OHO | Bricolage

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Bricolage

by OHO

2 disc Prog/folk-rock DVD/CD digipak: \"The most striking aspect of BRICOLAGE is the sheer abundance of hook-laden melody, more than can be found on most albums regardless of genre. It\'s almost unfair to pick highlights, there are so many.\" -Progression
Genre: Rock: Acoustic
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  Song Share Time Download
1. The Great Attractor
3:58 $0.99
2. Eros Is a Verb
4:04 $0.99
3. Burning Grey
3:34 $0.99
4. Close But No Cigar
4:12 $0.99
5. Time
4:45 $0.99
6. Plowing the Sea
3:37 $0.99
7. Blue Fix
3:43 $0.99
8. S/he
3:27 $0.99
9. Dream Lifted Up
4:50 $0.99
10. Penultimatum
4:02 $0.99
11. Under Covers
3:37 $0.99
12. Painted Stars
3:39 $0.99
13. Moon Draw Your Curtain
4:37 $0.99
14. Limousine
3:57 $0.99
15. The Secret
3:26 $0.99
16. Antique Heart
3:30 $0.99
17. Shouts in the Street
3:37 $0.99
18. Ethiopia
3:54 $0.99
19. It Will Not Be Late
3:49 $0.99
20. Angels
4:20 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
06/01/08: Progressive folk rock outfit OHO releases their first CD/DVD since 2003's critically acclaimed "UP" CD. "Bricolage" is a 2 disc set: one 20 song 78+ minute music CD (13 brand spanking new songs and 7 bonus tracks, 3 of which have never before been released) accompanied by a 55+ minute DVD (12 videos interspersed with interview footage, a photo gallery, and a "special features" link where one can find the CD lyrics & credits as well as the DVD song lyrics) and all this in an imaginative digi-package (graphics and DVD post production by Bennett Davis) sporting the colorful illustrations of Baltimore-based artist, Connell P. Byrne, a chalk pastel by former OHO vocalist, Grace Hearn, and the photography of Jon Considine.

The DVD anthology documents the performance years of 1988-1992 with video footage of the band's appearance opening for Cheap Trick at the Universal Amphitheater in Hollywood, CA, their Star Search audition video, the band's 1990 WAMA performance, 3 scripted promotional videos (w/upgraded audio), an intimate acoustic performance for the 2nd English Lutheran Day Care pre-schoolers, and 3 live selections from the band's Sky Records CD release party at the 8x10 Club in Baltimore, MD. DVD tracks are as follows:

1. Breaking Away
2. Til Death Do Us Part
3. Scared Money (http://YouTube.com/OHOmusic)
4. Out of Thin Air
5. Danger & Play (http://YouTube.com/OHOmusic)
6. Change in the Wind
7. Under Covers
8. Burning Grey
9. Controlled Substance
10. Angels
11. Limousine
12. The Secret

"Enigmatic Baltimore band OHO is back with this ambitious housecleaning of previously unreleased material from 1989-2005. The CD comprises 20 reworked/embellished tracks in the 3 to 5 minute range--all very melodic and featuring 7 different female singers who never met (!), yet can be heard harmonizing with and accompanying one another via the miracle of recording technology.

"The songs are alternately charming and exuberant, emphasizing acoustic textures bolstered by keyboards, electric guitars, sax, flute, violin, harmonica, mandolin etc. The most striking aspect of BRICOLAGE is the sheer abundance of hook-laden melody, more than can be found on most albums regardless of genre. It's almost unfair to pick highlights (there are so many), but I defy anyone to get 'Angels' out of their head after one listen.

"The 12-track DVD shares only 3 songs with the CD and is a treat, including live and video tracks from 1988-'92 heavily featuring singers Grace Hearn and Mary O'Connor. There's an MTV clip, and the closing rendition of 'The Secret' performed for school kids is precious as can be.

"15 1/2 out of a possible 16 stars."
-John Collinge (Progression)

"Baltimore based OHO doesn't put out a lot of product, but when they do, they do it right. This is hip, jangly folk-pop with a proggy feel; the compositions are superb, succinct and highly melodic, consisting of song-length ideas worked into intriguing arrangements in a number of styles--energized, jubilant and brilliant in many different ways. The vocalists are commanding and powerful; the instrumental arrangements employed are colorful and supportive, featuring violin, sax, horn sections, acoustic, steel and electric guitars, keys, drums and percussion, mandolins, tin whistle, flute, backing harmonies and more. Folky at the core, their sound rocks, clearly borne of modern vintage, fresh and vital, and not retro in any way. The DVD contains 12 songs--videos and live performances of songs, all but 4 culled from previously released discs, though often with different arrangements. In all, BRICOLAGE is a superb entry point and comes highly recommended."
-Pete Thelen, editor (Expose #36)

"Bricolage presents a retrospective of work recorded by Baltimore progressive-rock group OHO from 1983 to 2008. It's quite an impressive run. Even though Jay Graboski and David Reeve are the only constants, they're equal members in an amalgam of guitars, percussion, keyboards, saxes, violins, and more, with songs topped off by a revolving cast of forceful female vocalists. There's a lot to appreciate here for fans of the dense, technical, and swirling progressive rock music of bands such as Kansas, Rush, and others that aren't afraid to tackle tough lyrical musings backed by challenging music. Throughout the years, the band's kept a consistent sound and vision, as evident in the 20-track CD and the 12-track DVD. Overall OHO's music stands up to that of the pros of prog rock." -Jeffrey Lindholm (Dirty Linen #141)

Hanne Blank, Baltimore’s Grand Dame of erotica, once wryly commented, “Musicology only discovered feminism in, like 1986.” Coinciding with this discovery, give or take a year, Grace Hearn became the first in a succession of women vocalists who introduced themselves into the OHO musical theater. Feminism concerns itself with the daunting task of restructuring gender arrangements in order to achieve what has proven to be a tentative balance, a teetering on a fulcrum producing a motive that mystic Alan Watts called “the harmony of contained conflict.” This conflict is between the archetypal woman and the archetypal man, forces of the transpersonal psyche felt by us humans to belong to a different level of reality. The drama is as old as time and longer than sorrow but it is acted out by flesh and blood persons in the here and now.

