Colorado has had its fair share of musicians and bands make it on the national scene.
Most recently, Leftover Salmon, Yonder Mountain String Band, String Cheese Incident, the Lumineers and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats have received the most attention.
Early on it was the Astronauts and Lothar and the Hand People followed by Zephyr, Sugarloaf, Ron Miles, Earth, Wind & Fire (Philip Bailey), Tommy Bolin, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Starwood, and Firefall, just to name a few.
Today, I would like to focus on Firefall.
Firefall was formed in Boulder in 1974. The band was made up of: Rick Roberts, chief songwriter, lead vocalist and rhythm guitar; Jock Bartley, songwriter, lead guitarist and vocalist; Michael Clarke, drummer; Mark Andes, bassist; and Larry Burnett, keyboards and woodwinds.
They released their self-titled debut album in 1976. I was really looking forward to this record because Roberts had been a member of The Flying Burrito Brothers and Stephen Stills’ Manassas.
Clarke also played with the Burrito Brothers as well as The Byrds.
Andes was part of Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne.
I owned records from all five of those bands and could not wait to see what those musicians would do as Firefall.
They did not disappoint! In fact, Firefall’s debut album was an instant country rock classic that stands up very well to debut LPs from Poco, Pure Prairie League, America and Eagles.
Firefall’s debut album opens with “It Doesn’t Matter,” a song originally on Manassas’ self-titled record. It was written by Roberts, Stills and Chris Hillman, but each songwriter claimed exclusivity to it. This version is different than the original, but both are great.
Other highlights from Firefall’s debut include “Livin’ Ain’t Livin’,” “Cinderella,” “Mexico,” “You Are the Woman” and “Sad Ol’ Love Song.”
Burnett’s saxophone solo on “Sad Ol’Love Song” is outstanding and one I should have mentioned in a previous column about sax solos.
“You Are the Woman” was the album’s big hit, but as so often is the case in music, it wasn’t very representative of Firefall’s sound. It was a sound unique to me. I had not heard anything like it, and I really liked it.
“Luna Sea,” released in 1977, was Firefall’s second record. Songwriting duties were evenly split between Roberts and Burnett as the latter was becoming more of a songwriting presence in the group.
The album was fairly similar to the debut and contained two more of the band’s hits: “So Long” and “Just Remember I Love You.” I also really like Burnett’s “Getaway” and “Sold On You” as well as Roberts’ “Someday Soon.”
“Elan,” the band’s third record from 1978, took on a harder edge than the previous two releases. “Strange Way” and “Goodbye, I Love You,” both penned by Roberts, were the two songs that made the charts.
Most of the rest of the record rocked a bit harder that its predecessors. It also became the bands biggest-selling record, and really was the last great record these guys made.
The original band broke up in 1983. Bartley reformed the band and I think they are still touring, but it is just not the same.
I was lucky enough to see Firefall twice between 1976 and 1979. I choose to hold onto that memory.
Rock Cesario owns Triple Play Records, 530 Main St. Email him at email@example.com.