Barry Fey and Chuck Morris met in 1972, when Fey was the undisputed king of Denver concert promotion. After Morris joined Fey's company, Feyline, in 1975, they became all but inseparable. Fey was the best man at Morris's wedding, and he bankrolled the start-up of Morris's management house, Chuck Morris Enterprises, in 1986. But their relationship soured in recent years, and it won't be getting better anytime soon: On July 20, Fey filed a lawsuit against Morris, now the head of Bill Graham Presents/Chuck Morris Presents, in Denver County District Court, demanding $36,000 in allegedly unpaid consultancy fees.
When contacted by Westword, Morris had neither seen nor heard about the suit, drawn up for Fey by two attorneys from the law firm of Brownstein, Hyatt & Farber, and responded to questions about it with a terse "no comment." But Fey is more than willing to tell his side of the story. "It's not really about the money," he says, "and I wouldn't have been inclined to do it if things hadn't changed--but they definitely have. Chuck and I were best friends; there couldn't have been any two people closer. But obviously he doesn't feel that way anymore."
According to Fey, Morris was a "brilliant" employee, but during the mid-Eighties, he became more interested in management than promotion. Fey gave Morris permission to manage the career of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band while still on his payroll, and he says he offered his full support once Morris decided to hang out his own shingle--even though Feyline was in financial trouble. "We owed Chuck forty or fifty thousand dollars, and the company couldn't pay him," Fey maintains. "So I reached into my own pocket to pay him--and then I took out another fifty to help him get Chuck Morris Enterprises going. The first $49,000 of that gave me 49 percent of the company, and I loaned Chuck the other $1,000 so he would have 51 percent."
As part of the partnership pact, Morris was to pay his mentor $12,000 per annum as a consultant, and although Fey says Morris generally did so late or in piecemeal fashion, he came through consistently until 1997. But Fey says no payment was made that year, when he sold Fey Concerts to Universal Concerts and went into semi-retirement, and to date he's received nothing for 1998 and 1999. Moreover, Fey feels that his personal rapport with Morris has deteriorated: "We used to talk on the phone five, six, seven times a day, but no more. He called a lot early last year, when people found out that I'd been diagnosed with cancer, but that was about it."
Fey claims not to know what he did to anger Morris, but speculates that his onetime apprentice blames him for his failure to land the top spot at Universal following Fey's departure. (The position ultimately went to Mark Norman, a former executive with Universal's Canadian wing.) In Fey's view, this accusation is unfair. "I truly believed that the best thing was for Chuck Morris and Pam Moore [another longtime Fey Concerts lieutenant] to take over, and when Pam resigned, I naturally assumed that Chuck would get the job. When he didn't, things with us didn't just cool; he started treating me like a stranger. Three weeks ago, I called him at home, and he acted like I was some supplier--the Acme Linen Company or something. He said the management company wasn't doing well, and because he was living off his salary from the promotion company, he didn't have the money to pay me. And then he had nothing more to say."
At this point, Fey says there's only one way for Morris to resolve the lawsuit--"to pay me what he owes me." But he seems more upset to have lost Morris as a pal. "It's a shame. I wouldn't have thought that this business, as miserable as it is now--and to be a promoter now is unbelievably bad--would have ever come between us. But it did."
I'm headed to the last local-recording roundup.
The expiration of their student visas forced the Japan-bred members of Electric Summer to leave Denver a couple of months back, and Love Me Destroyer, the band's second salvo for Boulder's Soda Jerk Records, underlines how much the local scene lost when they split. The songs on the disc are more developed than those on its previous EP: Hell, "Blue Blanket" ("If you look up, blue sky/You will whisper sky is blue/Blue blanket!") actually has a hook--and a good one at that. The Electric ones' untutored singing and frenzied guitar torturings come across louder and clearer than ever, and they're smart enough to avoid overstaying their welcome: The title cut clocks in at a mere twenty seconds. It's time well spent (available in area music stores). By calling their debut disc Call Me Average, the Speedholes are practically daring naysayers to point out that what they're doing isn't as fresh as this morning's batch of Wonder bread. Truth be told, it's not: The power chords the musicians employ have been easily available in this area since the first time Fluid plugged in, if not earlier. But enthusiasm counts for a lot, and the Speedholes have it. Lead vocalist Dan Merrick's singing sounds a lot like gargling, especially on "City of the Walking Dead," but he's not shy about tossing notes around, and bassist Kelly Knutson's background vocals on "She's Got the Booty" and elsewhere add a welcome hint of garage cheesiness. It's predictable, sure, but suckers for this stuff will probably still walk away grinning. I know I did (available in area music stores).
