There are precious few bands that can serve up to their fans what Fox Pass can. New and old songs, pop and rock songs, years of yeoman service, innovative ideas and of course more and more new CD's of material.
On this new CD most songs are new but they also have picked songs from other periods of their long history (Intemporal i.e. - out of, or regardless of, time.) It's wonderful to finally have It's Rock and Amtrak in a recorded form after hearing them live since …what? 1976?
This is not because they are short of songs, no way. There are plenty of new songs here and they are detailed in the writing and recording. There are 17 songs in all. The creative flow of this band is cresting the banks.
There are a half dozen twelve string ringing pop gems that are as good as anything anybody else in the pop world is putting out. Most bands would be lucky to accomplish what are on the first 5 cuts alone.
The Sacred Mountain is Falling is a different beast for Fox Pass. It's a nine minute introspective piece carried on by a raga drone feeling rather than a strong beat. Guitarist Michael Roy hits the perfect tone as he always does and enhances the atmosphere. It sustains interest and mood for its whole nine minutes: a beauty. Fox Pass shows their roots with Ticking of the Clock which reeks of Lou Reed.
On its website, a quote from the Arlington veteran group Fox Pass reads, "[t]he first Fox Pass era ended before the real explosion of Boston music that came in the early 1980s and therefore they are somewhat obscure in history, except for those who were there." "There" was a special place in time for Arlington residents who had already witnessed a favorite son, 25-year-old Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson, performing at Woodstock with his group Canned Heat and singing on Top 40 hits "On The Road Again” and "Goin' Up The Country." Boston proper had Barry & The Remains opening for The Beatles and Willie "Loco" Alexander joining The Velvet Underground, but Arlington, had other musical gifts to offer, including The Prince & The Paupers and, just a few years later, Fox Pass. Fox Pass and a handful of other groups were that all-important bridge from the old guard to the New Wave in the early 1970s. In 2010, the band released a new CD/download album “Intemporel” and has been seen around this neck of the woods again performing at Right Turn, an Arlington non-profit that promotes sobriety, as well as a planned event in the autumn of 2010 at the Regent Theater.
The beginning Jon Macey, who was known back then as Jonathan Hall and eventually changed his name, was taken with music at a young age. According to his website, he began writing songs for the accordion at age 9 and then for the piano before he took up the guitar when he was 12 years old. While a student at AHS in the early 1970s, Macey began developing folk songs in the style of Bob Dylan or Woody Guthrie. In 1971, Macey met another AHS student Michael Roy; together they formed an acoustic duo. By age 17, Macey was doing his own version of the Velvet Underground/Modern Lovers brand of songwriting and singing. That became the early Fox Pass repertoire, perhaps the start of the musical evolution from when Hall and Roy performed on the Cambridge Commons Concerts, all original songs, precursors to what would become the early Fox Pass style. By the time Macey and Roy graduated in 1973, they had already become a professional rock band. Other Arlington residents, including Michael's brother John, were the initial members of Fox Pass.
The build up Music lovers began to take notice. Fox Pass was performing at Tufts University, The Club in Cambridge, The Paradise, Olivers (now the Cask 'n' Flagon), and many other venues. They also had a big plus, which was the envy of other groups in the region, a local businessman named Bruce Miner began managing them. The band’s first 45 RPM recording, "I Believed" b/w "Prized Possession,” was released in 1976 and created a buzz. That recording helped the group get into the pages of Playboy Magazine in 1978 as one of Boston's five best bands. The interest in the band began to spread beyond the fans and directly into the eyes of the media, specifically The Boston Globe, Boston Phoenix, Real Paper and other publications. Macey and Roy's Fox Pass emerged from the Arlington and Cambridge circuit and went on to become a major draw in the New England area. But the Fox Pass saga is one of the strangest in rock history. Shortly after being named one of Boston’s five best bands, Fox Pass disappeared. "We broke up the first time because we realized we had missed the Punk Rock trend,” Macey said. “We were too ahead of it and too young to see that we could have easily rode the wave. So, instead we moved to New York City and reinvented ourselves." In 1979, both Macey and Roy had moved to New York City. They joined up with RCA recording artist Tom Dickie and signed with Mercury Records for two albums as Tom Dickie & The Desires, culminating in a regional and semi-national hit "Downtown Talk” and openings for Hall & Oates and Cheap Trick. While the band’s first single was released in 1976, it took another 29 years until a debut album was released, a self-titled CD appearing in 2005.
