· Produced By: Marchello
· Running Time:
· Release Date:
· Genre: Melodic Hard Rock
· LabelLink: AOR Heaven
Marchello – 'The Magic Comes Alive'
Despite having released a debut album at the tail-end of the 80s that has since become a bit of a cult favourite amongst more than a few aficionados of melodically tinged hard rock, unfortunately, as things turned out for vocalist/guitarist Gene Marchello, the subject of longevity for his band Marchello wasn't something that wound up being a regular feature on the agenda of the CBS Associated label he had found himself signed with.
The fact CBS had been impressed by Marchello enough to instigate the recording of a second album to follow 1989's 'Destiny' affair wasn't, at the time, a surprise as the group had gained a reasonable amount of interest in the States thanks to encouraging levels of airplay on MTV for their first video and a fair bit of touring. Yet as the musical climate began to change rapidly throughout the industry, as the fast chicks and fast cars party atmosphere championed by peers such as Mötley Crüe, Ratt and Bon Jovi began to be superseded by an alarming trend towards a more depressing, drug infested style of hard rock thanks to the emergence of Alice In Chains and Nirvana, the follow up album Marchello and his band mates (bassist Nick DiMichino, drummer John Miceli and keyboard player Gary Bivona) created remained unreleased for over twenty years. Marchello, along with plenty of their peers who suffered similar fates, were dropped like a stone by a company keen to disassociate itself with a genre of hard rock – more commonly known, disgustingly so if you want my opinion on the matter, as 'hair metal' – in order to promote the new order. The music business is, indeed, a cruel one.
“It's a hard question to answer as to what really happened with the record company,” states Gene today, “but they just decided to drop us after we'd finished what would've been our second album and we just didn't try to pursue too much else in terms of releasing it elsewhere.”
The band's origins lay with Gene Marchello having begun playing the guitar between the ages of 13 and 14 years of age and impressing his father with the quality of his playing; Gene's father, of course, being the one and only Peppi Marchello of The Good Rats. Formed in Long Island, New York in the mid 60s The Good Rats became legendary in New York and surrounding states either through their high level of performing or thanks to a string of albums that included 1974's 'Tasty', 1976's 'Ratcity In Blue' and 1981's 'Great American Music' (the latter featuring guitarist Bruce Kulick and bassist Schuyler Deale in the line-up).
“My Dad was kinda surprised at my playing,” reveals Gene. “At the time he was recording a solo album for Atlantic Records, but that was never released, and he encouraged me to gig with him in a band that he put together called Popzarocca.”
Popzarocca also featured Nick DiMichino, who Gene knew from high school and a drummer whose name Gene is unable to recall but who was replaced down the line by John Miceli as the group evolved into Marchello, with Peppi removing himself from the line-up and taking on the producer's role instead.
“We started putting some demos down with me singing and then we got the deal with CBS,” adds Gene. “I was still pretty young – about 18 or 19 years old when we got the deal. I did a little bit of co-writing, but my Dad wrote most of the songs that made the record.”
The album, the aforementioned 'Destiny', was released in March 1989. It was a record that highlighted the young Gene's mastery of his chosen instrument if not his vocal talents. His guitar skills had clearly been finely honed listening to his father as well as the likes of Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Yngwie Malmsteen, yet Gene would be the first to admit that his confidence and maturity as a lead vocalist wasn't yet to the same level as his guitar playing.
“I was still growing,” he notes and acknowledges how much of a leap his vocal skills had taken by the time he and the band convened to begin work on the follow-up to 'Destiny', by which time Marchello had managed to create something for a buzz on MTV with the video for the album's big power ballad 'First Love' and had gained a wealth of experience touring with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne.
“We did a fair amount of touring and got a lot of attention thanks to the video being on MTV,” recalls Gene. “It put us in the position of having the record company wanting to give us another shot.”
The album, comparable in many respects to Rainbow, TNT and Bon Jovi in places, also garnered Marchello some attention in Europe too, albeit only as an import although Gene was unaware of the cult following that 'Destiny' had garnered overseas at the time. Incidentally, the aforementioned video for 'First Love' featured a then unknown actress by the name of Gina Gershon…..
“She was the director's choice,” reveals Gene. “She certainly wasn't as known then as she is now. I wasn't there a whole lot when she was doing her scenes, but I do remember her being pretty nice whenever I did meet her.”
With some giving it the title of 'The Power Of Money' and others simply naming it 'Marchello II' over the years, Marchello's second album (now officially titled 'The Magic Comes Alive') once again found Peppi Marchello handling a fair amount of the song writing; although Gene's confidence in that department was growing rapidly, co-writing two and penning 'Boys Night Out', 'Rock Me' and the instrumental 'Euphoria' on his own. However, whilst the demos had been handled by his father, Gene recalls that the label opted to bring in a couple of other producers to the project - whose names he cannot recall - in order to complete a project that resulted in more than enough material for an album planned to feature no less than fourteen songs. The finished record certainly provided evidence that Gene had learnt a great deal from the experience of recording and touring the 'Destiny' record and thus features vocal performances full in confidence and akin to a cross between the styles of erstwhile Journey vocalist Steve Perry and Danger Danger frontman Ted Poley.
“I actually think I went a little too extreme with my vocals on the second record,” Gene responds rather humbly. “People would tell me how much I sounded like Steve Perry, whilst others persuaded me to sound like other singers. It got a little confusing. I just prefer to keep to my natural sound.”
Still, so far as the recording went things couldn't have been any better at that moment in time. “They spent a sizeable amount of money on the record,” Gene offers in response to my question about just how committed CBS was to the project at the time,” but then decided not to release it. A lot of things were changing; the grunge/alternative thing was coming in. It sent me into a bit of a downer.”
Utterly disheartened with events, the band split. Whilst John Miceli went on to work with the likes of Rainbow and Meatloaf and Nick DiMichino currently plays in a Billy Joel tribute act called Big Shot, Gene, along with his brother Stefan, reunited with his father in a rejuvenated line-up of The Good Rats and would release three albums over the years in the shapely forms of 'Tasty Seconds', 'Let's Have Another Beer' and 'Play Dum'.
“Around eight years ago I recorded some of my own stuff. There's eight songs that are a little in more of an alternative style than the Marchello albums and I'd actually like to go back and remix some of it for possible release, but because I'd got so disheartened that I couldn't really get anything going for my own stuff I got into playing in tribute bands. The money's not great, but I'm able to make a living doing it full-time.”
Indeed he does and a fine job he does of it too, especially because Gene no longer plays guitar in order to do so as he has been playing the role of Bono in a U2 tribute band called 2U alongside guitarist Joseph 'The Edge' Cumia (who he also played alongside in The Good Rats with whom Cumia played bass) and has more recently also ventured into fronting a Journey tribute outfit as well.
Recognising the fact that now that 'The Magic Comes Alive' is finally gaining a long overdue release as part of AOR Heaven's increasing stable of albums in its 'Classix' series will surely reignite some interest in the Marchello brand, Gene feels that it might not be a bad time to gain focus on his solo career and use such an opportunity to his advantage. So, whilst he will not be relinquishing his role singing well received renditions of 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' and ''I Will Follow' any time soon, the chances of some new Marchello material have increased just that little bit more overnight!