Sunday, April 17, 2016


Origin: Nashville, Tennessee (USA)

RPM Bob Johnson - Tommy Wells - Mark Gendel - Jimmy Lee Sloas
Bob Johnson - Tommy Wells - Mark Gendel - Jimmy Lee Sloas

st - 1982 (with lyrics)


- An accomplished AOR band formed in 1979. 'Rendezvous', from the group's 1982 EMI debut, was later put to good use by the NWoBHM outfit TYGERS OF PAN TANG, who released the track as a single. Southern Rockers BLACKFOOT covered RPM's AOR radio hit 'A Legend Never Dies' on the 'Vertical Smiles' album. A second album was actually recorded in London for Warner Bros., 1984's 'Phonogenic', and found the group in an extremely experimental frame of mind.

Since the group broke up Bob Johnson, using his full name of Robert White Johnson, has attempted to pursue a solo career and has an album in the can. He has contributed backing vocals to both of JAIME KYLE's albums. More significantly, on the songwriting front Johnson's compositions have been covered by LYNYRD SKYNYRD, CHEAP TRICK, 38 SPECIAL, Y&T and VAN ZANT. Jimmie Lee Sloas has since made a return as an accomplished Christian Rock artist involved in a number of band projects. By late 2003 he would make the surprising move into MEGADETH.

RPM's 1982 debut would be re-issued on CD for the first time by German label MTM Classix in 2004, this release adding five bonus tracks. -


- For RPM it all started some 25 years ago when Robert White Johnson and Jimmy Lee Sloas bumped into each other and started writing and recording a string of songs. Around the same time Mark Grendel moved from Toronto to Nashville in search of joining a band and got involved, as well as session drummer Tommy Well. Within months, several majors such as Capitol, Chrysalis and Columbia took an interest in the band, but RPM decided to go with EMI. Although the band scored a hit with ?A Legend Never Dies? - taken from their eponymous debut album (1982) - the relationship with EMI quickly faded and they signed a new, multi-record deal with Warner Bros., which released the follow-up album ?Photogenic? in 1984. Although a lot of effort was put in the promotion of that album, it wasn?t meant to be for RPM, mainly due to the hard competition from label mates such as Elton John, Prince, Rod Stewart, Van Halen and ZZ Top. But RPM refused to die and re-entered the studio, where several ?bonus tracks? were recorded. Unfortunately nothing happened with them (at the time), and all efforts to keep the band alive were given up. Robert White Johnson kept on writing songs, while the others made a living playing on albums from a long series of acts.
Like I said at the beginning of this review, a lot of AOR fans will be happy with this re-issue on CD. As far as I know, this album has always been considered as a (semi-)classic and rightly so. The songs have stood the test of time well and what is more, it?s a real pleasure to be able to listen to the last recordings (the last 5 tracks) of RPM for the first time. Those tracks show that the band was still capable of creating great songs, but ? like I said ? it wasn?t meant to be. Mario Lehmann, may we expect a re-issue of ?Photogenic? in the near future as well? -


- Robert White Johnson talks about his RPM re-release due in November 22nd: Robert White Johnson: "First and foremost, a heartfelt thanks to all the fans who have helped 'keep the music alive' by supporting bands like RPM as well as countless others over the years. It's a pleasure to now be able to share our first record project on CD as well as six additional tracks that have never before been released in any form. The bonus tracks that have been included in this release lend a significant historical as well as musical perspective to RPM. "The songs,"ON AGAIN, OFF AGAIN" and "OH, OH PAMELA" were recorded soon after touring to support our debut album sometime in 1982. This was the first time that the band had produced itself in the studio. There had been some creative differences with our first producer Brent, and being the classy first rate guy he was, he let us do our own thing. An inevitable chain of events I suppose. Anyway these two songs were recorded at Creative Workshop Studios in Nashville where we also did our first record so the territory was quite familiar.

However, there are glimpses into the future with these recordings as we experimented more with special effects on the backing vocals in addition to the guitar work. These two songs could also be described as a musical bridge of sorts to the future as I'll describe more later. The instrumentation for these two songs were the same as this, our first record with Mark Gendel on guitars, Jimmie Lee on bass, keys and backing vocals and Tommy wells on drums. Something else that's noteworthy regarding our first record project on EMI, "RPM," there were four songs from the project that were also covered by other major artists, an accomplishment that rarely happened back then in the rock world. "A LEGEND NEVER DIES" was recorded by the band BLACKFOOT featuring Ricky Medlock on Atco/Atlantic records. This was a fun but also a strange moment as I was asked to help sing and arrange the backing vocals for their version in Atlanta that was produced by legendary producer Eddie Offord. The track "2+2" was covered by legendary rock singer Johnny Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd family & fame for his debut solo Geffen record release. This event actually led to an almost 20 year creative and personal friendship between Johnny and myself. It was a couple of years later that I went on to produce and CO-write the "Brickyard Road" single and CD for Johnny on Atlantic Records that spawned the # 1 rock hit for 3 weeks in a row in the US. "RENDEZVOUS", the third cover from our first album was also recorded by TYGERS OF PANG TANG.

