Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
ANGEL was a mid-70s progressive rock band based in Washington, D.C., one discovered in part by none other than KISS’ Gene Simmons.
That discovery occurred when Simmons caught the band during a nightclub performance, being impressed by both the band’s music and imagery. ANGEL sported a somewhat androgynous (or “glam” look), dressed in all white, and used elaborate stage sets to accompany their music.
Under Simmons’ recommendation, Casablanca Records – also KISS’ home at the time – signed ANGEL and in 1975, the band released their self-titled debut, ‘Angel’. The lineup for the band at that point consisted of vocalist Frank DiMino, guitarist Punky Meadows, bassist Mickie Jones (R.I.P.), keyboardist Gregg Giuffria, and drummer Barry Brandt.
ANGEL‘s music was a prog-rock style, laden with melodic elements, solidly guitar-driven, and enhanced with keys and DiMino’s powerful vocals. The lineup present on the S/T début would remain in place for two subsequent album releases, ‘Helluva Band’ (1976) and ‘On Earth As It Is in Heaven’ (1977).
ANGEL‘s fourth studio album, ‘White Hot’, was released in 1978 and was their first album to feature a new band member, bassist Felix Robinson (later replaced by Rudy Sarzo in 1980). Bassist Mickie Jones, who left ANGEL after the ’77 album’s release, passed away in 2009 after a long battle with liver cancer.
The ‘White Hot’ era of ANGEL recorded a second album together, 1979’s ‘Sinful’, which was originally titled ‘Bad Publicity’. A few copies of the album with that name and a different album cover were sold publicly before being replaced. The album went to #159 on the Pop Album Charts in the USA the same year of its release.
At the time they were first active, ANGEL was slammed by rock critics, ridiculed by Frank Zappa in song (“Punky’s Whips“), and never achieved mass commercial appeal. Yet ultimately, over the years, they have become a revered act with a huge cult following.
DiMino and Meadows exited the band in 1981, but not before the band appeared in the coming of age film classic, Foxes, in 1980. The remaining band members brought in vocalist Fergie Frederiksen (later of Toto) and guitarist Ricky Phillips (later of The Babys, Bad English, and Styx), but this lineup soon dissolved shortly afterward.
During this period of inactivity from ANGEL, vocalist Frank DiMino joined UFO guitarist Paul Raymond in the Paul Raymond Project as their vocalist. Bassist Felix Robinson played on the début album of the band White Lion, ‘Fight To Survive’, and keyboardist Gregg Giuffria found modest success as the leader of the band Giuffria during the 1980s, as well as with the band House Of Lords during the late ’80s and early ’90s.
ANGEL reformed with a new lineup in the late Nineties, composed of Frank DiMino, Barry Brandt, keyboardist Gordon “GG” Gerbert, and bassist Leo Borrero. Using several guest guitarists, including David Dellarosa, Richard Marcello, and their former, Punky Meadows, the band recorded a new album. The fifth and final ANGEL studio recording, ‘In The Beginning’, was released through Casablanca in 1999.
In the overall ANGEL discography, there were also two live albums released, 1980’s ‘Live Without A Net’ and 2001’s ‘Angel: Live In Sweden’. There have also been countless compilations issued that include ‘Can You Feel It’ (1989), ‘An Anthology’ (1992), and ‘Angel: The Collection’ (2000), among others. But now, we have up to the minute news about an imminent offering that may be the definitive ANGEL compilation.
Arriving on August 31st from Caroline/UMe is the band-approved, 7 CD must-have item ‘Angel: The Casablanca Years‘. The collection contains the six ANGEL studio albums, released through Casablanca Records, as well as a seventh disc that contains mono mixes, single edits, soundtrack contributions, and other rarities. Also included in the box set is a 28-page booklet – featuring liner notes from the premier expert on ANGEL, Dave Reynolds – along with rare photos and other memorabilia.
This is the be-all, end-all collection of ANGEL music, honoring one of rock’s greatest, more influential acts and their legacy. Pre-order for ‘Angel: The Casablanca Years‘ is now active HERE.