Jack Mack Review by Stephen K. Peeples
Updated to include exclusive interview with Jack Mack co-founder and guitarist Andrew Kastner
The soul-stirring Jack Mack & The Heart Attack Horns ripped it up at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, California, Friday night, February 17 with their “Jack Mack Rhythm & Blues Revue,” featuring three guest artists sandwiched between Jack Mack’s own opening and closing sets.
The worst rainstorm to hit Southern California in six years may have kept the audience small, but the hardy souls who waded their way to the club were rewarded with a 90-minute-plus soundtrack for dancing and grooving.
Still bad-ass onstage after 37 years, the nine-piece R&B/soul band opened the show with a fistful of butt-rockin’ new songs from the latest Jack Mack album, “Back to the Shack,” out in late 2016 and scoring positive reviews and airplay on blues stations scattered around the globe.
At the Canyon Club, the Jack Mack lineup featured co-founding members Bill Bergman (tenor sax) and Andrew Kastner (guitar), with Mark Campbell (lead singer since 1985), Greg Brown (drums), Larry Antonino (bass), Jeff Paris (keyboards), Roy Weigand (trumpet), and Cathy Merrick and Niki J. Crawford (vocals).
Jack Mack Keeps the Soul Fires Burnin’
They’re carrying the torch of the tightest, baddest R&B/soul showbands of the 1960s, like James Brown’s Famous Flames, the Stax/Volt Revue, and the hottest bands and players out of Muscle Shoals, Motown and Philly.
Formed in 1982 with Max Carl on lead vocals, Jack Mack & The Heart Attack earned a rep on the L.A. club scene as the “hardest-working band in soul business,” a variation on James Brown’s famous tagline “the hardest-working man in show business.”
Jack Mack’s residency at Hollywood’s Club Lingerie still looms large in the memories of the scenesters who packed the brick-walled joint every Thursday night way back in 1981-1982.
Shortly after flying solo, ex-Eagle Glenn Frey caught the band live, became an instant fan, lined up a record deal for them, and produced the first Jack Mack & The Heart Attack album, “Cardiac Party,” out on Full Moon in 1982.
Cardiac Party at Canyon Club
After Jack Mack’s six opening songs – including the “Back to the Shack” tunes “Standin’ Before the King,” “Change My Ways” and “Let Me In” plus a bit of B.B. King’s immortal “Let the Good Times Roll” – Campbell introduced another L.A. club favorite, singer-harp-sax player Jimmy Z (he also toured and/or recorded with Rod Stewart, Etta James and Eurythmics, for starters).
Z fronted Jack Mack for four songs including Howlin’ Wolf’s “Ain’t Superstitious” and Junior Walker’s “Shotgun,” scattering honks on the latter with Jack Mack’s tenor ace Bergman.
Campbell returned to the stage and the band covered the Bacharach-David hit “Walk on By” with way more snap and attitude than Dionne Warwick’s plaintive 1964 original.
Breaking into a little James Brown “Sex Machine” groove, Campbell brought upcoming soul singer Tasha Taylor, daughter of Johnny Taylor, to center stage. She belted a pair of tunes from her latest album plus a powerful version of Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” and a playful romp through “Who’s Makin’ Love,” her dad’s biggest hit from 1968.
The third and final Revue guest was 73-year-old veteran blues singer-guitarist Arthur Adams. He may be past his prime technically as a guitar player, but he still squeezed some soulful licks out of his gloriously grungy Gibson on four tunes, among them “Jumpin’ the Gun” and “You Really Got it Going On.”
Kastner also swapped riffs with Adams, helping to amp up the ante with his Fender Strat.
Adams worked the Canyon Club crowd like he’d been doing it for 65 years – ! – and walked up to the edge of the stage so close the fans up front could reach out and touch him. In fact, he reached out mid-solo and touched the shoulder of a particularly enthusiastic stage-side fan.
Born in Tennessee Christmas Day 1943 and deeply inspired by B.B. King, Adams started out in gospel music in the late 1950s, then moved to L.A. and scored as a session player and later as a solo artist. In the ’90s he was a mainstay in B.B. King’s popular blues clubs. Today, Adams plays weekends at a club in Gardena, California, not too far from home.
