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Tribute to Pete Ham Shines On Like A Diamond

A Very Special Tribute to Pete Ham Shines On Like A Diamond

“But Rich, aren’t you going to credit your tribute album to Pete Ham, as being the voice of Badfinger?” I add, “Hardly anyone will know who Pete Ham is.” Rich Ulloa replies, “That’s the main point of the tribute…to separate Pete from the band. I want Pete to be spotlighted. There have already been two Badfinger tributes and this will NOT be the third.” Now, who am I to argue with the man who, in 1981, opened the coolest indie record store in Miami (Yesterday and Today Records), having in-store signings with The Ramones, Green Day, and Soundgarden? Or the vision to put out the first Mavericks’ release on his own Y&T Music label as well as managing and catapulting Florida music artists like Mary Karlzen and For Squirrels onto major national record labels. He has released fabulous music since 1990 and is still going strong. Simply put, Rich is South Florida’s music man. Lucky for us, he has enlightened us with Shine On – A Tribute To Pete Ham, his most ambitious project yet. Badfinger is his favorite band and this tribute is a genuine labor of love. Pete William Ham was the lead singer, guitarist, and talented songwriter of the Welsh rock band, Badfinger, who had impressed The Beatles enough to sign them as their first act on Apple Records. Many rock fans loved Badfinger’s hit songs “Baby Blue,” “Day After Day,” and “No Matter What,” but if you stopped there, you have missed a wealth of great music from one of the most underrated bands of all time and Pete Ham’s songwriting genius. In addition, there are so many people who don’t even know their hits songs, much less the other lesser-known gems. To miss these great songs would be a crime. Incredibly, some friends had never even heard “Baby Blue.” Another friend insisted that “No Matter What” was a Beatles song. They did sound like the Beatles and Paul McCartney did write Badfinger’s hit song “Come And Get It” for the Magic Christian movie soundtrack album. Their song, “Without You,” written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans was made into a #1 hit by singer-songwriter Nilsson in 1972.

Tragically, their business manager, Stan Polley, robbed them blind, which led to two suicides in the band. Pete Ham, first in 1975, and Tom Evans in 1983. This was such a tremendous loss of two young creative geniuses whose music is still relevant today. The finale of the acclaimed tv series Breaking Bad featured Badfinger’s “Baby Blue” in the final scene of the series and it was just perfect.

Rich Ulloa and his Y&T Music partners Jim Wurster and Don Sarley have assembled a tremendous collection of varied stellar musicians to pay tribute and recreate Pete Ham’s brilliant songs. It is fresh and not dated, considering these songs were from the 1970s. It is a cd set that you can easily play over and over. What sets this tribute apart is how great the songs are combined with top-notch performances.

Some highlights of this wonderful tribute are “Perfection” performed by Sweet Lizzy Project. Lisset Diaz is Sweet Lizzy Project’s brilliant singer and she shines on this version which surpasses the original. Amanda Green, originally from Miami Beach, does a fabulous job on “Name Of The Game.” Dan Baird and The Chefs cover “I Can’t Take It,” and take this Pete Ham rocker from Badfinger’s No Dice album to a new supercharged Stones/Faces level. “No Matter What” is done in two versions, both by Stan Lynch & The Speaker Wars. The first version is with Susmita Datta on guest vocals with an Indian/World Music feel and the second version is a straight rock version. Lynch was the original drummer for Tom Petty. Mary Lee Kortes with production from her famed husband Eric Ambel, beautifully covers “No More.” Jolynn Daniel does a lovely job on “I Miss You.” Y&T’s original whizz kid, Mary Karlzen, covers “We’re For The Dark” with originality, making it her own quite successfully. Amy Allison is Jazz and Blues Pianist Mose Allison’s daughter and a country musician in her own right. She does justice to “Apple Of My Eye” with her heartfelt vocals. This is a 2 CD set jam-packed with all kinds of music superstars like Melanie, Shelby Lynne, Mary Lou Lord, Wreckless Eric together with his wife Amy Rigby, and The Delevantes with Springsteen’s E-Street bassist Garry Tallent. Release date is January 20 on Y&T Music. Spend your holiday money on it as it’s worth every penny.

