Birds of Paradox
Jeff will be performing at The Telegraph this Friday, May 10th at noon. Free. All Ages.
Album features an all-star cast, including members of Wings, The Byrds, The Who, the Plastic Ono Elephant’s Memory Band
“The best Tom Petty album since ”Wildflowers’” – Dennis Mitchell, DJ, Las Vegas, NV February 17, 2012 (New York, NY) – “It began with an act of charity,” Jeff Slate says in the liner notes to his new album “Birds of Paradox”, due this Summer. “I was the musical director for a charity event and Steve Holley, who used to be the drummer in Wings, was one of the guest performers. We hit it off and I asked him to drum on some songs of mine in the studio a few weeks later. When we got in there it was exciting.
The songs sounded better than I could have ever dreamed. After 15 years making
records and playing live with The Badge a new door had opened and I was excited
again about making music.” Those initial sessions led to an album’s worth of songs with an all-star cast of players, including Holley and former Wings bandmate Laurence Juber, Gary Van Scyoc and Adam Ippolito (John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Elephant’s Memory Band), Jimmy “Mack” McEggliott (Gene Cornish, Tommy James), Gene Parsons (The Byrds, Flying Burrito Bros.), Simon Townshend (The Who, Roger Daltrey), Josh Phillips (Procol Harum), Susie Collins (ELO, Ace Frehley), Wayne Cobham (Stevie Wonder, The Temptations) and Alex Alexander (Prince, Dido).
In support of the release of “Birds of Paradox” – which derives its name from the fact
that May Pang, whom John Lennon wrote the song “Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird of
Paradox)” about, introduced the core band of Slate, McEggliott, Van Scyoc, Ippolito and
Holley – Slate will be playing a release party in New York City in Spring, as well as
dates around the Northeast throughout the Summer and Fall of 2012.
With a setlist of songs from “Birds of Paradox”, crowd favorites from Slate’s tenure with
The Badge, and classics that Van Scyoc, Ippolito and Holley performed live with Lennon
and McCartney, as well as hits by Bob Dylan, The Band, Van Morrison and other giants
of the last 50 years of popular music, upcoming live shows are sure to bring the house
“We’ve been rehearsing at the old Hit Factory, which is now the New York headquarters
of Gibson Guitars,” said Slate. “It sounds fantastic. And it’s such a thrill to play these
songs with these musicians. It’s intimidating to think the last time Gary and Adam
played ‘Come Together’ was with John Lennon at Madison Square Garden, but even
more than that it’s exciting.”
Jeff Slate (vocals, guitar) is a singer/songwriter from New York City. He co-founded the
1980’s mod/punk band the Mindless Thinkers, who were mainstays on the Northeast
college circuit. In the mid-90’s he released “The Townshend Tapes”, on which The
Who’s Pete Townshend acted as Executive Producer, and opened for Sheryl Crow on
her “Tuesday Night Music Club” tour. In 1997 he founded the band The Badge, who
released four albums and countless singles, EPs and live “bootleg” sets and went on to
become darlings of the UK/European “mod” scene in the 2000’s. In 2010 Jeff released
the single “Dreamtime”, which featured Earl Slick (Lennon, Bowie) and Carlos Alomar
(Bowie, Lennon). “Birds of Paradox” is his first solo album of original material. Jeff has
appeared on television and radio numerous times and his songs have appeared in
network television shows and major motion pictures. Jeff proudly endorses
Gibson/Epiphone guitars and Vox amps.
Gary Van Scyoc (bass, vocals) and Adam Ippolito (keyboards, vocals) were key
members of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Elephant’s Memory Band. They appeared on
Lennon’s 1972 album “Sometime In New York City” as well as at his “One to One”
concerts at Madison Square Garden. In 1973 they appeared with Lennon on Yoko
Ono’s “Approximately Infinite Universe” double-album. In 2010 they appeared in the
documentary film “LENNONYC.” Together and apart they have also appeared on recordings by or in concert with Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger,
Gene Cornish, Jerry Garcia, Neil Sedaka, Keith Moon, Paul Simon and Kool & the
Steve Holley (drums) was a member of Paul McCartney & Wings from 1978-1981. He
played on the mega-hits “Coming Up” and “Goodnight Tonight” as well as the critically
acclaimed 1979 UK tour and album “Back To The Egg.” Steve had previously worked
with Elton John, and since leaving Wings he has provided some of the most solid and
creative beats for Joe Cocker, Ian Hunter and a who’s who of music, including Julian
Lennon, Dar Williams, Chuck Berry, Jules Shear, Popa Chubby, Denny Laine, Phoebe
Snow, Gary Brooker, G.E. Smith, Warren Haynes, Tommy Shaw, Joe Louis Walker,
Junior Brown and many others. In 2003 he released his first solo album ‘The Reluctant
Dog.’ Steve proudly endorses Pearl Drums, Sabian Cymbals and Rhythm Tech
Jimmy “Mack” McEggliott (guitar, vocals) has performed and/or recorded with
countless music legends including Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Gene Cornish (Young
Rascals) and Tommy Ramone, Tommy James (Shondells), Denny Laine (Wings,
Moody Blues), Carlos Alomar (Bowie, Lennon), Will Lee (Fab Faux, Letterman), Dennis
Diken (Smithereens), Vince Martell (Vanilla Fudge), Arno Hecht (Rolling Stones), Peppy
Castro (Blues Magoos), Juma Sultan (Hendrix), Ian Lloyd (Stories/Foreigner), John
Ford (The Strawbs), Rob Stoner (Bob Dylan), Marshall Crenshaw and many others.
