DAVID SANCIOUS-WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN.
David Sancious-What Might Have Been.
By the late sixties, David Sancious was part of New Jersey’s vibrant music scene where he served the first part of his musical apprenticeship. Over the next few years, the multi-instrumentalist honed his chops in various rock bands. The music they played was very different to the classical music that David grew up playing.
David Sancious who was born on November 30th 1953, and started playing classical piano aged seven. Little did he realise that he had just made his first tentative musical steps and eventually, would play alongside the great and good of music. That however, was in the future.
Before that, eleven year old David Sancious began teaching himself to play guitar. This was no surprise. He was eleven in 1964, the year the British Invasion groups first arrived on the American shores. Suddenly, guitar bands were King. Despite this, he continued to dedicate himself to the piano over the next few years. By his late teens he was a classically trained pianist. Eventually, though,David Sancious decided to turn his back on classical music.
The future for him was rock music and he made his debut in the local scene in the late-sixties. However, as the sixties gave way to the seventies, the Asbury Park music scene was thriving and at its heart were David Sancious, Bill Chinnock, Southside Johnny, Bruce Springsteen and future members of the E-Street Band. They played in various bands including Glory Road, Dr.Zoom and The Sonic Boom, The Bruce Springsteen Band and The Sundance Blues Band. That was the case right through until 1972. This marked the end of the first part of David Sancious’ musical apprenticeship. The final part came, when David moved to Richmond, Virginia.
In early 1972, David Sancious moved to Richmond, Virginia. His destination was Alpha Studios where he worked as a studio musician who played on jingles and sessions. That was how he met Ernest “Boom” Carter, the E-Street Band’s drummer and how he came to spend two years in Bruce Springsteen’s employ.
Between 1972 and 1974, David Sancious was a member of the E-Street Band. He played keyboards on Bruce Springsteen’s 1973 debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.
Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.
Recording of Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. took place between July and September 1972. Four months later, on January 5th 1973, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. was released. It was well received by critics, and nowadays, features in Rolling Stone magazines list of 500 best albums of all time. Despite this, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. wasn’t a huge commercial success.
On its release, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. reached just number sixty in the US Billboard 200 charts. Little did anyone know that this was the start of the career of one of the most successful American musicians ever.
Even David didn’t appear to realise this. After Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. was recorded, he didn’t head out on tour with Bruce Springsteen. Instead, he returned to Alpha Studios.
At Alpha Studios, David Sancious recorded some demos with drummer Ernest “Boom” Carter and bassist Garry Tallent. There was a problem though, the rights to the demos were owned by producer and songwriter Will Farrell. This would become a bone of contention when they were later released without David Sancious’ permission. That was still to come and before that he played on The Wild, The Innocent and The E-Street Shuffle.
The Wild, The Innocent and The E-Street Shuffle.
Recording of Bruce Springsteen’s sophomore album, The Wild, The Innocent and The E-Street Shuffle took place between May and September 1973 at 914 Recording Sound Studios. The sessions were the perfect showcase for David Sancious’ skills.
The multi-instrumentalist could seamlessly switch between musical instruments. He played piano on New York City Serenade, organ on Kitty’s back and a soprano saxophone solo on The E Street Shuffle. That’s not all. During instrumental breakdowns he enjoys the chance to showcase his versatility. Drawing inspiration from his eclectic musical taste he takes The Wild, The Innocent and The E-Street Shuffle in unexpected directions. In doing so, he played his part in Bruce Springsteen’s first great album.
When The Wild, The Innocent and The E-Street Shuffle was released in September 1973, it was too widespread critical acclaim. So much so, that The Wild, The Innocent and The E-Street Shuffle features in the Rolling Stone magazines list of 500 best albums of all time. Sadly, this didn’t translate into sales.
The Wild, The Innocent and The E-Street Shuffle stalled at just number fifty-nine in the US Billboard 200 charts. Although slightly better than Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., it was a disappointing chart placing. Maybe this is why his time with The E-Street Band was soon at an end?
David Sancious toured with The E-Street Band from June 1973 right through to August 1974. He also played on the title-track to Bruce Springsteen’s third album Born To Run. However, he was about to leave the E-Street Band, albeit not for ever.
Having left The E-Street Band, David Sancious and drummer Ernest “Boom” Carter formed their own group Tone. The third member of Tone was bassist Gerald Carboy. Other members would come and go including vocalists Gail Boggs, Patti Scialfa, Brenda Maddison and Gayle Moran, of Return To Forever and The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Another future member of Tone was Alex Ligertwood, who had become Santana’s vocalist. These vocalists were part of Tone’s fluid lineup between 1975 and 1978. Their debut album was Forest Of Feeling.