Hot on the heels of a cassette release previously reviewed in this space, comes Achupacabra!, the first CD by (you knew this was coming) Chupacabra. Like its predecessor, the disc is a live offering (albeit one that tries to mask that fact), but its production is a big improvement, and the song choices are more original: No Stevie Wonder covers this time. The material is spotty at times: "Sexy Dynamite" is the most Bouldery sort of funk imaginable (and that's not a compliment), "Bimo" is vapid in the extreme and Sunny Michelson's soulless vocals are a real liability. But "Orbit" and "Dealers!" have their moments. Don't write them off yet (available in area music stores). Boulder-based banjoist/guitarist Tony Furtado is rightly lauded as a master of practically anything with strings attached, and Dirk Powell, who's adept on fiddle, accordion and lots more, matches up with him well. The new Rounder Records disc, Tony Furtado & Dirk Powell, takes the pair across the country in twelve songs, with Powell shining on "Lonesome John," a backwoods beauty, and "La Pointe Two-Step," a bayou dance piece, and Furtado doing wonderfully emotional things with his slide guitar on "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning," "The Sloes of Penybanc" and "Boneyard." Given the plethora of acoustic formats available for the picking, the disc could have become a case study in multiple-personality disorder. But Furtado and Powell are so simpatico that even their curve balls pass through the strike zone (available in area music stores).
Delaney Street, the main vocalist for Blind Harvest, probably has never been accused of having perfect pitch: On "Autonomy," a Dave Matthews nod that kicks off the act's self-titled CD, he misses more notes than Harry Caray did in his typical rendition of the national anthem. He's more on target elsewhere, but "Luckier Than Me," "Self" and "Agreement" hew so closely to college-rock cliches that only the most easily pleased will care. Prepare to lower your standards (firstname.lastname@example.org). Vido Sun--which started out as Soak before a Dallas band with the same moniker turned up--works the same territory as does Blind Harvest, but it knows a memorable melody when it comes up with one. They don't manage to do so each time out of the blocks: On Day One, its latest disc, "Morning" delivers the sort of guitar noodling that Deadheads refer to as lyrical, and "Henry James" caused visions of Hootie & the Blowfish to dance in my head, thereby forcing me to race to the medicine cabinet for a fistful of Excedrins. But "Flying" has a catchy chorus I found more difficult to resist than I expected, and "Downtown" works in a Smashmouth kind of way. I won't be listening to it again, but neither will I go out of my way to ridicule anyone who does (www.vidosun.com).
Denver-based saxophonist Andrew Woolfolk has quite a resume: A longtime member of Earth, Wind and Fire, he's also performed with artists as disparate as Tony Bennett and Santana. His latest effort, The Drew in Plain View, is Woolfolk's entry into the smooth-jazz field: "Breach of Contract" figuratively tips its hat to Grover Washington Jr., and both "Country Road" and "Satisfied" feature the sort of anonymous-female backing vocals that began showing up when jazz-fusion went from being creatively challenging to commercially appealing. Woolfolk is an expert player, and Plain View's sound is so exquisite that aficionados of the genre will undoubtedly approve. But the CD didn't quite light my "Serpentine Fire" (Wind-Song Promotions, 303-599-0859). ShocRaDance wants to serve as a bridge between soul-jazz and trip-hop, but its disc, Trip the Light, doesn't come close to managing the trick. Brothers Jim and Steve Wilson are good players, but singer/lyricist Kirsten Bolton's contributions aren't as bewitching as they'd need to be for this concept to work, and the production is singularly lacking in mystery. "Zen Funky" is notably short on funk, "Jack and Jill" breaks its crown, and "Beep Beep de Beep" is a scat novelty that meanders for an unconscionable nine minutes. During which I spent a lot of time staring at my watch (swilson@STRIPE.COLORADO.EDU).
