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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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'.