ANDY PRATT: Cover MeFew artists can claim a calling card as convincing as Andy Pratt's "Avenging Annie," the 1973 hit which rode up the charts on the power of Pratt's piano-laced, falsetto-sung twist on the legends of Pretty Boy Floyd and Annie Oakley. A demo tape of the song made Pratt a regional sensation, sparked by Providenceâ€™s WBRU, a year before it kicked off the Boston native's debut album for Columbia and went on to become a timeless FM classic.
While he never scored another hit to rival "Avenging Annie" (which was later covered by Roger Daltry), Pratt made three other major-label albums during the '70s, two with famed producer Arif Mardin, â€œResolutionâ€ and â€œShiver in the Night,â€ charming fans and critics alike with tunes like "All I Want is You," "Karen's Song" and "If You Could See Yourself (Through My Eyes)." These two albums are gems, featuring not only Prattâ€™s excellent touring band, but the top New York session musicians of the day, including Steve Gadd, Tony Levin, Andy Newmark, the Brecker Brothers, Luther Van Dross, and others. You can clearly hear the voice of Luther Van Dross singing the last chorus of â€œResolutionâ€™sâ€ beautiful â€œCanâ€™t Stop My Love.â€
Rolling Stone Magazine gave â€œResolutionâ€ itâ€™s lead review in the spring of 1976, in which critic Stephen Holden wrote, "by reviving the dream of rock as an art and then reinventing it, Pratt has forever changed the face of rock."
With all this behind him the lanky singer-songwriter with the curly, golden locks took off and toured with a crack band that included Syracuse guitar ace Mark Doyle and drummer Rick Shlosser, opening for Foreigner, The Band, David Gates, Loggins and Messina, John Sebastian, and others, and headlining many dates. His biggest success came in Ohio, where Andy Pratt was a major rock star right up there with all the other ones.
This fairy-tale story came to an abrupt end at a free outdoor concert at Bostonâ€™s City Hall Plaza in August, 1977. They played for two hours to 7000 people who loved every minute. The next day Pratt was alone again, his band gone, and his musical future doubtful. The plug had been pulled: Atlantic and April-Blackwood would spend no more money on Andy Pratt. He fell into a depression and moved back to his hometown of Cambridge, where, after a while, he had a private religious experience. He went into the Church, and soon was on the music team.
Pratt returned to the pop world in 1984 with an Independent EP entitled â€œFun in the First Worldâ€ and a rockinâ€™ live band. The EP got Boston airplay and they toured New England. Then Pratt returned to the studio and recorded â€œNot Just For Dancingâ€ with John and Yokoâ€™s â€œDouble Fantasyâ€ rhythm section, Andy Newmark and Tony Levin, the Pet Shop Boysâ€™ Stephen Hague, and, of course, Prattâ€™s piano and vocals. Itâ€™s vintage 80â€™s synth dance-pop, with searing lyrics on love, war, and international politics. Both â€œFun in the First Worldâ€ and â€œNot Just for Dancingâ€ were re-released in 2003 on the Dutch label Corazong.
Pratt went to New York with his new record and made the rounds of record labels, where he was warmly received and musically rejected. Hurt but determined, he entered the Fordham Graduate School of Social Service and spent two years getting a Masters in Social Work and singing old songs in Nursing Homes, joined on occasion by the Pousette-Dart Bandâ€™s John Troy.
Then came a phone call from Holland, and a new life in Europe, following a trend often observed in jazz musicians. Pratt was received as a hero by the Dutch, playing huge Christian festivals and clubs. He disappeared again from the American pop radar. As he had sung in "Avenging Annie," "I found my peace and I found my release, and I'm happy just to be alive."
But after a 15-year sojourn in Belgium and the Netherlands, Pratt returned like a true avenger, a prodigious talent with a wealth of new songs that prove he's as prolific and potent as ever. "I'd like to try and get famous again," he said as he landed in Nashville, then moved back to Bostonâ€™s North Shore, from where he occasionally plays clubs and hopes for bigger things again. "When I play music, it makes them happy."
To that end, Pratt released two new CDs in 2003. The first is "Cover Me" (found here), a collection of his unique interpretations of songs as divergent as the road-rambling Fred Neil favorite "Everybody's Talkin'" and the Grandmaster Flash rap classic "The Message." "I had this song in 1972 called 'It's All Behind You,' which is kind of a rap song, so now I say I was one of the first rappers," says Pratt, who also transforms Brian Wilson's "Don't Worry Baby," Queen/David Bowie's "Under Pressure" and John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance" among the record's other selections. "The songs said the things I wanted to say."
The second cd is a semi-retrospective containing brand new songs recorded in Nashville and Syracuse, along with some tunes from previous European releases that never made their way to the States. "New Resolutions" is aptly titled since it marks Andy's determination to return to the days of "Resolution" with brilliantly conceived, emotional tunes that reflect his ongoing pursuit of happiness. The first single from the album, "Change Your Mind" is a reverent throwback to the Rolling Stones with it's rave-up ending. "Welcome to America" is a wild hilarious political rant set to heavy rock music. There are some great guitar solos on this album in addition to some heart-piercing ballads. This CD also contains a "Live" version of "Treasure That Canary" (originally from "Resolution") that was recorded live with an all-star band in New York during March, 2003.