This event heralded the beginning of an era that for OHO was often productive, lasted at least 16 years, crossed over the millennium marker into the 21st century, and at its apex (1989-90) appeared about to bring the band to the seemly threshold of success. OHO experienced their own microcosmic version of this gender reconstruction in the lives of its members, in the band’s live performances, and especially throughout the songwriting and recording processes. Please also keep in mind that, as Marvin Hamlisch said, “there’s a marriage between song and performer.” Even in the world of music we sometimes employ the language of relationship to intimate the vast range of the myriad connections, nuances and subtleties contained therein.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell used to tell the story of the ordeal of the “Perilous Bed” in order to illustrate the masculine experience of the feminine temperament. As a male is spinning this yarn, here might be a good place to begin, especially in light of the premise Ms. Blank proffered at the outset of our story.

Many never-before-experienced perils visit a knight lying upon a bed chambered in an enchanted castle. His test is merely to hold fast throughout. In the endgame, the knight lay broken and bloodied, thrown to the floor from a bed destroyed by the fierce violence of his ordeal. When things settle, ladies of the castle enter and lean over the candidate, one holding a small feather before his nostrils. If the feather flutters, the knight still breathes. His breathing signals his survival and so his passing of the test, disenchanting the castle and proving him to be worthy as an equal member in an engaging relationship with the female principle, with her boons and blessings.

As there can be no relationship with that which is totally “other,” there are fortunately, as Peter Gabriel posits (echoing Jung) in his “Blood of Eden,” “the man in the woman (animus), and the woman in the man (anima).” As challenging as the way of relationship can be in a unisex band, there is also some hope, and the promise of some very rich rewards should the candidate survive the above-described ordeal. Let’s “take a little trip back with father Tiresias,” crossing “between the poles,” where for him “there is no mystery”, and where “there is in fact more earth than sea.” (Tiresias, a blind seer of Thebes who was changed into a woman for several years and then changed back to a man.)

In January 1985 the OHO that had molted out of Food for Worms a year earlier had finally disintegrated, leaving only multi-instrumentalist David Reeve and me. I had these ideas to record a “solo” album and to invite as many of the musicians who had played with us in the past to contribute in some fashion. Perusing the credit list for the UP CD I can say that this intention was realized more successfully than then imagined. There were other contributors who are not listed, whose performances never made it to tape, but whose indulgence, suggestions and hunches provided a reliable matrix through which to filter our nascent ideas, thus adding significantly to the final product. They have our gratitude.

Ultimately we decided to carry on as OHO, believing that our opportunity to bring into play everything we had learned up to that point had finally come. From here on out OHO would no longer refer to the first initials of the last names of founding members O’Connor, Heck and O’Sullivan except as regards the OHO of 1974-77, the subsequent 1995-97 reunion version of that band, and their attendant body of work. Through attrition the trio had moved on, one by one.

The OHO of 1985 would not only be a metaphor for persistence, but the moniker would also function in its dual role as an interjection defined in The Oxford English Dictionary as an “exclamation expressing surprise, taunting, exultation; as in a shout to arouse a sleeper.” Why should we give up the notoriety we had earned from our previous exploits when we could use it as a foundation on which to build our musical future? We might also retain some level of connection to fans we had made thus far, rekindling their interest through name recognition. As drummer David Reeve told Maryland Musician in January 1989, “We’re just not going to let this thing die.”

The decision to retain the name, by the way, has proven fortunate for each of the four editions of OHO largely due to their being connected by the lynchpin of an unchanging core membership.

We began working at Steve Carr’s Hit & Run Recording in Rockville, MD (where we had recorded 1984’s Rocktronics) experimenting further with drum machines, sampling, synthesizers, and a hybrid electro-acoustic guitarism in search of our new sound. The music was lyrically progressive (moving forward in some way), especially as regards subject matter, our overall attitude of openness, and as far as our scope and the instrumentation we employed.

The songs often revealed what astrologist Rob Brezny called Mokita, “the crucial subtexts everyone is aware of but inclined to ignore, the unspoken mysteries that need to be named, and the illusions we can no longer afford to feed.” We tackled making the unconscious conscious through the incestuously erotic imagery of “It Will Not Be Late.” The ladies sing of diversity in “The Secret.” Threads of bliss, joy, hope, liberty and love are stitches holding the collection together. The songs somehow still entertain, even while urging the honing of discriminative faculties in order to say “yes,” the full and grateful response of the human heart to reality, as it is.

We were, however, determined to trim some of the excesses typically associated with the progressive genre to make room for our own. We intended to separate the wheat from the chaff, sowing the remaining kernels into a fertile “pop” cultural field. After decades of exposure to commercial radio, we believed certain structures were ingrained in the collective subconscious, and these might draw attention out through the chinks in one’s shock-absorbing emotional armor, rewarding a bold move with a well-crafted tune.

