Domenic Troiano | Band Credits


Mandala

After playing guitar with Robbie Lane and the Disciples, Domenic quit to form his own band in 1965. They began as the Five Rogues, and in 1966, they changed their name to Mandala. Early on, the band featured lead vocalist George Olliver, who was later replaced by Roy Kenner. Mandala released their one and only album in 1968, Soul Crusade (they don't make album covers like this any more... see it in all of its glory).
This album sounds very '60s. If you're only familiar with Domenic's work in the '70s, you might not believe that he wrote nearly every song on the album. The material holds up, though, even after 40+ years. "Come on Home" is one of the stronger songs, featuring Roy and Domenic sharing the lead vocal and sounding like true soul men. There's also an extended middle break that includes a killer Troiano guitar solo. "Can't Hold Out" and "Every Single Day" are super-catchy. Hear Domenic testify in "Faith"!
The vinyl version of Soul Crusade is worth finding for the cover art alone.
If you're at all like me, you get excited when you hear news of a classic album being remastered and issued on CD. The Soul Crusade reissue was in the works for years, and Pacemaker Entertainment finally released it in June of 2010. The packaging is surprisingly faithful to the original LP sleeve. The only thing they left out is the collage of circular band photos on the inside of the gatefold. Nick Warburton contributed his great essay on the band for the liner notes. The quality of the audio is pristine: it sounds exactly the way it does on the original vinyl (minus the pops and crackles). No compression, no funky mix or EQ issues, no edits... just the good stuff, unadulterated. The biggest problem with the CD is that it adds none of the Chess singles and no bonus material at all. Disappointing, since many people remember Mandala for the pre-Soul Crusade singles. As a 2-CD set or even a jam-packed single disc, this could have been a grand slam reissue, but as it is, it's a solid, no nonsense CD release of a great album.
Learn more about Troiano's involvement with Mandala.

"Opportunity"  


Bush

No, not the Gavin Rossdale band. This band was basically a more stripped down, rockin' version of Mandala. They released a self-titled album in 1970. All the songs were written by Troiano/Kenner, with the exception of a few tunes penned solely by Domenic. The sound is very immediate and raw with few or no overdubs. The band fills out its sound with frequent three-part harmonies and a generous helping of musical chops. The album includes "I Can Hear You Calling," which was later covered by Three Dog Night, "The Grand Commander," "Back Stage Girl," and the ultra-smooth "Turn Down," sung by Domenic. "Livin' Life" is the requisite feel-good Troiano song, and "I Miss You" foreshadows the sentimental tracks on his first two solo LPs.
The Bush LP was reissued on CD in 1995 by Magada Heritage International. I was lucky enough to snag a copy in 1998. In addition to the original album, the CD also includes four super-rare live tracks, recorded in Los Angeles in 1971 just before the band split. During "Try," Prakash John lets out a scream that could strip the paint off the walls. The 20-minute "Cross Country Man" is chock full of highlights: 5:20: Prakash apes the Sanford & Son theme song; 5:31: Kenner plays a tamborine solo; 7:04: he plays another tamborine solo; 7:15: Troiano unleashes a series of notes that sound like raindrops falling from the sky; 8:12: Domenic makes his guitar sound like a spaceship; 9:11: the band scat in unison; 12:06: Domenic does that guitar thing that no one can figure out; 17:12: Whitey Glan rolls with one hand; 18:55: Kenner scats like a hyperactive 8-year old whose had too much Jolt cola. It's a rare disc, but one definitely worth hunting for.

"Backstage Girl"  


The James Gang

When Joe Walsh left this band in late '71, Domenic and Roy Kenner were recruited to fill the vacancy. Many hardcore Walsh fans were probably disappointed when they heard Straight Shooter, the first album with the new lineup. Kenner and Troiano became the group's new creative forces, and they didn't attempt to cop Walsh's style. Instead, the new James Gang sounded like Bush Part II. Rolling Stone's Alan Niester said the following about the Troiano-era Gang: "Their new concert act is probably as exciting, if not more so, than the old congregation's. The last time I saw the band, I concluded that they were one of the premier live rock bands left in America."
Although it met with public indifference upon its release, Straight Shooter is a must-have for Troiano fans. Domenic kept the funk in the James Gang; "Kick Back Man" should have been called "Funk #50." "Hairy Hypochondriac" is a goofy song about bassist Dale Peters (see Rolling Stone, 1 February 1973). On "Madness" and "Looking for My Lady," Kenner screams like a banshee chief on the warpath. Domenic sings lead on "Getting Old," a lovely but slightly depressing tune. Straight Shooter was produced exclusively by the band. As a result, the album sounds insular and a bit directionless. As a Troiano fan, I enjoy the album, but many long time Gang fans were put off by the new sound. Keith Olsen enhanced the band's sound on their next album, Passin' Thru. He polished up the rough edges and brought in outside musicians to play various instruments on several tracks. Dom contributes some respectable material, including the funky "One Way Street," "Things I Want to Say to You," and the perfect pop gem "Out of Control." Most of the other tracks were written by both Troiano and Kenner. "Had Enough" features an organ bit played by none other than drummer Jimmy Fox. The last tune, "Drifting Girl," is a weeper that many people seem to have forgotten about. Get out your vinyl and refresh your memory, it's a gorgeous tune.
If you're a fan of the Troiano/Kenner team, then you'd enjoy these two James Gang albums. They were re-issued on CD in the early '90s on MCA/One Way. Passin' Thru is probably the better buy because the overall sound is more focused on that album. Plus, the Straight Shooter CD is cursed with a lousy mix. Both of the One Way releases are out of print, but luckily, Straight Shooter and Passin' Thru have recently been released on a single disc by UK-based label BGO (Beat Goes On) Records. An essential Troiano purchase... hunt it down!