Jimmy was a member of the 1980’s New York City band The Propellers and appeared
on the television cult classic “Uncle Floyd Show.” His songs have aired on major FM
stations including WLIR & WNEW-FM in NYC.
Here’s the interview/write-up with The Day‘s Rick Koster:
No one has a Rolodex anymore.
Hopefully, though, New London native Jeff Slate didn’t throw his away. As a souvenir, it’s the rock ‘n’ roll equivalent of those sign-in registries at famous old hotels, full of the faded signatures of all the big shots who stayed there.
In Slate’s Rolodex, you’d find plenty of A-list musicians ranging from Pete Townshend to Sheryl Crow – not to mention dozens more who’ve played significant roles in an amazing array of bands across decades of rock royalty.
What this means is that Slate, a singer-songwriter now based in New York City, has for more than two decades – on his own and with the indie band The Badge – impressed not just fans but also plenty of musicians who have become friends and collaborators.
Consider Slate’s latest solo album, “Birds of Paradox,” which came out last fall. Various Slate “Rolodex” associates played on the 12-song record, including former members of Wings, the Plastic Ono Band, Procol Harum, the Byrds, the Who, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and David Bowie band members Earl Slick and Carlos Alomar.
“Birds of Paradox” is a timeless record – a tribute as much to Slate’s innate sense of hooky energy as it is to his own status as a joyous fan of 50 years of rock. From melancholy balladry to mid-tempo/midlife meditations to giddy highway anthems, “Birds of Paradox” reflects the vision of a career musician who will always choose rock ‘n’ roll as the finest medium through which to distill life itself.
Slate and his Birds of Paradox band perform Friday in New London’s The Telegraph and Saturday at the Misquamicut SpringFest on Misquamicut Beach in Westerly.
When Slate was younger, the fascination with rock ‘n’ roll took on a more raw, giddy style of adolescent joy and aggression.
“Starting out in New London, just a kid, I was a devotee of The Clash and The Jam and The Small Faces,” Slate remembers. “My friends and I would just stare at their faces on the album sleeves, mesmerized. They were like cyphers to us. You’d look at Steve Marriott and know you’d never get to see or meet someone like that.”
As it turns out, he met plenty. Slate learned guitar and, with his high school band the Mindless Thinkers, rose through the burgeoning New London club scene and quickly established a reputation throughout the region, opening for bigger Boston bands as well as hometown heroes The Reducers.
They also self-recorded and released an album called “Anyone For Anything.”
“We had a great time. It was a glorious 18-month run,” Slate says. “Then we each had to decide whether to carry on or go to college. I thought, ‘I’ll just go to New York City, find a few more guys, and do it all again’ – not realizing how incredibly hard it is to find that chemistry.”
Slate struggled for five years before abandoning the band concept to work on solo songwriting with an acoustic guitar. Along the way, he met The Who’s Pete Townshend at a party. They hit it off, Slate says, and Townshend ultimately produced a demo for Slate. While it didn’t end up securing a major label deal for Slate, his stock was rising.
“I always remember the excitement of being in a band for the first time,” Slate says. “The idea was you were happy to play anywhere, not just clubs but a tennis court or a wine and cheese shop – anywhere you could play. People always say New York City audiences are tough. You know what? They’re tough everywhere. That’s how you learn and get better.”
It paid off.
In 1995, he landed a solo acoustic slot opening for Sheryl Crow on the national tour for her debut album, “Tuesday Night Music Club.” He also continued to write, perform and expand his network of musical pals. In 1997, along with guitarist Marc Teamaker, drummer Nelson Pla and keyboardist Matt Kalin, he formed The Badge, a Beatles-and-Kinks-happy outfit that toured relentlessly. They also released the “…Digital Retro…” and “Calling Generation Mojo” albums as part of a wave of rock musicians that embraced the new freedoms and possibilities of indie labels and do-it-yourself projects.
“You know, the Mindless Thinkers made our first record in New London in a bedroom with a four-track recorder.” Slate says. “The difference between that sort of project and now? You had to have the money to put the recording out on vinyl and then convince someone to buy it. Not anymore. Kids today seem willing to invest a buck to download a song.”
Though The Badge ultimately went on hiatus, the bandmates remain pals and don’t rule out possibilities for future collaboration.
In the meantime, Slate is excited and delighted over “Birds of Paradox.” From the various stellar players on the album, he’s formed a touring band, Jeff Slate’s Birds of Paradox, which includes guitarist/vocalist Jimmy McElligott (The Propellors), bassist/vocalist Gary Van Scyoc and keyboardist/vocalist Adam Ippolito (both members of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band), and drummer Steve Holley (Wings, Elton John).
“From the outside, people might not think it, but it’s hard work recording and traveling and living in hotels, particularly when you get older and have kids,” Slate says. “But there are no points where I don’t enjoy making music. The songs on the new album just sort of presented themselves. Over time, I’d gotten to know a lot of musicians that I enjoy playing with and that I look up to. I thought, ‘It can’t hurt to ask if they’ll play on this record.’ And no one said no. It’s been such a flattering experience.”