Forest of Feeling.
For David Sancious and Tone’s debut album, 1975s Forest Of Feeling, they decided to change direction from the music they’d been making with Bruce Springsteen. To do this, they brought onboard a producer capable of making this happen.
Billy Cobham of The Mahavishnu Orchestra was brought onboard to produce Forest Of Feeling. Their debut album saw David Sancious and Tone’s music move in an innovative direction. Progressive rock and jazz fusion melted into one on Forest Of Feeling. There was more than a nod to The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Yes and Genesis. A captivating fusion of musical genes and influences, Tone’s debut Forest Of Feeling, was released in 1975.
On its release in 1975, Forest Of Feeling was well received by critics.They realised that Forest Of Feeling was an album of groundbreaking music. It was very much a mixture of music’s present and future. Despite this, Forest Of Feeling failed to chart. For David Sancious and Tone this a huge disappointment. So they started work on their sophomore album, Transformation (The Speed Of Love)
Transformation (The Speed Of Love).
For Transformation (The Speed Of Love), David Sancious penned Piktor’s Metamorphosis, Sky Church Hymn #9, The Play And Display Of The Heart and Transformation (The Speed Of Love). These four lengthy pieces were the perfect showcase for David Sancious and Tone.
Recording of Transformation (The Speed Of Love) took place at Caribou Ranch studios with Bruce Botnik producing. David Sancious played acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, piano, Hammond and electric organ, Moog synth, clavinet as well as electric and acoustic guitars. Ernest “Boom” Carter played drums, percussion and added the vocal on Piktor’s Metamorphosis. Gerald Carboy played bass and wind chimes. Gayle Moran sang the vocal chorus on Transformation (The Speed Of Love), an eighteen minute epic that closes the album. Once these four songs were recorded, Transformation (The Speed Of Love) was released in 1976.
On Transformation (The Speed Of Love)’s release, it was released to widespread critical acclaim. A genre-melting album, everything from blues, boogie, classic rock, psychedelia, funk, fusion, jazz, progressive rock and rock feature on Transformation (The Speed Of Love). It’s three hugely talented musicians showcasing their considerable talents. Despite this, commercial success eluded Transformation (The Speed Of Love).
Transformation (The Speed Of Love) failed to chart. It passed record buyers by, upon its release in 1976. Since then, Transformation (The Speed Of Love) has found an audience within the rock and jazz community. That was still to come. Before that, David Sancious and Tone would begin work on album they hoped would result in a change of fortune for them, Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenment.
Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenment.
For David Sancious and Tone’s fourth album, the band’s founder began writing the material for the album. Eventually, David had written eight new tracks including Overture-Wake Up (To A Brand New Day), 1st Movement (Dance Of The Glory And Playfulness), 2nd Movement (Dance Of Purification) The Dawn, 3rd Movement (Part I and II), 4th Movement (Dance Of Serenity And Strength) and the Finale, which featured Gone Is The Veil Of Illusion (Part I) and Dance Of Gratitude And Devotion (Part II). The tracks were complex and would test the considerable skills of the members of Tone.
Recording of Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenment took place at Caribou Ranch studios with Bruce Botnik and David co-producing. The eight songs had been arranged by David Sancious who played acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond and electric organ. He also played Moog synth, clavinet, electric and acoustic guitars. In the rhythm section were drummer and percussionist Ernest “Boom” Carter and bassist Gerald Carboy played bass and wind chimes. Gayle Moran added vocals. Once the eight tracks had been recorded, Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenment was scheduled for release later in 1977.
David Sancious was excited about the album he had recorded with Tone. Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenment had the potential he believed, to be a career defining album that featured ambitious and innovative music. That may have been the case, but Epic didn’t want to release Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenment. For David Sancious and Tone this was a huge blow. He found himself at loggerheads with Epic and was looking for an exit route.
What David Sancious needed, was a label that would release Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenment. This wasn’t going to be easy. Word gets round the music industry, and soon, many labels would be aware that Epic had refused to release Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenment. This meant David Sancious wasn’t going to be negotiating from a power of strength. Despite this, he thought he had found a label willing to release Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenment, Arista.
The Arista label had been founded by the former Columbia Records CEO, Clive Davis. When he heard Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenment he was keen to release the album and offered David Sancious and Tone a recording contract. He signed on the dotted line and Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenment was about to be released. Or at least so it seemed.
Executives within Arista’s A&R department weren’t so sure about Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenment. Suddenly, Arista were having second thoughts about releasing Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenment. Suddenly, Arista back-pedalling, and decided not to release the album. The A&R executives were unable to get their heads round the album. They felt it wasn’t the right album for Arista to release as the groups’ debut. David Sancious was backed into a corner and there were only two possible outcomes.
