LIGHTHOUSE-LIGHTHOUSE, SUITE FEELING AND PEACING IT ALL TOGETHER.

Lighthouse-Lighthouse, Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together.

In 1968, Skip Prokop the former drummer and vocalist with the Canadian psychedelic rock band The Paupers, met Brooklyn born keyboardist Paul Hoffert in a New York nightclub. The men bonded over their mutual love of music. However, when they parted company at the end of the evening, they never thought that their paths would cross again.

That was until Skip Prokop boarded a flight from New York to head home to Toronto, and recognised one of his fellow passengers. It was none other than Paul Hoffert, who was studying at the University of Toronto. The two men started talking, and soon, were discussing the possibility of forming a band based around a rock rhythm section, jazz horn section, and classical string section. It this was an ambitious plan, but one that Skip Prokop and Paul Hoofers were determined to bring to fruition.

Fortunately, Skip Prokop was a familiar face within Toronto’s music scene, and knew plenty of musicians who would be interested in joining the band he planned to form with Paul Hoffert. Skip Prokop brought onboard some of his musical friends, several session musicians and members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Gradually, Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert’s group was taking shape. 

Eventually, the nascent group featured thirteen musicians. The next step for the as yet unnamed band was to record a demo. Once the demo was complete, Skip Prokop sought the advice of one of his musical friends, Richie Havens. He suggested that Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert take the tape to MGM Records, who Richie Havens was currently signed to.

On hearing the demo, executives at MGM Records were hugely impressed with what they heard. So much so, that they offered the band an advance of $30,000. Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert signed on the dotted line. The band was now signed to MGM Records.

Having signed to MGM Records, the band acquired a manager within the space of two days. It was just a pity they hadn’t a manager when they signed to MGM Records.

Their new manager was Vinnie Fusco, who was an associate of Albert Grossman, who managed Bob Dylan. Vinnie Fusco was an experienced manager, who was well versed in the how the music industry worked. He decided that the MGM Records’ deal wasn’t good enough for his new client.  

Vinnie Fusco decided to pay the executives at MGM Records a visit to discuss the contract his new client had signed. By the end of the meeting they were prepared to free the band from their contractual obligations. This left them free to sign to RCA Victor.

Not before Vinnie Fusco had negotiated a lucrative recording contract for the band. This time, it wasn’t $30,000 that the band would receive, Instead, they would receive hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of the contract. During that morning, Vinnie Fusco had more than proved his worth. 

Now that the band had a recording contract in place, the next step was to finalise the band’s lineup. Although the band had recorded a demo, this wasn’t the version that would make their live debut at Toronto’s Rock Pile on May ’14th’ 1969.

With the lineup of the band finalised, and having honed their sound, they were ready take to the stage at the Rick Pile. As the band prepared to take to the stage, a seventy year old man-made his way to the microphone to introduce the band. Some members of the audience thought his face was familiar. It was none other that Duke  Ellington who uttered the immortal words “I’m beginning to see the Light…house.” With that, the thirteen members of the band  that would become Lighthouse took to the stage and delivered a barnstorming set. By the end of the night, very few people were taking about Duke Ellington. Instead, they were taking about Lighthouse’s live debut.

After the success of Lighthouse’s live debut, Vinnie Fusco knew that he had signed a band with a big future ahead of them. He wasted no time in taking Lighthouse into the studio to record their eponymous debut album. Lighthouse is one three albums that feature on BGO Records’ recent released two CD set. It’s joined by Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together, which covers the period between 1969 to 1970. This period starts with Lighthouse, which was written and recorded during 1969.

Lighthouse.

For Lighthouse, members of the band had written eight new songs, and covered The Byrds’ Eight Miles High and  Richie Havens’ No Opportunity. Lighthouse’s songwriter-in-chief was Skip Prokop who cowrote three songs and wrote four more. This included If There Ever Was A Time, Follow The Stars, Marsha, Marsha and Ah I Can Feel It. He and Paul Hoffert wrote Whatever Forever, while Skip Prokop Peggy Devereux wrote Life Can Be So Simple. They also wrote Mountain Man with guitarist Ralph Cole. Brenda and Paul Hoffert Never Say Goodbye contributed. These ten tracks were to be recorded at Electric Ladyland Studios, New York.

