Saturday, March 17, 2012

"In the Heartland Tonight": The Michael Stanley Band: Unsung heroes of rock n Roll

"And this nine to five is just killing time 
And hour by hour trying not to lose my mind
 I know from time to time girl I lose my way 
So I just had to call you From the heartland tonight" 
-from "Rock Me Easy"-the Michael Stanley Band 1986

These lyrics kind of sum up what the Michael Stanley Band were about. Working hard, living in the "heartland", and trying to find some love as a refuge from the daily grind. 
The music wasn't really about changing "the" world, it was more about changing "your" world.

When I describe Michael Stanley to people, My quick answer is that he is "Cleveland's Bruce Springsteen". That is not really a fair description to either man, but it gives people a feel for what the music might sound like.  You could also probably say he was  a cross between Springsteen and Bryan Adams.

The band did muster 2 Top 40 hits that were also Mtv staples "He Can't Love You" and "My Town".

Stanley's first solo album came out in 1973. He shared a producer, Bill Szymczyk, with Joe Walsh who appeared on the album. (The men have remained friends and occasionally played together over the years.)

"Rosewood Bitters" was the featured song from that album and Walsh himself did a great version on his "Confessor" in 1986.

                                   "Rosewood Bitters"

 1975 saw the formation of a full "Michael Stanley Band". Jonah Koslen was his musical foil or compadre in this lineup. Koslen also contributed and sang some of the songs.

the live "Stage Pass" album is thought to be a good representation of this lineup.

In 1978 singer, songwriter, keyboardist Kevin Raleigh joined the band.  This was really a turning point. Kevin was a good writer and had the more "radio-friendly" voice. It was wise of Stanley to allow him to be such a big contributor. Kevin wrote and sang their biggest hit "He Can't Love You" an early Mtv favorite from their 1980 album "Heartland",. Clarence Clemons even appeared on the album.

Back when videos were fun and people didn't take them so seriously.
                               "He Can't Love You"

Here's a good collection of interviews that cover the band up to this point


Michael Stanley Band - I'll Never need anyone more


The album "North Coast" saw a continuation in the pursuit of a more commercial sound.

another strong Kevin Raleigh song

   "When Your Heart Says it's right"

 if you are ever nostalgic for your younger days, this one is for you..

                   "Somewhere in the Night"

1982 saw the release of "MSB featuring another commercial song by Kevin Raleigh.

               "When I'm Holding You Tight"

In late 1983 the band would release their last major label album. EMI Records seemed to support it with good advertising and promotion. World renown producer/mixer Bob Clearmountain co-produced the album "You Can't Fight Fashion".  

This was the bands shot at the "Bigtime".   

The first single "My Town", hit the top 40. The band did a clever thing and overdubbed different backing vocals for different cities and markets and sent those versions out to radio.

 For instance the version they played on our local rock station here in Baltimore, The band would sing "this town is my town" and then yell/sing "Baltimore". They did the same for Boston, Cleveland, etc. 

Pretty shrewd marketing.  

                        "My Town"

 The whole album is an excellent example of 80's melodic rock/AOR (album oriented rock). It was their highest charting and most fully realized release. Unfortunately it didn't do well enough for EMI to keep them, but it had some great songs.

 Kevin Raleigh turned in two fantastic AOR songs:

            The "regular joe's" plea:

                     "I ain't no winner--
     I'm no 'miracle-come-true'
     But I've waited so long now, baby--
        For someone like you.."

                   "Someone Like You" 

    and the aftermath of being on the "losing end" of a relationship..

      "The damage is done
  How I cried over losing you
  You took so much of me
  Tried to get to see what you put me through
  The things that I thought were true
  They meant more to me than you..."

         "the Damage is Done"

EMI dropped the band and they limped on. 

Still huge in Cleveland, they recorded and released a live album in 1984. But when you call the album "Fourth and Ten", you are pretty much admitting it's just about over...


Surprisingly the band released one last independent album, "Inside Moves" 

 I didn't even know it existed until the end of the 90's. It is a pretty good album I still enjoy listening to. I think it was mainly sold in the midwest in 1986. 

While Kevin Raleigh sings some prominent backing vocals on some songs, he doesn't sing any lead on the album, which may have been a sign of the breakup coming by the end of the year...


Raleigh released a solo album in 1989 that lacked some of the "earthy" production of the MSB stuff and had more a polished, over-processed sound.  More "Mr. Mister" than "MSB"...

    "Someone Special"


These days Kevin is more involved in the talent management end of things.



Stanley became and still is a DJ in Cleveland.

He also continues to put out quality solo material on a regular basis. He plays out live, mostly in the Cleveland/Ohio area with his band, The Resonators, that features a few MSB members.

 (come on Michael , get on Twitter, Facebook, etc.!)

                   Michael Stanley "After Hollywood"


Thankfully most of the band's stuff is back in print.

I know many might judge the band as being a "stereotypical 80's band" with "cliched lyrics", but I think Stanley and the guys were sincere. They meant it

They really believed in "the power of rock n roll" giving you an escape from your problems but also being a place for shared experiences.

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