For Rhythm & Blues Revue finale, Jack Mack invited Jimmy Z, Taylor and Adams back onstage and the dozen musicians and singers kicked off a full-tilt cover of “Land of 1000 Dances,” with Campbell channeling the Wicked Wilson Pickett in soul-stirring style.
The Canyon Club show was the Revue’s second, after playing the Rose in Pasadena February 10. Jack Mack has more band dates and Revue gigs in the works for the spring and summer.
Check Jack Mack’s official website for updates, and more info about “Back to the Shack,” which also features guest performances by B-3 legend Mike Finnigan, drummer and Grammy-winning producer Tony Braunagle and singer Melanie Taylor, who’s vocalized with Aerosmith and John Mayer.
Jack Mack Rhythm & Blues Revue Setlists
Jack Mack & The Heart Attack Horns
“Standin’ Before the King”
“Change My Ways”
“Let Me In”
“Let the Good Times Roll”
Jack Mack & The Heart Attack Horns
“Walk on By”
“Sex Machine” (groove)
“Try a Little Tenderness”
“Who’s Makin’ Love”
Jack Mack & The Heart Attack Horns
“Jumpin’ the Gun”
“Get You Next to Me”
“You Really Got it Going On”
Jack Mack & The Heart Attack Horns, Jimmy Z, Tasha Taylor & Arthur Adams
“Land of 1000 Dances”
* * * * *
Interview with Jack Mack Co-Founder-Guitarist Andrew Kastner
Stephen K. Peeples: Okay, Friday, February 17, talking with Andrew Kastner of Jack Mack & The Heart Attack at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, California. So, a little rainy tonight, eh?
Andrew Kastner: Kind of raining cats and dogs and other animals.
Peeples: Well, please tell us about the Revue. Give us a preview of the show.
Kastner: Well, tonight we’re doing the Jack Mack Rhythm & Blues Revue, and this is a new thing for us. It’s kind of a package where Jack Mack & The Heart Attack Horns come out, do a bunch of songs from our latest album, “Back to the Shack,” and a couple of covers. Then we bring out three different artists, one being Jimmy Z, who’s an amazing harmonica-sax player-singer, and he does a few songs with us. Then we bring out Tasha Taylor, who is Johnny Taylor’s daughter, [to sing] Johnny Taylor’s “Who’s Making Love…”?
Peeples: … “to Your Old Lady”?
Kastner: Yep, and we’re actually going to do that tonight. And she does a few songs with us. And then the legendary blues guitar player Arthur Adams comes out and performs with us, and he’s great. And then we do a little rousing finale.
Peeples: Sounds good. Now, give me the lineup of the band and the instruments that each of them plays.
Kastner: Okay. So, we have Greg Brown on drums, Larry Antonino on bass, we have Jeff Paris on keyboards, Roy Weigan on trumpet, cofounding member and my partner Bill Bergman on tenor sax.
Peeples: Yep, just saw Bill.
Kastner: And we have Niki J. Crawford on background vocals, Kathy Merrick on background vocals, and Mark Campbell, who’s also a longtime member since 1985 on lead vocals, and then myself, of course, on guitar.
Peeples: Sounds good. I understand a new album is really cooking in Europe. Mark was telling me that the fans are receiving it very well over there. Tell me a little bit about that.
Kastner: Yeah. So, we’re getting a lot of press all over the world and getting played on a lot of blues radio stations, and the reviews have been amazing. You know, when you make a record, you just don’t know exactly how good it is. You just do the best you can. And that’s what we did on this record. We did what we know how to do, and to see reviews come in where people are saying it’s their favorite record or their favorite record of the year, it’s pretty amazing. Where it all goes from there, I don’t know, but just to hear that people like it that much is pretty cool.
Peeples: Now, in addition to the band, which is pretty hot on its own, you guys had a few ringers come in and contribute to the sessions. Tell us a little bit about those guys.
Kastner: Yeah. We had a couple legendary blues guys come in, Mike Finnigan.
Peeples: The B3 guy.
Kastner: Yeah, plays B3, and he plays acoustic piano on a couple tracks, and he plays with Bonnie Raitt, played with Crosby, Stills & Nash for a long time, Taj Mahal. Even played on Jimi Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland” record. And he’s kind of a legend. And Tony Braunagel came in to play drums on most of the tracks. Les Falconer played on two. He plays with Robert Cray. Tony also plays with Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal.
Peeples: He’s a Grammy winner, too.