At Electric Ladyland Studios, the thirteen members of Lighthouse prepared to record their eponymous debut album. By then, the lineup included a rhythm section that featured drummer and vocalist Skip Prokop, bassist and vocalist Grant Fullerton and guitarist and vocalist Ralph Cole. They were joined by keyboardist and vibes player Paul Hoffert and percussionist and vocalist Pinky Dauvin. The horn section featured Freddy Stone and Arnie Chycoski on flugelhorn and trumpet; alto saxophonist Howard Shore and trombonist Russ Little. This left just the string section, which featured cellist Leslie Schneider and Don Whitton; violinist Ian Guenther and Don DiNovo who switched between violin and viola. Taking charge of production was Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert who was Lighthouse’s musical director. After the sessions got up and running, it soon became apparent things weren’t going to plan. Rather than waste time and money, they should head home to Toronto and record the album there.

When Lighthouse returned to Toronto, they deduced to record at Eastern Sound Studios. Suddenly, the band were in a groove and before long, had recorded the ten songs that became Lighthouse. Once it was completed, it was released later in 1969.

Before that, critics had their say on Lighthouse. It received plaudits and praise from critics who were won over by Lighthouse’s innovative genre-melting sound.  Lighthouse was a mixture of jazz, rock, classical and fusion. There’s even avant-garde, blues, chamber pop, funk, pop and psychedelia, in an album that was designed to grab the listener’s attention. 

That was the case from the explosive psych-funk of Mountain Man. With its call for freedom, it was an anthem-in-waiting. There was no let-up with the carefully crafted and uplifting If There Ever Was A Time. No Opportunity Necessary was a cover of a Richie Havens’ song, while Never Say Goodbye seems to have been inspired by George Martin’s production on Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band. Very different was the orchestrated folk of Follow The Stars, which features a dreamy vocal. Whatever Forever seems to have been inspired by both The Doors, before a fleet-fingered Hammond organ transforms the track, and it heads in the direction of jazz. Lighthouse then pay homage to The Byrds on their cover of Eight Miles High, while Marsha, Marsha is a beautiful, blues-tinged ballad. Ah I Can Feel It is a slow burner where pop, rock and jazz play their part in the sound and success of the song. Closing Lighthouse was  Life Can Be So Simple, where a faux classical, baroque introduction gives way to what should’ve been another genre-melting anthem as pop, rock and jazz combine.

Alas, when Lighthouse was released, the album failed to find the audience it deserved. Lighthouse failed to trouble the charts. It was a similar case when If There Ever Was A Time was released as a single. Despite the disappointment caused by the failure of their debut album and single, Lighthouse began work on their sophomore album, Suite Feeling.

Suite Feeling.

By then, Lighthouse were regarded as one of the top live acts in Canada. The band was hoping that their sophomore album would introduce the band to a much wider audience.

When Lighthouse began work on what became Suite Feeling, Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert were starting to forge a successful songwriting partnership. They wrote Could You Be Concerned, Presents Of Presence, Taking A Walk, Eight Loaves Of Bread and What Sense. The pair also penned Feel So Good with Grant Fullerton, and the trio proceeded to write Places On Faces Four Blue Carpet Traces with Ralph Cole. Just like Lighthouse, there were two cover versions on Suite Feeling, Robbie Robertson’s Chest Fever and Lennon and McCartney’s Day In The Life. These nine songs were recorded in two studios.

Some recording sessions took place at Eastern Sound Studios, in Toronto. Other sessions  took place in Los Angeles, at RCA’s Music Centre Of The World. This time around, Lighthouse’s lineup numbered fourteen. 

There had been some changes in the lineup, especially in the string and horn section. Don Whitton and Ian Guenther departed and were replaced in the string section by Paul Armin and Myron Moskalyk who played first violin. It was also all change in the horn section, with  Freddy Stone and Arnie Chycoski leaving and being replaced by Paul Adamson and Bruce Cassidy who played first trumpet. This new and expanded lineup of Lighthouse recorded Suite Feeling, which was produced by Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert.