A lot of Prattâ€™s work is still unreleased, like "Runaway Heart," which spotlights original Pratt songs in a stripped-down setting showcasing his voice, acoustic guitar and piano. Among that record's highpoints are such tender, thoughtful tracks as "Cry," "Walkin' Down the Road" & the title track. This is deep and tender spirituality.
Another yet unreleased CD is â€œIâ€™m All Rightâ€ - another album of originals, produced at the home studio of his old guitarist from â€œResolutionâ€ and â€œShiverâ€, Mark Doyle, who has worked with everyone from Meat Loaf to Bryan Adams to Hall and Oates to New Kids on the Block over the years. The record takes deft advantage of drum loops and other modern production techniques. There are beautiful love songs to his wife, â€œMary â€“ a poem,â€ and â€œI want to be close,â€ a powerful rocker entitled â€œI donâ€™t want to live any more," in which Pratt looks suicide in the face and says â€œno.â€ We're all geeks now," Pratt says with a smile, "and this album really rocks!"
In 2003 Itâ€™s About Music released "Heaven & Earth" is a best-of collection from Andy's Christian CDs released in Holland and Belgium during his residency overseas.
Sony legacy also got on the bandwagon in 2003, announcing that they would re-release the original Columbia Records 1973 Andy Pratt album, which leads off with the hit single "Avenging Annie", in the spring of 2005. They remastered it, and it sounded great, containing a live version of Avenging Annie, and an unreleased song from the 1973 tour called "Kentucky Mountains." However, the big bosses at Sony squelched the plan. â€œI live Murphyâ€™s law,â€ says Pratt.
"I'm still trying to build it up, but I have to be ready for just about anything," says Pratt, who has been through a who's who of sidemen, including John Troy (Pousette-Dart Band), ex-Stompers guitarist Sal Baglio, and ex-Phish drummer Russ Lawton, not to mention the all-star New York crew he recorded with in the 70s and 80s. "There have been really good reactions anytime I've played." Music initially took off for Pratt in childhood.. The son of a school headmaster and a classical pianist, he began to play piano at age eight and guitar at 13, inspired by musical heroes like Van Dyke Parks, Van Morrison, the Beach Boys and the Beatles. He launched his career with the rock power trio Butter at the height of '60s flower-power, and frequented the Cambridge folk circuit that spawned Joan Baez and helped Bob Dylan and many others. He was also a fan of jazz, going to Boston's famed Jazz Workshop to catch John Coltrane, Art Blakey and other greats. Pratt graduated from Harvard in 1968, and released his first album, the jazz-pop effort "Records Are Like Life" for Polydor UK in 1971. Since then, Pratt has released more than a dozen records, and he still acts like he's just getting started. His voice, even in its fabled falsetto form, is strong as ever. He took some lessons on alto sax at John Payne's school in Brookline, and does a sax intro on â€œIâ€™m All Rightâ€™sâ€ â€œI want to be close. He admits he wishes he could play piano and sax simultaneously. Payne is one of the all-stars featured on the 1973 album, which, incidentally, is currently available with Japanese letters all over it as an import on amazon.com. Sony never sleeps. "The Boston musicians' community is wonderful, and not so wonderful." says Pratt now, after a few years of beating his head against the wall. "Some people come down [to the club] who have never heard of me, and they generally what they hear. A lot of people still remember 'Avenging Annie.' When I play that, they wake up.
Love, peace, and power to everyone.
Discography: 1971 - "Records are Like Life" (Polydor)/ 1973 - "Andy Pratt" (Columbia) / 1976 - "Resolution" / 1977 - "Shiver in the Night" (Nemperor-Atlantic) /1979 - "Motives" (Nemperor-Epic)/ 1982 - "Fun in the First World" (Enzone)/ 1983 - "Not Just For Dancing" (Lamborghini) / 1986 - "Perfect Therapy" (GMI)/ 1988 - "Life"(GMI) / 1991 - "One Body"(GMI) / 1993 - "Fire of Love" (GMI)/ 1996 - "Another World" (Highway) 1996 - "The Resolution Collection" (Razor & Tie) / 2003 -"Cover Me" (Independent) / 2002 - "Runaway Heart" (unreleased)- "Heaven & Earth"(ItsAboutMusic) / 2003 - "I'm Alright"(unreleased) / 2003 - "New Resolutions"(ItsAboutMusic) â€“ â€œAvenging Annieâ€ is heard in the move â€œThe Velvet Goldmine,â€ on a few 70s compilations, and on four of Roger Daltreyâ€™s releases.
For more info on Andy Pratt - go to www.andy-pratt.com
Check out the artist's website:
1. Under Pressure
2. Everybody's Talkin' at Me
3. Don't Worry Baby
4. The Harder They Come
5. The Message
6. Goin' Back
7. Behind Closed Doors
8. Tell It Like It Is
9. Beauty's Only Skin Deep
10. Give Peace a Chance