EVER PICK UP A CD AND KNOW EXACTLY WHAT IT WILL SOUND LIKE BEFORE YOU POP IT INTO YOUR PLAYER? IF NOT, GRAB A COPY OF HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUT BY SUBURBIA'S FINEST. THE COVER PRACTICALLY SHOUTS "GENERIC POP-PUNK," AND SO DOES THE MUSIC ITSELF. "WE ALL BLEED RED" TAKES A SWING AT TOPICALITY WITH LYRICS LIKE "WHY WE GOTTA BE COMMITTING ACTS OF SENSELESS VIOLENCE?," BUT THIS QUINTET IS CLEARLY MORE COMFORTABLE GRAPPLING WITH LESS TAXING THEMES. "ALL TOO COMMON" FINDS VOCALIST TIM BURDICK GROUSING ABOUT DATING WOES ("I MIGHT GET A HEIFER BROAD, BUT NEVER A CLASSY PUNK-ROCK GIRL"), WHILE "TOO PUNK FOR US" EMERGES AS A DEFENSE FOR NOT BEING HARDCORE ("ALL THESE BRUISES, ALL THESE CUTS, WHAT ARE THEY FOR?/I HAVE YET TO PROVE MY WORTH TO YOU"). I COULD PROBABLY TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THIS DISC AND THE 500 OTHER ALBUMS JUST LIKE IT THAT I'VE HEARD OVER THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS, BUT IT WOULDN'T BE EASY (AVAILABLE IN AREA MUSIC STORES). THE AUNTEATERS' TORN & FRAYED OFFERS A VARIETY OF MODERN ROCK AND POP FROM MUSICIANS KNOWN TO YOU, THE PUBLIC, FOR THEIR WORK WITH COMBOS SUCH AS MR. WOODMAN AND THE SIMPELTONES. LEAD VOCALIST JIM VALENTINE CAN BE TOUGH TO TAKE AT TIMES--"BLIND FAITH" HAD ME CRINGING, AND WHILE A SENSE OF CAMARADERIE HELPS MAKE "YESTERDAYS," "FINGERS CROSSED" AND THE MOCK-COUNTRY LAMENT "TOMBSTONE SERENADE" PASSABLE, THAT DOESN'T MEAN THEY'RE DEATHLESS. OKAY AT BEST, AND PRETTY INESSENTIAL (AUNTEATERS@USA.NET).
SEEDY RELEASE BY SPIV DOESN'T WEAR OUT ITS WELCOMEo ITS THREE SONGS MARCH BY BRISKLY AND WITH REQUISITE HUMOR. "NIBLEY VIEW" IS PERCOLATING HARMONY ROCK, "DIZZY TIZZY" PROVIDES EVIDENCE OF THE PERFORMERS' FONDNESS FOR XTC, AND "MAKE THE BEST OF IT" ALLOWS STILTED, SPOKEN-WORD ABSURDITY TO PLAY OUT AGAINST AN ANGULAR KING MISSILE BACKDROP. THIS TRIO HAS YET TO FIND ITS OWN VOICE, BUT THE ONE IT'S BORROWING RIGHT NOW ISN'T TOO BAD AT ALL (SPIVINTL@JUNO.COM). THE MEMBERS OF AMBERJACK, WHO NAMED THEIR EP AFTER THEIR BAND, ARE ACCOMPLISHED PLAYERS, AND THEIR LYRICS ARE LITERATE. UNFORTUNATELY, THE TUNES THEY'VE CHOSEN TO DIGITIZE AREN'T FULLY REALIZEDo THEY CONSIST OF ASSORTED SHARDS THAT MAY BE FINE IN AND OF THEMSELVES BUT DON'T QUITE FIT TOGETHER. "TOUGHIE," THE LAST NUMBER, IS THE BEST OF THE BATCH--A SPEEDY STRUMMER THAT GOES FROM POINT A TO POINT B WITHOUT TAKING A SIDE TRIP TO W. MORE SONGS LIKE THIS ONE CERTAINLY COULDN'T HURT (303-412-6211).