Once Suite Feeling was completed, RCA Victor scheduled the release for late 1969. Before that, critics got the opportunity to review Suite Feeling. Just like Lighthouse, it received praise and plaudits from critics, who going by Suite Feeling were forecasting a big future for Lighthouse.

Dramatic destined the introduction to The Robbie Robertson penned Chest Fever, which featured on The Band’s Music From The Big Pink. It’s a fusion of classical, Native Indian and rock music as they unleash an inventive rework of a familiar song. Quite different is the orchestrated ballad Feel So Good which has a commercial, radio friendly sound. Places On Faces Four Blue Carpet Traces was a near eleven minute epic, where Lighthouse showcase their considerable skills and versatility as they flit between musical genres. Then when it’s time for the solos, the members of Lighthouse unleash virtuoso performances.  This closed side one, and set the bar high for the rest of Suite Feeling.

Could You Be Concerned is another carefully crafted song with a commercial sound. It finds Lighthouse successfully fusing funk and rock with classical music.  Genres melt into one on the beautiful ballad Presents Of Presence, where horns, harmonies and swathes of strings accompany a heartfelt, needy vocal. Initially, the ballad Taking A Walk is a mixture of sunshine pop and rock, before incorporating elements of avant-garde and jazz to create a captivating and memorable track with surprises aplenty in store. Lighthouse combed gospel and blues on Eight Loaves Of Bread, as they deliver their sermon on peace and positivity. By contrast,  What Sense is an impassioned protest song that sounds as if it’s been inspired by The Beatles. An imaginative cover The Day In The Life, closes Suite Feeling and finds Lighthouse reinventing a classic song and taking it in new direction.

With critics won over by Suite Feeling, it looked like their sophomore album was destined for the charts. Sadly, when Suite Feeling was released in late 1969, the album failed to chart. It was another disappointment for Lighthouse.  Despite the disappointment, Lighthouse’s thoughts soon turned to their third album Peacing It All Together.

Peacing It All Together.

Just like Suite Feeling, the Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert songwriting partnership wrote the majority of Peacing It All Together. Their songwriting partnership was flourishing. They wrote Nam Myoho Renge’ Kyo, The Country Song, Sausalito, The Fiction Of Twenty-Six Million, The Chant (Nam Myoho Renge’ Kyo), Mr. Candleman, On My Way To L.A., Just A Little More Time, Little People and am Myoho Renge’ Kyo. Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert also wrote Let The Happiness Begin with Ralph Cole, and Every Day I Am Reminded where Beethoven receives a credit.  The only song not written Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert, was Daughters And Sons which Grant Fullerton contributed. These songs became Peacing It All Together which was recorded in the Big Apple.

Recording took place at RCA’s Studio C, in New York, where Lighthouse Mk. III recorded Peacing It All Together. Just like Suite Feeling, the lineup had changed. This time, it was there were changes to the horn and string section. First violinist Myron Moskalyk and first trumpeter  Paul Adamson departed. Returning to Lighthouse’s lineup was trumpeter Arnie Chycoski. His addition meant that Lighthouse returned to a thirteen piece band. However, it wasn’t unlucky thirteen for Lighthouse.

Peacing It All Together was a much more eclectic album, with tracks ranging from folk and pop, to jazz and orchestral rock. This won the approval of critics, who hailed Peacing It All Together as Lighthouse’s finest hour.

When Peacing It All Together was released to critical acclaim in 1970, the album charted and reached 133 in the US Billboard 200. It was third time lucky for Lighthouse, who at last, had a hit album on their hands. That was no surprise given the quality of music on the album.

