Compositions and such

Musical selections, archived for posteriority…

New stuff is listed here as it’s added.

The Good Old Days

Back in the late ’70s I played bass and sang for an L.A. dance band called Giant City.

A couple different times.

We toured various disco venues like The Red Onion, Big Daddy’s/Flanagan’s, Filthy McNasty’s and others. The group went through various personnel lineups that always centered around the three-man horn section of Brian, Jay and (not Silent) Bob, plus my brother Tony on lead guitar and vocals. The band had a series of keyboardists, bassists, rhythm guitarists, drummers (including Brian Malouf – we were the ‘noted L.A. based rock and roll band’ mentioned in his various bios), and even a katana-wielding lead vocalist for a while.

Some of the guys back in the L.A. area still get together for the Giant City brunch each year, which is pretty remarkable, as it’s now been over 30 years since we toured the Southland playing the latest disco stuff – along with as much Tower of Power, Earth Wind and Fire and original music as we could get away with.

The Giant City name was actually stolen from an early-’70s Chicago area band that included phenomenal vocalist Al Lathan, trombonist Andy Foertsch, guitarist Bill Waidner and others. They changed their name to Aura when they got a record deal (UPDATE: See below for links to the Aura album!!). As frequent readers here know, there’s also a weblog called giantcity, and I recently learned that there’s a new band called Giant City now – a New Orleans style dixieland jazz band, unrelated to us or the original as far as I can tell – down in Austin, TX.

Anyway, here are a few selections from the repertoire back in those days. Some are from demo tapes done when we were shopping for a record deal. Others were recorded live on stage (so they sound like it!). All of ’em are old, so my apologies for the high-freq breakdown, sampling artifacts, etc. Brian had a significant hand in the production of most of these, by the way. No surprise that he’s gone on to be one of the more successful engineers / producers / A&R guys in the industry. Click Here for a playlist of the songs in this section or click on the individual titles to hear them.

“Remastered” Tracks

Some of the tracks listed below have been nominally restored using SONAR and the bundled Vintage Channel VC-64 mastering and Sonitus:fx Compressor and Reverb plug-ins. Go here for the listing (note: having listened to these recently, they have problems of their own… it’s a work in progress ;-). The cassette tape artifacts haven’t been corrected, but a lot of the mud has been removed. In some cases the tape hiss may have been enhanced a little, but it’s a small price to pay for the improvement in clarity on selections like Fly Away (where you can now hear the horns more clearly) and Tell Me Lies (which I’d somehow omitted when I first ripped this stuff from the CDs created by Bob). Enjoy!

You’re the Only One

Written and sung by Tony. Some nice vocals in this. Also nice horns.

Wouldn’t Wanna Be Like You

Cover of the old Alan Parsons tune from the third demo actually, my bad, believe it or not, this was recorded live – Tony singing lead vocals. I’m glad I have this on CD, as there’s an absolutely rippin’ guitar solo by Tony through the last couple minutes of the track. Yeah. He was up there.

Fly Away

Another ballad written and sung by Tony. Note that the big band horn sound you hear near the end of this track was done by just three guys, overlaying tracks with an array of different instruments. Combined, the horn section played an impressive array of saxes (all of them), flute, clarinet, trombone, trumpet, flugelhorn… you name it. Remembering how full those horns sounded back then, it really breaks my heart that the sound quality on this track has suffered so over the years.

Good Things

Live recording during a rehearsal of the very first time we ever attempted this one (which is why the vocals kind of come and go). Written by me in a Steely Dan phase, I suppose. This was supposed to be a kind of show opener, so it talks about some of the other tunes we did. At the end you hear the beginning of one of our first times through Seems To Me, which follows below.

Seems To Me

From the second demo. Bob (bassplayer Bob, not saxplayer Bob) wrote this and it’s also one of my favorites. He fell ill during the recording sessions and I had to learn the bass part the night we recorded the rhythm tracks. This is me singing – back when I could still almost split wood with my voice. Sure miss those good old days!

Late A Lot Sooner

Just for fun. This one’s also by bassplayer Bob – now a music teacher at an L.A. area magnet school. Bob and Tony singing.

Say Something Right

Another one by bassplayer Bob? All these years later, you know, I just don’t remember. Fun tune, though!

Update: See Bob’s comment below (sorry for the delay on that, B).

Oh Money!

Brian M’s lament about money. Me singing. Our first demo track ever, I believe.

Shakin’ Me

Another Brian M tune. Tony singing. Nice rocker.

All I Wanna Do

Great rocker written and sung by Tony. Not hard to tell this was back when Chicago was popular, eh?