Our approach was also principle-based and intended an economy founded on a sober reckoning/stretching of our limitations, where “less is more” except in the rare situations when “less” was merely lacking. Why execute a 10-minute guitar solo, when the same effect can be generated in only 5 bars (especially if one’s “virtuosic” musical vocabulary would likely recycle into redundancy before the first 30 seconds had expired)? If the listener must have these 10 minutes, they can readily be found elsewhere. We were true to our roots, true to our respective natures, and true to our tastes. We should be able to say our piece in 3:30 or thereabouts, in accordance with the time tenet that generally governs radio play and the patterns of the hits of yore. These recordings inevitably reflect the era, its technology, the processes and the context in which they were made as well as the human contributions of all the players.

“It was definitely a studio band’s album,” stressed co-producer Steve Carr, “to record Jay’s songs and make them as good as possible on tape. So we did each song, one at a time, and we let each one develop on its own.”

We were also doing our own singing, but not to a qualitative level that generated any contagious enthusiasm either inside the band or from without. In earnest we went looking, listening for “the voice.”

Grace Hearn sang for a nightclub band, Rock Island, that also featured guitarist Carl Filipiak, who has since earned a modest yet respectable reputation in the jazz/fusion genre with his burning electric guitar riffage and critically acclaimed albums. Our friend Jeff Pivec, a drummer who moonlighted with Grace earning extra cash in various weekend wedding ensembles, encouraged me to check out one of her performances, which I eventually did in the early spring of 1985. I could not believe what I heard. Her voice caressed the words and the notes, and yielding in trusting resignation, they allowed themselves to be carried to their glory or to perdition, or to any destination in between that she willed. I gave her a cassette of “Change in the Wind” and “Ethiopia.” She agreed to listen and at a mutually convenient time we scheduled a session at Steve’s studio. She showed up.

Roommate Gina Kuta later told me that Grace had not bothered to listen to the tape I had given her. In fact she told me that Hearn was apprehensive to sing the songs (I guess so). Although I do not normally abide such laziness, this revelation makes her impromptu performances all the more awesome. The usual concerns about musical key signatures or questions about phrasing never came up. She whisked through both songs in just a few takes with minimal overdubs. She was in tune, in time, and had a convincing tone that communicated just how the lyrics are supposed to feel. Steve, David and I just looked at each other in amazement, and we began to conjure ways in which to lure her back into the studio, but as it turned out the music seemed reason enough for her return. Grace later told Chris Schaub from Maryland Musician, “I can really identify with the lyrics Jay writes. I believe in what we’re saying through our music. To me it’s different from any of the other new music around.”

Not that everyone enjoyed Grace’s singing, especially as regards her vocal interpretations of certain OHO songs. This was likely due to the vocal gymnastics the team urged her to perform rather than any inherent stridency in her voice. Only partially cognizant of her potential, we asked her to push her envelope, attempting to experience firsthand the full blast of her power. One can hear the level of control and finesse she exhibited even at the very limits of her incredible range.

Jane Brody (who sings three of the 19 songs on the OHO UP compilation and who ties with Grace in terms of who I believe has the best voice for our music) once told me that Grace’s voice was “water.” An apt metaphor, I think, what with its connotations of refreshment, clarity, coolness, and ironically even truthfulness, qualities that transform upon application of the requisite stimuli, eliciting a state of intoxication somewhat likened to the glowing effect one experiences when imbibing a vintage wine. (We advise listeners to direct a bit of their attention toward something outside their listening experience in order not to be completely swept away.) Conversely she could also scald you, be murky and scary, tepid, or even freeze you out if these were the interpretations certain songs called for. Marvin Hamlisch also once said, “The best thing that can happen to a songwriter is to hear the song sung by somebody else.” And with this sentiment the undersigned concurs.

Up to this time for bass, we relied upon the charity of old friends Gyro (Outrageous), Gene Ingham (Orange Wedge), and Mick McMick (Food for Worms). When they weren’t available either percussionist David Reeve (“Flip Side”) or keyboard wizard/arranger Richard Lake would play the bass patterns as needed using a keyboard to trigger the lower frequencies.

On a random visit to Hit & Run Recording to check out the studio during an OHO session, bassist David Appleby was badgered by David Reeve into learning and laying down the bass tracks now featured on “Breaking Away.” Within an hour we had a great take that we used in a final mix that later helped send the band on an all expenses paid adventure to perform at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles. I never met the man again after that afternoon. Serendipitous events like this were happening all the time. Also if someone knew someone who knew someone who could do this or that, they too were encouraged to contribute depending on the musical requirement presenting at the time.

Steve became more interested in becoming a permanent member of the team. Not only was he an engineer/producer running his own studio with savvy, but he was also an accomplished guitarist with gifted listening skills and sensitive ears. Steve was quick to clarify, “I made life miserable for all their other bass players. They couldn’t take it anymore and they all quit. Then finally, since no one else wanted to play for them, I snuck in.”

“The best thing about the OHO recordings are how good they sound,” wrote Geoffrey Himes in the Washington Post. “Steve Carr is not only the band’s bassist, but also the music’s co-producer/engineer, and his ability to make every element in their intricate arrangements shine without sounding cluttered is most impressive.”

The contemplative Thomas Merton wrote, “Art is constantly at work restoring things to a condition that is beautiful.” In this spirit we might all be thankful to Mr. Carr for his incredible remastering job, revealing the material’s full dynamic range.

“I wouldn’t even say we were a band at that point,” Grace told the Washington Times, “I would go to Steve’s and put down my part after David had put down the drums. But every time we won a contest, we’d feel better about things.”

