Just as Glen Burtnik and a crop of New Brunswick area musicians paid tribute to the White Album in early August at the State Theater, so will Hamilton keyboardist Tom Reock pay tribute to the influential Beatles double album next week in Hopewell. Reock won’t be using nearly as many musicians as Burtnik did, and he’s not even sure who came up with the idea first. But Reock suggested the idea to his band, the Reock ‘n’ Roll Revue, at a rehearsal more than a year ago.
“I remember getting the White album when I was nine years old, and it looked different and it sounded different. It had dark songs and beautiful melodic songs as well, and then there were the revolutionary songs,” Reock says in an interview from his Hamilton home studio, where he records students, former students, and other bands on a budget.
Reock got his copy of the Beatles’ White album the very week it came out, November 22, 1968, and appropriately, has scheduled two shows, Wednesday and Thursday, November 19 nad 20, at the Off-Broadstreet Theater in Hopewell to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the epoch double album’s release.
“It’s just a completely unique album for them. It was kind of raw and unfinished sounding, and they went back to doing polished records after that. As a nine-year old, it was cool and kind of creepy at the same time,” he says.
“I never heard anything about Glen [Burtnik] doing a show,” he says, “and we’re nowhere near the level of money that Glen can put behind a show, but we’ve all heard the White album how many thousands of times through the years? It’s always been my favorite Beatles record. The White album is the most unique of all Beatles’ albums, but you really don’t see too many people playing too many songs from the album when they do Beatles songs.”
Chris Grace of Hopewell, Reock’s longtime bass player, says the concert the same group did on May 15 of this year, also at Off-Broadstreet, sold out before anyone had a chance to publicize or promote it, so they decided to do two more concerts before the 40th anniversary of the original November 22 release date.
“The Off-Broadstreet Theater in Hopewell is a very intimate venue,” says Grace, who is also the restaurant manager of the new Rocky Hill Inn. “It’s just shy of 200 seats, and since we only scheduled that one night, not knowing what to expect, we have scheduled two more shows.”
The Reock ‘n’ Roll Revue includes Reock on keyboards and vocals, Grace, on bass and vocals; Jerry Steele, a lecture agent in New York, on electric guitar, horns, and string parts through a guitar synthesizer, as well as electric fiddle, pedal steel, banjo, and mandolin; Mario DiBartolo, vice president for a chain of retail stores in New York City, on lead guitar and vocals; Michael White, son of Ernie White and manager at the Music Box in Hamilton, on drums, percussion, and vocals; and Bud Belviso, a lighting designer by day, on acoustic guitars and vocals.
‘The fact is we were all very influenced by the Beatles in general,” Grace says, adding that the band likes to tackle different projects, burned out as they all are on playing what few clubs remain in the Trenton area for little pay. “The band is very versatile, and we morph into not a traditional wedding band but a band that does hits and so on for the right paycheck.” Grace attended Berklee College of Music in Boston for a year and White’s son, Michael, is a graduate of the school.
“This band initially came together to work with Tom on his original music,” says Grace, who has been playing with Reock since 1991.
Like Joe Zook and Paul Plumeri, Grace, 54, is a veteran of the Trenton area club scene, which is a shadow of its former glory. Grace still performs periodically with Plumeri, in one of his varying trios. In between stays of several years in Boston and enjoying and playing music on Boston’s still-lively club scene, Grace worked in residential real estate as a settlement officer and he is a licensed title officer who is now working with a catering company. He grew up in Princeton Borough and first met Reock through saxophonist Tom Stange, who was also raised in Princeton.
He had a brief foray into the traditional jazz world with a quintet, but then got back into rock ‘n’ roll and blues.
Both Reock and Grace agree it would be a great thing for the Trenton area to have a few more music clubs. “It would be great to have another club that is set up for music, perhaps out on Route 1 in Lawrence or Hamilton,” Grace says. Given that Reock spends his days and nights holed up behind the recording console and that Grace spends much of his time working in the catering business, both of them have had more than their fair share of less than optimal club shows.
Reock says: “We’re doing these shows at Off-Broadstreet really for the love of the music, and because it makes you feel like you’re getting somewhere, musically. At the show, we’ll do an encore, but we’re not telling anyone what that’s going to be.”
The Reock and Roll Revue Presents the Beatles “The White Album,” Wednesday and Thursday, November 19 and 20, 8 p.m., Off-Broadstreet Theater, 5 South Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell. 609-466-2766. $30. BYOB, doors open at 7 p.m. Coffee and desserts. myspace.com/thereocknrollrevue.