The return The journey from Arlington to New York and back was long, intense and noteworthy on many levels. Fox Pass took a hiatus of almost 30 years or so, but after the variety of projects, they have reconnected, creating a new era for the band. "The second Fox Pass era began in 2002 when Mike Roy and I reunited while recording my solo project, the ‘Actuality in Process’ CD,” said Macey. “We began to write songs together which led to live performances and two CDs since then." “Intemporel,” the bands follow-up to their self-titled “debut,” is a vibrant set of recordings, which succeeds in its simple mission statement: To entertain. With cascading jangle guitars that The Flamin' Groovies and R.E.M. helped establish in the post-60s garage rock era, when garage got more sophisticated (but still stayed away from hotel lounges), Fox Pass comes up with some new material while also dipping into their back catalog. The CD opens with "Hurry Cherie,” an older song from their repertoire. This is a hard-driving pop song where Macey finds himself "dreaming of you...hurry Cherie,” and though it is not the long-promised "first album" of material from when Fox Pass released its first single, these industry veterans are still "mining the vaults" and coming up with 17 tracks that show the band still has it, and is still evolving. “Fly Away (From Me)" and "Front Page Girl" keep the party going while the stylish "Cool Dreamer" slinks in for almost eight minutes, followed by an almost five-minute piece "She Dreams Of Me.” Earlier this spring, the group performed next door at Winchester's "Wincam" public access station and played material from across its career along with many selections from “Intemporel.” That performance showed Roy shouldering some of the lead vocals, sometimes co-singing harmonies with bassist Steve Gilligan and Macey as on the "The Spark.” For those who have followed the band and its various spin-offs, the most recent music has continuity to projects from long ago, but Fox Pass isn't detouring "back to the future" as much as getting the music onto a familiar track. "We still perform ‘Amtrak’ and ‘Wanda,’ both written in 1973," Macey said. On the latest Fox Pass CD "The Sacred Mountain Is Falling" could be a Sgt. Pepper out-take. And the band is exploring longer titles a la early Mott The Hoople, this track going more than nine minutes, and "A Long Goodbye" clocking in at more than six minutes. For Fox Pass fans, the latest disc provides short pop-bursts and extensive essays, perhaps a stream of-consciousness approach by industry veterans who continue to do what they love.
Olivers Nightclub 1974
INTEMPOREL REVIEW. MUSIC STREET JOURNAL. GARY HILL.
It would be easy to believe that this is a disc of covers by a classic rock cover band. The truth is, though, this is original music. These guys just write songs that feel like classics you might have heard decades ago. The classic rock vibe runs the gamut in terms of musical styles, but everything feels like it fits. This is a band that would have been huge in the 1970s. There aren’t any weak tracks here, but some things are stronger than others. Anyone who has a strong taste for the mainstream pop rock of the 1970s should really dig this.
Track by Track Review
Hurry Cherie This is very much a classic rock pop cut. It’s sort of part Beatles and part garage band. It’s fun. It’s got a tasty and tasteful classic rock guitar solo.
Fly Away (From Me)The music on this makes me think of The Hollies, but the vocals are closer to early Rolling Stones. However you slice it, though, it’s another tasty slab of poppy classic rock. The guitar solo on the fade out brings in a bit of a Byrds vibe.
Front Page Girl This occupies the common ground between old school hard edged pop rock and punk rock. There’s some tasty riff driven music and a fun vocal arrangement.
Cool Dreamer A more balladic cut, somehow this makes me think of Tom Petty a bit. It’s got a lot of classic rock built into it and it’s tasty. There’s a fairly psychedelic movement later in the piece that feels a bit like the psychedelia period of the Rolling Stones. When it comes back out to the guitar solo segment it’s pure classic rock. There’s another killer guitar solo near the end of the piece. That one is both quite extended and very soaring.
She Dreams of Me
The intro on this calls to mind vintage David Bowie. It drops out to a more mainstream balladic piece, but there are still some minor hints of Bowie. In a lot of ways this calls to mind something from Roy Orbison, but with different vocals. It’s got a very old school classic rock sound. It does climb up beyond the balladic in terms of arrangement later, but that vibe continues throughout.
Combine a Byrds like jingle jangle with vintage Stones and some Tom Petty and you’ll come pretty close to this piece. It’s bouncy and fun and at times makes me think of “19th Nervous Breakdown.”
Percussion leads this off and the killer guitar riff that opens this feels like something you’d expect from Keith Richards. It’s a killer rock song that feels a bit like a punky Rolling Stones. This is catchy and cool. You might even hear hints of the Romantics on this.
Combine The Rolling Stones with Tom Petty and you’ll have a good idea of what this ballad sounds like.
High On You
This is a bit less obvious in terms of specific references. Overall it’s a great classic rock tune. It’s sort of a combination of a ballad and a rocker. It still feels like it fits in the 1970s, but without any definite comparisons to be made.