OHO entered “Change in the Wind” in The Best Unsigned Band Contest sponsored by Musician magazine in the fall of 1985. We were chosen out of thousands of submissions as one of five finalists and each of these was awarded the prize of a really nice JBL sound system valued at around $6000. These final recordings were reviewed by a celebrity panel (I remember one of the judges was Felix Cavaliere of the Rascals) and the winner was to open for Adrian Belew’s Bears at an upcoming musical trade show in Chicago. OHO did not win but parlayed the prize into studio time, generating more enthusiasm for the project and increasing the momentum toward its aim of creating a fine album. We were getting some timely breaks.

Then in November 1985, in attendance at Guitar Craft VII in Charles Town, WV, I had a guitar epiphany of sorts. Participating in a weeklong and a number of weekend courses hosted by Robert Fripp, I was introduced to and encouraged to wrestle with Level 1 Guitar Craft principles. Bert Lams (CGT) was also on the roster of Guitar Craft VII. And there we were, most of us with our new, discounted Ovation 1867’s, straddling the boundary between heaven and earth in a position of equipoise. We were often “doing nothing,” waiting to respond with our entire beings in the moment that music or opportunity deigned to fly by. While we waited, however, we were to practice 8 hours a day. At least, that’s my succinct recollection of one salient aspect of the courses.

In “A Preface to Guitar Craft I” Mr. Fripp wrote, “The musician acquires craft in order to operate in the world. It is the patterning of information, function and feeling which brings together the world of music and sound, and enables the musician to perform to an audience. These patterns can be expressed in a series of instructions, manuals, techniques and principles of working.” A healthy skepticism was also encouraged. This is somewhat of an oversimplification and one really had to be present, but there you have it. Anyone interested in guitar playing should treat him/herself and check out the craft at www.guitarcraft.com.

Although I consider myself a Guitar Craft “dropout,” I have learned enough through osmosis to declare that its principles are reliable. Build your craft upon them, and I suspect all will be well. We were introduced to a new-standard C pentatonic guitar tuning (C-G-D-A-E-G, from the lowest to the highest string) and 8 of the 19 songs on the enclosed anthology would not exist without it. I came down from the mountain with a head full of new ideas and 18 years later, I’m still working with this tuning, which any “crafty” will tell you “is just better” than the “arbitrary botch” of the old standard tuning.

For the next 2 ½ years the band worked on their album and by early 1988 OHO had 11 songs completed. We entered the Yamaha Souncheck competition and were chosen as 1 of 8 national finalists to be flown to Los Angeles in September of that year. We had never performed before an audience up to this point and knew we had our work cut out. “We thought, ‘My God, I guess we better start rehearsing.’” Grace told Baltimore’s City Paper. Steve added, “The live group came about as a necessity because of this contest. The Yamaha people said ‘We want to see you play live.’ That’s why we started playing out as a group, because we were forced to. And if that did not happen we might have still been a studio band.”

The existing quartet recruited Glenn Workman (Crack the Sky) for keyboards and backing vocals, Bill Janssen (who recorded with The Bears and later performed with the California Guitar Trio) on woodwinds, along with multi-instrumentalist Tom Hirschmann to round out the ensemble. The band rehearsed intensely, playing two dress rehearsals prior to boarding their plane to the West Coast in mid-September.

On September 16, 1988 before a team of judges that included Peter Asher, Paul Atkinson (Zombies), Jon Bon Jovi, Walter Becker, Larry Carlton, Quincy Jones, David Paich, Tom Werman, and Brian Wilson among others, the Yamaha International Souncheck hosted the country’s best unsigned bands in a concert at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles. There were some substantial cash prizes and the winning band went on to Japan for the World Final, the international leg of the competition. OHO played “Breaking Away” and “Til Death Do Us Part,” the songs responsible for their participation in this competition.

The finalists’ performances in front of an audience of 5000 were followed by a Cheap Trick concert. Their incendiary hit “The Flame” was burning up the charts. The evening concluded with a jam session featuring an array of hair-sprayed guest stars, Whitesnake’s Tommy Aldridge, Vivian Campbell, and Rudy Sarzo, as well as Bon Jovi’s David Bryan, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora.

The big winner was Kevin Gilbert, fronting his band, Giraffe. It is my understanding that his acclaimed album with Toy Matinee, subsequent solo career, and membership in the Tuesday Night Music Club came about as a direct result of his exposure here. One may review partial scans of the event’s program by clicking on the “Soundcheck” hyperlink at Kevin’s official website, www.kevingilbert.com. It was a sad day when less than a decade later I picked up the Washington Post and read his untimely obituary.

Note also that Happy the Man guitarist Stan Whitaker in his group at the time, One By One, (also based in the Baltimore/DC area) competed as a finalist in the 1989 version of this competition.

Although OHO did not come home with any of the prizes, the experience proved to the band that they had a viable product. Now whittled back down to the original quartet, we began to perfect our live act in addition to recording, hoping that with this combination we would create a swell. Vocalist and keyboard player, Angela Lazaroni, joined us in the fall of 1988 to help translate the complex vocal arrangements of the recordings into the band’s live performance vocabulary. “We have great lyrics and great music, so if we don’t get the audience one way, we’ll get ‘em the other,” asserted Angie in an interview with Rox magazine.

Then we got a manager. Not only did he book the band, serving as our liaison, but he also maintained our mailing list and published a monthly newsletter of band happenings titled “The OHO Beat.” Suzie Mudd, editor of Maryland Musician, wrote, “I’d like to tell you about OHO manager, Bob Phillips. This band is very, very lucky. This guy is everything a manager is supposed to be and more. He genuinely adores the band and its music and he believes in it with his heart and soul; someone to believe in what you are doing and someone willing to get involved, bust his ass, and make things happen.” Bob responded, “Managing can be fun, or it can be a nightmare. Fortunately for me there is OHO.” Dealing with 5 complicated personalities, four of whom were also conflicted and whose actions forced Bob to question if they did, truly, have a common aim, eventually took its toll on this extremely generous and mild-mannered human being. The honeymoon ended soon thereafter. In July 1991 I received his resignation letter that read, “I am resigning for the sake of my sanity.” Do the math.