This track was not only a successful single for them in the UK and Europe, it was also included in their Greatest Hits package. Interestingly enough a few years later while we were recording our second RPM LP in London at Trevor Horn's studio SARM, I was having dinner during a break and sitting next to me by complete surprise was Peter Collins, who had produced the TYGERS OF PANG TANG version. It was a fun moment! Last but not least, the song "YOU," was recorded by Mark Farner, lead singer of GRAND FUNK. This was for a solo project he was working on. It was a personal thrill for me since I had always been such a fan of his. Mark even tracked me down to discuss the song, so we were able to speak on the phone. He was very complimentary of the song, the band and my voice but asked me about the key of the song. Seems as though he had a bit of a tough time doing it in the same key as it was very high. He was relieved when he found out that I later demanded the band lower the key a half step so I could sing it live without killing myself!!! It was one of those things where you start out recording a track on a good day, then after the track is mostly done you start asking yourself ,"What in the hell did I do" am I going to sing this thing live?"?? Live and learn......

With regard to the other four bonus tracks, since I already described the first two; these were actually recorded in 1985 after our second project on Warner Brothers was released in 1984. These were also the last things we did creatively as a group before we disbanded. Our second record for Warner Bros. was recorded with Gary Langan (of YES/ART OF NOISE fame) engineering and CO-producing with the band, at Trevor Horn's studios SARM, in London. We had spent upwards of a year and a half on writing and recording the second project in the hope of getting it just right. Because of massive competition within the label (Warners) at the time with releases from VAN HALEN / "1984" , ZZ TOP/"ELIMINATOR"as well as "PURPLE RAIN" by Prince, it just wasn't meant to be, even though the band received high critical acclaim. The tracks "DEEPER THAN LOVE" / "HANDS" / "EVERY HEART YOU BREAK" & "HOW DO I GET YOU" were recorded at the famed studio 'The Castle' outside of Nashville. Having recorded with Trevor Horn's right hand/engineer, Gary Langan, we were bent on delving even further musically and sonically speaking. All tracks were produced by Mark, Jimmie and myself as our drummer Tommy had left at that point. It was a very tough time for drummers in general at that time because of all the drum machines and of Fairlight (our particular instrument of choice at that time). Because I was also an ex-drummer, I overdubbed live cymbals & percussion to make these particular tracks feel more live.

There are elements that are reminiscent of our first album especially in the tracks, "DEEPER THAN LOVE" as well as "EVERY HEART YOU BREAK" at times. Sonically speaking these bonus tracks rock since technology had come light years since our first project just a few years previous. The Castle Studios had purchased the latest and the best of everything. The owners, the Nuyen family originally from Belgium, brought a very fresh attitude and creative mindset to town. It was perfect for where our heads were at. While we were able to spend a good deal of time putting down the rough tracks and the overdubs, mixing was another story. The 'A' room was getting booked solid and so we had to go for it. These four songs were mixed in one day and all night...................! We had never done this before but the result was amazing. To this day, these mixes stand up remarkably. Our engineer Giles hung in there with us for over 24 hours. Not long afterward, the group decided to split. I'm sure everyone has their own story or reason so I won't get into that, but it was a great experience while it lasted. Jimmie and I actually first got together in 1979 as a duo and started writing songs which led to Mark coming to town from Toronto, Canada in 1980 adding a tougher rock edge to what we did. Tommy, from Detroit had been originally our session drummer of choice and a natural fit for the band. I came from northern Illinois and told my wife when we first came to Nashville in 1978, "If I ever talk about joining/starting another rock band, swiftly kick me in the ass." She didn't kick me and I'm glad we formed RPM, a group of extremely talented individuals whom I'll always be grateful in knowing and having the chance to have worked with. Enjoy the music, and as it loud!!! p.s. Thank you Mario Lehmann (MTM MUSIC) for your unending appreciation for RPM and great rock music in general as well as for your perserverance in tracking me down to get this project done!" -


- One of the all time classics in AOR history. Revered just by about every trustworthy AOR scribe over the last twenty years and one of the few releases to get a late CD format release. It was fortunate then I picked up one for $2.50 in a bargain bin just recently. How's that for luck? Some great songs on offer here, and no surprise then that some of their songs have been made famous by other bands, ie: 'Rendezvous' covered by Tygers Of Pan Tang, and '2+2' covered by Van Zant. For a Nashville band this is about as 'un-country' as you can get. The sound overall has everything in common with that other fantastic AOR album by the aforementioned Van Zant from 1985, as well as the best AOR bits from .38 Special. They have a particular strength evident in their songwriting which makes these songs so appealing. The Brent Maher production also gives the band some space to create their melodic mayhem.

The album opens up with 'A Legend Never Dies' which to me sounds so similar to the Van Zant song 'I'm A Fighter'. The rock onslaught continues with the aforementioned '2+2', then we slow up a bit for the ballad 'It Don't Feel The Same' which has some nice keyboards flowing throughout some rather melodic moments. It's lovely to hear the original 'Rendezvous', having really loved the Tygers Of Pan Tang version. This one is just as good. Side 2 commences with 'You', a great melodic workout, while the Van Zant comparison continues on the barnstorming 'Firestarter' .'I'm A Wreck' uncomfortably straddles Foreigner territory while the only odd song here is the duff titled 'Video Games' which has a very early eighties british feel to it a la Praying Mantis or Samson. -


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