Some Additional Giant City Selections

In no particular order – some of these were recorded ‘live’, some studio…

Close to the Edge

The Game is On / Where’d You Go

Just Another Way

Just Turn Away

Girls Like You

Land of the Broken Hearts

Let It Grow

Livin’ A Dream

Reckless Child

The Answer’s In The Music

The Same Old Thing

Welcome Into My Heart

Wizards

Score / Soundtrack Stuff

These were all done with various computer-based orchestration programs like Voyetra’s Orchestrator, Cakewalk’s SONAR, etc. – long before the stuff done using more advanced software and libraries. Ultimately they were recorded using SONAR and a Roland Super JV-1080 synthesizer. Click Here for a playlist of the songs in this section.

The March Home

This was a ‘treatment’ sort of thing I was going to submit as a theme for an anime-style kid’s game. Just for fun.

T.V. Show Theme

Playing around with a 30-45 second theme that might have fit a 1970’s version Leave It To Beaver. Or something.

Jefferson

Very rough mix of a theme that kept running through my head for an online graphic novel based on Thomas Jefferson’s later years, inspired by a visit to Monticello. The music materialized after a while. The novel is still trapped in my head.

Just Guitar and Vocals

In ’92 my wife went in for surgery and a short hospital stay. These are some songs I was playing back in those days. I recorded them at a local studio and put them on tape so she’d have them to listen to. She was always bugging me to play. Still does, though I guess I’ve gotten lazy as time’s gone by. Click Here for a playlist of the songs in this section.

Lifetimes

This was written for a “B” horror flick back in 1977 called “Haunted”. Reincarnation was a running theme in the movie. The song appears in numerous forms throughout the movie. Still waiting for my ASCAP royalties on this one.

BeginningEndings

An attempt at structured lyrics from 1990. Life’s ups and downs.

Two Voices

Song as an analog of spirit, I think. In the movie Phenomenon, the character George Malley talks briefly about Aspen groves – how a grove is actually interconnected by a complex, interconnected root system. And what appears to be numerous individual trees is actually all one enormous plant that lives for decades – sometimes centuries. I’ve always thought that was a nice analogy for the human spirit, and I’ve definitely felt that connectedness, from time to time, as part of a vocal group (or just two voices).

Falling

Yes, this one really needs some backup instruments or added orchestration. I’ll get to it someday. In the meantime, this is what happens when you meet the Love of your Life.

Love the One You’re With

Old Stephen Stills tune. Used to play this in the stairwell at language school when I first bought the 12-string you hear here (Monterey, 1973).

Giant City / Aura

We finally located a copy of the Aura album (vinyl, 1971) and I spent some time extracting MP3s from it. 36 years later – they still rock! Click Here for a playlist of the songs in this section.

Listen To Me

No Opportunity Needed, No Experience Necessary

Song of Everything

Show Me The Way

Truckin’

Life Is Free

Can You Imagine

Cross-Eyed Eagle

Aura

For those who may be curious, a response to commenter Carl Howard, below, includes the following track info, from the LP jacket. Additional info at Andy Foertsch’ site here.

Listen To Me (The Ragg) – (M. Johnson), Camad Music, (BMI)
No Opportunity Needed… – (R. Havens), Pennywhistle Music (BMI)
Song of Everything – (D. Sahm), Marzique Music, (BMI)
Show Me The Way – (Aura)*

Truckin’ – (W. Waidner – A. Lathan)
Life Is Free – (A. Lathan)*
Can You Imagine – (J. Smith – A. Lathan)*
Cross-Eyed Eagle – (D. Horan)*

* Three Brides Music (ASCAP), Fitzpatrick Music Corp. (ASCAP)

 

 

29 Responses

  1. John Chisari Says:

    I have searched for this Aura album for years. One of my favorite bands from the 70’s, that no one seems to remember. I saw them live in about 1972 and their music and performance left a lasting impression on me. Any help in finding a copy of this would be greatly appreciated

  2. Bob Bruning Says:

    Heh-heh! With regard to “Say Something Right,” Brian M put the words in my mouth in return for me putting them into his head. The inspiration for his song, he told me, was found somewhere in the chronic tale of woe I made him listen to whenever we carpooled from The Valley. Poor guy. Those dramatic days feel as if they were somebody else’s story now.
    Thanks for putting these tracks up, Ron. That’s another item on my own list of things to do that I can scratch off now.

    Keep writing, be well, and keep me updated with new music postings. It’s great fun to listen to what you are up to.