Another Y&T Music new release to check out is Diver’s Cove by The Surf Piranhas. It is as cool as it gets and loads of fun. You could easily see it being used in a Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez movie or a 60’s Western like The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. It all started in 1982 when three Americans, Drew Weaver, Jansen Press, Tony Leventhal, and one Frenchman, Gilles Frégé, met in Paris while attending American University and shared a strong desire to surf rock in a unique way that impressed the Paris music scene. By 1984 they were signed to ultra-hip Underdog Records and released Both Sides Of The Surf to critical acclaim with songs like “Do The El Camino.” They all went on to successful careers before reuniting for this new album, which was recorded in Nashville with special guest drummer Paul Deakin (Mavericks) replacing Gilles Frégé. These surf cowboys capture a western cinematic feel with a sense of humor that especially comes out in the song “Skin Diver.” The entire album is a cinematic explosion of sonic sundrenched surf guitars and reverb by both Drew Weaver and Jansen Press on electric and acoustic guitars. Weaver tackles the lead vocals with sexiness. Superb job by Paul Deakin on drums and Tony Leventhal on bass. They’ll have fun, fun, fun, ‘til their daddies take their surfboards away.

Last, but not least, in October, Y&T Music released a 3 CD set, Tribute To A Songpoet: Songs of Eric Andersen. Eric Andersen is a singer-songwriter, a true artist, who started as a folk troubadour in the 1960’s crossing paths with Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol. He came to the forefront of the Greenwich Village songwriters’ folk scene. He mentored Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed and Joni Mitchell. He came to the attention of Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein, who wanted to manage him but sadly died before that became a reality. Bob Dylan called Andersen “a great ballad singer and writer,” and Dylan covered Andersen’s song “Thirsty Boots.” Dylan’s version (new exclusive mix) is on this tribute album, along with Andersen’s songs covered by Linda Ronstadt (“I Ain’t Always Been (Faithful”)), Janis Ian (“Hills Of Tuscany”), Willie Nile (“Rain Falls Down In Amsterdam”) and Rick Danko (“Blue River”), to name just a few. Linda Ronstadt’s 1972 version is backed by Don Henley and Glenn Frey. Willie Nile is an artist’s artist and a buddy of Andersen who wanted him on the album. He positively nails his track. All 40+ songs on the tribute were written solely by Andersen except: “You Can’t Relive The Past” (Eric Andersen/Lou Reed) and “Driftin’ Away” (Eric Andersen/Rick Danko.) He left the New York folk scene and moved to Norway and then to The Netherlands, where he currently lives. He still loves performing and has another album in the works. Andersen’s visionary poetry and music have defied categorization and, at 79 years old, he is finally getting deserved recognition. 2019’s documentary The Songpoet was released in the U.S. on PBS in 2021. In addition, in 2021, Y&T Music released a 3 CD set, Woodstock Under The Stars, featuring Andersen’s songs from concerts and studio sessions recorded from 1991-2006 and songs from a performance that was webcast in 2011.

This new tribute is Y&T Music partner Jim Wurster’s dream project and he was instrumental in making this tribute a reality. Wurster is a longtime and current local musician who began as part of South Florida’s indie rock scene, fronting the band Black Janet. They were Florida’s answer to 80’s edgy alternative rock with a touch of goth. Imagine a combination of Peter Murphy, Depeche Mode, The Cult and David Bowie. They were a big deal down here. Wurster has progressed to stark and poignant Americana and has been compared to everyone from Leonard Cohen to Townes Van Zandt to Tom Waits. In between, he has taught high school history locally for 33 years. Wurster, along with Rich Ulloa and Don Sarley, as executive producers, has put together a gem of a tribute album with top-notch artists, personally chosen by Andersen. It will be released digitally and online in January 2023 as well.
The first pressing has done so well that a second pressing is coming. If you are not familiar with Andersen’s genius, this is a nice place to start.

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