Soulful sounds of John Oates and Little Blue
This Thursday, John Oates (yes, of Hall and Oates) and Aspen-based rockers Little Blue will be making history at the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek.
“This is the first concert I’ve done as a solo artist,” says Oates about his performance with Little Blue. “That’s pretty exciting!”
Oates and Little Blue’s introduction is quite interesting, involved and even a bit humorous. Steve Postell, one of the founding members and guitarist/vocalist for Little Blue, was the first to meet Oates. Postell had been hired to play as a session musician in New York City in order to create the theme song for “America’s Leading Sex Therapist,” Dr. Ruth Westheimer’s talk show, “The Dr. Ruth Show.” At the gig, he met the famed T-Bone Walk, bass player for Hall and Oates. Walk urged Postell to call Oates, as they both live in the Rockies.
“Two hours into our first conversation, we had written and completed “Willow Lane’,” says Postell, referring to a song on “Straight for the Moon.” From that point on, the songwriting began in earnest. The four other Little Blue members, bass player/vocalist Michael Jude, keyboardist Led Leiber, drummer/percussionist/vocalist John Michel and guitarist/ vocalist Damian Smith, soon joined forces with Oates as well, playing a benefit and several shows together in Aspen.
While Little Blue performed and toured throughout Germany last January, Oates was working with Hall as well as preparing for the recording of what came to be “Phunk Shui.” When Little Blue returned from Europe, Leiber (who owns The Studio at the Sunset Marquis in Los Angeles and has been nominated for two Grammies, won a British Academy Award and recently co-wrote a song with Burt Bacharach that will be sung by Aretha Franklin), teamed up with Oates and produced, played keyboards and co-wrote several songs on the album. Leiber’s familial background in music (his father wrote hits such as “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Stand By Me” and “Yakety Yak”) allowed him to recognize Oates’ phenomenal songwriting.
“When I come across songwriting with the quality of John Oates and Little Blue, it’s special,” says Leiber. “They don’t grow on trees, they’re not always celebrated, but they are essential. I know that from where I come from. It’s the intelligence and the originality of the songwriter combined with great musicianship and heart to pull it all together – not to mention the wild ride.”
After laying down the tracks in New York, adding vocals and guitar work by Little Blue at The Great Divide Studio in Aspen, mixing back in New York and mastering the album in Maine, “Phunk Shui” was complete.
“The name for the album was actually a joke I cracked in the studio,” says Leiber. “John was reading a book about Feng Shui, and I blurted out “Phunk Shui’ should be the name because of the rhythm and funk in the songs.” Postell co-wrote “All Good People” on the album. “We wanted to write something about the good in the world,” says Postell of the tune, which hit the top ten in Japan, and has not been released in the U.S.
In recent months, Hall and Oates released “VH1 Behind the Music: The Daryl Hall and John Oates Collection” and their new album, “Do it For Love,” will hit stores on Feb. 11, 2003. The single reached number one on the adult contemporary charts this year. Last year, Little Blue played more than 270 shows and released their two albums, “Straight for the Moon” and “Whiskey and Guitars.”
The two-year evolution of the Oates and Little Blue relationship has culminated with their new releases and performances this Christmas season.
“I’m anxious to do a different style than with Daryl. It will be much more relaxed and intimate, where I get more involved with the audience,” says Oates. “Working with Little Blue has led me to making this solo album, and it will be like playing with old friends.”
Oates does not usually talk about the playlist in advance, but fans will hear songs from his new album, songs from Little Blue’s albums, some Hall and Oates hits, as well as “a couple of surprises.”
After the Vilar Center performance, Little Blue will play with Oates at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen and will then open for David Crosby’s band, CPR (Crosby, Pevar and Raymond.) Pevar, who is known as an honorary member of Little Blue, will play in the opening set as well. He and Little Blue play at the Half Moon Saloon next Sunday.
For a comprehensive list of performances, album information and a plethora of biographies and photos, visit Phunkshui.com, Littleblue.com and Hallandoates.com.
John Oates and Little Blue perform at the Vilar Center on Thursday, Boxing Day, at 7:30 p.m. For more information on the performance or to get ticket information, visit http://www.vilarcenter.org or call 845-TIXS.