by Rick Grant
This is a rock’n’roll Cinderella story, delayed 40 years. It’s a movie screenplay that has essentially written itself. To get the skinny on this incredible music scenario, I called Rick Levy in St. Augustine. Levy didn’t need any prompting to tell the story.
Forty years ago he and his college buddies formed a band called Wax and recorded a demo live in the studio in 1971. Years later that recording became the album Melted.
At the time, the band included Beau Jones (now deceased) on bass, Rick Levy on guitar, Rob Hyman on keyboards, Rick Chertoff on drums, and David Kagan on vocals. They were together for two years playing around the Philadelphia music scene.
After the studio recording session, the record company and studio were padlocked by the IRS for back taxes. The band never got a chance to release the work.
During our talk, Rick commented on the evolution of Wax and Melted’s 40-year delayed release.
“In 2009, John Kalodner, one of Wax’s former managers, was leaving his record company job when he discovered the master tape of the demo session in a box marked ‘1971.’ Much to our amazement, the tape, which was recorded live with no over-dubbing, sounded incredibly great. Although we had gone on to successful careers in the music business, we couldn’t believe that was us playing.”
` “John also found our other tapes, which we haven’t delved into yet. Who knows what we might find in those recordings.”
“Later in 2009, we got together to talk about the music and to give loving support to bassist Beau Jones who was battling brain cancer. We concluded that Wax was a very special project and should be remastered and released to a new audience.”
After a little tweaking, Arnie Holland, founder of Lightyear Entertainment, offered to put the album on his record label.
“In the next year, Beau passed away. Then the project became a memorial to him and his strong spirit.”
It was released late in 2010 and caught the attention of David Fricke, music critic of Rolling Stone. He wrote a glowing review, saying, “It’s seventies ambition: progressive songwriting and snappy instrumental digressions, just enough pop gloss and that inevitable Philly R&B Tang.”
Indeed, after I listened to the album, I was speechless and concurred with Fricke. Each song is a little rock symphony, with many modulations in time-signature and groove. It foretells the making of a group like Yes or Super Tramp. The musical changes were flawless as the music progressed from orchestral rock to R&B.
A strong rock producer of the time would have urged the band to decide on a groove and stick with it to brand the group with one sound. However, it was refreshing to hear Wax’s raw, unadulterated organic sound played by exceptional musicians.
Wax was steeped in the spirit of Frank Zappa’s early work with the Mothers of Invention, in which he threw away the rules and just let his creativity fly into infinity.
The fact that the music is unspoiled by overproduction, a common affliction of today’s music, makes it a shining precious gem in today’s plethora of mediocre music. More significantly, given the thousands of hours of music I’ve listened to over the years, I’ve never heard anything like this fiercely original recording.
Hell, it’s a time capsule back to the days when musicians were creating music free of preconceived ideas. But for Rick Levy and Wax, they were inventing their own ideas and grooves. Forty years later, this work gets its just due.
Guitarist, songwriter Rick Levy, has created a unique position in the entertainment business. A performer for 30 years, Levy was lead guitarist/bandleader for Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone from 2000-2002. He is currently musical director for sixties artists Jay & the Techniques, Tommy Roe, and Freddy Cannon. Rick also leads the St. Augustine R&B band, The Falling Bones.