In the meantime we played regularly in the Baltimore/DC area and were creating a “buzz.” OHO often shared the billing with such notables as Alan Holdsworth, Aimee Mann & Matthew Sweet, Marty Balin, Trip Shakespeare, and The Tragically Hip. This buzz attracted the services of entertainment lawyer/keyboardist Scott Johnson who agreed to represent the band. With “Where Have You Been?” and “Out of Thin Air” recorded we were ready to release a CD.

“We held a fund-raiser,” David told Mark Bounds from Maryland Musician, “and we invited all those who wanted to be a part of it, and everyone who did, has his/her name listed on the album credits.” It was a rainy, dingy day, but our families, fans and friends showed up. We raised enough funds to release “Audition,” a baker’s dozen of OHO songs, all of which appear on the enclosed compilation.

Our latest recording “Out of Thin Air” was placed on 1989’s WAMA DCCD III (Washington Area Music Association) sampler opening the disc. It ended up in the “goodie” bags at a NYC music industry convention where a rep from independent label Sky Records (Norcross, GA) heard the song. The label liked what they heard and requested more.

When A&R director Abbe Myers saw we had a ready-to-market CD, she and promotions director Jim Parker flew to Baltimore to catch OHO’s October 20, 1989 performance at The Grog and Tankard where they offered us their promotional services. We passed due the prohibitive expense. The next day Sky offered OHO a contract and their standard $8000 advance, kind of like an early 80’s minor league baseball contract. We went back and forth over the contract language. After much procrastination/trepidation and walking circles around the table where lay the unsigned papers, we contracted with Sky.

It is my suspicion that for some of the members this might have occasioned their first confrontation with the idea of a real commitment. In reality it was a generous proposal where either party was free to withdraw at almost any time. The agreement’s impact would become proportionally more significant depending on the number of albums sold, and E. Scott Johnson, Esq., had designed one of the best possible contracts for an unsigned band in our circumstances. This was an unprecedented event in our musical history, especially since OHO retained the songwriting and publishing rights to their music.

We attributed our signing directly to the initial exposure garnered from release of The WAMA DCCD. Steve Carr commented, “It was the best investment our band ever made for promotion. What impressed me most was the speed with which the CD generated results for OHO. Within two months of its release, OHO was signed.”

A watershed event for OHO occurred when the Washington Area Music Association nominated them for 5 Wammie Awards. The band was nominated for artist of the year and best new artist. Our CD was nominated for best recording (rock/pop). “Out of Thin Air” was nominated for best song and Grace Hearn was nominated for best female vocalist (rock/pop).

Our timing was a bit off though, as mid-Atlantic regional artist Mary Chapin Carpenter was about to explode onto the international music scene. She too had received multiple nominations and Mary ended up the big winner that evening. OHO also performed a rocking and spirited “Out of Thin Air” during the ceremony that was held in the Washington, DC Hyatt Regency ballroom on June 10, 1990.

However disappointed we were at not winning, being nominated in so many crucial categories said something positive about the band. Le Marquis de Rhythm concurred in Rhythm magazine: “Although the material is not in my favorite domain, OHO certainly delivers on their promise. The confidence of their presentation kept my attention reeling. Because the music had reached that zone of objectively fine quality, it was as if I was doing myself a favor by listening.”

OHO continued to play live and record. David and Grace were becoming more involved in songwriting, whereas the arrangements usually revealed themselves to us during the recording process. In October 1990 Grace told The Washington Times, “A lot of the stuff we’ve been doing lately has been more of a band project. I wanted to try writing songs—it’s been kind of neat. Jay will come to practice with basic chords, and I’ll put a melody line to it.” On the other hand, David was working out full-blown orchestrated arrangements at home on his computer using sound modules to augment the quintet’s live show and as regards recording demos.

We had a decent contract but could the Sky/OHO team generate enough enthusiasm so as to have it reflected in record, tape and CD sales? Manager Bob Phillips scheduled a short East Coast fall tour and a CD release extravaganza at the 8X10 Club at home in Baltimore. For 12 weeks Sky’s promoters peopled the phones to college and semi-commercial radio stations across the US, faxxing us our chart results on a weekly basis. We even spent a week at #1 in Juneau, AK. Although OHO had strong label support and received great reviews, our eponymously titled release peaked at number 108 on the CMJ top 150.

Some members had difficulty making the decision to tour. Within the band, a delicate interpersonal structure was collapsing under the weight of its accumulated baggage. Angela was pregnant and her due date coincided with this tour. Her participation was unlikely. David and I were wrestling with how we were going to negotiate even minimum touring due to our both having families with small children and demanding day jobs. Steve’s livelihood was Hit & Run Recording, and any time away from it would likely result in lost revenue. Grace had been collaborating and performing with other people, and her ambivalent attitude made her status in the band increasingly tentative.

There was little inter-band member communication and quite a bit of denial going on. Angela gave birth to daughter Mariah. Grace’s penchant for acoustic, jazz-tinged folk music drew her to the more fertile Seattle music scene where she now makes her home.

