Helluva Band


PolyGram Records, 1976


REVIEW BY: Chris Harlow


Every time I travel through Rochester, New York I feel like I've hit a time warp that takes me back to the 1970s. Maybe it's the rebuilt Camaros that I always spot on the road or the number of guys I see that look like someone named Vinny. This past week was no exception, but a little spare time found me visiting the House of Guitars record shop in a nearby suburb for the first time. Easily the best-stocked domestic music store I have ever been to, I had to snicker that even in that environment I couldn't escape the time shift as I had the privilege of perusing hundreds -- no thousands of long box CD's that never made their way out of the manufacturers' shipper only a few years removed from that period.

Yes, it was a daunting experience. An "old school" shopping vibe necessitated the purchase of an "old school" rock album that I only ever had limited exposure to previously. Angel's Helluva Band was the choice that day and after a week of listening to it, I'm really surprised that the group known as Gregg Giuffria's first band never made an impact one way or another on me growing up.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Keyboards in the 70s had yet to make a significant impact on much of the hard rock music of the day back in that era but Giuffria used the album Helluva Band as his personal showcase. Not content to only offer synthesized backdrops to the songs on the album, Helluva Band prominently allows Giuffria the autonomy to tandem his solos with the same frequency as guitarist Punky Meadows. The result is a pretty eclectic slate of tracks which was definitely revolutionary for the time.

For comparison's sake, Rainbow's Straight Between The Eyes album from 1982 has had a pretty good run on my turntable over the years and I just know that keyboardist Don Airey had to have been a disciple of Giuffria's works from the way that album sounds.

So anyway, Helluva Band easily helped define the prog-rock mold that many bands would soon come to embrace. The nearly nine-minute opus "The Fortune" could easily be confused as an Emerson, Lake, & Palmer work from the day as much as "Feelin Right" could be saddled right alongside the Joe Lynn Turner/Rainbow era from the early 80s I just mentioned.

Vocalist Frank DiMino's voice is as soothing as it is captivating for this style of music. "Mirrors" has DiMino singing about swords, lords and treasures with an ideal Giuffria experimentation of the mellotron accompanied by a slice of searing guitar work by Meadows. The effect of the collaboration should have been sold to the makers of the Dungeons and Dragons fantasy game and marketed as their theme song, as I get the feeling listening to this track that the wizards will be awakened at any time now.

Otherwise, Helluva Band changes its course slightly with several undistinguished rock tunes such as "Dr. Ice," "Pressure Point" and "Chicken Soup". These are the songs that explain to me why Angel never popped into mainstream FM radio rotation back in the day. Indeed, the songs are interesting efforts but not to the point of graduating from B-side material. Bands like Boston and the Doobie Brothers were releasing songs just a bit catchier and more commercial at that time, keeping Angel in the shadows with the songs on this album.

So am I glad to have brought a bit of the 70s back home with me, you might be asking? I'd have to say yes and it's not for nostalgic purposes. The Helluva Band album has me marveling at the talent and creativity that the musicians in Angel possessed, which in today's world can be a hard thing to stumble upon in lesser music shops.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


I played this album a helluva lot when it came out, and I still really enjoy it. It is by far my favorite album by this band. This is early progressive metal, actually similar to what Rush was doing at the time. Sadly, Angel would forsake this heavy, raw, progressive approach on their subsequent albums for increasingly slick pop-rock.

© 2003 Chris Harlow and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of PolyGram Records, and is used for informational purposes only.