Amtrak There’s still some Stones on this, but the cut is very nearly punk rock. It’s a smoking hot rocker that’s a lot of fun. It’s definitely the most raw tune we’ve heard.
Combining the Byrds with The Stones and a more raw roots rock approach, this is tasty, but perhaps not at the same level of some of the other music. There’s a cool mellow motif that ends the track.
The Sacred Mountain Is Falling
At nearly nine and a half minutes in length, this is, by far, the longest cut on show here. It starts off with a mellow psychedelic motif that has a bit of a folk element to it. It grows gradually from there, turning to real space for a time. It’s about two minutes in before the cut moves out to the song proper. It still retains some of the folk and psychedelia, and the vocals again make me think of the psychedelic period of the Stones. This grows gradually and very slowly, but it certainly grows. It maintains its general musical roots throughout, just sort of intensifying. Although, it comes close to the realms of progressive rock at times, particularly when it drops back to a mellower reprise later for an extended instrumental movement.
Ticking of the Clock
Here’s another piece of modern and new classic rock. It’s a balladic tune and it’s quite cool, but kind of pales in comparison to the previous masterpiece.
Younger Than We Knew
The intro to this calls to mind some of the earliest music from Alice Cooper (the band). As it works out to the song proper, it’s perhaps along the lines of The Yardbirds, mixed with a more modern sound. The vocal arrangement on this is particularly cool. This is actually one of the strongest pieces on show and really works well.
We Will Be Free
Another cut that combines the balladic with the harder rocking, this is yet another killer classic rock sounding number. It’s actually quite strong, but doesn’t stand up to a lot of the other material. That’s more about how strong the rest of this is, than it is about any weakness in this piece.
One More Song
In many ways the sounds on this cut are more modern than anything else on the set. That doesn’t mean that all the classic rock stylings are gone, but the mix is just more on a modern end. It’s a catchy and rather intricately arranged piece that’s quite cool.
A Long Goodbye
At about six and a half minutes in length, this is the third longest piece on show. It’s an involved classic rock ballad that really calls to mind the Rolling Stones while wander precariously close to the progressive rock border.
1976 fanzine page
FOX PASS Fox Pass DISCOVERIES MAGAZINE. JOE TORTELLI.
Anyone who appreciates the sound of ringing guitars, vocal harmonies and smart pop songs must listen to the debut album by Fox Pass. The idea of a Fox Pass "debut" will seem curious to fans in Boston; after all, the group helped found the original music/punk rock scene in the Beantown during the mid-1970s. The quartet never released an album during that period, and members scattered to other bands and solo projects during the intervening years. The re-grouped foursome, centered on the gifted songwriting team of Jon Macey and Michael Roy, does not disappoint longtime fans, while calibrating its rock 'n' roll for the 21st Century. From the light-as-air a cappella opening to the disc on "Child's Play," Fox Pass creates a swirling concoction of melodic hooks, jangly guitars and clever lyrics. Macey and Roy write and sing such irresistible upbeat songs as the folk rocking "Love For Love," the high-spirited "Wanda" and the neo-Mod "You Don't Know Me," an anthem to alienation powered by a galvanizing guitar riff. All their power pop sentiments converge on the radiant "Sometime Saturday Girl," a surefire smash in a perfect radio world. Fox Pass benefits from the empathetic production of pop maestro Barry Marshall, who also toiled in Boston's New Wave scene, before concentrating on film soundtracks and producing for LaVern Baker and many others. Seemingly inspired by Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, the Byrds and the Beau Brummels, Fox Pass shows a lyrical, at times rootsy, side on "In A Dream," "Here Comes The Karma," the six-minute guitar-dueling "Hit Or Miss" and "Heavy As A Heartache," a mournful expression of country rock connecting to urban soul. With its hook-filled guitar/vocal interplay, "The Wonder" boasts an imaginative arrangement anchored to the inventive rhythm section of drummer John Jules and bassist Steve Gilligan. Having left a distinctive imprint on 1970s music, Fox Pass bounds into the present with an album that's worth the wait.
ERIC SORESON. FUFKIN.
Fox Pass - the self-titled disc by Fox Pass. Although this was a late 2005 release, this disc will land in my Top Ten for the year, and the song "Sometime Saturday Girl" is a contender for Song of the Month honors. Fox Pass is a Boston band led by the talented Jon Macey. This time around, Macey and his bandmates have embellished their repertoire with plenty of ringing Rickenbacker riffs. "Here Comes The Karma" sounds eerily like Sid Griffin (Long Ryders, Coal Porters, Western Electric); several tunes sound like classic Tommy Keene songs; and "Sometime Saturday Girl" reminds me of Blue Rodeo with 12-string accompaniment. This is top-notch pop! Long may you run, Sir Jon and Fox Pass!