Once again your rockin’ writer felt the need to resurrect his “Listen Again” series. For those of you just joining us, the “Listen Again” series is a series in which we revisit albums that for one reason or another didn’t receive the attention or acclaim they deserved when they were originally released. Whether it was the recording was ahead of its time, broke away from the artist’s usual style, was poorly publicized or initially misunderstood, the “Listen Again” series urges music fans to listen again. This time we focus on a suggestion by my Facebook friend and fellow Souderton High graduate Ken Heffner— The New York Rock Ensemble’s Roll Over.
For those not up on their music history, the New York Rock Ensemble, once known as The New York Rock & Roll Ensemble, was a rock group founded in 1967. They made their mark by playing a style of music known as classical baroque rock. The founding members included three Juilliard students: Michael Kamen (organ, piano, oboe, English horn and vocals), Marty Fulterman now known as Mark Snow (drums, oboe and vocals) and Dorian Rudnytsky (bass and cello) and a pair of rock musicians: Brian Corrigan (rhythm guitar and vocals) and Clif Nivison (lead guitar, French horn, piano, trumpet and vocals).
Corrigan had left the band shortly before the group shortened their name to The New York Rock Ensemble and switched to the Columbia record label in 1971. Soon they were stepping back into the studio to record their fourth platter which would be titled Roll Over. Hank Devito was brought in to add his steel guitar.
The album opens on a song by Nivison. It’s titled “Running Down The Highway”. This is a funky, fan favorite further indicating the band’s abilities to unite guitar and organ in a successful, commercial manner.
The second selection is “Gravedigger”. This was the result of the tuneful team-up of Fulterman and Kamen. This was first used in the soundtrack for the 1970 film Zachariah.
The following song is “Law And Order”. This was written by Fulterman and is considered one of his last great efforts by some critics. It’s followed by “Fields Of Joy” which was largely noteworthy due to the efforts of Fredericks and Kamen and would go on to be covered by Lenny Kravitz.
The final Nivison number here is “The King Is Dead”. It’s also the apropos closer to the first side of this ten-track record. The song somewhat surprisingly moves and is perhaps one reason why even the band members consider this one of their favorite albums.
The flip side opens on Kamen’s cut “Don’t Wait Too Long”. Unfortunately, it is in some ways overshadowed by “Anaconda” which was also written by Kamen. This one would quickly become a fan favorite on the live tour supporting the release of the album.
“Beside You” is the final collaborative effort by Fulterman and Kamen. This was a quieter, beautiful track that would also become a fan favorite and remain meaningful to music fans years later. It’s followed by Rudnytsky’s debut solo work here “Traditional Order” where they once more pick up the beat.
The album’s end-note is “Ride, Ride My Lady”. This was also by Rudnytsky and remains a memorable closing to a project on which the band was perhaps the most unified. The completed album would hit the record racks in 1971.
The guys did originally make a name for themselves by wearing tuxes, playing high-class society gigs and adapting Bach to rock. They were unsuccessful at all the overblown stuff but Roll Over was their most overtly rock album to date and, at that time, their biggest seller.
“Anaconda”, “Field of Joy” and “Running Down The Highway” were truly top-notch tunes. No doubt this is why it would be re-released on CD in 1999. On this release they play with both fire and good taste. If you’ve never listened to The New York Rock Ensemble’s Roll Over, listen to it. If you’ve already listened to it . . . listen again.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.