Peacing It All Together opens with the two-part suite, where the yoga chant Nam Myoho Renge’ Kyo gives way to the sunshine pop anthem Let The Happiness Begin. Every Day I Am Reminded was inspired by Beethoven’s Pathetique piano sonata, before a soul-baring pastoral ballad unfolds. The Country Song finds Lighthouse heading in the direction of country rock, before the cinematic Sausalito documents Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert’s road trip across America after recording Suite Feeling. The Fiction Of Twenty-Six Million is memorable and melodic pop rock song which features Lighthouse in full flight. Very different is The Chant (Nam Myoho Renge’ Kyo), where further explore the yoga chant that opened the album.This captivating track closed side one.

Mr. Candleman is another carefully crafted, genre-melting song from Lighthouse, where Ralph Cole delivers a rueful vocal as he brings to the lyrics in the song. Suddenly, he sounds as if he too has lost his enthusiasm for his life. On My Way To L.A, is a joyous and anthemic slice of psychedelic rock. It gives way to Daughters and Sons, a ruminative sounding song about being brought up in the suburbs. One of the highlights of the album was Just A Little More Time, which is a hook-laden, soulful pop song. This leaves just Little People, where pay homage to hard-working people. Hooks haven’t been spared, in this early seventies anthem-in-waiting. It brought to an end Peacing It All Together, which was Lighthouse’s third album.

Peacing It All Together marked the start of the rise and rise of Lighthouse. However, this wouldn’t be at RCA Victor. After the release of Peacing It All Together, Lighthouse signed to GRT, where they enjoyed the most successful period of their career. 

By then, Lighthouse had appeared at Canada’s Strawberry Fields festival in August 1970 and later that summer, starred at the Isle Of Wight Festival in Britain. The rise and rise of Lighthouse continued.

Sadly, it was without lead singer Pinky Dauvin, who left the group after the release of Peacing It All Together. By then, Lighthouse were touring 300 days a year, and when they weren’t touring they were recording. It was a gruelling schedule, and one that was taking its toll on Lighthouse.

When Lighthouse returned in 1971 with their fourth album Thoughts of Movin’ On, it featured a very different lineup of the band. Bob McBride made his debut as lead singer, and was one of four new members of Lighthouse, who were now an eleven piece band. The new lineup of Lighthouse hit the ground running, with the most successful album of the band’s four album career.

One Fine Morning was released in 1971, and reached number eighty in the US Billboard 200 in 1971, Back home in Canada,  One Fine Morning was certified gold. When it came to release a lead single, One Fine Morning was chosen and gave Lighthouse an international hit single. It also reached number two in Canada and twenty-four in the US Billboard 100. At last, Lighthouse’s music was reaching the audience it deserved.  However, it had taken four albums.

What the members of Lighthouse didn’t realise was, that they never replicate the success of  One Fine Morning in America. Their fifth album Thoughts of Movin’ On stalled at 157 in the US Billboard 200, but was certified gold in Canada. Still, things would get better for Lighthouse.

In February 1972, Lighthouse recorded Lighthouse Live! at the Carnegie Hall, in New York. Later in 1972, Lighthouse Live! was released and stalled at 178 in the US Billboard 200. Across the border in Canada, Lighthouse Live! became the first Canadian album to be certified platinum. 

Later in 1972, Lighthouse returned with their sixth studio album Sunny Days. While the album reached just 190 in the US Billboard 200, it was certified gold in Canada.  When Sunny Days was released as a single, it reached thirty-four in the US Billboard 100 and was a hit in Canada. The Lighthouse success story continued apace.

Despite being at the peak of their popularity, Paul Hoffert who was still only thirty was tiring of life on the road. He left Lighthouse, but continued in the role of executive producer. This lead to the latest change in Lighthouse’s lineup.

When Lighthouse returned to the studio to record their seventh studio album Can You Feel It, lead vocalist Bob McBride failed to turn up. Skip Prokop and Ralph Cole wanted to cancel the sessions. However, producer Jimmy Ienner was determined the session continue, and even introduced a new rule that who wrote the song, sang it. This meant that Skip Prokop and Ralph Cole sung most of the songs, apart from No More Searching, which was penned by new saxophonist Dale Hillary. Eventually,  Can You Feel It, which was the first Lighthouse album to feature multiple vocalists, was completed.