Kastner: Yeah, he’s a Grammy-winning blues producer. Because we had these amazing guys in the studio tracking with us, we actually … when we wrote the songs, I would come in with the lyrics and then we’d write them on guitar and vocal. And we didn’t produce them, because a lot of times, you’d make demos, and you kind of figure out exactly how they’re going to be. But we didn’t want to do that. We wanted these guys to help us figure out what it was going to be. So, we just had…
Peeples: Well, then they kind of co-own the song.
Kastner: No, don’t say that! [Laughs]
Peeples: I don’t mean that in a royalties sense, but I mean in a creative sense. Go ahead.
Kastner: [Laughs] Yeah, you could say that. Yeah, so there was a lot of creative freedom. But we did have the basic chord changes and the grooves and the lyrics and the melodies. They just put in little transitional changes, or they would change the feel here and there. Because Tony’s got a specific feel, and I think one of the reasons why the record feels so good is because of Tony, you know, because of his feel. He’s a Texas drummer, so he’s got that Texas thing that you actually can’t teach anybody, and I can’t even explain what it is, really.
Peeples: It’s really hard to articulate, but it is a feel thing. There’s a little bit maybe behind the beat a bit.
Kastner: Yeah, yeah. But part of it is and part of it isn’t. I don’t know.
Peeples: He just puts it in the right place, whatever it takes.
Kastner: Right. And because he’s a producer, and because Mike has done so much, just having them there has made a big difference. I’m sure that’s a big part of why this record is so good.
Peeples: So, what’s coming up next? It’s springtime. What’s coming up summer? You guys going on the road? Touring?
Kastner: We’re talking to managers and agents, and hopefully with a new manager and a new agent, we’ll start working more. We got gigs interspersed. We have no tours set up, but just odd gigs here and there. You know, so we’re working on that.
Peeples: Sounds good. Now, you’re videotaping tonight’s show. What are you going to do with that footage?
Kastner: I’ll probably put a couple promo videos together for the Revue, because there’s no video on the Revue. And then for Jack Mack, just have some new footage. And then, if it comes out good, maybe we’ll do a couple live songs, videos.
Peeples: Sounds good. Now, flash back a little bit. You guys worked on a TV show for a while as a house band, right?
Kastner: Right. Yeah, that’s way back. That’s 1988. It was the Fox TV “Late Show,” after Joan Rivers left.
Peeples: Who was the host after she left?
Kastner: They were trying different hosts while we were there…
Peeples: It was kind of a revolving…
Kastner: Yeah. Ross Shafer, and a comedian named Mulrooney or something. I forgot his first name. But they tried different ones, and it wasn’t quite a year. It was, like, nine months, and it was fun. We backed up a lot of people. We played with The Young Rascals. We played with Ginger Baker, Bobby Womack, Joe Walsh. I mean, every day, we were backing up somebody. It was really cool.
Peeples: And before that you were out blowing it out in the clubs…I saw you guys at [Club] Lingerie and Madame Wong’s and all kinds of places.
Kastner: Yeah. That was ’81, ’82.
Peeples: That’s at the beginning.
Kastner: Yeah. And all the way through that period. I mean, we never stopped working. But the TV show was good money, like a real job.
Kastner: Except I wasn’t really used to commuting anywhere my entire life, and at that time, I was living in Venice, and we were shooting on the Fox lot. So, it was so strange for me to drive…
Peeples: Just up Pico Boulevard.
Kastner: …drive to the same place every day. So, every day, I’d figure out a different way to get there. So, it didn’t seem too tedious.
Peeples: Going way back, because we were speaking about Lingerie. How did Glenn Frey become aware of Jack Mack & The Heart Attack? How did that connection happen?
Kastner: Well, that’s kind of a bad and good story. We were playing at Club Lingerie, and New Year’s Eve 1980, I was in a car accident and ended up in the hospital. And they got a sub for me, a guy named Josh Leo.
And Josh was playing guitar on Glenn’s [first solo] record at the time [“No Fun Aloud”], so he brought Glenn down to see the band, although I wasn’t there. And that’s when Glenn saw us.
Peeples: Tell me about that lunch. That’s got to be a classic story.
Kastner: Well, Bill [Bergman] might remember more about the lunch than me. I don’t have a great memory for lunches or desserts. But all I remember is Irving was there and Glenn and me and a couple of the guys from the band, and Glenn said, “I want to produce the recording,” and Irving said, “Okay. Go ahead. Do it.” And we were in the studio recording a record. Before we signed any contracts, Glenn was paying for it out of his pocket.
