"Now I'm growing older Frame By Frame"
(Frame By Frame "Hot Tapes By Unisound" cover, 1986, G.E.Sassani behind the wheel)
After the release of Legends, things changed.
Most of the next few years would see me performing pretty much as a solo act.
Elliott started to get radio play all over the country, and suddenly I was having doors open that had previously been closed.
More elite venues in State College opened up, and I was starting to make a few bucks off of the music like I hadn't before.
I was playing arts festivals all over the state and was even invited to perform at The Festival Of The Falls on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.
The big break appeared to come when my manager in State College, a cool cat named Jeff Weinberger, hooked me up with a promoter who offered the band a six-week/four-country tour in Europe.
It looked like we were on our way.
But that's when I discovered that the band didn't share my dream, and each and every one of them declined the tour.
The promoter needed a full band. There was no time to pull another one together, and I lost the opportunity.
A friend took his cover band in my stead, and my consolation prize was a few European editions to my Elton John record collection.
I was pretty much devastated.
Elliott continued to open doors for a while, but in the days before the internet, I wasn't able to continue the momentum that a European tour would have most certainly been able to do.
Sales of Legends eventually eclipsed all the previous releases combined.
I had won control of a band that really didn't exist any more.
In those years I formed a few versions of an acoustic act, and I continued to perform in the area.
I was a staple in the coffeehouse circuit and could often be found headlining places like The Jawbone and the local arts festival.
Lydia Frasier and I played a little while under the name Stellar Wind before her big escape to Alaska.
Shortly after that I formed a trio called Atlantis, which featured Beth Miller on keyboards and Sandy Apel on guitar and vocals.
It was a short-lived unit, but we managed some memorable performances and finished off with a couple of arts festivals.
Jeff Weinberger left State College to be a driver for film productions, a dream he apparently had for years,
and an IMdb search concludes that he got to do a few films in the Pittsburgh area.
By 1983 I was having serious relationship issues and stopped playing for a time.
That's around the time I met a cello player who had pretty much packed in her cello for a few years.
It was on an extended "loan", and I don't think there were any plans to reclaim it.
That turned out to be future wife Ellen Stickell.
Somehow I won her over with a few songs and convinced her to get the cello back.
I'm sure there was a disappointed party on the other end of that windfall for me.
I never asked.
We started to play a little, and I was living my Jeff Lynne/ELO fantasies by getting to write for a cello.
It added an energy and haunting quality to my music that continues to this very day.
We added singer Kim Weber, and I finished my State College years pretty much the way they started, but with a cello player.
Frame By Frame would become the final album to feature my original band.
As it was, the album was a struggle to get prepared with me in State College and the rest of the band in Reading.
Several long weekend trips to rehearse and a lot of tapes mailed back and forth finally paved the way
for what would also be my final album at Unisound Recording Studios with Jake Hain at the helm.
The release would feature 10 tracks: Ringside Romances, Run From The Dragon, Susan's Song, Bottle Of Wine,
Something Left For You Something Left For Me, American Dream, The Perfect Crime, Faster Than Light, Gone, and Requiem (Frame By Frame).
The band would be pretty much the same people from Legends, with one important addition.
Ellen would record her first album for me on the cello.
John DeHart continued at lead guitar.
Richard Jensen once again took up the bass and some guitar work.
Kim Jensen was on violin and viola.
Lorelei Jensen on vocals and keyboards.
And Ellen Sassani on cello.
Run From The Dragon would be the first song to pretty much feature just me and Ellen.
Here she played recorder for a song in which I was trying to capture an Oriental flavor.
I would also play a bell tree for the first and only time in my life.
While it's not a song I have often played since, it was and remains one of my favorite from the album.
Susan's Song was a song I wrote for a friend's wedding.
Susan Fix and I were neighbors and friends since we were quite young.
She's a wonderful artist who has gifted me with a couple of nice drawings over the years.
I don't know where she is these days, but I hope she remembers the song.
It featured my version of a string quartet that was made up of two cellos, a violin, and a viola.
When I play it live, I often instruct the audience that while it is called Susan's Song,
at no time in the song do I actually mention the name Susan, so I encourage them to pretend that it is theirs.
Kim and Richard played an instrumental version at my wedding to Ellen three years later.
It continues to be one of my favorite acoustic performance pieces, and Ellen and I do it whenever the circumstances allow.
Bottle Of Wine features one of my favorite John DeHart solos.
I recorded it again when we entered the CD/digital age and forced Dale Keppley to reproduce John's signature leads.
The Perfect Crime was another song re-recorded in the digital age.
It contains one of the rare keyboard parts that I wrote myself.
The backwards chord fingering still makes accomplished keyboard players look at me rather oddly.
But I think it absolutely makes the song.
Faster Than Light is the only duet I've ever recorded, and I'd love to bring it back someday with a female vocalist.
It was one of the more fun songs I was doing in those days, and I took advantage of any time I had a female vocalist on a stage with me to do the song live.
Sadly, it's been many years since I had that opportunity.
Frame By Frame ended up with two different covers.
It was originally released both as an Omega Records title and the launch album for Hot Tapes By Unisound, which was Jake Hain's own label.
Last I had heard it was his best selling release ever.
That version featured the band gathered around the relic of an antique truck.
The studio was across the street from the Ludens candy factory, where 5th Avenue bars were first made, and the world's first mentho-lyptus cough drops.
One winter day after recording, we discovered a derelict truck on the side of the factory building.
We posed for the impromptu photograph taken by Jake.
Later when I re-released the album, Ron Adams created a film frame silhouette cover that appeared on most of the album's sales.
Jake Hain also released a "single" version of the album that contained four songs: Bottle Of Wine, The Perfect Crime, Gone and American Dream.
It was another of Jake's marketing ideas.
He refurbished old candy machines to sell the short cassettes and actually sold them through a vending machine at $2.50 each.
Jake was always dreaming up some wild idea after another.
He was rather ahead of his time, I think.
Shortly after the release of Frame By Frame, Ellen and I moved to Tampa, Florida, where we remain today.
It was goodbye to the old band and recording studio, and hello to another world I had to try to conquer with my music.
It wasn't too long before I had met people like Dale Keppley on guitar, and I was dreaming of yet another album.
This time I would combine willing partners from the old days with brand new friends.
The result made for some interesting memories.