Can You Feel It was released in 1973, but failed to chart in America. In Canada, Can You Feel It sold well and the rise and rise of Lighthouse continued. Especially when Pretty Lady reached number nine in Canada and fifty-three in the US Billboard 100. For the followup Can You Feel It was released, and reached number nineteen in Canada. By then, Lighthouse were one of Canada’s most successful bands. The last four years had been a roller coaster ride for Lighthouse. 

A year later, in 1974, Lighthouse returned with their eighth studio album Good Day in 1974. By then, the lineup had changed. Skip Prokop had switched to guitar on a permanent basis, and  Billy King was drafted in as the new drummer. Still, though, Skip Prokop and Ralph Cole shared lead vocal duties. While Good Day failed to produce any hit singles, and failed to match the sales of previous albums it featured the song Wide-Eyed Lady, which quickly would become a favourite when Lighthouse played live.

Despite the disappointing sales of Good Day, Lighthouse returned to Thunder Sounds Recording Studios to begin work on their ninth album. However, by then all wasn’t well within Lighthouse. Founder member Skip Prokop quit the band, and the album was never completed. 

While Lighthouse continued to tour without Skip Prokop, the band never returned to the studio. The only album GRT released was The Best of Lighthouse in 1976. By then, Lighthouse were on their last legs, and disbanded later that year. After seven years, eight studio albums and a live album, Lighthouse called time on their career.

Sixteen years later, and  Lighthouse would later reformed  in 1992.  Skip Prokop, Paul Hoffert and Ralph Cole decided it was time to reform what was once one of Canada’s most successful bands. Twenty-five years later, and Lighthouse are still going strong. The reformed  band released a new album Song of the Ages in 1996. Thirteen years later, and Lighthouse released 40 Years of Sunny Days a CD/DVD release  in 2009. The following year, Lighthouse released the Best Of Lighthouse-20th Century Masters in 2010. This was the perfect introduction to newcomers to one of Canada’s best bands, Lighthouse. 

In 2014, founder member Skip Prokop retired from Lighthouse. Waiting in the wings was son Jamie, who is a chip of the old block. He ensures Lighthouse keep on rocking as they tour Canada. Then in January 2018, Lighthouse will perform for the second time on the Moody Blues Cruise. That is nearly fifty years since the Lighthouse story began. 

They released the best music of their career between 1969 and 1974. This included their first three albums, Lighthouse, Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together which were recently remastered and reissued as part of a two CD set by BGO Records. These three album showcase a truly talented band, who would eventually become one Canada’s most successful bands of the early seventies. 

They were led by Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert who were Lighthouse’s songwriters-in-chief and producers. They were responsible for albums of carefully crafted albums. Especially,  Lighthouse, Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together which were recorded during Lighthouse’s RCA Victor years. While this wasn’t the most successful period of their career, their three albums oozed quality as  Lighthouse switched seamlessly between and combined disparate musical genres.  

Lighthouse were musical master craftsmen, who deserved to reach greater heights during the RCA Victor years. Sadly, Lighthouse, Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together never found the audience it deserved, and it was only later that these three album were discovered by a new generation of music fans. For newcomers to Lighthouse, then  Lighthouse, Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together is the perfect introduction to one of Canada’s best bands of the late-sixties and early seventies. 

Lighthouse-Lighthouse, Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together.

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4 Comments

  1. One of the best in Canada and also great memories being a part of the Lighthouse reunion at Ontario Place in the 80’s.

    • Hi Bob,

      Thanks for your comments. Lighthouse were a great band, and it’s good that their albums are being reissued. It’s also nice to hear everyone’s memories of the band. I’m glad that you enjoyed seeing Lighthouse live. They’re one of many great Canadian bands and artists.

      Regards,
      Derek.

  2. DAVID KATZ

    Great Canadian band, they played my 50th birthday at The Hard Rock Cafe in Toronto in 2011. Skip, Paul, Ralph & Bob were all there, it was legendary!!

    • Hi David,

      That must have been some party, Lighthouse at the Hard Rock Cafe. I’m glad that you had a good night. Great memories.

      Regards,
      Derek.

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