    My latest ditty is a “period piece” to accompany the student drama running currently at school http://vimeo.com/2166306 . The quotes are more than a bit too obvious, but the director is happy with that.

    b2

  3. giant city music » Blog Archive » Who were those guys? Says:

    […] Compositions and such […]

  4. Richard Beers Says:

    My cousin is Bill Waidner the guitarist from Aura. He and I janned recently (It was a great treat to play with him). He’s still got chops. Will show him the website and see if we can add something from a real member. The bass player went on to play with the Flock (I think).

  5. Ron Says:

    Cool! It’d be great to hear from Bill. He likely wouldn’t remember unless he happened to catch the name of the band, but he and I spoke briefly when we auditioned at a club in L.A. where his band was playing at the time. I’m sure I grilled him on whatever happened with Giant City / Aura, the record deal and the rest of the guys. Having only ever seen him on stage in Chicago in 1971-72, it was pretty weird running into him in L.A. years later. This would’ve been around 1977-ish, I think.

  6. Andy Foertsch Says:

    Finally found your website. Thanks for the good words. The band was a great ride and some of us are still in touch. BTW, most of us hated the name “Aura” but Mercury made us change it for a real BS reason. Jerry Goodman was in the Flock before he was with us. Last I heard, and this is old news, he had something to do with Hohner but I don’t know what. There weren’t too many copies of the album made, I think only about 10,000, if that many. I have linked my page to your site so that people, where I live now, Florida, can listen. There’s also a web page on My space, “horn rock heaven” that has one of our tunes and 100’s from different bands of our era, They’re writing a book and going to do a bit about us. Peace

  7. Ron Says:

    Hey Andy – great to hear from you!

  8. giant city music » Blog Archive » Ear Training: Only The Beginning Says:

    […] can actually hear it. The SONAR software program has been great for that, since you can write entire orchestral MIDI compositions using something called a “piano roll” that gives you a graphical representation of the […]

  9. Andy Foertsch Says:

    Just a Heads up…. Aura/Giant City/For Days and a Night will be doing a reunion at this venue on 11/22 along with other Chicago Bands of the era
    http://www.chicagopopfestival.com/index.php

  10. beau graham Says:

    i think this album is ok not great im a little more picky than most. i do love the brass horn rock from the 60’s and 70’s and there isnt enough of it. this album along with gas mask – their first album 1970 need to be released on cd. Enjoy

  11. Scott May Says:

    AURA was the best band to see live back in the day, bar none. Mercury FUBAR’d the mastering of that record, which shoulda been a big hit. I will ABSOLUTELY be at the reunion!!! Peace.
    SM (keyboards-Ides Of March)

  12. Amos atterson Says:

    Hi just got a copy of Aura’s lp form a yard sale. Played it and was happy I bought this one. did a search for more info and found your site .thanks for info

  13. Scott Doneen Says:

    I managed Aura way back in the 70’s. they truly were a great band!

    I am thrilled to see that after almost 40 years, people still are enjoying their music. It was great to see postings from Andy and Bill and to learn that the band is getting together for some reunion performances. I would love to learn if all the guys still are in Chicago.

    I moved to Los Angeles in the 1980’s. I stayed in contact with Jerry Smith (bass player. BTW, he was in the Flock, prior to Aura) but over time lost contact with him as well.

  14. Marv Jonesi Says:

    I was in the Mauds (later morphed into Flash) during the same era. I knew Giant City/Aura in Chicago. Good band…knew Bill Waidner and George Gonzales (bass) and Al Lathan and Sam Alessi (I think these names were all in the band…maybe I’m cross-referencing several bands here, like the Soul Machine).

  15. Brian Adams Says:

    Wow talk about old days. This band kicks ass. What a sound. Horns are incredible. Oh that’s me playing trumpet and trombone. Ron you done it good man,. Nice to hear it after all these years. Forgot how good this band was. wow!!

    Lets get together and do it again !!

  16. Greg Mancuso Says:

    Played with Bill in Chicago are in the 80s… Tastiest player I ever had the privilege to play with. I’m now in Kansas city.

  17. Laurie Ulibarri Says:

    I LOVED Giant City! I remember them playing at Flanigans in San Diego and some girlfriends and I went to see Giant City up in L.A. SO worth it! Brian, I hope you are doing well and are happy! You were an awesome friend! xoxo

  18. Dana Omiela (Sifuentes) Says:

    Merry Christmas!
    Back in the day, I enjoyed tripping the light fantastic to the stylings of Giant City. Sometimes, I would just stop in to listen to the band.
    I was fortunate to meet Bob M and he soon become a good and wonderful friend of mine.
    Undortunately, I lost touch and still think of him through out the years. I even tried looking him up in Reseda. I hope life has been good to Bob as he was an amazing, kind, respectful human being who left an indelible mark in my life.
    Would you be kind enough to pass along my
    e-address? I would love to hear from him, although It would be a miracle if he remembers me. Maybe he’d remember my, “mean Arroz con Pollo”.
    Thanks
    P.S. it was awesome to hear that great music again! What an archive!

