greg Giuffria play.
Barry Brandt and Felix Robinson (and Mickie Jones before him) always kept a tight groove for Punky and Greg to play over, and then there’s singer Frank DiMino, one of the most underrated vocalists in Classic Rock history.
Frank had an incredible vocal range and could sing everything from soaring balladry like “The Fortune” to straight ahead rockers like “Got Love If You Want It”.
The sound of Angel was part Sweet-inspired bubblegum, part Hendrix-inspired psychedelic, part Zeppelin-inspired riffage, and part Moody Blues-inspired progressive rock, all rolled together into one beautiful joint that anyone would love to take a toke of.
Which brings me back to the task at hand- How to get my hands on more Angel albums!
My bud Leslie revealed that he got to borrow “On Earth” from one of his friends who lived a couple miles away uptown. He agreed to take me to the source of all things Angel, Mitch Sapp and his brother Dee Sapp. We pedaled our bikes to their house to arrange a possible swap for more Angel albums.
The Sapp’s were pretty cool, but their friends The Parkers were complete lunatics who’s main purpose in life was to basically beat up people for fun. Parker Parker (yes, first and last name, how stupidly inventive) in particular, decided I was going to be the next sacrifice of the day.
This situation definitely put a “Kink” into my plans. "Should I stay or should I go" became my option. Thankfully, I was able to hide from The Parkers long enough for them to find another unsuspecting victim down the street to harass. This was my opening to finally meet up with Mitch and Dee and make a temporary swap for the first and second Angel albums in exchange for my Sweet- Give Us A Wink album that had the winking eye effect when pulling on the insert.
Leslie and I then bolted out of there before Parker Parker could make true on his promise of the day- Kicking my skinny white ass! The only dilemma left now was how to get my Sweet album back the next week from the Sapps and avoiding the Parkers. Well, now that’s another Rocker story altogether…
Luckily for me I had saved enough dough from my newspaper route to buy Angel, Helluva Band (which I still have the original album), On Earth As It Is in Heaven, and the new White Hot the following year, which featured even cooler album effects!
White Hot and 1979’s Sinful are my favorite Angel album offerings, but all the albums deserve your review. My favorite Angel songs are “Rock & Rollers” (Angel), “Mirrors” (Helluva Band), “Cast The First Stone” (On Earth As It Is In Heaven), “Don’t Leave Me Lonely” (White Hot), and “Don’t Take Your Love” (Sinful).
Angel, without Punky and Frank, released “In the Beginning” back in 1999 and the album is also worth a listen, although the chemistry just isn’t there for me like the original band had. For the next 15 years I thought Angel were gone and mostly forgotten, until Punky’s friend Danny Farrow Anniello urged him to pick up the guitar again and jam. This led to a solo album by Punky called “Fallen Angel” which also featured Felix on bass and Frank guesting on a song. The album gained critical acclaim and set the scene for a full-on Angel resurrection with both Punky and Frank, and even Greg and Felix joining in for a gig or two.
This year there’s even more great news. A new Angel album called “Risen” is set to be released next month and will feature both Punky and Frank on all songs. Both sound in excellent form on the new single “Under The Gun”, and I can’t wait to hear the new album in its entirety and review it for you.
The only missing ingredient to my love-fest with Angel is to finally see them in concert for the first time. My Angel of a wife Danette (The Rocker Chic) answered my rock and roll prayers and for my birthday has scored me tickets to see the band at The Whisky next month! Hallelujah Helluva Band- This Rocker can’t wait! Just don’t tell those damn Parker brothers- They are definitely not invited!