David later told The Baltimore Sunpapers, 'It’s a fear of flying thing. All of a sudden you have to adjust to a major shift in your lifestyle.' We had all the things every band wants: talent, stellar songwriting, a great manager, a competent entertainment attorney, a bass player who owned his own recording studio, a tour in the planning and a promising record deal (with even an $8,000 advance + the manufacture, distribution and promotion of 6,000 CD's, LP's and cassettes). Our music was getting played on many college and some commercial radio stations ("Out of Thin Air" was #1 in Juneau, AK), according to the Sky Records' airplay reports and BMI royalty checks. Our record also received many glowing reviews (being included as an 'Editors' Choice' among the top 100 CD's of 1990--between Peter Gabriel & Rachmaninoff--in CD Review magazine."...Yet there still might be a number of ways we can eff this up, but only after we dispense with any and all consideration for our record company, our manager, our attorney, our fans and especially the other band members, their sacrifices, work, monetary investment and the 5 years of TIME it took the team to get to this watershed. & if one of these subterfuges doesn't knock over this unwieldy "soda machine," then let's try another, then another in succession...or maybe apply a combination of both active AND passive aggressions, some severe dysfunction layered on top of some inappropriate behavior, toss in just the right amount of abuse and neglect around the perimeters to keep the destruction contained, make sure we pretend this is not going on, don't communicate, identify a scapegoat; then deliver everything together & repeatedly, in a 1-2, left-right series of devastating punches until this beast is subdued for at least 25 years--and that milestone will arrive here shortly). I am thinking of a (4 letter, actually 5 in the plural) word to accurately describe the "perps" but this word may be insufficient, as they then lacked the requisite depth and charm for it to totally apply. If you're not ready for the genie, then don't rub the lamp.

Our CD was even listed by CD Review as an “editor’s choice favorite selection” and among that magazine’s top releases for 1990. Still we didn’t have the ability to respond to the challenge of taking everything to the next level.

The tour was eventually cancelled after much weeping and the gnashing of teeth by some members of the team, and to the relief of others. And then there were three: David, Steve and Jay. And though we established a “revolving door” policy as regards future vocalists, this was basically the way it stayed for the next 12 years.

We held auditions and eventually welcomed the lovely and talented Mary O’Connor into the fold. Music Monthy columnist J. Doug Gill wrote, “I adore Mary O’Connor. She is nothing short of spectacular. I consider O’Connor one of the region’s most under-acknowledged (and under-utilized) female vocal talents.”

Mary stayed with OHO, recording and performing for about 8 months. She sings "Angels" on "Bricolage" & back up with me on “Dot on Your Door.” The advent of music for disenfranchised youth (grunge) was occurring with a vengeance, rendering OHO’s progressive acid folk temporarily impotent. It was difficult to get gigs, our previous momentum had been stifled, and Mary yielded to the lure of another lounge band. She and the band’s saxophonist eventually married.

Decisions about the appropriate rhythm patterns for OHO recordings were often a struggle, mainly between Steve and David. My attitude was “there are 52 cards in the deck, pick one.” This tension came to a head during what was already a tough time and it reached a point of impasse where very little was getting accomplished. David resigned and Harry Maben took over playing drums. Harry was a solid drummer, hard working and a pleasure to be around.

After Mary it was Sue Ellen Sacco on vocals. She had coincidentally replaced Ms. Hearn in Rock Island when the latter joined OHO earlier. Her demeanor was usually cheery but the level of her attention was often challenged by her busy lifestyle to the point where once a last minute scheduling conflict prevented Sue Ellen from showing up at a performance. This necessitated therefore that I sing the entire set, being the only one who actually knew the words (the “Perilous Bed” again). 3 to 4 semi-tones beyond my range, I could feel my testicles being sucked up into my body as I went reaching for the notes, or any note that reasonably belonged in the scale of each song’s respective key.

It was revelatory in that I had this opportunity to apply the maxim I learned in seminary school, “one achieves the possible by striving for the impossible.” We somehow made it through the set. Spanky McFarland’s words come to my mind when he was asked about his stint as a Little Rascal, “I wouldn’t trade the experience for a million dollars,” he said, “but I wouldn’t give you a nickel to do it again.”

One day she just stopped showing up and this communication was clear to me. Harry followed suit and although Steve and I piddled around with the tracks we had recorded for the next few years, I would refer to the period between 1993-98 as a sabbatical for OHO.

In other respects it was a very productive time. Steve and I remastered all the 70’s recordings from the OHO of that decade. I made 2 trips to Bavaria where we had been signed by the German Refugees label. They released Vitamin OHO for the first time ever and the complete Okinawa as a set of 4 10” EP’s housed in a metal box with a 32 page booklet. We finally collaborated in the give-away of Ecce OHO which accompanied issue #28 of this quarterly in the fall of 1998.

David and I had been working in the studio as The Vulgarians. I also played guitar in grunge band, Lunar Merchant, with a singer who sounded uncannily like Jim Morrison. Rocktronics era OHO vocalist Gyro (who had played bass with us in Lunar Merchant), along with David Reeve and myself teamed up to record as St. Joseph’s Ass. The resulting music was christened by former OHO bassist, Steve Heck, as “Thrash Symphonic.”

In 1995 David and I also reunited with Dark Side (1977-1981) members Mark O’Connor and David Jarkowski for a live-to-digital-2-track recording and a number of live reunion shows. We were keeping busy having some good fun reacquainting ourselves with old friends and our musical past. There was even a 2-year on-and-off reunion of the surviving members of 70’s OHO to support the efforts of their German record label.

David & I spent 1999-2000 playing acoustic gigs in small coffeehouses, restaurants and taverns, taking it to the street.