Peeples: What studio were you guys working in?
Kastner: Wilder Brothers, Century City.
Peeples: Right near the Fox studios, then.
Kastner: Yeah, not too far. And it was six weeks with Glenn in the studio. He has an interesting way of recording. Everything was a first take. Like, after we did a take, we had to leave the studio, because we couldn’t do another take because that would be a second take. So, we’d go play basketball or something and then come back and do another first take.
Peeples: I get it. It was psyching yourselves out. Every take would be fresh and new.
Kastner: It’d be a first take. He had a way of recording. You know, it’s like the Eagles thing. It was all from the Eagles. Whatever the Eagles did, he brought…
Peeples: Their methodology…
Kastner: Yeah, was brought to us. Like, when we recorded, he wouldn’t allow us to put any reverb on any instrument.
Peeples: Why not? He just wanted to keep it dry?
Kastner: Yeah. If you listen to the old Eagles records, they’re really dry. And our record, too, the one he made, “Cardiac Party,” super dry. Super dry. But that was the way he did it.
Peeples: So, what happened after the record was released? You guys tour together, work together on the road?
Kastner: Yeah. Well, we did some gigs with Glenn, yeah. But we just worked a lot for a long time, and did all kinds of things. I mean, we were the band in Atlanta at the Olympics in 1996 when the bomb went off.
Peeples: Right, yeah. That was a freaky scene, I’m sure.
Kastner: Yeah, that’s another interview. That’s a whole other story. But we have a lot of them. I was telling the guys we should write a book, really.
Peeples: Well, you should. Collectively, you guys have quite a bunch of great stories and many cool chapters.
Kastner: Yeah, it’s amazing.
Peeples: But it’s not over yet.
Kastner: No! Here we are. It’s like we’re just getting started. Thirty-six years, right?
Peeples: Best of luck on the new record and we’re looking forward to seeing the show tonight. See you at the next one after this one.
Kastner: Okay, man – “Back to the Shack”!
Peeples: There you go. Thank you!
Thanks to Natalia B and Transcription Panda for the transcription.
Photos: Stephen K. Peeples (except 8-track deck, courtesy Jack Mack & The Heart Attack)
Santa Clarita journalist, PR consultant and website producer Stephen K. Peeples began his career writing about American music and pop culture for Cash Box, the Los Angeles Times, L.A. Weekly, Circus, Picking Up the Tempo, Modern Recording, Performance, Rocky Mountain Musical Express, Rock Around the World and other publications from 1975-1977. He is a Grammy-nominated record producer (“Monterey International Pop Festival,” MIPF/Rhino, 1992), veteran record industry media relations executive (Capitol Records, Elektra/Asylum Records, the Westwood One Radio Network, Rhino Entertainment, 1977-1998), and website content manager (Rhino, 1996-1998; Warner New Media, 1998-2001). Peeples was the original, award-winning producer of “The Lost Lennon Tapes” radio series for Westwood One (1988-1990). He was music and entertainment features writer/columnist for the Santa Clarita Valley Signal (2004-2011), and The Signal’s award-winning online editor (2007-2011). He hosted, wrote and co-produced the WAVE-nominated “House Blend” music and interview show on SCV community TV station SCVTV (2010-2015) and wrote news and features for Santa Clarita’s KHTS-AM 1220 News (www.hometownstation.com) and SCVTV’s SCVNews.com (2011-2016). He served as Vice President/New Media & Editorial with Los Angeles-based multimedia pop culture company Rare Cool Stuff Unltd. (2010-2016). As a web producer, he was project manager building sites for clients including Santa Clarita Photographic Studio and Rare Cool Stuff (2013-2015). In 2015, pursuing another passion, animals, he co-founded Pet Me Happy Treats, created an all-natural treat for dogs, and co-produced the company’s website with longtime Associate Producer Paige Hagen. He still posts music-related stories and interviews because he can’t help it. For more information, email skp (at) stephenkpeeples.com or visit http://www.stephenkpeeples.com.
Article: Jack Mack Rhythm & Blues Revue Rips Up Canyon Club
Category: News & Reviews
Author: Stephen K. Peeples
Article Source: StephenKPeeples.com