The first was that Arista didn’t release Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenment. If David Sancious agreed to this, and to record a more “commercial album,” they would honour the recording contract on the table. Should he not agree to this, all bets were off. David was in between a rock and a hard place. It was obvious that Arista weren’t going to release Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenments, so it was a case of cutting his losses, and beginning work on a new album. If that was successful, maybe Arista would’ve a change of heart about Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenments?
They didn’t. It wasn’t until 2004, that somewhat belatedly Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenment was released. By then, David Sancious and Tone were no more. However, the genre-melting Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenment, where David Sancious and Tone flit between classical and jazz, to fusion and funk and even progressive rock and rock. The listener had been denied the opportunity to hear what was one of David Sancious and Tone’s most accomplished albums. Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenment might have resulted in a change in fortune for David Sancious and Tone. As it was, David decided to expand Tone to a six piece band for their fifth album, True Stories.
Having made the decision to add to the lineup of David Sancious and Tone, the search began in earnest for three new band members. The first addition was lead vocalist Alex Ligertwood from Glasgow, in Scotland. He had an enviable pedigree, having been a member of The Jeff Beck Band and Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express. He sounded as if he was born to sing rock. Providing the perfect foil for Alex Ligertwood were backing vocalists Brenda Madison and Gail Boggs. Neither were newcomers to David Sancious and Tone and Both had already made guest appearances on previous albums. This time they were full members of David Sancious and Tone as work began on what became True Stories.
Just like previous albums, David Sancious wrote the majority of True Stories. He penned Sound Of Love, Move On, Prelude #3, On The Inside, Fade Away, Ever The Same and Interlude. David also cowrote Matter Of Time with bassist Gerald Carboy. These songs became True Stories, which was produced by David and L.A. based, but London born producer Eddy Offord.
Having written and practised the song that would become True Stories, the newly expanded lineup of to David Sancious and Tone headed to Woodstock where the Eddy Offord Remote Studio was situated. David Sancious arranged the album which he co-produced with studio owner Eddy Offord. It was a quite different to previous albums as the band played a myriad of traditional and electronic instruments.
Even one member of the rhythm section expanded his musical horizons on True Stories. Drummer and percussionist Ernest Carter added a bell tree, gong, handclaps, tambourine, timbales and tone bender. His partner in the rhythm section, was bassist Gerald Carboy. David Sancious played synths, Hammond organ, bass, crotales, finger cymbals, piano, tambourine and added handclaps. Lead vocalist Alex Ligertwood played finger cymbals and added handclaps. Augmenting his vocals were backing vocalists Brenda Madison and Gail Boggs. The new lineup of David Sancious and Tone guided by new co-producer set about recording an album that stayed true to the group’s principles and they hoped would meet the approval of Arista.
The result was True Stories, which was completed in 1978. It was scheduled for release later that year. That was as long as the album met with the approval of Arista. Whether this had been deliberate or not, True Stories lacked the grandiose and flamboyant flourishes of previous albums. However, aided and abetted by lead vocalist Alex Ligertwood and two backing vocalists, David Sancious and Tone, continued to create music that was ambitious, groundbreaking and genre-melting. This was was in David Sancious and Tone’s musical D.N.A.
A&R executives at Arista were greeted with a very different album from Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenment. True Stories was still an album that married disparate musical genres. Everything from faux-baroque, classic rock, classical, funk, fusion, jazz and progressive rock can heard throughout True Stories. Sonically and stylistically, David Sancious and Tone had much in common with Pink Floyd, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes and Genesis on True Stories. It’s a complex but captivating album, which is also melodic, full of subtle hooks and features several radio friendly tracks.
Having been impressed by an album that originally started life as four suites, Arista scheduled the release of True Stories for later in 1978. It was a very different album than David Sancious envisaged. With the help of his co-producer Eddy Offord, the original concept had been rejigged into something that Arista would find acceptable, and indeed, commercial. Arista high hopes for True Stories, and believed it had the potential to transform the fortunes of David Sancious and Tone.
When critics received their copy of True Stories, they were impressed by the latest offering from the newly expanded lineup of David Sancious and Tone. It was hailed an album of ambitious music, where combined and flitted between disparate musical genres. However, the addition of Alex Ligertwood and the backing vocalists added a new dimension to David Sancious and Tone. This surely should result in commercial success coming David Sancious and Tone’s way?