As refreshing and relaxed as it was to be working again solely in a band of men, none of our efforts were eliciting responses anywhere near what we were used to experiencing in the unisex OHO. We still had a dozen or so basic tracks in the can that seemed to be begging for completion, and so we once again dared to go looking for “the voice.” We found it in housed in the silver throat of Jane Brody though she proved to be the most difficult of all the ladies to convince to give OHO a go. In fact it took about 7 years and a little cash to motivate her to sing 6 songs for us before she moved to the San Francisco Bay area of California in 2000.

The Village Voice: “Her flying spirit (is) anchored by a thrilling, strong voice and clear mind. Jane is on a wild pop ride.”

While I might have had reservations about Sue Ellen’s reliability and I suspected Mary O’Connor of “withholding,” being overly protective of her delicate voice, I had no such misgivings about Jane’s singing. She was perfect for the material we were recording, at least as regards her vocal compatibility with our music. She also played keyboards and guitar and was generally very musical, writing and arranging her own songs.

The band courted her early on in late 1990. David had (and still has) this habit of approaching strangers and asking them if they sing. We noticed this striking red haired woman at a Don Dixon concert we were attending. He popped the question. His intuition proved to be on target and we engaged her in a conversation. Turned out she was familiar with us, and was a Grace Hearn fan. I later asked Grace who was also familiar with Jane’s work if she would be the best candidate to pursue as a singer of equivalent ability. Without hesitation she answered yes.

We rehearsed. There was great promise. We liked her material and were enthusiastic about integrating it with our own. She met with our attorney. There was this, then that, ad infinitum and ad nauseam. I was looking at my watch and mumbling something about delay and the seemingly endless minutiae that had to be dealt with. We had an answer for every question until there was nothing left for her to ask. It was time to cut the corn.

Something was holding her back. My hunch was that she was uncompromising concerning her own career. A distraction of this magnitude would cut into her time significantly, requiring her to divert some of her attention from something she was convinced of to something uncertain. Or maybe she could sense disaster ahead, wisely choosing to let the cup pass by. It is a crucifixion, you know. This is my theory, which is mine, which belongs to me.

Being in OHO was no picnic (just ask Bob Phillips). We were wounded, doubled over in a denied grief. Was the dream really over? This seemed a desperate time for the band. One had to be ready for a robust confrontation at any moment. I’m certain Jane sensed this and I understood her reluctance, unacceptable as it was to me at the time. But this was not about me. I can imagine how difficult the prospect must have seemed to one appearing to be a gentle soul.

Of course, I would not let it end there. Jane gave singing lessons and I signed up, incorrectly figuring I could coax her into the band over time. At worst I would be a better vocalist as there was a good chance that I might really have to sing my own songs. Her communication before this was mostly in a politely ambiguous language of sighs. At least now I was hearing her “NO!” loud and clear. I had to be certain, though. She was THAT good. By then Mary O’Connor had joined and I discontinued Jane’s tutelage attending to the challenges of the era that followed.

Sometimes years will go by before another specific intuition reveals itself as a possible solution to an unresolved problem. If I can, I will finish what I began. When one works in the “pastpresenture,” time is not a big concern.

Another Guitar Craft aphorism reads, “Let us embrace our mistakes as friends and teachers.” I continue to work in this way, trusting my intuitions. I have been both surprised and disappointed although with few regrets.

Anyway, before she moved west Jane agreed to sing 6 OHO songs for hire, on a pay as you go basis. This arrangement seemed to work well, very clean. There were no commitment issues and all we really wanted were vocal tracks that we hoped would bring a positive response from the world on some level. I think we achieved that aim.

OHO’s “It Will Not Be Late” featured Jane’s vocals and the soaring fiddle work of Sue Tice, another talented woman. The band won the Sheffield Studio “Career in the Recording Arts” contest in 2001. This netted the band a trio of wonderful prizes, including hours of 24-track time at Sheffield’s state of the art studio, a slot opening for Joan Jett at the Maryland State Fair, and a quality microphone. We still had our mojo working. Jane is featured on the first 3 songs of the accompanying OHO anthology.

OHO currently performs as a duet of men…without women. We’re making testosterone-propelled music these days, but in the spirit of Odysseus strapped to the mast, we have heard the sirens seductively singing our songs and in successfully skirting their perils have survived. And though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, I’m certain that deep down where all paradox is resolved, we somehow know that this is how it is and probably will always be in unions so electrically creative and emotionally charged. Defying all reason, the interplay makes for some passionate music and an engrossing if all too familiar tale. OHO indeed! Enjoy the music. It was very expensive to make.

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Reviews


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David Kelly

"OHO's new material is excellent!"
...especially "Eros Is a Verb," a GREAT song. It sticks in my head & I really like Kelly Grochmal's vocals. To me she is one of the best & most listenable OHO singers since GH. She has a "sound," & seems really well-suited for OHO music. I like her a lot!"
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Frank Kaufman

"The mix is fantastic!"
Regarding the new OHO CD, all I can say is that the band should be VERY PROUD of their work. I listened to the CD in my car for about 4 days straight. You can hear every instrument along with the vocals quite clearly. I especially like the acoustic guitars and the percussion. The syncopation between these instruments & the vocals is riveting; the music is hypnotic & sounds better with each listening. I would not alter anything on the CD. Keep up the great, inspirational work.
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Bennett Davis

"WOW!"
The band did mega-work on "Blue Fix." I love the chorus swells. They sound fantastic. I really like how that turned out and the rest of the songs are good too, though "Blue Fix" & "Burning Grey" are my favorites. Thanks for letting me hear the results and be part of the inner working."
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Bill Janssen

"Effin' good!
OHO are 'effin' good and their sustaining vision remains vivid and vital."
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Frank Murphy