ACCORDING TO DIMITRI WOLOSYN, THE MAN BEHIND ANNA SCORIA, WHOSE DISC IS CALLED CURIOUS SOUNDS, "THIS CD IS ABOUT LOVE, LOSS, NIGHTMARES, DEPRESSION, ABUSE, HEARTACHE, LUST, CONFUSION, FANTASY, UNREQUITED PASSION, JOY, SOULFUL EXPRESSION, VOICES, COLLECTIVE INSPIRATION, DREAMS, HUMANITY." THAT'S A LOT TO BITE OFF, AND IT WILL COME AS NO SURPRISE THAT WOLOSYN ISN'T ALWAYS ABLE TO CHEW SUCH TOPICSo He slips up on a number of sonically persuasive but overwrought tracks, including the dippy Jethro Tull-derived psychodrama "I Don't Want the Ice Cream." But Wolosyn knows his way around in the dark, and his Dave Gahan warble makes "Won't You Show Me" and "Undying Night" worthy of attention, if not undying gratitude. Ambitious, frequently pompous, but never boring (1-719-599-5405). Wailer B & Axiom, which came to life after the intriguing reggae act Roots Revolt died, is a fine live act, which is no doubt why the bandmates decided to make their first disc, a three-song self-titled demo, an in-concert affair. But "Tune In," "Clash" and "Wicked Man," from a January performance at the Fox Theatre, don't capture the group at its best, due to a poor mix: Because Wailer's singing is potted too high and coated with far too much echo, he and the far-quieter-sounding band seem to be on separate wavelengths. Jah advises balance in all things (Mountain High Music, 303-415-1958).
Tunnel, an EP by decanonizeD, isn't a whole lot different from decanonizeD, a demo tape reviewed in this space on February 25: The best songs on the disc ("Bound," "Game," "Dancing") were the best songs on the cassette. Still, the latest recording is worthwhile if only because its superior sound quality underlines the interesting qualities inherent in the band, a emotional and dramatic four-piece with Eighties-era art-guitar leanings that is lifted above the ordinary by the pipes of Talea Harmon. Worth watching (www.decanonizeD.com). Kindercore Records, an Athens, Georgia, indie with a proclivity for releasing tuneful pop of a very good-natured sort, is the ideal label for Dressy Bessy--so it's fortunate for all involved that the company has just put out the group's first nationally distributed disc, the wonderfully cheerful Pink Hearts Yellow Moons. The album has a bushel of Apples connections: Guitarist John Hill is in both combos, and Apples leader Robert Schneider helped engineer and mix the recording at his home studio, Pet Sounds. But the star of the show is Tammee Ealom, whose upbeat singing makes "I Found Out," "Lookaround" and "Big Vacation" damn near irresistible. "Little TV" shows off an unexpectedly driving riff reminiscent of the Velvet Underground's "Waiting for the Man" and "Makeup" isn't all rainbows and lollipops, but they're the exceptions--and for some people, Ealom's relentless chipperness may prove trying. But in general, Pink Hearts Yellow Moons is more than capable of turning that frown upside down (available in area music stores).
I have it from a reliable source that a number of local musicians are planning a bash to celebrate the end of my tenure as Westword's music editor. Well, ladies and gentlemen, this is my final Feedback column--so pop those champagne corks and let the carousing begin. But don't party too hearty, because I'm neither dying nor fading away. Next month, I'll introduce to these pages a new media column focusing upon radio, television, print and the like. I also hope to write about a number of other subjects for Westword, including--on occasion--music. After all, I've been penning music pieces for this publication since September 1990, and I think I'm just starting to get the hang of it.
Beginning next week, this space will be filled with the wit and wisdom of our new music editor, Laura Bond; for a preview of her work, see the review on page 92. I leave you in capable hands.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.