Alas, it wasn’t to be. When David Sancious and Tone released True Stories in 1978, the album never even troubled the lower reaches of the US Billboard 200. The only small crumb of comfort for Arista and David Sancious and Tone was when True Stories reached number forty in the US Jazz charts. That however, was as good as it got for David Sancious and Tone. They released Move On as a single in the UK during 1978, but it failed commercially. To make matters worse, progressive rock was falling out of favour on both sides of the Atlantic.
Despite that, David Sancious wasn’t about to turn his back on progressive rock. He had already decided to record a new album, which became Just As I Thought. However, it wasn’t credited to David Sancious and Tone. Instead, it became David Sancious’ debut solo album.
Just As I Thought.
There was no fallout between David Sancious and Tone. Instead, the band seem to have run its course. Despite this, some members of Tone would be reunited with him once he had written his debut solo album, Just As I Thought.
For Just As I Thought, David Sancious wrote nine new songs. Most of them, including Run, Just As I Thought, Again, The Naked 1, Valley Of The Shadow, Remember, And Then She Said and Again (Part II) were much shorter songs. Especially when compared to songs on previous albums. The longest track was Just As I Thought, Suite (For The End Of An Age), an eight minute epic, which featured David Sancious at his most creative. However, for most of Just As I Thought, the songs were shorter and found him moving towards fusion. To help him do this, was a very different band.
Joining David Sancious to record Just As I Thought was a band that was a mixture of familiar faces and new names. They made their way to Eddy Offord’s Mobile Unit in Woodstock. One of the familiar faces, was drummer and percussionist, who returned to the rhythm section. Joining him were fusion bassist Jeff Berlin, and T.M. Stevens, who would invent heavy metal funk. Each bassist played on two tracks. Adding vocals on Again and Suite (For The End Of An Age) was Kabir Ghani. Brenda Madison added choir parts to Suite (For The End Of An Age) and Again (Part II). David played acoustic and electric guitar, bass, Hammond organ, piano and synths. He also arranged Just As I Thought, and co-produced the album with Eddy Offord. Once Just As I Thought was complete, a new chapter in David Sancious’ career began.
Before that, critics and record buyers would have their say on David Sancious’ debut solo album, Just As I Thought. Critics were won over by Just As I Thought, welcoming the stylistic departure on an album where David Sancious. Just As I Thought with its move towards fusion, showed another side to David Sancious. However, he hadn’t turned his back on progressive rock, and combined this with rock, classical, jazz and even the dreamy ambient, acoustic sound of The Naked I. There was much for critics to praise on Just As I Thought.
When Just As I Thought was released later in 1979, it only charted in the US Jazz charts, where it reached thirty-six. While this was an improvement on David Sancious and Tone’s swan-song True Stories, Just As I Thought had failed to find the audience it deserved. For everyone involved, it was a huge disappointment.
Especially David Sancious. Just As I Thought could and should’ve been the start of a long and successful career. David Sancious was a talented multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger and producer. However, his ambitious, groundbreaking and genre-melting music was only finding an audience within the jazz community. It had been a similar case with David Sancious and Tone. Maybe that was why David Sancious decided to reinvent himself as a solo artist? Alas, it didn’t pay off.
Instead, David Sancious only released one further album for Arista, The Bridge in 1981. After that, David Sancious decided to concentrate on his work as a sideman,
For the next nineteen years, David Sancious’ time was spent working with the great and good of music. He took to the stage, and recorded with Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Peter Gabriel, Sting, and Bruce Springsteen, Stanley Clarke and Santana. However, having worked with rock royalty for so long, this must have inspired David to return to the studio.
In 2000, David Sancious released 9 Piano Improvisations. Two years later, this was followed in 2002 by Cinema and Live In The Now in 2006. This meant that David Sancious’ back-catalogue now amounted to five official albums, plus the five albums David Sancious and Tone released. They’re a reminder of a truly talented musician, composer, arranger and composer, whose music is only belatedly finding the audience it so richly deserves and the man Peter Gabriel describes as: “a musician’s musician.” That has been the case for over forty years.
During that period, David Sancious has won the praise, approval and admiration of his contemporaries and peers. That’s why when Eric Clapton and Peter Gabriel, to Saatana, Sting and Bruce Springsteen are looking for a keyboardist, David Sancious has been and still is, their go-to-guy.
David Sancious-What Might Have Been.
- Posted in: Jazz Fusion ♦ Prog Rock ♦ Rock
- Tagged: Bruce Springsteen, Dance Of The Age Of Enlightenment, David Sancious, David Sancious and Tone, Forest of Feeling., Greetings from Asbury Park, Just As I Thought, N.J., The Innocent and The E-Street Shuffle, The Wild, Transformation (The Speed Of Love), True Stories