"One Way Street"  


The Guess Who

Domenic was the guitarist in the last line-up of the Burton Cummings-era Guess Who. Flavours was released in 1974, and Power in the Music appeared a year later. The Guess Who seem to be on their last leg at this point. Cummings was still pretty much calling all the shots, so Domenic's signature style doesn't come through in a lot of these songs, despite the fact that all songs are credited to "Cummings/Troiano."
Flavours became a gold record on the strength of the single "Dancin' Fool." Compared to the Guess Who's previous albums, this one sounds highly refined and elegant. "Nobody Knows His Name," "Diggin' Yourself" (classic Troiano), and "Loves Me Like a Brother" are all exquisite pop tunes. "Hoe Down Time" and "Seems Like I Can't Live with You..." contain shades of country. The band show off their jazz chops on "Eye." Power in the Music offers little variation to the band's new sound, but the material is just as good. "Rosanne" is piano-driven pop at it's best, with great guitar fills in the breaks. "When the Band was Singin' 'Shakin' All Over'" is a powerful single, but odd, considering that the band is singing about itself (seems like they knew they were getting close to the end). Also noteworthy: "Coors for Sunday," a relaxed, R&B-influenced number, and "Dreams," a beautiful ballad about a series of surreal dreams, surprisingly enough.
The entire Cummings-era Guess Who catalog was reissued on CD by BMG Canada in 2004. Unfortunately, the sound quality of the CDs are horribly substandard for remasters, especially on a major label. Stick with the vinyl.
Learn more about Troiano's involvement with the Guess Who.


Black Market

A year or so after Fret Fever was released, Domenic formed the Black Market project with Bob Wilson and Paul DeLong. The trio released their only LP, Changing of the Guard, in 1981. This is one of my favorite Troiano albums. It's akin to early Police, musically and in spirit: new wave with some reggae thrown in, played by musicians who can't hide the fact that they have talent. Despite the new wave influence, Domenic plays some great licks and solos in every song, and occasionally, his roots in blues and soul pop up to say hello. This album is probably the closest you can come to hearing Domenic's talent in its purest form. He sings all the songs, and the music, basic rock, is stripped down to its foundation: guitar, bass, drums. Not a horn, keyboard, or even a tamborine can be heard in the mix. If the verse-chorus-verse-chorus formula appeals to you, you'll love Changing of the Guard.
Domenic gives props to Chuck Berry and "rock 'n roll music" in "Oh Carol," a song that featues some doo-wopping in the verses. It's actually the closest Domenic came to writing a Big Star tune. The guitar intro to "Turn Back" sounds almost identical to "This is Your Land" by Simple Minds. Really the only song that sounds labored is "I'm Bored," which has a great groove but sounds like Iggy Pop doing fusion. The ballad "Hell Has No Fury" is a career highlight for Troiano, sporting brilliant guitar work and vocals, plus Bob Wilson playing fretless bass. Domenic gives reggae a shot on "Independence" and ends up with a fresh new guitar riff that is undeniably his. The album closes with the blues-rock scorcher "The Shooter," which is absolutely mind-boggling. Musically, it sounds like a Stevie Ray Vaughan standard played at 78 RPM. All of the musicians put the pedal to the metal from start to finish, and the results are astounding. This was basically Domenic's last song as a rock musician. At least he went out blazin'.

"Dr. Dee Jay's Band"  





Home
Mini-biography | Full biography | Mandala
Solo discography | Solo and band discography | Master discography
Reissues and rarities | Domenic's contributions to bands
Production, musician, film, and TV credits | Articles | Pictures
Interviews | References | Tribute | Webmaster