"What GREAT music!"
I was driving down the JFX on Saturday with the window down and "Limousine" playing. What GREAT music!
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Mark Hughes (DPRP.NET)

Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Bricolage? The first 13 songs of the 20-track CD comprises previously unreleased material written and recorded between 1983 and 2008 with an additional 7 songs taken from the Oho, Up and Oriency Anthology releases. A further 12 songs are included on the DVD, only four of which are also featured on the CD, although the versions are substantially different. Despite the revolving musical cast, there is an admirable consistency in the sound of the band and although Hearn provides the majority of the lead vocals (along with Mary O'Connor), something like seven separate female singers contribute leads and harmonies, despite mostly never having met (ah the wonders of digital recording technology!). The sound of the band ranges from Fleetwood Mac and Clannad in their most successful incarnations to the more proggy material that bears slight resemblance to bands such as Mostly Autumn. And one of the vocalists, Kelly Grochmal, sounds remarkably like Jill Sobule, particularly on the song S/he. Although the instrumentation line-up of the band is the typical guitars, bass, keyboards and drums, a plethora of other instruments have been included in the arrangements. Violin, mandolin, sax, flute, theremin, tin whistle, harmonica, hammered dulcimer and even the odd appearance by the P-Funk Horns give a tremendous variety to the musical landscape. There is an underlying folky element to a lot of the material but the group are not adverse to taking things to a heavier level at times. However, the overwhelming strength of the material is the superb melodies that imbue every song, pick any at random and you will come across mature and compelling songs that are entrancing in their beauty. Time is like a lost October Project song (and just as good as anything on the two albums by that much-missed band) and songs such as Blue Fix and Angels are hard to forget once heard.
The DVD compiles footage from 1988 to 1992 and includes three promo videos, selections from the release party for the Oho album, a TV talent show performance and a selection from the 1990 Wammies award ceremony. The venues for the videos range from the Universal Amphitheater in Hollywood (where the band were supporting Cheap Trick) to a school classroom where O'Connor and Graboski provide an intimate acoustic performance to a group of young, enthusiastic and somewhat bewildered infants. As with the debut album, the material is of a progressive nature but of a slightly uncharacteristic nature. Notwithstanding that, the album is a fine collection of superior music that should find favor with music fans irrespective of if they like prog or not.
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Gary Hill (streetjournal.com)

"Just plain amazing!"
Review by Gary Hill

I was a little hesitant to tackle this disc. The first album from Oho was a bit weird for my tastes. Well, this one is just plain amazing! It’s a great blend of folk and progressive rock that at times calls to mind such acts as Yes, Renaissance and others. It’s actually one of the better discs I’ve heard in a while, and there have been a lot of great discs released in 2010. This has an accompanying DVD that includes interviews and live performances. All in all, a great package.
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decapitatespammers

"Musical genius!"
This album was/is one of the most criminally undiscovered works of art. I have listened to literally thousands of hours of music in my life and this album ranks quite high. Thank you VERY MUCH for sharing it here. After the countless times I've listened to the CD, I now have the joy of seeing this passionately delivered performance. You created one of the finest secretly unknown singalong masterpiece albums ever. It really was and is musical genius.
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Paul Rieger

Beautiful Technology
Great selection of songs! Jay's use of technology to bring Bricolage about is a story in and of itself - but sit back and let the music do the talking. Nice job!
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Jon Neudorf (seaoftranquility.org)

"The earworms keep coming track after track!"
Formed in 1973, the enigmatic Baltimore band has been a fixture in the underground music scene for many years. Oho has had their share of difficulty having disbanded in 1977 and again shortly after they reformed in 1983, just after the release of their Roctronics EP in 1984. The remaining members Jay Graboski (guitars, vocals) and David Reeve (drums, keyboards, vocals) soon added Steve Carr (bass) and Grace Hearn (vocals) and the band lived to see another day. That is a good thing because Bricolage is a very good album. Although the band does not release a lot of albums it is hard to complain once you hear the music. This is clearly a case of quality over quantity as the band has only recorded a handful of albums during the past thirty plus years. Bricolage consists of twenty tracks, the first thirteen of which have never been released and were recorded between 1985 and 2008. The last seven are listed as bonus tracks originally released on the OHO, Up and The Oriency Anthology albums. Bricolage has the band going in a more folk-like direction rather than the psychedelic acid explorations of their earlier albums. Joining the four core members are numerous female vocalists and various musicians adding instruments like violin, sax, flute, harmonica, theremin, mandolin and more. The result is a richly layered, organic sounding album that works on all levels. Electric and acoustic guitar are blended together almost perfectly and the female vocals are excellent throughout, including the background harmonies. The earworms keep coming track after track making this one of the most melodic albums I have heard this year. If you like bands like Mostly Autumn or early Fleetwood Mac you should find plenty to sink your teeth into here. Some of my favourites include the acoustic folk pop of "The Great Attractor" with its delicate flourishes of acoustic guitar, the musical build up in the quirky yet progressive "Time" with stellar acoustic and electric guitar and the Fleetwood Mac inspired "Dream Lifted Up" with spot on drum work and some ripping electric guitar. The rest of the CD is just as good and the sound quality is excellent throughout. The DVD features a photo gallery, CD credits and lyrics and concert footage from a variety of venues including the Universal Amphitheater in Hollywood, CA and the Wammy Awards (a Washington area awards show). The video footage is somewhat grainy and the sound quality is not as good as on the CD but this is still a nice addition to have. Also scattered throughout are snippets of interviews giving us more insight into this strange band. Although this CD is not as eclectic as some of their past releases I like the band's change in direction. The songs are more accessible while still retaining a progressive edge and the melodies are everywhere. Highly recommended.
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