  19. Bob Marak Says:

    Dana Sifuentes…. holy cow! What a great friend from the 70’s and 80’s. I remember she came out to Tuscon to see the band and her car (this might be a stretch, but I think she called it “moon pie” or “moon beam” or something) broke down, but still managed to make it out there.

  20. Laurie U Says:

    Great listening to the tunes you have here! Makes me think of “Ladies Night” and Brian Adams. 😉 I wish I’d taken photos back then. YOU all were amazing! I still have the business card Brian gave me. Thank you for the great memories. Please say hi to Brian for me. Giant City was by far the best band ever!!

  21. Bob Marak Says:

    Giant City (the L.A. Band) called it a day in 1981 after trying to continue without Brian M, Derek Van Eaton, and you Ron. I think we just lost the focus. I kept working clubs with a Red Onion band called The Team until 1984. The money was good, the income was steady, but I reached the point where a 401K and medical plan outweighed partying every night and drinking like a fish. I will always be proud of what we did and the friends we made, and have a lot of great memories. Selective amnesia sorts out all the other bullshit. Thanks for keeping the memories alive Ron. I still have my horns and thoughts of an oldies band someday…..

  22. Richard Says:

    Hi people,

    Firstly, thanks for the high quality mp3s of this album, much better than I have already. Secondly, I run a website called http://www.aftersabbath.com where I make comps of lost 60s/70s hard rock. If anybody connected to Aura would like to write a account of the band that I can add in the description to go along with the compilation of heavy horn rock I am making (that includes an Aura track) – get in touch, it would be great! Email: aftersabbath@live.co.uk

    Rich
    http://www.aftersabbath.com

  23. Linda Baron Levine Says:

    I followed Giant City around So. Cal..Loved you guys..saw you at Flannigans EVERY night you were there in the Marina Del Rey…I used to bring you guys loaves of pumpkin bread…Great nights listening to you guys….Thank for the memories!!

    PS I do have some photos!!!

  24. Laure Ulibarri Says:

    Linda Baron Levine, Damn, I’d love to see your photos. I agree with you that it was great to listen to these guys! Maybe you can get in touch with me via email? That would be awesome if we met at Flannigans. I loved that place.

  25. Carl Howard Says:

    Who composed what on this album, outside of the Havens and the Sahm covers? I can’t find proper attributions anywhere, and unfortunately, the image of the inside gatefold where that info appears, isn’t large enough to make out.
    Did Al Lathan compose them all? Thank you!!

  26. Ron Says:

    Hi Carl,

    Happily, I just happened to have my copy of the LP handy. The credits are listed as follows…

    Listen To Me (The Ragg) – (M. Johnson), Camad Music, (BMI)
    No Opportunity Needed… – (R. Havens), Pennywhistle Music (BMI)
    Song of Everything – (D. Sahm), Marzique Music, (BMI)
    Show Me The Way – (Aura)*

    Truckin’ – (W. Waidner – A. Lathan)
    Life Is Free – (A. Lathan)*
    Can You Imagine – (J. Smith – A. Lathan)*
    Cross-Eyed Eagle – (D. Horan)*

    * Three Brides Music (ASCAP), Fitzpatrick Music Corp. (ASCAP)

    Hope that helps!

  27. Ken Fabian Says:

    In the late 60’s and early 70’s I was in a band called Sin. We had horns, keyboard, bass & guitar, and a drummer. We did a few Aura songs. Listen To Me, Show Me The Way, and Life is Free, and Truckin’. We even played the same venue as Aura, The Deep End, later called Papa Joe’s. People that I know that never heard of Aura were quite amazed at their music. I’m really sorry to hear of Al Lathan passing away.He will be missed.

  28. Bill Brady Says:

    Hey guys just saw this I almost fell over! I was a dj at Big Daddy’s Flanigans played opposite you guys during your brake. My son is a full on musican loves bands like Chicago, Tower Of Power and Deadato to name a few! I told him of you guys and he brings up questions about you guys all the time! I don’t know if you read these anymore but if you do I sure would like to her from you!

  29. Ron Says:

    Hey Bill, glad you found it! Lots of pics from the old days on Facebook if you’re on there. Some of the guys have pages where you can message them also…

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1404299069865548.100008564051721&type=3

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