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Firefall's first new album in 20+ years, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Thursday, January 7, 2021

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Firefall has never been extinguished during its nearly 47-year history.

But now it's burning brighter than it has in some time.

The country-rock group was launched in Boulder Colorado by alumni of the Flying Burrito Brothers, Spirit, Jo Jo Gunne and Zephyr. Best known for its mid-70s hits "You Are the Woman" and "Just Remember I Love You," Firefall has released 11 studio albums and has been through 27 members, kept alive through the years by singer-guitarist Jock Bartley. The group was also inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame during 2014.

During December the quintet released "Comet," its first album of original material since 2001. The current lineup features Bartley joined by co-founders Mark Andes, who returned in 2014 after a 15-year break, and David Muse, in his fifth tour of duty. Firefall has issued a video for the nostalgic track "Way Back When," while the Eagles' Timothy B. Schmit and the Doobie Brothers' John McFee guest on a cover of Spirit's "Nature's Way."

Circumstances are keeping Firefall off the road, of course, but bassist Andes hopes that "we'll find other ways to engage people, with the recordings and whatever else we can do right now"...

Andes, 72, says by phone from his home in Texas that "Comet" feels both new and a return to form for the band. "It does kind of feel like the first record. This is kind of a new statement, with the current lineup. But what I like about what we're doing is we're continuing a conversation we started in the 70s. The band is playing really well, and it feels a lot like it did back at the beginning."

Andes -- who's also played with Heart, Canned Heat and Mirabal -- says the allure of Firefall, for him, remains "the songs. Firefall was a band of song guys -- even the non-songwriting members of the band were songwriters. There was a really good chemistry when we started. Everyone was a really good player and we could improvise and take the songs and go off, but the song rules in the end. That's what I've been enjoying more now, just a celebration of the songs and what they represent to all of us, the interaction and the musical conversation that happens with this group of players."

"Comet," according to Andes, was a long time in coming -- and a bit of an accident when it finally did. "I guess the idea was to do an album and then hope the songs came together. We started to record some tracks, not really in a very organized way -- we did some recording in Oregon, some in Colorado, some in Nashville. I didn't think we really had an album's worth of material, but once we did 'Nature's Way' and that came out so great, that's when things started to get some urgency -- 'This is sounding good, let's get this thing going!' It still took awhile but we put the pedal to the metal and cranked it out."

Andes says he's long resisted requests to redo "Nature's Way," which he recorded with Spirit back in 1970. "I felt if ever I were to do that, it would have to be done in a personal way and make a statement. This seemed like a good time to explore that idea." Andes reached out to Schmit and McFee, which made the track even more special. "It was a gift and it was a personal thing, because Randy (California, Spirit's late frontman) and Timothy knew each other. It was really cool to have (Schmit) be part of it."

Speaking of Spirit, Andes was part of a lawsuit against Led Zeppelin that maintained the group had plagiarized his band's 1968 track "Taurus" for its iconic anthem "Stairway to Heaven." Though courts ruled in Led Zeppelin's favor, California still feels that the claim has merit. "We played on some shows with them, and (Led Zeppelin) used to play (Spirit's) 'Fresh Garbage' in their sets, so they knew us and our music. I never thought of (suing) before because I figured it was Randy's song; IF he wanted to make a big thing about it, he had the right to do it. But he had died (in 1997) and there was, I felt, a ton of evidence. It did not go Spirit's way, but I wanted to give Randy at least a shot at getting some credit. That's what was motivating me. I thought, 'OK, here you go, man. We'll give it a shot.' At least everybody got to hear Randy's story."

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