If you love classic rock music, there’s a better than even chance that you’ve seen and heard Rich Spina on stage, performing, supporting, singing and grooving his way through every song you ever played on your Zenith transistor radio from “back in the day.” Rich is of the most popular behind-the-scenes musicians who’s lent his diverse music talents to artists including Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Lou Christie, Tommy Roe, and Fabian. That said, Spina is actually best known for his longtime association with icon Peter Noone and the band Herman’s Hermits.
Yes, Spina is a Hermit, well the musical kind at least, but on stage he’s the “go-to” guy, as Peter Noone is a walking entertainment hurricane from the time he explodes onto the stage with songs and stories, having fun with the audience. Frankly, someone has to keep that vortex in check! Enter Rich Spina and you’ll find him on keyboards, bass, and backing vocals, plus he’s the bandleader. When he’s not on the road, Spina is also a talented songwriter who plays piano, guitar, and sings with his church’s praise team and is part of the Christian/Gospel group, U41.
So you think you know Rich Spina now, right? Wrong. Forget the classic rock and roll, forget the larger than life stage shows that go on around the country. Inside the soul of the Cleveland native is a poet whose ability to craft a love song has turned into a CD entitled “Silly Melodies & Soliloquies.” The title doesn’t give you a clue so you’ll just have to listen to discover how outstanding this album is. Here’s one person’s opinion of the tracks:
If You Speak (I’ll Hear) – conjures up a week-long vacation in Puerto Vallarta, easy-flowing melody and the gentleness of the waves crashing up around you, as the sun goes down and just thinking about the special someone who cares.
Physically Emotional--You’re in a melancholy mood and suddenly this track comes on. Forget your bad mood as you just focus on wonderful instrumentation that starts the track. Solid powerful vocals come across as the backing vocals answering. Could easily be played on the contemporary radio but no terrestrial stations feature any original music that doesn’t feature Gaga or Miley or the Justins, although Justin Timberlake could do a good job on this song.
The Fire--This was the song that made me want to hear more. I first heard this when singer/songwriter Mark Dawson played it on his Thursday night “Our Generation Radio” program and in the first 30 seconds, it commanded so much attention that it made me want to know more. The opening sax on the song is so sultry and the flow of the song conjures again warm, peaceful memories of a loved one…burning up for you, just like the heat from a fire. Mellow, easy, gentle, and that sax carries you all the way through…Kenny G would be jealous.
It’s Over Now--Rich’s voice is so pleasant and easy to hear. It’s distinctive but in a fresh way that reminds you that you rarely hear his vocal talents when it’s in a group setting. That’s the key to a real showman, knowing when to blend and when to stand out and take charge.
As Long As I Do It With You--When you find the perfect companion in life, it doesn’t matter what you do, sit at home, go to the movies, play cards, as long as you’re together with your best friend. Harmonica and guitar accentuate the drum beat very nicely and a brisk pace—make for an upbeat song.
Put Your Hand in Mine--What’s so refreshing about this album is that there is no song that really reminds you of ones you’ve heard on the previous tracks. Only the pleasant and soothing vocals are the common denominator. My lifetime means nothing if my life’s not spent with you. A gentle love song that is the pace, tempo, and message you want to hear if you’re comfortably in love with your best friend, or even if you’re not. At this point in the album you think of how you want to keep hearing these songs, each one having built into a strong casing of gentle caring, with music the message of love, friendship and contentment.
If You Could See the Way You’re Looking At Me--A great opening drum beat that makes you want to get up out of that chair and start two-stepping if you’re in the southern United States, or just gently rocking it out on the dance floor if you’re anywhere else is what you’ll hear.
Heaven is Your Name--The piano opening reminded me of how great it used to be to hear those singer/songwriters who worked their magic on piano keyboards, rather than the super-techno-solid-sounds of electronic keyboards. The song is energetic and reflects the passion with which Rich regarded the person who inspired his writing it. Spina’s voice is so diverse and strong and he’s able to bring his bright, shining personality to the front as a solid crooner who can slide into the background and simply arrange the songs of others as well as he has his own. Ever the journeyman of the road, Spina’s the go-to guy for creating that entirely relaxed pace you need to gently rock you into a state of contentment and peace.
I’ll Be Yours Tonight--Just singer and his keyboard painting the scene of a backlit romantic setting where two people “in like” find they’re falling in love. An anthem for the lonely, a promise for those in love that love can last, one night at a time.
10 Things I Wanna Do--The organ on this slightly bubbly song has a Leo Sayer groove to it. It’s got a 60s feel that makes you remember the love songs of the Addrisi Brothers that work as songs on the air or behind a television program that work as a theme. The closest analogy that describes this song is Andrew Gold’s “Thank You for Being a Friend” with clever orchestration that allows repeats of the chorus while you just feel good to hear it. Dare you not to be swaying your shoulders as you hear it. Oh wait, now you’re clapping and singing along. Someone needs to discover this song and if the word “to” can be changed to “with,” you can slap a label on it and call it a single.
Passionately Patient--With that song title you just knew to expect a saxophone didn’t you? This song is unique, sultry and beautiful, with a same freshness that helped Sade come to the musical front row with a smooth jazz blend. Spina’s vocals are right on target as the tempo speeds and slows and that sneaky saxophone works its magic to wipe away any bad mood you had. One of my favorites cuts on the album.
Skips a Beat--Fresh, unique approach to the rhythm matching the lyrics…you have to pay close attention and you’re looking for a familiar beat and it’s not there. Instead if you’re a woman, it’s like you’ve been dancing all of your life and in one song your partner grabs you tighter and takes you on a journey around the dance floor and all you have under your feet is trust that he’ll get you there and when the ride, glide, and stride is over, you still can’t explain it. One would have to be more music-savvy to quantify this song musically but one thing is certain—it’s a novelty song that seems meant as a bonus track encore to shake things up a little in the "silly melody" department of the album.
“Silly Melodies & Soliloquies” is the perfect vehicle to remove the frenetic pace of the day and shift you from stressed to blessed, taking it easy, kicking back, and finding your own voice inside your head as you solve the problems of the world, one track at a time.
Want to see him in concert? Spend an evening with Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone and enjoy the talents of Mr. Noone, and his talented Hermits, including Billy Sullivan, Vance Brescia, Dave Ferrara and of course, Rich Spina.
If you want to enjoy your own copy of “Silly Melodies & Soliloquies,” check out www.richspina.com to preview some tracks and order the CD. I'm so glad I did. Rich Spina is a one-of-a-kind surprise I found, inside the great and grand galaxy of classic rock and roll.